Coach’s Corner: Charlie Frankenbach


Wendy Carlson

Fly-fishing Coach Charlie Frankenbach instructs Nick Fleischer ’18.

Mr. Charlie Frankenbach, instructor in English, has been a member of the school community for 29 years. He coaches fly-fishing in the fall and Boys JV Basketball in the winter seasons. Ben Meyers ’19, a member of fly-fishing, said, “As a fly fishing coach, he asks anglers to fully immerse themselves in the River by not only studying the water in front of us, but also reading famous pieces that force us to think about the story behind the water. …He is one of the most unique, thoughtful, and passionate faculty members at this school.”

When did you start a fly fishing co-curricular at Hotchkiss?

The group is in [its] 7th year. I started it as a co-curricular as it presently stands, but throughout the school’s history there have been [various] iterations of fly fishing. At one point, it was called “Fur, Feather, and Fin,” at another point, it was the “Izaak Walton Society,” so it [has] morphed. Those were more like clubs, but not clubs as we know them now. I think that, by having it become a co-curricular with dedicated time in the afternoon, it [has become more] regular.

Do people come in knowing how to fly fish?

Some know; some have done it before, some haven’t. It’s not usually a very big group. I’ve had groups of eight; this year I have a group of five; last year I had a group of seven, and I had to trim it down because, being one person, it’s hard to take that many people fishing at once. I stagger it through the week – I’ll take three and then three, or three and then two.

After class, how do you and the group go fishing?

We [do] some practice casting [down by the jetty on Lake Wononscopomuc], but most of the time we’re on the Housatonic, weather permitting. If the river is too high and it’s not clear, you can’t really fish it. [Last week] we went to a small stream in Cornwall called Furnace Brook, which was fun. 

What’s the difference between a stream like Farmington and one in Montana?

Streams in Montana hold…bigger fish, the scenery is better, and it’s more of a wild fish population. A lot of the fish around here are more of a stocked fish population. We’ll catch a lot of small mouthed bass, and there’s a decent population of rainbow and brown trout. In some of the really small streams, you have native trout, the only true native trout in this part of the United States. 

What’s the difference between fly fishing and other types of fishing?

I think it’s more engaged with the natural workings of a river environment. You have to take into consideration the water temperature, the kind of bugs, and the stage they’re at. [For example], bait fishing is awesome, [but] a lot of times you have to kill the fish because it swallows the hook. Often times with fly fishing they’re hooked on the lip, so it’s catch-and-release, and you can let them go. The other thing about fly fishing that’s cool [is that] you wade into the river, and the casting is a little more involved. You’re not just throwing it out; you have to make sure your fly drifts correctly, so there’s a way to work the line and make sure the drift is natural. There’s a lot more to it.

What is your favorite type of fishing?

I’m not a fly fishing snob; I love any kind of fishing. Spin fishing, big lures, plastic lures: I enjoy all of it. Fly fishing just particularly intrigues me. If you’re watching which insects are hatching at a particular time at the river, you can gauge [which] fly you should use. You know from the time of year, like in the fall, there’s a lot of isonychia, which is a kind of mayfly. You’ll have patterns [the fly used to catch the fish,] that will match them closely, so if you see fish eating on the surface, you try that fly. That’s the fun part of it. You can fish on the surface with dry flies, or you can fish streamers that look like little sculpins or crayfish that are on the bottom or small minnows, which bigger fish eat. There’s a huge variety.

What’s so great about fly fishing?

Fly fishing is really fun. If I could do it all day long, I would, but then I wouldn’t be able to support my family. I really like working with beginners. It’s fun to see who gets into it, and I try to present it to them in a way that keeps them interested, because it’s easy to get frustrated. It is hard in the beginning to get a sense [of fly fishing]. But I really think, as corny as it sounds, there’s a spiritual, attitudinal side [to it]. It’s cool, because a lot of the time we go fishing, even if we don’t catch anything, it’s still awesome. We’ll see bald eagles, we’ll go fishing in a really great river that historically [is] very important; we have fun.