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Written for WhitefaceRegion.com by Natalie Moore.

It can be daunting breaking into any new hobby or activity. In the case of fly fishing, you need to have all the gear, know how to use it, and then actually know where to go. And, if you’re like me, you’re starting off 0/3. Luckily, North Country outfitters like Wilmington’s Hungry Trout Fly Shop make it possible for fly fishing newbies to experience the thrill of pulling a giant trout out of a scenic Adirondack river. And it’s all thanks to guides like Rachel Finn.

Though you’d never guess it based on her Patagonia sponsorship and the award-winning short film that was made about her, Rachel herself was once a fly fishing beginner. After a back injury rendered her unable to windsurf anymore, her husband suggested she try fly fishing. “That was it, man,” she says. “I was obsessed from that day on. It has actually become my life.”

An adult's hand gently cradles a freshly caught trout just above the surface of a river.

Let’s back up. Fly fishing is a type of angling that uses lightweight lures called a flies that mimic a fish’s prey: insects. Because the fly is so light, fly fishing requires specialized equipment and more challenging techniques to cast the line than traditional fishing. Anglers often stand in the river, stream or other body of water in which they are fishing, but fly fishing can also be done from shore or a boat. The challenge is part of the allure, but like any outdoor activity, many anglers most appreciate the opportunity to be immersed in nature. 

Now, back to Rachel. For the last 30-plus years, she’s been a guide at Hungry Trout, a full-service fly shop and guide service that offers everything from an affordable, two-hour learn-to-fish program to a three-night package including lodging and dinners at Hungry Trout Resort and three full days of guided fly fishing. Rental gear, for those who don’t have their own, is included. And once you spend the day out on the water and (inevitably) fall in love with the sport, you can stock up on all your own fly lines, rods, reels, sunglasses, waders and more at the Hungry Trout store.

A man and woman smile while the man works on fly fishing gear at a river's edge.

“We have all kinds of people that show up,” Rachel tells me. “More and more women—women right now are the fastest growing group of people in fly fishing.” Indeed, in recent years, the country and the world has seen a rise in female fly anglers, in part thanks to an organization called United Women on the Fly (UWOTF) that was launched in 2016 and aims to empower women in fly fishing and beyond and to ensure they find a welcoming space to learn, share and thrive. In October, Hungry Trout will welcome UWOTF for a “fish and hang” event that invites anglers of all ages and abilities to fish in the Lake Placid area and then meet up at Hungry Trout for a barbecue.

“That whole image we perceive as fly fishing being for your grandfather, or all rich white people, is gone,” Rachel says. “The industry itself has embraced diversity and started making gear for women for many years now, as well as affordable gear. You have to spend some money, but not what you think. You can get into it without paying an arm and a leg.”

If you’ve been wanting to try fly fishing out for yourself, there’s no better time. April, when a lot of fish stocking happens, is the unofficial start to the season in upstate New York. 

A woman in waders emerges from a river on a sunny day.

There’s also no better place to dip your toes into the literal and proverbial waters of fly fishing than the Adirondacks. The sport has a rich history in the Whiteface Region, thanks largely to Francis Betters, a local fly fisherman noted for the creation of fly-tying techniques that are still commonly used today, as well as for The Adirondack Sport Shop, a store he ran in Wilmington for 45 years. He was inducted into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame in 2008 before passing away in 2009. Today, three giant fly statues pay tribute to Fran in Wilmington’s Bridge Park, and the town hosts the Two-Fly Challenge, an annual catch-and-release tournament that welcomes some of the sport’s best anglers, as well as children and families.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world to fish for all kinds of fish,” Rachel says. “And every time I come home, I can’t believe how beautiful it is. Is it the best fishing in the world? Maybe not. But it’s pretty good fishing. And I would put the Adirondacks up against any river anywhere in the world as far as beauty.”

Experience the beauty of the Ausable River for yourself, along with the exceptional experience of fly fishing in the Adirondacks. Learn more about our other outdoor activities, flavorful dining options, and summertime special events.



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