Quincy Milton III ’20 went fly-fishing with his dad for the first time when he was 9 years old.
“We were in what seemed like a swift river to my 9-year-old self and I was afraid of the water,” he recalls. “I remember throwing a couple of casts as my dad tried to show me what he knew about the sport. I came along slowly, and tended to get frustrated, but one day it clicked. Now fly-fishing is the only kind of fishing I do.”
The biology major and lacrosse player from Seattle brought his passion for fly-fishing to Clark. He’s fished all over western and northwestern Massachusetts and Connecticut, exploring the best trout rivers. He typically goes alone, but also enjoys bringing friends along.
“I have taken a few lacrosse teammates fishing with me as well as one of my good friends from home, and I am always willing to take anyone who is interested. I love teaching and I could absolutely see myself being a guide on the side one day,” he says.
Below, Milton talks more about his experiences fly-fishing, how his love of fly-fishing ties into his biology major, and what he plans to do after graduating in the spring. (Read the Q&A after the video.)
What do you enjoy most about fly-fishing?
My favorite part about fly-fishing is the requirement for practice. There are many different techniques that can be used along with many different flies. I don’t catch something every time, but I usually do not keep score in that sense — I try to catch fish in different ways each time to gain a broader knowledge of the sport. Some of my best trips have only included one or two landed fish, but the opportunity to experience nature in its raw beauty is always worth the price of admission.
One of my best moments came when my dad and I went to a remote part of an otherwise not-remote river with a guide, and we came across the breeding grounds of King Salmon that were between 20 and 40 pounds each. I hope to have more experiences like that with not only my dad, but also my own family one day.
Tell me about the types of fish you’ve caught, and your favorite places to fish.
I have caught different species of trout and salmon, bonefish, whitefish, tuna, striped bass, and many more on the fly. I mostly catch trout because it is easy to find trout streams in the Pacific Northwest and in New England, but my favorite fish to catch are bonefish. Bonefish are tropical fish that live primarily on the flats of the Atlantic Ocean. They are fun to catch because you get to travel to beautiful places and because casting — my favorite part of the sport — is essential to your success. To catch bonefish, you have to be able to spot the fish and cast to them 50 to 70 feet away, and that game is certainly fun to play. My favorite destination to fly fish would be the Bahamas to go after tropical fish; however, I don’t think you can beat a classic Pacific Northwest trout stream.
Has fly-fishing had any impact on your interest in biology, or vice-versa?
The ethic of fly-fishing is centered around conservation. Most fly fishermen practice catch-and-release policies and only keep/kill fish when they are invasive species. As a conservation biologist, this ethic is near and dear to my heart. I have always been innately interested in fish and whatever else lies below the surface. When I was very young and just getting into conventional fishing, I would keep fish as much as I could. Almost immediately after I began fly-fishing, I started practicing a strict catch-and-release policy even when I would conventionally fish. It was at that time that my interest in marine biology was sparked. Now I am interested in seeing the fish and watching it swim away under its own power, then pondering the factors that went into where it was caught and what type of fly it took. Fly-fishing benefits from a knowledge of the body of water you are in and the fish you are targeting, so my interest in biology, conservation, and fly-fishing are completely intertwined.
Why did you choose biology as your major?
A lot of it has to do with my experience in the outdoors. I like to experience the world we have and the living things on the planet. When making my major decision, there was no better course of action than to study that which I love. Clark is a fantastic place to study biology because of its heavy involvement in conservation and climate change. I have enjoyed all the fieldwork I have done at Clark, from the 30-degree days in Worcester to the 80-degree days in Bermuda, and I am grateful for the opportunities to continue to have these types of experiences year in and year out.
What do you like best about being a student at Clark?
Clark’s total commitment to help. I would not be where I am today without the help of so many who have taken a concerted interest in helping me succeed. My faculty advisers — Deb Robertson, John Baker, and Susan Foster — have recommended me for study abroad opportunities, biology conferences, and fifth-year lab opportunities. Ph.D. student Dale Stevens, who is going to work closely with me during my fifth-year master’s program at Clark, is extremely driven and motivated to get his own project done, which bleeds over into mine. Lastly, my lacrosse coach Jeff Cohen has instilled a strong work ethic in me. He recruits people based on character first and skill second so that we can be the best version of ourselves on and off the field.
What are your plans after you graduate from Clark?
After graduating from Clark’s fifth-year master’s program in biology, I would like to work in fisheries management or for a government biology organization. Ultimately, my dad and I would like to start a business centered around environmental consulting or some other conservation endeavor. If we can incorporate fly-fishing somehow, then we will.