The gavel had sounded and the minutes of the last meeting of the
'Raggedy-Ass Bunch' (RAB) had been read and the floor had been
opened for old business. The gathering was back in the early days
of fly-fishing, the mid '50's, a small cabin on a little known
stream in the Midwest. The subject was again raised of the 'Ultimate
Dry Fly.' The idea had been broached two years back by the 'Major'
and had been the fuel for many discussions, both friendly and
not-so ever since.
The 'Presentationists' defended their position with their usual
vigor which did not lend to any progress whatsoever. All being
said, the 'UDF' still had not taken shape or form, although many
were the suggestions and offerings of those so inclined to
participate. A contest of sorts was suggested and after a
few quibbles around the table, seconded and voted upon. The
tallied ballots confirmed the decision and the 'game was afoot.'
Each member of the dias would tie one part of a fly, perhaps
the tail, or the wing, maybe some hackle or some other part
of a fly. Each entrant would get only one chance to offer what
he thought was the most important and his best representation
of the part. He would tie five identical flies for submission,
four of which would be discarded. At the end of the judging,
the top vote getters would be combined into a fly to be named
the 'Ultimate Dry Fly.'
A drawing would be held and one tier would be selected to produce
seventeen of the flies. These would be again judged and five would
be discarded, leaving a perfect dozen of the most deadly flies
ever created, the 'Ultimate Dry Fly' would at last live. After
the rest of the business was concluded, cards and corks were
pulled and the evening progressed as usual. The next meeting
would be in one month.
After the fight was over, the 'Judge' as he was called whacked
the gavel on the table and the combatants took their places
beside their non-bloodied companions. The 'fight' would be
dealt with after the meeting was over, the 'Raggedy-Ass Bunch'
ran a tight ship, at least when it came to their meetings and
tonight was an important event. Tonight were to be the submissions
from the tiers for the various parts of the 'Ultimate Dry Fly.'
That in fact, was what had precipitated the fight. As you may
have deduced, it was the 'presentationists' again. It seems
they had arrived early and decided to open their own views on
the subject outside the cabin. As it was lightly drizzling,
they had been scrunched under the eves and had been in too
close contact with one of the well known 'imitationists' who
also arrived ahead of time. Tempers and voices had risen and
as someone had shouted 'shut-up,' it had been perceived as
'stand-up,' The rest went down hill from that.
'Bang,' went the gavel. Quickly the 'Roberts Rules' were invoked
and the hot subject opened. Like a bunch of 'close to the chest'
poker players, the tiers around the table would hesitatingly
produce the carefully cotton padded boxes containing the flies
they had tied. They would start to hold them out, then draw them
back, then out again, none wanting to be the first one to make
the overture. The 'Judge' simply grabbed one and that seemed
to take the 'skunk' from the event and the rest were proffered
with out celebration.
History was being born that eve, for right there on that table
lay the most important elements of all dry flies. Each tier
having taken a full month to decide on which part was the very
most important, then tying up five, putting them into the
delicately padded fly boxes and submitting them here tonight.
As the contents of each box was scrutinized, two of the
'presentationists' being rather bored with all of this,
suggested, five card stud. and were admonished for being
out of order. The one with the damaged nose excused himself
anyhow and went outside (it was still raining) for a smoke.
A committee was formed for the preliminary evaluations and
after half an hour in conference the best of each box was
selected, the four of each having been destroyed, leaving
in each box the one best representation of each of the tiers
fancy. The final determination would be made by the full
membership of the 'R.A.B.' by secret ballot. All members
present must vote, it had to be a unanimous vote or the
whole idea would be scrapped. After all the reputation of
the group was at risk. At length the elements for the final
version of the 'UDF' were selected and each was put into one
especially selected box which was put in the center of the
table for all to view.
The paper was torn into sections, one to each member of the
'dias' and the instructions to either mark an 'OK' for the
project to continue and the fly to be produced, or an 'X'
which in effect would 'black-ball' the whole project.
About this time old 'bloody-nose' came in from the rain and
again inquired of the five card stud possibilities. It was
assumed he may be most willing to cast a negative 'X' ballot
and was told that if he put his 'OK' on a little slip of paper
and give it to the 'Judge' his 'out-of-order' admonishment
would be stricken from the minutes and he would be allowed
into the game immediately following the meeting. Seeming a
reasonable request he asked for a small slip of paper and
scratched his 'OK' forthwith, passing it to the smiling 'Judge,'
himself of course an Imitationist.
The recorded ballots were dropped into the hole in the wicker
creel which was passed around the table for such matters and
ended in front of the 'Major,' who was actually the 'Major-Domo'
at the time. With a steady eye but visibly trembling fingers
he unlatched the top and carefully laid out each ballot,
unfolding them as they came out. Placed face down and covered
with his hands, he slowly looked around the table, studying
each face intently as he went.
"Gentlemen, should any of these ballots contain an X we will
scrap this venture. However, should these indicate our willingness
to continue I fear a terrible burden will be our heritage. As
we endeavor to create a fly which has no equal, a fly which
will surpass all others in all ways, one that will make
'presentation' only a challenge left to the whims of the
caster and totally unnecessary for the rising of a trout,
we are agreeing we are willing to change the game of
'Fly-fishing' as it has been known for all time. We will,
with full knowledge of our deliberate actions, make obsolete
all other fly patterns from time immemorial. The works of
those who labored before our times, wasted, flopped onto
the shore of history with reckless abandon.
Those stalwart designers and tiers who spent years studying
and creating the very flies we now use and, indeed, the very
ones which led us to this table this night, we are in eager
agreement to put them all to waste. Is that how we all view
Dead silence. A chair squeaked, a nervous shoe scuffled a
table leg, a pale hung over the group. Never in the history
of the RAB had an undertaking of such magnitude even
contemplated, let alone nearly given birth. One member
decided he needed to step outside again, still rubbing
his nose as he did so. A couple lightly cleared their
throats in preparation of possibly saying something, but
not a word was spoken. At length the 'Judge' continued.
"Gentlemen, I suggest we count the ballots now and see what
we have decided." With that he slowly turned over each,
doing so with the same measured attitude as one checks
his hole card in seven card draw. As each was turned up
the tension rose a notch in the members, now for the first
time the full impact of the evenings actions was taking a
bigger and bigger bite of each conscience. One X and it
would be all over, the tension would dissipate and the
cards and corks could be produced, no X and history would
be both made and destroyed on the turn of the final ballot.
Not a breath was drawn as his hand reached for the final
deciding slip of paper. He turned it first toward himself
by the corner and having satisfied himself of it's content,
snapped it down in true card players fashion with a thump
of the heel of his hand at the same time. A collective gasp
developed as each club member realized the consequences of
the night. An eye jaundiced with age and hard living peered
from beneath a deftly elevated left eyebrow; the 'Judge'
surveyed each nearly catatonic member. ~
~ James Castwell
Continued next time.