My journalistic career begin in the mid-60s with
two hunting articles published in Fur Fish and Game
magazine. In 1969 I began writing freelance articles
for the Idaho Statesman (the state's largest
newspaper). After four years of occasional by-lines
in the paper, I was offered a bi-monthly column opposite
the newspaper's newest outdoors writer. I would cover
fishing, my colleague would continue to turn out hunting
and camping columns. His work was praised by many of
the newspaper's readers as something really special.
After seven or eight months of submitting marginally
adequate material (my editor's description of my work),
I walked into the editorial office one Monday and found
out why my colleague had been turning out such great
work. He apparently owned an extensive outdoors library
and was borrowing heavily from the works of some pretty
notable authors. The big P caused quite a headache for
the newspaper, before the case was quietly settled out
When the editor told me he was looking for somebody to
work opposite me, I told him not to bother looking. I
could write on both hunting and fishing. The editor
was from the old school, complete with green celluloid
eye shade, and an attitude that he was the only person
at the newspaper who knew anything about the business.
He spent 20 minutes explaining how difficult it was to
turn out high quality work on a weekly basis. He went
to great lengths to convince me I wasn't qualified for
Then there was 30 second pause, before he asked me the
question I had been waiting for: "Do you really think
you can keep the quality high enough," he asked between
sips from the ever present cup of coffee, "for us
to invest in you on a weekly basis?"
In truth I had no idea whether-or-not I could generate
enough new ideas to write a weekly column over a long
period of time. But I've been a salesman all of my
life and I knew I had him ready to buy. He was ready
to pounce on the "steak." All I needed to do at that
point was to supply the "sizzle."
I told him I had a magazine article on spring bear hunting
I had been hoping to sell Fur Fish and Game,
and I thought it might make a great three-part series
to introduce me as the new weekly outdoors columnist.
He printed the series and I never looked back. I
missed only one deadline during the next 22 years.
I'm not entirely sure whether or not I ever satisfied
this editor. He never congratulated me on an especially
effective column; But he did criticize me when I
obviously dropped the ball. The closest he came to
a compliment was when, on a fishing trip together
(we became rather good friends), he told me, "while
you sure as hell don't know the difference between a
preposition and a pronoun, you do have the ability
to tell a story and hold the reader."
I was almost reveling in what I took as a compliment,
when he added, "That's enough...for now."
You could hear the wind exhaling from my sails. (Shortly
before his death, I received a moving letter from this
editor, in which he congratulated me on graduating from
newspaper columnist to book author. I found out later
from his widow that he had taken extreme pleasure in
Marv Taylor's (occasional) successes as an outdoors
journalist. While I would have loved to have heard
it from him first hand, I was pleased to know he had
followed my career after he retired.
I've only been involved with computers for about six
months (I did all of my newspaper columns and books
on a manual typewriter and a simple word processor),
and only "discovered" FAOL about two months ago. I was
so impressed with the site, I wrote the publishers an
e-mail congratulating them on the quality and quantity
of fly fishing material they were turning out. I did
include one observation that got Deanna and Jim motivated
enough to contact me. I told them the only area they
were weak in was stillwater.
The publishers probably could have taken my observations
with a grain of salt, and ignored me completely. Except
for one thing: They agreed with me. Fortunately they
chose to dig deeper and see if I could back up my
critique of their product with a plan of action.
As I had done with my newspaper editor 28 years ago,
I told them I knew I could add a lot of new ideas to
FAOL and I thought I could be valuable to them. And
yes...I "could" do quality work on a weekly basis.
Can I perform to the high level they have achieved with
FAOL? The new ideas are not a problem. I've got bags
full of column ideas. Some of the owners of my books
might tell you I have "too many new ideas." Will the
readers of FAOL follow my columns on stillwater over
the coming months? Will they buy into some of these
"new ideas"? Only time will tell.
The satisfaction of turning out work weekly that will
inform, educate, and entertain other fly fishers,
nationally and internationally, is...well, satisfying.
I've taught fly fishing subjects - from fly tying, to
casting, to aquatic entomology - for the past 30 years.
Almost every week I run into former students who delight
in telling me how they progressed in our sport. Several
of them are now teaching fly fishing subjects to our
younger generations. A couple are now fly fishing
guides. And two others are beginning to get their
writings on fly fishing published.
And you wonder why I want to keep on teaching?
But it really goes a lot deeper than that. My primary
goal as a columnist on stillwater fly fishing for FAOL,
is to persuade readers to inspect a lot of the edicts
and myths that surround stillwater trout fly fishing,
questioning and dissecting these "rules of the sport,"
throwing some in the trash can, filing others into a
folder in your mental computer until you can prove or
For example: I teach a seminar that I call TEN TIPS THAT
CAN IMPROVE YOUR STILLWATER TROUT FISHING BY 50-PERCENT.
Sounds almost too good to be true? Not if you give them
a try. I tell my students that each tip should improve
their success rate in stillwater by at least 5-percent.
Tip #1- Avoid the use of any head cement or other chemicals
when tying your wet flies.
I'm a firm believer that anglers leave "scent tracks"
on almost everything they touch when fishing. Salmonids
have superb olfactory senses. How else can salmon and
steelhead find their way back to their place of birth,
if they can't follow the scent of that tiny central
Idaho stream as it mingles with the Salmon River, flows
then into the Snake, finally to merge with the mighty
Columbia River. Being able to pick up the scent of
its home waters at the mouth of the Columbia and
follow it home to that little creek in Idaho's Sawtooth
range, boggles the mind. If they can do that, they sure
as heck can detect the odor of head cement and other
chemicals on our wet flies. I think this tip is
actually worth about 20-percent.
Tip #2 - Wash your hands frequently during a day of fishing.
Fits like a glove with tip #1. Carry along a small bottle
of unscented liquid soap and use it frequently. The L-serine
found on some angler's hands is extremely offensive to fish.
Not to mention nicotine, petroleum, sun screen lotions,
insect repellants and many other negative smell tracks.
Get rid of as much of these smell tracks as you can by
washing your hands often during a day of fishing.
Tip #3 - Use a small amount of lead on all of your wet flies.
Use just enough lead to get them to sink slightly faster
than your sinking lines. I generally use a strip of fuse
wire, of the appropriate size, the length of the hook
shank. The legendary inventor of the Sheep Creek
Special, George Biggs, weighted almost all of his flies
in this fashion. He once told me that his weighted Sheep
Creeks outperformed the unweighted versions, by an
extremely wide margin.
Tip #4 - Use an extra-fast retrieve at least 1/3 of the time.
If I make six casts without a strike, as I try to
imitate that leech, forage fish, or any other aquatic
trout foods, I will rip the next two casts about as
fast as I can. I will cover this fast rip theory in
more detail in future columns.
Tip #5 - Fish at least one line size deeper than
you think you will need.
The major problem fly fishermen have when fishing deep
water is not getting their flies deep enough. In my
seminars on stillwater tactics, I rate this tip high
on the list.
Tip #6 - Keep your hooks sharp...sharper...sharper yet.
It is amazing to me how many stillwater fly anglers I
run into that don't even bother to carry a hook hone
in their vests. I sharpen my hooks before I tie my
flies, sharpen them after a couple of fish, then sharpen
them before I put them back in the fly box. I've been
accused of going too far with a hook hone. My answer
has always been: "Dull hooks are one fish conservation
tool I refuse to employ."
Tip #7 - Use short leaders when fishing deep.
I generally use leaders from 4- to 6-feet long. The
only time I use longer leaders is when I'm fishing
small dries or emergers, in spring creek-like water.
I had a friend who used to tie a dropper fly off his
nail knot and catch three times as many fish on that
fly as he did his point-fly. In essence he was fishing
an 8-inch leader. Think about it. I will explain why
he was successful with this set-up in later columns.
Tip #8 - Develop a DEADLY DOZEN wet fly assortment.
I use and market my own deadly dozen; Everyone should
develop their own (it's OK with me if your assortment
includes some of my flies). There is rarely a need to
experiment with vast numbers of potentially hot fly
patterns in your day to day fishing. Learn to fish
your deadly dozen and pretty much stay with them.
"Presentation" is almost always more important than "pattern."
Tip #9 - Learn to tie better knots.
In my seminars, I find a vast majority of fly fishers still
using the old, antiquated clinch knot, to tie their flies on.
I teach my students to learn to tie the through-the-eye-twice
clinch knot and the Duncan Loop (also known as the uni-knot.).
If I can keep the "twice through" clinch knot from cocking,
I prefer it. It will usually help me land the 10-pounder
that will break off with almost every other knot.
Tip #10 - Keep a fishing journal.
Learn to keep records and learn to use them. I honestly
believe this tip is worth 10- to 15-percent by itself.
I firmly believe fly anglers achieve 5-percent improvement
for each of these ten tips. They work. I know they do.
I just wish I had some way to prove it.
Well... Now you know a bit more about Marv Taylor. I
hope this stillwater series proves interesting to you
for many months to come. My goal each week is for the
reader to leave my page with at least one new idea for
their stillwater fishing. Gee...at the end of a year,
that would be 52 new ideas. If only half of them were
successful for the reader, the fish just wouldn't stand
a chance. ~ Marv
You can reach Marv by email at
email@example.com or by phone: 208-322-5760. More on
Marv next week!