Fly Fishing Boston Harbor | Ben Duchesney Mark Vlaskamp | Canoe Vibes

Boston, MA: Northern Reds & the Curse of the Bambino

On October 27, 2004, the confetti fell, the pennants raised, and the people of Boston let out a long-overdue sign of relief. Their streak had ended.

On June 10, 2016, my clouser minnow disappeared, my excess line went tight to the reel, and I let out a long-overdue sigh of relief. My streak too ended in Boston.

While it wasn’t eighty-five championship-free years of paranormal haunting from the drunken ghost of Babe Ruth like my Major League Baseball counterparts with the ruby hosiery, my fishless streak among target species had worked its way up the east coast from the mountain streams of North Carolina to the big bass lakes of Virginia. It was only two weeks without catching a fish, but when you’re traveling for the sole purpose of adventuring, paddling, and knocking new target species off of the ol’ aquatic bucket list, two weeks feels like eighty-five years.

The Kevin Millar Walk

Down three games in a best of seven series, the ’04 BoSox trailed the Yankees 4-3 in the ninth. The series should have been over and the dismal Curse of the Bambino should have entered its eighty-sixth year. The Yankees had the Red Sox on the ropes. That’s when Kevin Millar cracked a chip out of the brick wall of the eighty-five-year streak.

He walked.

Off the best closer in baseball, he walked.

A stolen base, single, and an eventual walk-off home run followed to tie and then win the game, leading to three more wins in the American League Championship Series and continued hot streak to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

That’s what I need. I need a Kevin Millar walk to push me in the right direction.

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So I went to some guys in Boston who know a thing or two about good beer, outdoor adventure road trips, and striper on the fly. Postfly, the three-year-old start up changing the way the fly fishing industry gets their flies, was started to solve two problems: 1) how to figure out what flies to stuff in your fly box and 2) how to accumulate a reputable selection of the right flies without paying through-the-roof prices In typical year 2016-style, Postfly is based on a subscriber system where members receive monthly shipments of flies to replace lost or worn flies, experiment with new designs, and add to their never-ending collection. The team there specializes in pumping out cool ties, drinking beer at the office, and finding striper on their home turf.

That’s where I found Ben – a slightly more presentable Ben than the last time I saw him, eight days into an Adirondack canoeing expedition filled with big fish, grueling portages, freezing weather, and not a whole lot of self-care.

Ben had me covered: a fly design, a fishing spot, and a Kevin Millar walk.

Redfish from the North

We left Postfly HQ, walked through downtown in our swimmies past plenty of rats in the race, and wasted fifteen minutes loading the car from the side doors instead of the trunk – because parallel parking is great for packing investment bankers in like sardines but is terrible for packing TFO rods into the Jeep.

“It’s a strip set, right? No way it’s a trout set” I asked – more out of self-reassurance than actual confusion. I knew I was right but Ben reassured me – the guy on a fishless streak presupposing his hook set on a bite – and laughed at the display of my ignorance for both the fishing and the fish.

“I’m a long way from home. I get to ask dumb questions.”

“Fight it like a redfish” he related to my Texas roots.

That’s all he had to say as my mind wandered at a red light. Stripers are like redfish, redfish from the north. If my time in Boston had taught me anything, it’s that any potential striper I land would be a redfish that talks funny, has terrible manners, prematurely honks it’s horn in traffic, and compulsively eats Dunkin Donuts.

I took my foot off the brake as the light turned to green which, apparently in Boston, is not fast enough.

Honk! Honk! {Questionable Gesture} Honk!

I miss Texas.

Ending the Streak

The two-mile drive only took fifteen minutes and fourteen stoplights. The walk past the morning joggers, late-morning commuters, and stroller-pushing mommies across Castle Island to our #UrbanAngling destination didn’t take much after that. The walk didn’t take long, but the continuous loop of confused looks we received walking with dry bag backpacks, fly rods, and interested smiles reiterated the disappointing reality that most people only adventure on vacations, keeping day to day life and their local waterway reserved for perpetual monotony. “It’s a great fishery” Ben explained. “It’s too good of an urban fishery for fishing it to get such confused looks.”

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Knee deep in South Boston’s Pleasure Bay – airplanes landing at Logan in the distance, commercial tankers unloading useless plastic trinkets at the port in the background, and the crowd of lunch break cigarette smokers rolling in – a silver streak shot across the shallows, no more than four feet in front of me. Ben was right; these things are redfish, minus the golden, southern tan lines and kind manners.

He was long gone before I could get a reputable cast off.

Mid-yell over to Ben about the sighting, my next cast never landed. It ran all the way to the reel. I didn’t even have time to realize that my fly was making a run toward the Atlantic before my overmatched 6wt was doubled over. With an assisted landing from Ben – a winded Ben, winded from his beach sprint through the sand, Keens moving like Nikes, camera in hand – my streak was over.

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Release the confetti, unveil the pennant, and give me my damn trophy.

It was finally over.


Entertaining and hosting a wanderer that lives out of his car with his cat is not a conventional mid-week plan for most folks. For all the generosity, Cammi and I two lucky road trippers. Thanks to everyone who kept spirits high and worries low between DC and Boston.

  • Caren, Steve, and the Butlers – I had fun relaxing in Mt. Airy with the family for a couple of days. Cammi misses the attention, the open land to free range, and the goat companionship.
  • Matt Diehl – ///
  • John Boy and Jamie – It’s an uphill battle, I know. Thanks for trying to take care of Matt for me. It’s an unappreciated job but someone has to do it. Ps – Cammi says sorry for not catching the house’s mouse.
  • Nicole Chandler – I’m still full from all the cookies. Thanks for the hospitality and the delicious food. See you soon on your next trip. At this rate, you’ll be quite the skilled paddler by then.
  • Ben Duchesney – Always a good time, man. The single-day fishing trip was fun but I’m ready for the next expedition. Let’s get to planning.
  • North East Toll Roads – Holy smokes. Tolls up north are no joke. There was a day where I spent more on tolls than gas. Did I mention I miss Texas?
  • DJ and the New Hampshire Keg Standers – It sounds like the name of a terrible bluegrass band with some serious daddy issues and killer album cover art. Thanks for letting the new guy from out of town crash the party. Someone keep a better eye on Ben next time.

editorial, fishing, fly fishing, road trip, trip reports

Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.


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A Long Portage:

We're back after a really long portage. What used to be a roadtrip-centric canoe blog is now a bit more settled in the Texas Hill Country. We still believe canoeing is dated, not dead. And we still chase high CFS and sticky situations.

But we're not on a roadtrip battling for cell service from the backseat of the Jeep anymore. We're enjoying life off the road. The showers, hot meals, and stable jobs are nice too.

If the paddling road trip is what you're looking for, it's moved here.


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