Friday, March 19, 2010

You've Been After Me For a Long Time...

"We changed to dry clothes, and then he made a pot of tea for himself and for me broke out a bottle of Edradour, a fabulous pot-still Scotch twenty-five years old that no words of mine can describe. We ate a sandwich and then went into the common room, where my friend made a couch out of pillows on the window seat.

"Sparse," he said when he had arranged it to suit him, "you've been after me for a long time to write my reminiscences, and I've finally made a start. Listen to this."

And then, while I smoked a pipe and sipped my whisky, he read me the bright narrative which became one of the best chapters in his fascinating autobiography, Those Were the Days. I can hear his voice yet and see the tackle-littered common room in the lamplight, and I cherish this memory, for the camp is gone now and all the lovely stretch of river we fished is underneath the Neversink Reservoir in sixty feet of water, and Ed long ago crossed that other River to fish from the far bank. That evening was a fragment of the Golden Age, both of the Neversink and of me."

The above is the last page in Sparse Grey Hackle's, Fishless Days, Angling Nights. The book is a classic piece of fly fishing literature, and I was happy to stumble upon it while hunting for bamboo fly rods in an antique store.

Fishless Days, Angling Nights is filled with stories and memories from Hackle's (Alfred Miller) fly fishing adventures in the early 20th century, primarily the 1920s-50s. The last chapter, entitled “The Golden Age,” relates the last time Hackle went fishing with his good friend Ed Hewitt in 1940.

As I finished reading those last words, I thought to myself; when was my golden age of fly fishing and adventure? Or is it yet to come?

I guess I will continue to wade my favorite streams and cast my little flies, while I consider that question. I’ll let you know when I have an answer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fly Fishing in a Snow Storm. Really?

Winter fishing can be a tough cold gig. The weather in Colorado can be a tricky thing and the higher in elevation you are, you should expect to experience a few weather patterns moving through on you. I’ve been caught in blizzards and white outs on stream, when only an hour earlier the skies were cerulean blue and sunny.

I can recall one snowy adventure on stream that made me re-think the need to winter fish. I had just attended a Trout Unlimited meeting where the speaker mentioned fly fishing in a snow storm is great experience.

“There’s nothing better than casting your fly in a snow storm!” Taken aback by some of our reactions, he said; “No really. The skies are gray and overcast. You may catch an early Blue Wing Olive hatch. I’ve had great days fishing in snow storms.”

What? Seriously? Well maybe he knows something I don’t? Ok. I’ll go fly fishing in a snow storm…and I did.

A few days later it started to snow, I piled my gear into truck and told my wife I was off to fish in a snow storm. The higher I went in elevation, the harder it snowed, the harder it snowed, the more worried I became. Snow storms in the Colorado Rockies are not to be messed around with. These storms can be killers and I was going fly fishing in one of these potential killers.

When I pulled into the trailhead leading to the stream, I thought I saw another vehicle parked. I wasn’t sure if it was a truck. The snow was blowing so damn hard I couldn’t tell if it was truck or cattle that had gathered together for warmth and protection from the blizzard. Wait a second, it’s a truck, and there’s two guys getting ready to fish in this snow storm. Well, they must know something too. OK. If they are here maybe this is a good thing?

The storm continued to build as I rigged up. And I was ready to pack it in and go home when the two other adventures came over to my truck.

“Wow! This is one hell of storm!” one of them shouted over the wind and fury of the blizzard.
“Sure is!” I shouted back.
“You think this is worth our time?” he asked.
I shrugged and yelled; “I hope so. I heard fishing in a snow storm can be pretty good.”

He smiled and nodded to his friend, as if I had confirmed his advice and their conversations, “Yep, I’ve heard that too. The other day I attended a Trout Unlimited meeting and the guest speaker said it can be some of the best fishing.”

I laughed and told them I was at the same meeting. They both had a look of fear and mistake written across their faces.

After a few seconds of discussion, we all decided to tough it out and fish. As we walked down to the stream, one of them turned to me and shouted; “For the interest of safety, we should all stick together, within sight of each other.”

I gave him the thumbs up and we marched on. We didn’t catch a damn thing. Fly fishing in a snow storm, a blizzard. That was stupid.

I like using the winter months for fly tying. This year I pulled together a list of flies, common western flies, needed to fill my fly boxes. Basic flies one should not be on stream without, here’s a few I’ve tied up this winter; Elk Hair Caddis, Adams, Blue Wing Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Red Quills, Stimulators, Trico Spinners, Mosquitoes, Ants, Grasshoppers, Hares Ear Nymphs, Midges, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tail Emerges, Griffith Nats and Streamers. Sorry, that reads like quite the laundry list.

Like anyone else who ties, I’ve created a few of my own patterns. Mainly, these creations are variations of existing patterns, tweaked to my liking. I’ve had great success with my Moose Tail. The “Moose” is a simple pattern using moose mane for tail, cream dun for body and grizzly hackle. Size 14-18.

I sent a few Moose Tails out to a friend in Maine. He emailed me a few days after receiving them and told me he needed more or the recipe to make them himself. Seems Maine Brook Trout love the pattern. That was a nice feeling knowing my pattern is effective in a few regions of the United States. Truth is; the pattern just looks buggy and trout love buggy things. I think the pattern would work anywhere.

Tying flies, warm and happy versus fishing in a blizzard cold and worried. I think I’ll stay home.