A year and a half ago I came face to face with the possibility of living very, very close to wild trout. While out on a run, getting a little lost, a glimpse of a fish in a stream captivated me. I knew the water was cool and clean. The species of the fish was unknown, but there was enough good evidence for me to pursue the lead.
While not an obsession or singular focus, I was taken by the strong desire to catch trout in town. Trout would be exciting, but discovery would be even more of a thrill. A remnant population of brook trout amongst the suburban sprawl? Even a little fish would prove a personal benchmark. More importantly, it would represent the perseverance of something wild.
That was in Northern Virginia. That specific lead went cold, at least in terms of trout.
After some time, I did locate some wild rainbows nearby. I even found a tiny population of native brookies, which I chose to leave alone. I felt like I came to some sort of closure regarding trout in Northern Virginia.
Now, I’m in living in Massachusetts again.
Hey… that’s my stuff!
And why is a handful of my fly fishing gear laid out in a photogenic and organized manner? Vedavoo’s #myvedavoo photo contest, of course.
The whole point of the contest is to show how different people use their gear. If you’re anything like me, you are into the stuff of fly fishing. The stuff isn’t the destination, but it is absolutely part of the journey. We all carry flies and nippers and tippet, but what else goes into your pack?
I’m interested. And Vedavoo is, too.
For example, I have three ways to store flies in my small-stream pack. There is my Tacky boxes, my Fly Trap, and my Smith Creek rig keeper. Why three? Because I store my flies in the Tackys, dry individual flies on the Fly Trap, and wrap up whole rigs on the Smith Creek. Personally, I value all three. And it works.
Or this: I’d rather have a headlamp and a buff than more flies. I can make do with the patterns I have on hand, but not being able to see or getting eaten alive by bugs makes fishing miserable.
What kind of interesting/quirky things do you have in your pack?
The last thing any fly fisher wants to think about in the early spring is Christmas and the weather that generally accompanies it. But really, is there any time where Will Ferrell, dressed up like an elf, isn’t funny?
I’d say “no.”
More than his trademark humor, I think there is something that the fly fishing culture can glean from the character. Let’s take a moment to think about ol’ Buddy from the holiday classic Elf.
Do you remember how Buddy reacts when he first steps foot in New York City? There is trepidation, a lot of awkwardness, and some fear. Most of all, there is awe. He sees the big buildings, the interesting people, and even the best cup of coffee in the world. For the very first time, Buddy experiences the wonders of metropolitan civilization and he is transfixed.
But what about everyone else? His dad, stepbrother, and soon-to-be love interest are all over it. There isn’t any magic left in Christmas, and New York city itself seems to have lost its charm. It is all old hat. Their apathy, their negativity, and their scathing words aren’t helping themselves out any. And they very nearly bring poor Buddy down.
So… what does this have to do with fly fishing?
I have some valuable fly fishing writing to share with you. But first, let me begin by blowing your mind:
THERE IS NO ENTRY FOR THE BANJO MINNOW ON WIKIPEDIA!!!
Shock, I know.
Anyway, growing up I was a fan of the Banjo Minnow. Not only did I use them (and with great success, I will add), but I watched the infomercial over, and over, and over again on whichever high-numbered cable channel the fishing shows aired. And if I found myself in a Bass Pro or Cabela’s where they had the Banjo Minnow infomercial on loop? I’d stop and stare, mouth agape.
Being a sucker for a good/tolerable sales pitch, I sent my $29.95 off and waited impatiently for the 110-piece set to arrive.
At least for me, they worked. Maybe it was the weedless rigging, which was essential in the chemically-enhanced suburban ponds of my youth. Perhaps it was actually the science behind the whole concept: the idea that fish simply could not pass up a dying baitfish. My money? It is on the fact that Bill Dance himself endorsed the Banjo Minnow.
Most Fridays on Casting Across are devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.
Today, I’m sharing items from Tenkara USA, Trident Fly Fishing, & RepYourWater/Hank Patterson.
If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.
Check out the links, along with my thoughts, below:
This is one of my favorite trout pictures.
I caught this brown trout in the highest reaches of a Pennsylvania limestone stream. This fish was remarkable for its color. This fish was exciting due to its relatively large size. But this fish was most special because it was caught in a place where most trout had been pushed out of. Development and poaching had taken their toll. The big browns had been displaced.
I’ve always loved the stream. To catch this fish, in this creek, at this time, was exciting.
The fish came from alongside a submerged log to sip a tiny midge. In the tight, brushy water, I knew immediately it was a good trout. I quickly netted the fish, laid it in the streamside grass, removed it from the net, and snapped a picture. Back the fish went into the water, and back I went to fishing.
That night at home I looked at the picture. I wasn’t on fly fishing social media. It was just for me. The digital photo quickly became the background of my desktop computer. The colors, the proportions, even the symmetry of the image’s composition captured my experience and that trout.
Even without social media as a teenager, I was generally aware of best practices when it came to fish handling. In the 90’s, there were plenty of magazines and Trout Unlimited meetings to pass on key principles. The fly fishing community was starting to see that stewardship entailed more than simply catch and release.
For most fly tiers, tools and materials are limited to what can be purchased commercially. And with more products than the rest of the fly fishing industry combined, there are a lot of options for tiers. But what if something isn’t just right? You’d need to be able to dye your own bucktails, breed your own chickens, or machine your own scissors.
In Jay Burge’s case, he felt like he needed to craft his own tying bench.
Fly tying benches are the happy medium between having your supplies in a transient bin and designating part of your home as a tying spot. Whether they be 18” laptop sizes or 30”, multi-tiered stations, tying benches help tiers keep tools, materials, and their overall process organized.
After being in the industry for a few years as a guide, Burge began to tie more and more to replenish his fly boxes. Necessity turned to passion, and he found himself immersed in tying flies. However, he was unsatisfied in the commercially available tying benches. Details in size, ergonomics, or aesthetics weren’t to his liking. Also working as an established carpenter, he had the means and ability to solve his own problem.
Within a short period of time working on this “problem solving,” Finest Fly Tying Benches of Colorado was formed.
Maybe you have never gotten around to taking your teenager fly fishing. Maybe your six-year-old has just demonstrated enough patience and focus to spend an afternoon on the water. Maybe you just got into the sport, and you want to bring your kids along for the ride.
Maybe you’ve been thinking: “All I need to do is give them this fly rod, and they’ll figure it out.”
Let me humbly chime in and offer my opinion. That is a terrible idea.
To be fair, I don’t have it completely figured out. I’ve made my mistakes. With my own kids and with other young people I’ve been too hands-off or too intense. I’ve tried to put them on spooky spring creek trout and I’ve assured them that more bluegill was the pathway to success. All that said, through trial and error, I think I have figured out some principles for getting kids – be they your children, grandchildren, or someone else in your life – into fly fishing.
Here are three pieces that cover the topic. Two are practical tips for fishing, and one is just about being outside. Have a read by clicking on the titles of each article:
Last night I had fish for dinner. It was cod; broiled with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon. It was wild and caught from a sustainable fishery. Most importantly, it was delicious.
Eating fish isn’t a typical topic in fly fishing media.
Given, I didn’t get anywhere near my cod while it was still alive. Admittedly there is a disconnect between the paper-wrapped filets I bought at the store and the muscles underlaying the patterns on trout that I fawn over. One is fish. The other is a fish. On the surface that distinction sounds ridiculous. A lot of people don’t understand.
Eating fresh, farmed tilapia at a rural village in Guatemala I saw how confusing this distinction can be. A local and I had been talking, and he knew that I fish for a hobby. Each of us two tilapia in, he asked me how it tasted compared to all the fish I caught in the states. Even if my Spanish was better, I don’t think I could have justified myself enough to assuage his bewilderment.
His circumstances led to the black-and-white thinking that fish are food. In fly fishing culture, our black-and-white thinking says that a good many fish are absolutely not for eating.
There is no perfect small stream fly rod.
Various rod manufacturers and publications have declared they have the rod for fly fishing on high mountain streams or small meadow creeks. Such superlatives draw in attention (and customers). As is the case with medium-sized or large rivers, there is no perfect small stream fly rod. It is a matter of opinion; and each opinion is based on personal angling preference.
Still, the shopping process can benefit from considering some parameters. Where you fish, how you cast, and what you value while fly fishing are all going to matter when you choose your next small stream fly rod.
Three major areas to think through are length, weight, and action. Here are some specifics pertaining to each regarding small stream fly rods:
Where you fish, particularly the density of overhead foliage, should determine your rod length. Shorter rods, such as 6’6” or 7’ will allow you make overhand casts in all but the tightest canopies. Also, it will be easy to maneuver through the streamside underbrush. The ability to make unencumbered casts will be important because a short rod won’t make mending line and making presentation adjustments simple.