Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Friday, November 22, 2013

Trout Fishing

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.

"Say what?"

"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…..:)


  1. i like that 'meant to catch fishermen.' :)

  2. 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! :)

  3. 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.

  4. What a great story! I like that line about catching fishermen rather than trout. You've learned a lot over the years! :-)

  5. 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.

  6. You mean pretty doesn't do it?? Who would have thunk it.
    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Love your story! The pic of you is great - you look quite happy with that big fish.

  9. Isn't it great how we meet people in life that change things for us. Often, just out of nowhere.

  10. I have several friends who are completely obsessed about fly tying. I am not a fisherman any more.

  11. I have always thought fly fishing had to be the best kind of fishing. But never got any further than that!

    Jo and the Petz

  12. OH Wow---that photo and the smile on your face tell us just how much you loved being there. What a gorgeous trout...

    Think I told you that my Daddy loved to fish --and he would, on occasion, bring home some trout for dinner. Good Eatin'!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.
    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.

  16. 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......
    Let me know when you are coming!

  17. 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 !!

  18. 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. -- barbara

  19. 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.

  20. 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. ;)
    xo Catherine

  21. 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!