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Outdoorsman Ed Rogers lives life on the ‘fly’

June 13, 2008
By Caperton Tissot, Special to the Enterprise
Filled with bright daylight, Ed Rogers’s den reflects his love for both the outdoors and literature: book-laden shelves line the walls, topped off with salmon and trout fly displays, duck decoys and photos of wild streams, landscapes, a mounted 7.5-pound brook trout and a rack of composite re-curve hunting bows.

Gear piled on the floor bespeaks a man ever ready to embark on yet another of the many outdoor expeditions that have filled his 79 years: sleeping bags, pack baskets, fishing rods, reels, coolers, backpacks and his many-pocketed fisherman’s vest.

Upon his desk sits a laptop, printer and dictionary; basic tools of the author. Ed, a quiet, gentle man, has had a distinguished career, not only as a fisherman and hunter but as a writer. He is currently undertaking a novel titled “Kootenai” about the adventures of Justin Rowe in northwestern Montana.

Of his early years in Beverly, Mass., he said, “I grew up with a fly rod in my hand and became a professional at it.” He describes his youth as “...happy days overflowing with happy songs of a magical river......All the hours I spent in the sun, and in the rain, fishing the Ipswich River, helped me to grow.”

Ed transformed a boyhood love for the outdoors into income-producing work in his adult years. Throughout his life, he has been recognized for his skills, especially in the field of fly fishing. For more than 50 years, he taught fly fishing and fly tying to hundreds of people, including Paul Smith’s College students and the famous ballplayer, Ted Williams.

He developed a special style of casting, laying the index finger on top of the rod, pointing in the direction of the cast, which he was well known for. One day while he was fishing on a remote Maine river, another sportsman recognized him at a distance just by his casting style.

“Ed’s still a Grand Master at handling a fly rod,” Curt Stager, a Paul Smith’s College biology professor, said. “Watching him send a line sailing is like watching a professional dancer at work, like sheer beauty in motion.”

Among Ed’s many contributions to the sporting world are promoting striped bass fishing with a fly, designing the “Roger’s Knight” and the “Big Eddy” streamer fly for landlocked salmon, and inventing “Neva Sink Dry Fly Spray.”

Other accomplishments include working as a consultant to several fly line manufacturers and to Wes Jordan at the Orvis Company to develop the parabolic action of impregnated bamboo fly rods. Using this rod, Ed fished for tarpon and caught some weighing 100 to 150 pounds on a fly.

In addition to wilderness expeditions, Ed bred Labrador retrievers, owned and managed Rogers’ Sports Shop and was the manager of the sporting goods division at Johnny Appleseed’s Sporting Division, writing catalogs for them.

He also became a sporting goods manufacturer’s representative, traveling New England and New York state. He sold many sporting goods products to L.L. Bean Inc.

Ed and his wife raised their family in a 17th century farmhouse in Hamilton, Mass. They had two sons, one named Theodore Gordon, after the father of dry fly fishing in the United States, and two girls, one of whom is Tracy Santagate, owner of Books and Baskets in Saranac Lake.

Most weekends found the family at their camp far out on a salt marsh. He describes this place in an unpublished article entitled “Red-Legs in January.”

“The walls had acquired the warm, rich patina over the years,” he said. “Up on cedar piles, the camp shook and shuddered in the wind. Heat radiating from the stove sought furthermost corners of the cabin. I listened to burning logs simmering and popping in the stove, and wind whistling round the eaves.”

A good part of his working life entailed fishing for Atlantic salmon and brook trout in the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador. He was an eminent fisherman, and spent so much time in Maine that he held a governor-signed, complimentary fishing license there for more than 25 years.

On returning home from his trips, Ed recounted his adventures in numerous articles published in sportsmen’s and outdoor journals. For these expeditions, The Old Town Canoe Company supplied him with a canoe, red on one side and yellow on the other, to provide a choice of colors for the photos, which accompanied his articles.

Prizing good literature, Ed is particularly impressed by and indebted to poet Charles Olson, a friend and mentor, who was helpful to him as a young writer.

From Olson, Ed said, “I learned not to waste words in writing and that every word must be correct.” He honors his friend by sometimes reading his poetry aloud in a voice reminiscent of Dylan Thomas. Ed is a wonderful poet in his own right.

Below is an excerpt from his poem, “Ripogenus Flowage,” first published in the summer 1980 edition of Gray’s Sporting Journal.

“Trout that struggle quicksilver fast

Against the throbbing arc

Toward hollow chambers

Dark beneath undercut banks

Persuaded by pressure away from roots

From under thick lemon puddings of foam

Behind nature’s dams of debris

That darken sunlit bars of gravel.”

Ed Rogers, acclaimed sportsmen and inspired wilderness writer, said “My religion is fly fishing, nature and being outdoors.”

He and his wife moved to Paul Smiths in 1993. He continues his work surrounded by what matters to him most — books.

Author Caperton Tissot lives in Saranac Lak and can be reached through her Web site

Article Photos

Ed Rogers
(Photo — Caperton Tissot)

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