Winding thread this morning with meandering thoughts of spring hatches and the mysteries of cane. The mahogany duns I have tied are pretty little flies: splayed dun tails, smooth biot bodies with a fan of natural dun CDC and a soft dubbed thorax. They should present an interesting alternative to the spring risers when the little blue quills are about. Experience has shown this tie can copy both the duns and the upright winged spinners that may be encountered.
Spring Blue Quills can be prolific, and an interesting hatch to match. At times these dainty little flies provide better fishing than the Hendricksons. I tie a wide variety of patterns: different flies with very different colorations and appearances, yet they are all effective.
For a number of years my standby pattern has been an Antron winged parachute tied with a natural wild turkey biot body and medium dun hackle. The natural black and white primaries of the turkey provide terrific segmentation, but they are not at all close in color to the brownish mayflies themselves. Perhaps the striped effect excites the trout more than an accurate shade.
During 2018 I enjoyed less fishing than in any year out of the past twenty. I was still working while running back and forth between Chambersburg, PA and Hancock, trying to find a little house to retire in. The house search had been difficult, and then on one trip I was forced to turn back by the most horrendous pain I have ever experienced, courtesy of a kidney stone.
Once spring arrived and the hatches got underway, I tried to get a couple of hours on the river between visits to houses for sale. There was a lot of high water and that and my time constraints really squelched most of my fishing. There was one moment that stood out though, thanks to those reliable little blue quills.
I had visited one property that morning and made an offer that was verbally accepted. I was relieved and anxious to find a wadeable reach of water to relax. I knew one area I hadn’t fished in years, but that had been very good once in spring high water.
I worked along upstream letting the frustrations of house hunting be carried away by the current, and I started to see a couple of rises. Sure enough there were a few blue quills on the water. I carried a beautiful rod that my friend Wyatt Dietrich had made for me, his memorial to his friend and mentor George Maurer. The rod was Maurer’s Trout Bum model, 8 feet in three pieces for a five weight line.
I had fished the rod a handful of times, though always on days when the bugs and the trout refused to cooperate. At last I had the rod in my hands with a good trout rising to a mayfly hatch, and I wanted very much to christen this gorgeous work of art. I knotted my old reliable turkey striped parachute to the 5X tippet and worked into position to cast.
The lie was difficult, with strong current deflecting off a pile of bankside brush and then a sizeable rock, spreading the flow into a jumbled fan of percolating water with a fast chute between me and that fan. The trout took a few flies, but always in that fan of bubbling water below the obstruction. I waited, for I knew that one impulsive cast into that lie would drag immediately and ruin the opportunity. At last a bit of fortune smiled upon me.
The hatch intensified a bit, and the trout moved over into the chute and began picking off mayflies as they rushed past. It took half a dozen casts to time him just right before he took my little parachute solidly. The sting of the hook brought that big fellow right off the bank in a hurry. He shot past me and ran hard downstream against the drag.
My rod was bent and straining with both the fish’s strength and the heavy current, so I lowered the angle to bring the rod’s powerful butt section into play and turned him. I reeled with everything I had as he raced toward me. He dove for a sharp shelf of rock and I turned his head downstream, using the current to help pull him away from his target. Another long run against the drag, another turn, and we continued to spar there in the river’s crystaline flow. Finally I felt the stogy head shaking of a tired fish as I walked down to him recovering line.
In the net I admired a brilliantly colored, wide flanked brown trout just a shade over 22 inches long. The Trout Bum had been christened, and I enjoyed a moment of elation and joy as I revived the brownie and watched him slip away.
Moments later my phone buzzed me back to reality with a call from my realtor explaining that the seller had changed her mind, rejected my offer, and taken her house off the market.
That brown proved to be the lone highlight of my season. I didn’t find a house until the end of June, and didn’t really get in any fishing until after I settled in late July. After a couple of frustrating, windy afternoons on the West Branch the rains came at the beginning of August and washed the rest of the season away. It would truly have been a lost season were it not for the blue quills!
A few years ago I visited the Wulff Gallery at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum to feed my bamboo addiction. Hoagy Carmichael had donated the tools and artifacts from Everett Garrison’s rod shop to the museum and the exhibit had been opened. I was anxious to see and touch those pieces of angling history.
My friend, rodmaker Dennis Menscer, had told me about a documentary film that a young couple were producing, a film about bamboo roadmaking. Dennis had brought together several of the greatest living masters of the art who had agreed to participate. As it turned out, they were filming at the Gallery the day I visited. I had an interesting conversation with Producer Jan Jensen Davis while her husband Mark was filming rodmaker and museum trustee Jed Dempsey, and thus began my anticipation for viewing their film “Chasing The Taper”.
In documentary filmmaking, film festivals are the venues to debut these works, and Dennis travelled to Montana last winter to see debut of “Chasing The Taper”. He told me that there would be more festivals before the film would be released locally.
On Wednesday afternoon my DVD copy of “Chasing The Taper” arrived and I had it in the DVD player within minutes. My long wait was amply rewarded with a wonderful portrait of the history and passion of bamboo and the artisans who live to continue the magic of the craft! The film is beautifully done and a must see for those who appreciate the history, beauty and traditions of fly fishing. https://tinboatproductions.com/chasingthetaper