I am occasionally asked how I got started tying trout flies. When I first came to teach in the only county in The Land of 10,000 Lakes without a lake, I wasn’t ready to give up fishing. Going after stream trout was the only solution. I did, however, have a bamboo fly rod, which I inherited from my father. I had previously used it strictly for bass and pan fishing. The lure of choice on those northern lily-pad lakes was the little cork poppers with the wiggly rubber legs.
I quickly set off to teach myself how to become a trout-fisherman. It didn’t take long to learn that I would need some real trout flies. I bought a nice selection at the local Kmart. They were gorgeous. Bright reds, yellows and greens and even purples, mixed delicately with shiny silver tinsels and golds. How could any self-respecting fish turn down such an offering? Although I rarely caught my limit of ten, I usually managed to catch a least a couple.
It might take all day but my young bride was so proud of my ability to bring home a couple for the frying pan. This, of course, was in the days before "catch and release" became the proper approach to preserve the species.
It was a beautiful June morning, when about noon, I had decided to give it up. The fishing had been especially tough that morning and I had only one ten inch brown to show for my efforts. As I came around the bend I saw another fisherman landing a very nice trout which he quickly released. He saw me approach and waved.
"Nice brown," I ventured.
"Ephermellia," was the reply.
"You know. Nymphs. They’ve been hot all morning," he explained as I approached.
"How you doing?" he added.
"Well, I lost a couple and caught a brown, but it’s been tough going."
"Whatcha been using?" he queried.
I showed him my fly box.
"Those sure are purty. Got em at Kmart didn’t you?
"I sure did. How’d you know?
"I work there. Actually, I’m the manager. I have to admit though those flies are more intended to catch fisherman than trout."
And with that he showed me several boxes of the most drab and ugly collection of brown and/or gray flies you could imagine.
"I caught maybe 50 to 75 this morning on these. Turned them all loose though. It’s just for fun. You’ll have to learn how to tie your own." He then gave me about a dozen of his sure fire flies and sent me on my way.
I later bought a "How To," book and a fly tying kit. I still shop occasionally at my long gone mentors’ store, fondly remembering his lesson. As in life, perhaps, the most gaudy isn’t always the best.
On the Lamar River, Yellowstone National Park, 1979. And a cutthroat trout.
Yes, I had a lot to learn judging by those hip waders a volunteer fireman gave me. The rocks in the western streams were covered with algae which made them as slippery as greased bowling balls. Eventually, I even learned about proper chest waders with felt on the bottoms of the boots for better traction. Today, with achy knees and less balance that I should have, I don’t fly fish as much as I used to, still the memories are all strong as ever from those glorious days of yore…..:)
i like that 'meant to catch fishermen.' :)ReplyDelete
I like this story!ReplyDelete
Fly fishing always looks so adventerous! I have never tried, I am sure it is an art as to place, bait and rod. I am certain you were very good at it..a learning experience for sure. How lucky were you to find someone to steer you in the right direction! :)ReplyDelete
Nice cutthroat trout you had there. I love trout. Got my license (again this year) and hope to go trout fishing before it expires like my last one did before I put a line in the water.ReplyDelete
What a great story! I like that line about catching fishermen rather than trout. You've learned a lot over the years! :-)ReplyDelete
Love the story; are you sure that you didn't teach writing?! It's a gift to be able to recreate a story as you have.ReplyDelete
You mean pretty doesn't do it?? Who would have thunk it.ReplyDelete
I have done a little fly fishing--not too successfully as I used pretty flies also.
I do think it is the classiest and most graceful of all fishing. "A River Runs Through It" is a favorite film.
Your story of fishing brings back memories of my Dad and his love for it. I loved going with him! I didn't marry a fisherman, although he's awesome in other ways, but I still miss fishing with my Dad, so many years ago.ReplyDelete
Love your story! The pic of you is great - you look quite happy with that big fish.ReplyDelete
Isn't it great how we meet people in life that change things for us. Often, just out of nowhere.ReplyDelete
I have several friends who are completely obsessed about fly tying. I am not a fisherman any more.ReplyDelete
I have always thought fly fishing had to be the best kind of fishing. But never got any further than that!ReplyDelete
Jo and the Petz
OH Wow---that photo and the smile on your face tell us just how much you loved being there. What a gorgeous trout...ReplyDelete
Think I told you that my Daddy loved to fish --and he would, on occasion, bring home some trout for dinner. Good Eatin'!!!
Great story. I've never been trout fishing and with my balance issues I guess I won't, but it does seem the most beautiful form of fishing.ReplyDelete
I used to trout fish when I was younger but since I've taken up birding I have kind of put it aside. I've tried fly fishing a few times but it's kind of tricky and you need to be in the right spot for it to work well so I lost patience with that. Maybe I'll give it a try again on our annual spring fishing trip.ReplyDelete
Nice pictures, TB. When I started fly fishing some 60+ years ago I loved those flies, made in Japan mostly I think. I still have a bamboo Heddon Black Beauty rod of my dad's, he bought it in the 40's.ReplyDelete
I fish less too, even though I live a half hour from the Big Hole, where you've been. Our age gives us memories, even as it takes away our ability to re-live them.
Tight lines, even if it's in your dreams.
If you ever come to the Eastern Shore, I have a friend who will take you out for some SERIOUS fishing - tuna, marlin... or drum fishing out on the Bay......ReplyDelete
Let me know when you are coming!
Great story, great post!ReplyDelete
One reason I like to read your blog entries is that they always take me where I've never been. Of course that includes fishing of any sort ... but I love the colors on the Kmart trout flys !!ReplyDelete
troutbirder -- Nice that you taught yourself and wonderful that the man along the lake told you about making your own.Have a few family members that go into another world when they are making their own flies. -- barbaraReplyDelete
What a marvelous story. I would say that you learned your lessons well. I'm not a fisherman myself, but I've always admired the grace of fly fishermen such as you.ReplyDelete
Gosh, I haven't been fishing in years. Not since my dad passed away. We all went fishing and I do believe he caught a fish. That was almost 15 years ago!! Now I just walk into the grocery store and open the freezer and crab myself a fish or two. ;)ReplyDelete
What a great story!! I have alwaysl loved the look of fishing flies, although I only ever fished with worms and minnows. Great shot with the cutthroast trout!ReplyDelete
Who knew? I would have thought the flashier, the better too. Nice story today.ReplyDelete
I did a lot of fly fishing in my 50’s. I called it my mid-life crisis and I went fishing five days a week. How I loved those days! I got my flies from a small store where they were hand made by locals. I never caught a lot of fish but I loved standing in the water perfecting my cast and being in nature.ReplyDelete
Hello Ray. I have got to do a better job of keeping up with your blog. I just spent a while reading Trout Fishing Newbie, Craigs List, Elm Trees, and River Boat Captain. You have some great stories to tell and thank you for sharing them. I love the story about the flies and the Kmart Manager. And we are so on the same page when it comes to the clown in the White House. I saw a yard sign a couple of days ago and I had to turn around a go by it again to make sure I read it correctly. In big capital letters BYE DON. I don’t care how it comes true but I sure hope it does. You recently stopped by my blog and left me a kind comment. Thank you for that. Have a good day, Ray, and take care. JohnReplyDelete
Dear Ray, thanks for sharing these memories as I know nothing about fishing for trout or really fishing for any other species. I so like the philosophical musings on "gaudiness." By the way, as I see it, one of the real perks of growing older . . . and older . . . and still older is that we have so many more memories in which to take delight and rest our minds. Peace.ReplyDelete
Kia Ora TB...a voice from the past here. Have always been checking in now again. Thought about you recently as finally after 28 years tramping in the Ruahine ranges of New Zealand decided to have a go at some of the trout with a fellow tramper/fisherman/hunter mate. I though I had gotten pretty good at seeing the trout in the clear rivers and streams. How little I knew! Watching someone whon knows what they are doing with a fly rod and observation was pretty amazing. We caught 26 rainbows in less than two days. All between 3-7 lbs. Ate one. And spent the nights at a remote mountain hut with the fire warming us gently. A great experience. Hope all is well.ReplyDelete
Ka kite ano.