Saturday, July 5, 2014

Trout Fishing

My desk.

I’m a lousy trout fisherman. By that, I mean everybody usually catches more fish than me. But I love it. I love the rhythms of fly casting and the history of the sport. It is a great way to pass the time between bird seasons.
My bookshelves are lined with volumes of fishing literature, and I’ve read every one, some many times. I can spend hours at my fly tying desk and enjoy every minute of it. A few years ago I built myself a fly tying desk, with stacked shallow cedar-lined drawers, which are now filled with every imaginable fly tying material.
More than a few of my flies are tied with feathers from ruffed grouse or woodcock. The colors look buggy to me, and apparently to a few of the fish too. Soft hackle wets can be tied from grouse hackles, and woodcock feathers make great wing cases on nymphs.
The old traditional wet flies, like Parmachene Belle, Tomah Jo, Coachman, Montreal, and White Miller, are all favorites of mine and I fish them all. Sometimes brookies are still fooled by the bright colors, but they seem to have gotten smarter in the bigger streams.
Where's the trout?
More than a few rainbows have been fooled by those Tomah Jos, but the wood duck flank feathers needed are hard to come by. Just looking at those beautiful feathers is half the fun of those flies. Did I mention that I have tied hundreds of Atlantic salmon flies and stored them in a large Wheatley box? And I’ve never been salmon fishing. I just like pretty flies.
Sylvester Nemes’s soft hackle wets catch more fish for me than most wets or nymphs, and some of the patterns even call for partridge, like the Partridge and Green. That makes my heart smile.
My fly boxes are filled with traditional streamers, from Black Ghost to Grey Ghost, and Edson Tigers to Warden’s Worry, almost all the patterns originating in my New England. The only thing I’ve ever caught on a Muddler Minnow is the back of my head. Actually, the Black Ghost is about the only streamer that I have much faith in. And it had better be tied on a number ten or smaller.
Adams, Wulffs, Royal Coachman, and a down-wing fly I call the Red Tag Coachman are the dry flies in my vest. In a box that stays in my fishing duffle, are hundreds of dries that I tied over the years, tied just as Art Flick would have taught, and they sure are pretty to look at. Once in a great while I dig through them, but usually, if the fish are rising, it’s those simple flies in my vest that I use. And most of the time they work well enough to keep me fishing.
I’m stuck in the old ways I guess, which may explain why others catch more than me. But fun in fishing isn’t measured in numbers of fish caught.
The thing I love most about trout fishing is the country. I’d rather fish a hidden stream, way back in the woods, than a crowded popular river any day, even if that secret stream rarely produces a fish while the popular one is loaded with trout.
Spring grouse.
And so often on the hike in, I’ll scare up a grouse, which of course both startles and delights me. Or sometimes a woodcock will flutter ahead, paralleling the stream bank before disappearing into the forest, giving me another place to return to hunt in the fall.
Maybe trout fishing for me is just prospecting for grouse and woodcock.