Day 23 – Plans Change

30 09 2009
Today I had planned on writing about fly tying. I had some patterns that I was hoping to try out this week sometime. However, as previously mentioned, since my wife and I just moved into the area, most of my material and tools were in boxes in the garage. It wouldn’t have been so hard if they were the only boxes out there. Unfortunately, they were among other boxes that look very similar in nature (damn banker boxes).

After about an hour of sifting through boxes, I found five boxes of materials. There may be another two or three out in the garage, but I have the majority of the stuff now. I then hauled them into the office and started sorting through the vast amount of material. I have so much stuff. I jokingly say to my friends that I have the largest collection of fluff and feathers known to man.

Anyway, I started to sort through the boxes. In my exhaustion of packing, I had ended up throwing everything into boxes will-nilly like. Scud backs were mixed in with bucktails, pheasant skins were mingled with yarn, dubbing was packed in vises… it really was a mess. I finally ended up sorting the stuff into some major categories. Seven to be exact.

Through the course of our move, we had gathered another bedroom set (thanks Abigail & Josh) which has freed up a seven drawer dresser tower. My wife has agreed that I can use this dresser to store the materials. Kind of works out quite well because of the seven categories and the seven drawers.

The first drawer holds a tray of tying tools, various packages of hooks, odds & ends vest tools, and quite a few “sample” flies. The second drawer is my feather drawer. Everything from pheasant tails to marabou to goose biots. The third drawer is my chenille drawer. It holds trilobal, micro, braided, and polar chenille. The fourth drawer is my Krystal Flash drawer. The next drawer is dubbing drawer (complete with Seal fur). Drawer six holds the odd stuff (well at least odd for me). It contains foam, fur, faux fur, and scud backing. The final drawer is my bead drawer. It also includes my hot glue gun and colored glue sticks. Thread is stored on top of the dresser on a spool rack.

It took me quite a while to get everything in a manageable semblance of order. I really should go back through the drawers and organize them a little better. I know that some my patterns that I want to tie (which WILL happen tomorrow) will require peacock herl. Its in the second drawer, and that’s all that I know. Tomorrow I will end up emptying that drawer to locate Hungarian partridge feathers, peacock herl, ginger hackle, and possibly even biots. I’ll also have to up-end the fifth drawer containing the orange dubbing and hare’s mask. Just needs to be done.

So, I didn’t end up tying flies today. Probably just as well. It looks like I might also need to take a trip to the fly shop for some hooks. I have a plethora of dry fly hooks, but my thoughts are on tying wet flies. Oh well, plans change and I guess you have to roll with the punches.

Day 22 – The Written Word

28 09 2009

It is dangerous for a man with a weak heart to go trout-fishing, for he is liable to get a case of shell-shock at any time. You are going down a nice, quiet stream and you see a dark corner over there where a tree hangs out, over a pool which is as smooth as oil and black as ink. You know what is going to happen. You know you’re going to be scared. You feel that you shall either jump into the creek or run for home when it does happen at all – and yet that terrifying thing does happen. There comes the tremendous unheralded flash into the air of a crimson and white and orange creature, a terrifying phantasm, a moment seen, then gone forever. Did you see it? Why, yes; but you forgot all about your rod and it certainly must have spit out the fly which it took as it went down half an hour ago. You stand and tremble, and look in apprehension at the spot where the little wrinkles still are spreading out on the oily ink. He might do that again. It takes a brave man to go after trout.

The above quote was taken from Holden’s book “The Idyl of the Split-Bamboo” from a section entitled “The Joys of Angling”. To me it perfectly catches the rush of emotion of having a trout take your fly. I don’t think I would ever have called it being scared, but when I reflect upon the above text, I have to say that Emerson Hough (whose actual comments these are) was correct.

In my own words, I’ve called that feeling a lightning bolt that starts at the fly, travels through line and rod, enters your hand, creeps up your arm and explodes into your soul. Put in simpler terms, unbridled joy. If it were any more intense, it would cause tears in your eyes.

In case you haven’t picked up on the fact, I tend to read quite a bit. I love the written word, and enjoy the feeling that I get when I read a nice well crafted story. Thoreau, Maclean, Holden, Walton, and Hemingway grace my shelves. New(er) authors like Gierach and Prosek provide me glimpses into today’s angling lifestyle. I read their experiences and I’m transported to another place and another time. It allows me to go fishing, when the demands, constraints, and responsibilities of my own life prohibit me from actually going.

Personally, I secretly desire to be among this cadre. I hope to see my thoughts and insights written down and preserved for posterity. Something that will provide a voice for my soul, that will shout to the world, “I am here, and I exist! Do not forget me!” Maybe there’s a desire in each one of us to be not forgotten.

So I read books on fly fishing. I relate to the characters and authors of these stories. And as my eyes flow along the serif print on the page, it is as I am honoring them in some manner. It is as if I’m saying, “You still exist. Your words move me. Thank you.”

Consequently, I’d like to honor another person, the (very) late Provost of Eton College, Sir Henry Wooten. Izaak Walton brings his words back to life and Holden quotes Walton, quoting Wooten (and now I’m quoting Holden, quoting Walton, quoting Wooten). Each of us feeling the emotions that call us to angling that Wooten has so eloquent expressed. Each of us honoring and remembering a fellow angler.

‘T was an imployment for his idle time, which was not idly spent;’ for Angling was after tedious sudy, ‘ A rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirtis, a diverter of sadness, a clamer of unquiet thoughts, a Moderator of passions, a procurer of contentedness, and that it begat habits of peace and patience in those that profest and practic’d it.

Day 21 – Pondering Flies

27 09 2009

I finally got a chance to peruse through my December 2009 issue of “Fly Fisherman” today. I only had a few minutes before I had to get ready to go to church (the real church, not the Church of the Babbling Brook), so I searched for a quick article to read. I ended up reading the “Fly Tier’s Bench: Depth Charge Bird’s Nest” by Greg Vinci on page 54.

Later on today, I was looking for a new book to read (as I just finished the book “Casting a Spell” by George Black). I looked on my bookshelf and decided to read the classic “The Idyl of the Split Bamboo” by George Parker Holden. In the opening chapter, amidst the notable names and poetic references (some of which I was moved by) was a reference to a fly pattern called Greenwell’s Glory. Intrigued by the generous praise given to the pattern by Holden, I went to my library to pull out the “Fish Flies: The Encyclopedia of the Fly Tier’s Art” by Terry Hellekson. Page 160 gives the full recipe for the pattern and even provides additional notes by the author (however, I find Holden’s reference more invigorating).

As I continually reflect upon the full color plates of the Encyclopedia of Flies, I start to drool. I especially salivate over Plate 4. Its a page full of wet flies names like Pheasant Tail Spider, Orange Fish Hawk, Spitfire, Silver Big Hole Demon and Campbell’s Fancy (I especially feel connected to this one since my last name is Campbell). Seeing these names, and hearing about how so-and-so angler preferred this one over that one, makes me hope that someday I will find the special fly that will “produce” fish for me.

As a result of this searching, my fly boxes are sort of a hodgepodge mess of retail buying mistakes, curious patterns, and small discoveries.

A giant yellow Madonna, a realistic black stonefly (I forget the pattern name), and some bead head marabou chocolate rubber legged thing were all bought because someone told me that they were the “hot” fly. They’ve never left the box as I never really gained confidence in them to do the job correctly. They might be really good patterns, but my hand always seems to hesitate over them. Somehow I lack the faith that they will do the job.

I have some flies that do the job well enough. I like the Pink Squirrel pattern, which I have found to perform especially well in the early season. I also like the pattern called Gabriel’s Trumpet, which I discovered in a fly fishing magazine a couple of years back. I’ve taken the liberty to modify Skip Morris’s pattern however. I tie it in yellow and added a yellow glass bead, which is a minor alteration from the Gabriel’s Trumpet, Gold recipe. I guess I have an interest in the attractor fly patterns. (Hmmm… that’s a new discovery for me. I’ll have to explore that avenue more at another time.)

I don’t know if I will ever find the perfect pattern. I don’t know if I’ll even come up with a truly original pattern. It would be nice to be like my friends Mark Kaplan or John van Vliet who have come up with patterns which are now being sold commercially. It doesn’t matter though, because I don’t mind the pursuit.

Day 20 – Beer & Fly Fishing

27 09 2009

It was a hot and muggy day. It was one of those days where you take a shower, walk outside, and then you had to take another shower. I had just put in a good day of fishing the Kinni (the Kinnikinnick River) in River Falls, Wisconsin. As I trudged my way back to the parking lot, I managed to meet up with a few other anglers who decided that the world of AC would be better than dying of dehydration on the stream (yes I’m aware of the irony).

As I set on the tailgate of my SUV’s, pondering who in the world thought neoprene stocking foot waders were a good thing, a magical thing appeared out of a cooler of their truck. It was a beacon of hope in that hot miserable world, a thing that could inspire a thirsty man (or woman). It was an ice cold beer, and the ppssshtt sound it made when the cap was removed was sweeter than Mozart. And I was left without, as I didn’t have the brains to think bringing a cold one to the river was a good idea. Lesson learned.

Today I spent the better part of the day brewing up a batch of Scotch Ale. When the process is said and done, I’ll have about five gallons of beer. Let me tell you, that’s music to my ears. The hardest part is waiting the three weeks before trying it out. During the process of brewing (which involves a lot of watching a pot of water boil), I happened to think about how much beer and fishing seems to go together. Or better yet, how much fly fishing has influence beer.

Two Hearted Ale comes to my mind first. Actually, it was the first beer that I remember seeing with a trout influence. Obviously this trout labeled beer was heavily influenced by Ernest Hemingway’s story “Big, Two-Hearted River.” This ale comes from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI.

After Two Hearted Ale, I recall Trout Slayer by Big Sky Brewery in Missoula, Montana. I think I purchased the beer just for the label. It just screamed marketing, but that didn’t make a difference. Once I saw that beautiful water color-esque label, I knew that it was going to grace my shelf. Empty of course, that would be a crime not to drink the beer.

Just recently, I’ve discovered a new fly fishing brewery. It hails from Atlanta, Georgia and is called Sweet Water Brewing Company. The logo incorporates a jumping rainbow trout. As I scanned their web page, I was immediately set upon images of fly fishing. A trout on the left side of the page is pursuing a wet fly on the right side of the page. The entire web site screams dirty trout bum angling. I was rather pleased to view it. Check it out!

It seems that no matter what we do in life, our passion follows us. I can only guess that the brewmasters of these beers feel quite comfortable on the trout stream as they do in the brewery. I only hope that one day, I can incorporate my passion into my work (whatever that might be).

Day 19 – Words of Wisdom

25 09 2009

Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morn, sailor be warned.

My dad used to say this to me and my brother a lot when we were kids. It’s a simple phrase that helps predict the weather. I’ve been told it has to do with clouds reflecting something or another and normal weather patterns. All I know is that for the most part this old sage advice holds mostly true.

In my exhaustive search (about ten minutes of googling) I’ve found many pieces of advice that should help, inspire, locate, catch, et cetra, et cetra for the fly angler. The sayings range from the bizarre to the very plausible “why didn’t I think of that” insight.

For example, here’s a bit of information that makes sense to me, and I wonder why I haven’t heard of this until now:

Let’s follow the birds today.

It makes sense that if birds are swarming above a stream, they are obviously eating some kind of insectlife. As a fly fisherman, I should take notice, as maybe a hatch is on, and I should try to “match the hatch” (another good adage).

A few months ago, while on a fishing trip in Wisconsin with a friend, I heard this advice from him:

If you see a fox (dead or alive) it will be a good day of fishing.

I’m not sure how this plays to fly fishing, maybe something to do with active wildlife seeking food? I’m really not sure, but it seems that fly fishing has a lot of these sayings, or bits of wisdom, that predict success or failure.

Another one that I’ve heard, and tend to use is:

Bright day, bright fly.

I think that is a pretty standard saying and it has proven useful in the past. My guess is that its easier to see bright colored flies on sunny days, which in turn helps with triggering an aggressive response in trout. I’m no scientist, so I can’t speak with authority.

I remember hearing about a fellow angler in Minnesota who only fishes with an 8 weight rod. He’s been known to catch big fish consistently. Someone, who obviously had trout envy asked him what was his secret. His reply was:

Big fish, big fly.

I’m pretty sure that one has been around for awhile, but I do like his simple explanation to the man’s question.

Ken Iwamasa (fly tyer, guide, professional fly angler, photographer…) has this knowledge to bestow upon us when we tie our own flies:

The flytier who practices with the flies he or she has created soon realizes that there can be a large degree of difference between a fly pattern that catches the admiration of anglers and those that catch trout.

I’m very aware of this knowledge, as I have a whole drawer of “pretty” flies that are wonderful to look at, but can’t even catch a cold.

Now I understand that I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on this adage. So, I’m asking you the reader to provide your thoughts on this topic. The way I figure, I can always use a little more wisdom.

Day 18 – Fly Fishing as a Profession?

24 09 2009

The last couple of posts have been pretty “heavy” so I decided to change things up a bit today. Yesterday, as I was surfing the web and joining fly fishing websites, I ran across and odd question.

I was trying to sign up for and on the registration site, it asked my level of involvement with fly fishing. The supplied answers amazed me. There was professional fly fisher and amateur fly fisher. I checked amateur, but that got me thinking, how does one a professional?

Now many years ago, while I was in high school, we had job fairs. Companies would come into the school and talk about different professions. I’m pretty sure I don’t remember professional fly fisherman as a career choice. So… what gives? Why am I only hearing about this now? I feel as if I wasted 14 years of work. If I would have known professional fly angler was an option, I can tell you I would have chosen that career path.

However, I’m still confused on how this can be a profession. I wonder if that means guides are professional fly fishers. However, I don’t think they put “Fly Fisherman” on the space for jobs on the IRS forms. I believe they put “River Guide” or that sort of thing on it. So, I’m going to make a judgement call and say that guides aren’t professional fly fisherman. I mean if they were, they’d be the one fishing, right?

My business and economics background are now kicking in. What kind of goods or service would a professional fly fisherman offer? Fish? Maybe it is not so much of a goods, but an image. I mean Lefty Kreh has made a life out of fly fishing, and now he endorses his own brand of line from Scientific Anglers. I imagine he gets paid some sort of royalty for using his name.

So, if this is the case, I’d like to throw my hat into the arena and say that my particular brand is for sale. I’d like to take up the standard of professional fly angler and would like someone to pay me to fish. I promise strong midwestern work ethics. I’ll never show up late. I would be willing to work late, and even travel above 50% of the time. I’m in my mid-30’s and my past work experience has been in the industry (so that should be a plus). If you’d like to hire me as a professional fly fisherman, please make a comment below. Thank you.

Day 17 – Ethos of Fly Fishing

23 09 2009

So ever since I heard from a friend on Twitter that the topic of ethics should be addressed I’ve been trying to define what it means to be ethical in terms of fly fishing. Yesterday’s post started out with today’s title, but as I started typing, I realized that I was talking more about etiquette versus ethics. There is a distinction between the two.

Etiquette by my definition is based upon politeness. I see it as trying to be nice and to play nice. On the other hand, I define ethics as something that is based upon morals. These two terms often work with each other, and it is easy why the two can be often confused for one another.

My understanding of morals is that it stems from culture, history, and beliefs. If we apply this definition to describing ethics for fly fishing we have to look at what the culture of fly fishing is, what is the history, and what are the general beliefs that are held by fellow anglers.

Fly fisherman (and woman) have long been regarded by the masses as elitist. I hold this true in my own mind as well. Again, I must reinforce that I’m not talking about tweed jackets and affluence, but on setting restrictions upon yourself so that you can showcase your skill. Therefore, the fly fishing culture is considered to impose certain restrictions upon themselves so that they can champion the ideaology of personal ability.

When I look back upon the long history of fly fishing, I see men and women who tend to be seeking something bigger than themselves. I might have romanticized this idea a little. Yet when we look at Izaak Walton’s book “The Compleat Angler” and see him argue that fly fishing has been blessed by God, or when reading George Black’s book “Casting a Spell” and understand the bamboo rod maker’s desire for perfection, or even in the closing lines of Norman Maclean’s book “A River Runs Through It” of that “…all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” They all show an aspiration of something greater.

And as far as the general beliefs of fellow anglers, you don’t have to search too hard to see concepts such as: conservation, catch & release, tresspassing, or volunteering. While some of these feelings are self-serving to the continuation of the sport, they do play at shaping the roles of ethics in fly fishing. As proof to this statement, I’m sure many of you have seen the old frontier photos of men with 30-40 trophy fish hung on a line. These black and white photos are often grainy and slightly out of focus. Today we see full color photos of “fish porn” gracing the covers of fly fishing magazines, yet we are reassured that these fish have been released shortly after the photo. Times change, and so do our values.

So, as I come to a close on today’s post, I now realize why ethics has been never really addressed correctly by many fly fishing articles. It is because it dwells in that gray hazy realm of concepts and philosophy. That while certain things come close to the concept, it never truly does it justice. Suddenly I feel that I should be re-reading Plato’s Republic again.