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.
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 ...