If you can see Mt. Baker, you are part of The Experience

The Perfect Pairing

Lindsey Moceri fly fishing. Tony Moceri photo

Fly fishing and gold panning as a couple

By Tony Moceri

Teach a woman to fly fish, and she will have food for a lifetime, teach a man to gold pan, and he will have wealth beyond his wildest imagination. Sounds like a powerful combination, right? Well, this is the working assumption that my wife, Lindsey, and I are dealing with.

I have been gold panning for quite a few years now. I first picked up a pan randomly on a road trip and started dipping it in waterways all over the Pacific Northwest. As I got more into it, I began buying books on techniques, history and the locations of old mines. From the moment of that initial purchase, I had a touch of gold fever. Who would have thought that this little pan had the ability to lead me to such riches?

Lindsey never caught gold fever, it’s a bit less contagious than some ailments, but she does like having a reason to dip her toes in the water. She decided the methodical rhythm of casting a fly rod would enhance her enjoyment of the shimmering creeks and rivers where she often found herself. Images of tying her own flies danced in her mind as the task married well with her meticulous nature and eye for design. The bounties of fresh river trout brought back to camp would add the cherry on top of the perfect outdoor activity.

Picturesque scene isn’t it? Us frolicking in a crisp mountain creek garnering so much gold and fish that we can hardly carry it. Alas, it remains a dream.

I am still on the hunt for that elusive nugget. With every pan of rock and sand, I have hope that I will pluck out a tooth-sized glimmering hunk of metal, but to date, I have found nothing but flecks.

Lindsey has withstood numb feet and red legs as cast after cast brings hope and despair as her lonely fly returns without a bite. She has had some success pulling in some little trout, but so far, they have all been thrown back. We are yet to lay a bounty of freshly caught fish over the open flame of our campfire and go to bed with full bellies. Unfortunately, in both fishing and gold panning, size does matter.

The first three rules of real estate are location, location, location. I always thought this was also true for fishing and gold panning, but I’m starting to think it’s technique, technique, technique. We are targeting places on the map where fish have been caught and gold has been found. We have done our research and go for the gold (pun intended). Quartz and gold are known to travel together, and, man, have I found quartz. Pans and pans of quartz. But these friends must be in a fight right now because the glimmers of gold veins within those chucks of quartz are yet to be seen. I have panned down from old mines and in places where I have firsthand accounts of nuggets being found, yet no luck.

The writer, Tony Moceri, panning for gold. Photo courtesy Tony Moceri

Lindsey has fished while we have watched other people pull fish after fish out of the same waterway. We have matched their flies and taken seconds on their fishing holes, and still, the results are less than impressive. With us both being a bit on the competitive side, we will, at times, switch hobbies in an attempt to show the other person how it’s done. While Lindsey is also without a gold nugget on her shelf, she has pulled flecks out of the pan. I love whipping that fly rod around, but apparently, what I am doing is completely wrong. The only thing I have caught is surrounding bushes, and I am excellent at losing flies, especially the ones with which Lindsey has had a bit of success.

Though our rewards have been meager, we do not intend to stop the hunt because that is the fun of it all. It’s the excitement that a prize might be found with each pan or cast, but really, it’s the excuse to be in nature playing in Pacific Northwest waters. Even when we go home empty-handed, a day with our feet in the water, a cold beverage balanced on a nearby rock and dreaming of the harvest that is about to come, is a day well spent.

When heading out on your own gold panning or fishing adventures, make sure to check if you are in an area where it’s allowed, it’s the correct season and you have the necessary permits in hand. Mazama, Index and places around Whatcom County are some of our favorite places to spend a day casting and sifting through sand. For finding gold, the farther upstream is supposed to produce larger pieces (although I don’t think I qualify as an authority on the subject at this point). I have no idea how to catch a fish, so I won’t give any advice there.

What I do know how to do is find great places to spend a day, whether spent gold panning, fishing, with a good book, a camera or maybe your favorite local magazine. As always, no matter what you choose to do in nature, leave it better than you found it and follow the rules to keep our places and the creatures that live there healthy and safe. x

Tony Moceri is a freelance writer who loves to get out and explore the world with his family. He shares his journey @adventurewithinreach and tonymoceri.com.