J. Castwell
May 3rd, 1999

Could You Learn From A Fly?

I met Don Murray at Canoe Harbor Landing, a campground on the South Branch of Michigan's Au Sable river around 1968 or so. I was tenting with the family and Don had a van of some sort, panel truck perhaps, not sure. He was 'the Man;' the guy who was getting all the fish, everyone in camp knew it. It was early summer, the river was dropping, hatches were happening, the days were warm, and I was fly fishing with a bamboo rod and silk line. This required me to stretch, dry, dress, and polish my fly line at noon or it would not float for the afternoon fishing.

As our camp-sites were rather close and my fly-line cleaning tended to take up a somewhat large collection of tree branches, we made our first acquaintance. I didn't know much of anything at the time and was willing to take advise from anyone offering it. He seemed pleasant enough as he showed off his new Weber Kettle grill, an extended mayfly used for the Hexagenia hatch, related how he had taught President Ike Eisenhower how to fly fish, and how he used a size fourteen all white miller fished upstream and dry during the day.

White Miller

Obviously, he knew a lot more about things than did I. He gave me one of the white millers.

With my silk line properly cared for, off to the stream I went and proceeded to pound my way against the near-waist-deep current for the rest of the afternoon. I was chock-full-of-hope. I had 'The' fly. The one the 'Man' used to slay the browns and brookies during the lovely mid-day time on the stream. Before long, from a ripple at the end of a projecting 'sweeper' (cedar log), I got a rise and came up too fast, missing the trout and hanging the fly behind me in a water-edge bush.

A couple of slight jerks and it came loose and I proceeded to forge my way once again against the rivers flow. Upstream and dry! And it worked. To this day, I am not sure why, other than I knew it would, he had said so! The only problem I had with the fly was it would not hook anything. Time after time, a nice brown in the range of ten to fourteen inches would tip up, grab the fly, turn and spit the thing out before I could set the hook. Well, as I said, I was new and still had some learning to do.

But, I did learn. That afternoon, as I came off the stream on my way up the bank to the camp-ground, I was putting the fly into the 'hook-keeper' on my fly rod when I noticed that the bend of the hook was gone. Broke clean off. Not just the tip where the barb would be, the whole bend was gone. A straight shank was all I had left. I did remember the bush I had hung it in and also the log I had stuck a bit later on. What I had not fully learned was to check my fly when things like that happen; and if for some unknown reason, I start missing rises.

So, Don, there you have the whole story. Your fly worked well; I didn't. But, that fly taught me a lesson I have not forgotten to this day. Thank you. Oh, by the way, the 'extended-body' mayfly you gave me that same day is in a glass case on the wall here as I write this. Thanks for that too. I don't have the white miller anymore. ~ JC

Till next week, remember ...

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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