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on second thought

Getting hooked on paddleboard fly fishing

Gunnar Johnson demonstrates his balance as well as his fly fishing technique.Zack Wittman for The Boston Globe

We’re all multitasking. Probably way too much. Often at the wrong times.

Too many of us, more than we will admit, text while we drive. We check our Twitter feed and Facebook activity while we eat dinner, with the TV on in the background, fork in one hand, knife and remote clicker in the other.

Some of us (at least I am not guilty on this one) try to keep fit by trudging along on treadmills at our office work stations. I’ve yet to see anyone actually do that here at the Globe, but I know it’s coming, and I’ve promised myself I won’t laugh when one of my cohorts faceplants while treadmilling and typing at the same time. At least I won’t laugh out loud, and I’ll certainly have the compassion not to use my iPhone camera, be it video or still picture, to chronicle the carnage.


Occupational hazard. Who knew one day that broad definition might encompass wiping out at your office work station treadmill? Fitness guru Jack LaLanne never dreamed of such a thing. Nor did Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter from the Daily Planet.

Maryellen Auger runs a neat little business up in Marblehead, mostly renting ocean kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), and other things sure to float your boat in a picturesque ocean cove at the end of Doaks Lane. If you want to get out on the water, Auger has you covered from stem to stern and bait and tackle. Vermont-born, she grew up in Connecticut, at the edge of Long Island Sound.

“Water,’’ noted the ebullient Auger, a 1976 graduate of the University of Vermont, “I’ve spent my life on it, in it, or looking at it.’’ Right there, that was the tipoff. Clearly the words of an incorrigible multitasker. I didn’t ask to visit Auger’s office during a recent visit to her Little Harbor Boathouse address, but it’s all but a guarantee she’s one of those treadmill/workstation nuts. She’s probably reading this right now with treadmill whirring at 3.5 miles per hour, incline pegged at 4.4.


Now in her fifth year of renting all manner of boards and boats, Auger this season introduced the outdoor multitasker’s dream double feature: fly fishing on a stand-up paddleboard.

Yep, you read that correctly: SUP fly fishing. Had such a concept been around in “Casablanca’’ days, this is where Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) would have leaned into the bar at Rick’s Cafe Americain and ordered a double, neat, of course. Of all the surf shops in all the world . . .

For those new to the paddleboard thing, think of it as a surfboard, only a bit thicker, wider, longer, and definitely sturdier. If a surfboard is a sedan, the SUP is a pickup truck, not so much about the drive as just getting the job done.

Fly fishing, well, most of us have never done it, but movies (“A River Runs Through It’’) have glamorized it. I’ve always thought of fly fishing as the romantic end of the outdoor world, to the point I imagine rainbow trout gladly lay down their lives just to get hooked on a sun-dappled lake, their noble deaths at the end of a fake fly serenaded by the songbirds that fill the towering oaks and elms at water’s edge. Hey, sometimes a dead fish ain’t just a dead fish.


Truth is, after being treated to a brief SUP/fly fishing tutorial by Little Harbor’s Gunnar Johnson, the whole thing made abundant sense. Johnson is another Vermonter (ex- of Manchester), also a UVM grad (Class of 2011), and he is Auger’s chief aide de camp in teaching Little Harbor Boathouse patrons the art of fly fishing from the top of what amounts to a Hungry Man’s version of a surfboard.

“For fishing, SUPs get into all the nooks and crannies you can’t get into with a boat,’’ explained Johnson, who heads to the hills as a ski instructor during the winter months. “I think of the whole thing as food for the mind, body, and spirit . . . something to get away from all the digital stuff in my life. I love to fly fish. I love to explore. So you can do both those things and get a workout at the same time. For me, it’s natural.’’

Sure, natural for a 2014 outdoor multitasker. Can you imagine Gadabout Gaddis out there, whipping that fishing line, then zipping after some large mouth bass while frantically paddling his SUP? I didn’t think so.

According to Johnson, SUP fly fishing, though new to this neck of the woods and shore, has gained popularity in recent years in places such as Texas, Florida, and other portions of the Southeast. It’s very effective in estuaries, he said, where shallow water sometimes prevents anglers from tooling around prime fishing spots even with small boats that require only tiny outboard engines. Rarely does the SUP angler not get where he/she needs or wants to go. One small step for man, one helluva bad day if you’re a fish. There really are no safe harbors anymore.


“I’ve even seen people catch marlin from an SUP,’’ said Johnson, who mostly nabs stripers and bluefish in and around Auger’s Little Harbor operation. “A marlin is a big fish, so that gives you an idea of the versatility.’’

When out on the ocean aboard an SUP, noted Johnson, a fly fisherman need not worry about getting his line tangled in rocks, riverbank, or trees. It’s the great wide open and the fishing is easy. The wise SUP angler typically wears a vest, one with all sorts of pockets for flies, knives, and other gadgets. A bungee cord also comes in handy, to secure the fishing rod to the board when paddling.

For a nominal fee, Auger and Johnson will get you coached up and out there, with SUP and fishing rod provided, and there should be no holding you back. You will join the growing ranks of today’s outdoor multitaskers: paddle, fish, maybe even sneak in a text if the game warden’s not looking.

Kevin Paul Dupont’s ‘‘On Second Thought’’ appears on Page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.