Stalking the One That Got Away on the Battenkill


What better feeling is there than finally catching a fish that has haunted you for a month? Meet Tethys.
Photo by Mike Valla

Local angler Mike Valla, who fishes the Battenkill mostly across the border in New York, recently spent almost a month trying to get another shot at a big brown that had pounded a Warden’s Worry bucktail but then got away. Mike nicknamed the fish Tethys, after the little known goddess from Greek mythology. (The daughter of Titans Uranus and Gaia, Tethys was known as the mother of the great rivers of the world, including the Nile.)

Mike wrote:

Tethy’s home has been frequented many large fish over the years. (Lee Wulff loved that pool in his time here in Shushan decades ago.) Big browns hold tight to the ledge rock bank. But in high, stained water big fish can move out of their comfort zones. The water is low now, and very clear so who’s to say if she’s fly-shy right now. Maybe, maybe not, hopefully not. But I’m convinced the heavy fish I hooked twice (or hooked once, and nicked again) is still there.

For a week, Mike rose at 4:30 every morning, so he could be on the water at sunrise to catch Tethys. And then, finally, there was the Facebook status update that everyone had been waiting for: “Finally landed the big, wild Battenkill brown yesterday I’ve been stalking for nearly a month.” The photo evidence above was proudly displayed.

In the end, the big brown fell for a classic, teal-wing dry fly called the Firehole #1, in a size 10. . .in broad daylight.


The Firehole #1, a Ray Bergman pattern, was what tempted Tethys to the surface in broad daylight.
Photo by Mike Valla

8 thoughts on “Stalking the One That Got Away on the Battenkill”

  1. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking at length with Mike Valla, while we were both signing at the author’s booth, at the Somerset Fly Fishing show last year. What an amazing talented and knowledgable man. And now a great fisherman! Many of the classic flies like ‘The Genny’ can be found in his wonderful book, ‘The Founding Flies’, a wonderfully written history of flies and their creators. And being a photographer of sorts myself, I totally envy his amazing fly photography. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of flies and our sport. I have a copy and read it again and again!

    – Peter Nilsen

  2. There was definitely something right with the river the day Mike caught that fish. On a separate section (in Vt) a friend of mine and I happened into flying ants and my friend, a much better angler than I am, landed a 21 inch and short line released a 20 inch brown. Another friend landed a 16 inch fish with a pumpkin orange belly. I stalked my own personal Tethy to no avail but found him rising again last night!

    The Battenkill is an odd river …. very much a river that gives itself to anglers grudgingly. Mike definitely earned that fish – I had not realized just what fame that fish achieved; however.

    My only disappointment is that Mike didn’t land it on bamboo … he should know better!!!!

  3. Great story. The only thing better is catching the same fish again! Those big Battenkill browns have more personality than most people I know.

  4. I spent a great deal of time stream side last Saturday listening to Mike excitedly describe his pursuit of Tethys amongst other wonderful stories of flies and fish caught and lost, mostly on the Battenkill. I am very familiar with the stretch that yielded Tethys as it is one of my favorite haunts, often rewarding me with wonderful memories as well. Like the day my son-in-law landed a 21″ brown…his biggest Battenkill fish ever. Or the chilly March afternoon fishing with my friend visiting from California, on a day the Orvis Fishing Report suggested, “Fish somewhere else this week.” He will never let me forget the 18′ brown he landed on what we agreed was the last cast of the day.

    I agree with Doug that the Battenkill is an odd river. A mystery that keeps me searching for answers. And, a big thanks to Doug, who many years ago gave me my first black flying ant that has become one of the go-tos in my arsenal.

    Mike is a local treasure whose flies and books are exceptional works of art.

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