Missing A Friend

I was searching for some obscure fly tying material the other day, I don’t recall now what it was, when I came across a small plastic box containing a single fly. The memories flooded back: a bright May afternoon in my fly shop twenty-five years ago, sitting back and enjoying one of many conversations with Ed Shenk. I had been reading his lovely book Fly Rod Trouting a few days earlier, and was curious about the Fledermouse streamer therein.

Ed was an innovative fly tier, and among his contributions was the trimmed fur chenille technique pioneered in his cressbug and minnow, two patterns in his famous series of “chewy flies”. Memory tells me it was the Fledermouse, a Western pattern that he tied with this dubbing loop technique, that began the experimentation that resulted in those iconic chewies. Happy to indulge my curiosity, Ed took his place at my vise and tied me a sample of the Fledermouse, the fly I kept in that box for twenty-five years.

Fledermouse: tied by Ed Shenk May 10, 1995 at Falling Spring Outfitters, Scotland, Pennsylvania

I have enthusiastically used Ed’s dubbing loop technique since he first taught it to me a few years before that day in the shop. It has added a dimension to my tying that leads to more lifelike and durable flies, all of which light the road back to the excitement of my formative days fishing the Cumberland Valley spring creeks, and learning from the Master.

Chance favored me again recently, when I received a message from a friend advising me that one of Ed’s classic Hardy reels was available. I acted immediately, and was able to secure this keepsake, a vintage Featherweight.

In Fly Rod Trouting, Ed tells the tale of Old George, the mammoth LeTort brown trout he hunted and battled over three seasons. The story of one encounter tells us he was using a Hardy Featherweight reel, and the photo of the Master and Old George indeed shows a small Hardy attached to his five foot fiberglass rod on that victorious day in 1964. When I received the reel, both pawls were flipped into play, doubling the tension of the “check”. Uncommon, but suitable I would say when hunting an 8 1/2 pound brown. Is the reel I bought the same reel that captured Old George? I will never know for certain, but the possibility will heighten my senses each time I fish it on the rivers of my heart!

On another search through my assorted papers and periodicals, I recovered Ed’s handwritten manuscript for an article I was honored to have typed for him, back in those halcyon fly shop days. If I recall, the article was published in American Angler sometime thereafter. To illustrate the effectiveness of terrestrial dry flies, the piece begins with the story of another LeTort leviathan, a trout near nine pounds captured on one of his trademark diminutive fly rods, and a size 14 LeTort Cricket. Reading his words brings a flood of emotions.

Instantly I am back on the hallowed LeTort, stalking the wariest brown trout I have ever encountered in her grassy meadows. In the early years, I would drive to Carlisle in darkness, and walk the stream at first light. At the time there was a huge midstream logjam in the lower part of the Barnyard Meadow that gradually accumulated floating masses of weeds around it’s edges, until it reached nearly from bank to bank. I cast my LeTort Cricket over top of one of those weed mats, and watched it drift slowly to the upstream edge, and start to circle in the eddy, then disappear. The fight was thrilling, as I somehow kept the big trout away from all of those logs, netting my first larger LeTort brown, an eighteen inch beauty!

Keepsakes: The late Ed Shenk’s Hardy Featherweight, his handwritten manuscript for “Terrestrials From Top to Bottom”, and one of the commemorative LeTort Cricket’s he tied for the 2007 Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Banquet. Ed passed away in April of this year after a lifetime of writing, tying, teaching and enriching the lives of fly fishermen everywhere. Rest in peace Master of the LeTort.

I was working on an article for the Catskill Fly Tyer’s Guild, musing over fly fishermen and their passions for tackle and tradition when I thought of the Fledermouse, just recently recovered in a box of tying materials and small mementoes. While we are oft entranced by collectible vintage rods and reels, or the rarest of angling books in limited printings, sometimes the smallest things can trigger the most powerful memories; things like that single fly.

One thought on “Missing A Friend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s