Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fly Fishing: Highlights and Some Not So Hot...

Though the wear and tear of six decades chuckin' bugs is hard, damn it's been a fun ride...

True story: Way back when I started chuckin' bugs, Ike reigned and Vince's reign of terror had yet to begin. 

The first fly rod I could call my own was crafted (not really) somewhere over seas. In hindsight I'd say the guy who put it together had at least as much to learn about rod-making as I learning to fly fish. The OM won the wonder (as in wonder what the maker had in mind) rod on a punch board at the local American Legion; I'm pretty sure he handed it over to me as a sort of twisted peace offering designed to distract Mom's outrage at his late night carousing...Anyway it came in a balsa wood case which fell apart after only a few openings and closings...as it turned out, a bad omen but that was yet to come.

The wonder rod cast much like I imagine a buggy whip might. It came with a flimsy reel that squeaked louder than a the proverbial wheel badly in need of grease. The OM though had a sure cure for squeaks, reels or otherwise, and after lathering on a hefty amount of vaseline called her good to go. A line was also part of the package. Fly lines in those days were all double taper (at least all I knew about) and designated HDH, HEH and so forth--I think HDH was comparable to today's 6-weight. The one in the box was marked HCH. Whether or not it "matched" the rod is more than I can say but I can tell you without reservation, proper line weight or no, the whip-like rod combined with really lousy technique was recipe for disaster--which I proved many times over in the ensuing weeks and months. I think nylon had by then all but replaced gut leaders but since I have fished gut can't be sure what I broke in using.

I don't recall many, if any, fish in the basket that first season but I sure took fly casting to a low level I'm not sure I've seen the likes of since. One episode stands out and I recall the frustration as if it happened yesterday. Along with the OM, uncle Bob and their buddy, Doug we were strung out in a big pool casting (for want of a better term) to a line-up of hungry trout busily engaged in sucking down some sort of big fly. All of the trout I might reach with my best ever cast, however, were in close to the bank, guarded by a big hemlock. The lowest limbs as I recall were about 5 or 6 feet above the water--a piece of cake now, friggin' impossible back then. 

To make a long story short, I pitched every which way but the right way--too short, too long, one in the trees the next would splash down such to make a beaver blush. With only about 6 or 8 flies total in my meager stash, doubtful anything close to whatever the hell it was hatching (more on this in a moment) I was soon out of ammunition. With the last fly firmly stuck, cussing loudly (such to trip the OM's notorious quick trigger, "Boy watch your goddamn mouth or you'll find yerself eatin' through a straw) I gave it one last mighty yank and...broke the worthless wonder pole in two.

Believe it or not back then there were no "fly shops" at least in our little northeast Pennsylvania village. There were no "fly fishing schools" no "Orvis certified casting instructors" no "fly fishing outfitters/guides" at least none in our neck of woods. If you were lucky someone in the family knew what he (as far as I knew no lady fly fishers either) was doing and willing to pass it on. 

Alas in our gang of four, myself included (and you already know how sorry) only Doug had the vaguest idea what might be going on in a trout's head. And even he, by his own admission, was somewhat lacking. To whit "I mostly just wing it and hope for the best." All but clueless the OM and Bob relied mostly on the guy who wrote the local weekly outdoor column to inform "what's working," A might odd since I never heard either utter a single nice word about him.  

Anyway,  if he wrote "slayed 'em last evening on a #10 Multi-variant" one or the other would rush down to "Dewey's" and buy a buck's worth (five for a buck being the going rate for dry flies--wets were cheaper but I can't recall how much). Two for the buyer, one each for the rest of us, although Doug almost always fished wets so the fifth was more or less up for grabs so long as the buyer didn't run out first. Dewey being Doug's father and owner/operator of the town's one and only hardware/sporting goods store.

So there you have it for now, stay tuned I'll try my best to recollect a few other gems later...over and out...

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