Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
May 28th, 2006

Danbob's Diamondback
By Dan Fink (Danbob)

After my first and only experience as a flyfishing guide in Wyoming was over, I realized it had all been a setup from the very beginning. It was my fishin' buddy Vern's revenge for the unfortunate incident last winter when I got him busted at the local bar for flyfishing in their saltwater aquarium. But when the call came, I had no suspicions at all and took the bait like a brookie hitting an old cigarette butt.

"Hey Danbob, my gorgeous rich cousin from England will be stateside next week, and she wants to see how Americans flyfish," Vern said over the phone. "I'm on a business trip and can't get back to Wyoming in time. Can you take her up to Northgate Canyon on the North Platte and be her guide?"

Vern had already shown me pictures of Gillian Multiply-Hyphenated-Last-Name and her glowing red hair. Like the Hardy Girl, but with bigger personal flotation devices in front. Like the beautiful women in those hard-sell videos for $5000-a-day guided fishing trips to Patagonia, only with more money to burn. Like a Viking warrior Goddess, only driving a Bentley instead of rowing a raiding ship, and wielding an AmEx Black card instead of a sword.

So I calmly said, "Well, Vern, uh, I don't know, but I guess that would be OK. Can she bait her own hook?"

Vern replied, "Oh, she certainly can. That will be the least of your worries. She's rather high-maintenance, and I don't believe she's ever been fishing in her life. You'll need to start at the beginning as far as fly fishing goes."

When I picked Gillian up down in Denver in my ratty old Ford pickup outside the Orvis shop, she was already dressed like a fishing catalog model all the latest gear. By way of greetings, she said "Oh, you must be my ghillie. What a quaint vehicle. Vern said we'd be riding to Wyoming in your new Range Rover."

"Well, the Range Rover's in the shop right now getting the leather upholstery replaced after it was damaged by large trout gnawing on it," I replied. "We caught so many last week that we had to pile them on the back seat. The road's pretty rough going in to the canyon from the west side anyways. I'd hate to scuff one of my nice vehicles."

"Well, that's just delightful, it will be soooo much fun learning to fish like an American," she said through her nose. "I hope I've bought the proper fish pole and such. I told the nice man in the fly shop that I needed to purchase the best of everything they had for catching fish in Wyoming. I didn't know that they made fish poles from wood, do you think this one will be serviceable?"

It was a brand-new bamboo Orvis Adirondack 5 weight, with a new Hardy reel attached. Between her rod, reel, and fully-stocked new vest, she was wearing over $6000 in newly-purchased equipment. The fly shop owner was hanging a "Gone fishing, back in 3 months" sign in his shop window as we left the parking lot.

"It should work just fine," I replied, "though I prefer older Fiberglas rods myself, like this vintage Shakespeare WonderRod. Very collectible, you know."

After we picked our way down the hellacious 4WD road into Northgate Canyon, I showed her how to string up her rod. My fishin' buddy Ralph arrived in his old pickup at about the same time, with pieces of duct tape flapping from it and bits of baling wire hanging as usual. I admit I'd been bragging to Ralph about my new status as a for-real fishing guide for beautiful, aristocratic women, and he wanted to see for himself. He pulled his redneck fly vest out of the truck a plastic Safeway bag. He pulled on his waders, too irrigation boots from the farm supply store. And his wading vest - a plastic lawn and leaf bag with arm holes.

As Ralph walked up the trail, he turned toward us on the water and told Gillian "Watch out for rattlesnakes. The place is crawlin' with 'em."

I saw, for the first time, just possibly the slightest beginnings of a quiver of fear come across her stiff upper lip as she asked me "Rattlesnakes? Oh. That sounds simply ghastly! Is he jesting with us?"

I had to honestly reply, "No, he's serious. There are rattlesnakes around here. Just keep your eyes open, and poke the ground with your new wading staff when walking though heavy brush. We only rarely come across snakes down here while fishing. Let's get on with the casting lesson."

I told her gently, "Now don't worry if your first few casts aren't perfect. It's not that hard to learn. Start by stripping out some line from your reel. Accelerate it into the backcast, then..."

She interrupted my lesson with a scornful look, and said "Oh, like this?"

'This' was a flawless double haul that shot out 50 feet of line without a single false cast, directly to the head of a beautiful pool. Her #22 blue-winged olive floated to the water's surface like a piece of down. A fat rainbow trout hit it instantly, and she set the hook with a barely perceptible line-hand slip set. She played the fish like an expert. I waded out with my net, gave her the fish, and took the requisite trout porn picture. "How wonderful," she said. "Your solicitude is overwhelming, I didn't know you'd net the fish for me. At home the ghillies always make me net my own."

By now, I knew my new status as a 'guide' was Vern's revenge. Gillian was obviously an expert flycaster, and had probably been flyfishing ever since she was a very small, imperious, red-headed hellion of a child. Ralph was guffawing on the bank, along with a few other fishermen who'd caught the glint of her bright red hair in the sun from a mile away. He gave her a sensitive and urbane wolf whistle through crossed fingers, and yelled "Nice fish, toots," one of his favorite pickup lines. Fortunately for my immediate future as a guide, Gillian was only able to hook a couple nice rainbows, and the North Platte's famous big browns remained elusive. Time to go into action and save some face.

"Well, Gillian," I told her. "I can see you've been working on your casting, though it's not quite the style we use around here. You see, for the big brown trout, you need to toss out a big fly, preferably weighted, with lots of maribou and sparkly stuff, and a big spinning propeller on the front. Trout hear their prey via the lateral lines on their sides, so the noise from the propeller really brings them in. Let me show you how to cast a real American streamer, instead of those wimpy traditional British soft-hackle wet flies. How do they get any fish if their flies have no propellers, anyway?"

I received back from her the steely-eyed squint that already I knew so well from other women. So I plunged on, adding "This #4 vanilla bugger will be difficult to cast and control. You'll need to....."

She brusquely interrupted "Yes, yes, I need to open up my casting loop to compensate for the extra weight. Have you checked for rattlesnakes here? I really couldn't care less about your casting 'lessons,' but I would appreciate it if you could keep the area clear of rattlesnakes for me whilst I fish."

I grouchily returned to the truck to grab another bottle of drinking water, and watched it all occur from 20 feet above them on the bank as I returned. Gillian froze at river's edge in mid-cast, her eyes wide. The snake was huge, 6 feet long and 3 inches in diameter at the middle. It was right next to her. The tail was vibrating, and the sound was distinctive but the color and pattern weren't right. It was a big bull snake, shaking its tail in some dry leaves, not a rattler. But how could I resist? I shouted "Rattlesnake! Run for your life!"

As she dropped her rod and made an impressive 4-foot vertical leap into the air, Ralph sprung into action. He dashed in to grab the snake behind the head, picked it up, looked it in the eye, and told Gillian "This is just a little 'ol bull snake. Harmless. He'll skeedaddle off on his own. No need to run for your life. DanBob's full of crap."

He tossed the snake up on the bank, and then started into his normal pickup lines. "What's a nice girl like you doing on a river like this?" and "So, do you fish here often, toots?" seemed to make her swoon perilously. By the time they got back to his old truck and started setting up their fly tying vises while discussing innovative new streamer patterns, I was fairly disgusted with the whole situation and went back to lie by my truck for a nap. I could still hear them tittering as I dozed off, stuff like "Show me your favorite emerger and I'll show you mine."

As evening approached and I started to become conscious again, I felt something tickling my ear. I slapped at it, half asleep, and instantly heard the unmistakable sound of an irritated western diamondback rattlesnake right by my ear. Sweating in pure terror, I ever so slowly squirmed away, inches at a time. The rattler got closer, and again something tickled my ear. I cranked my eyeballs around at an obscene angle without even twitching any other muscles. I saw the rattle and then the tippet. And then the hook. Gillian held the fly rod from 25 feet away, and her presentation had been perfect. It was an innovative new streamer, soon to be dubbed "DanBob's Diamondback." Like a woolly bugger, but with a genuine snake rattle for a tail and a snakeskin back.

"The rattles provide some noise and vibration," she said with much mirth on her face, "since trout actually hear their prey via their lateral lines before they see it. I'm sure the propeller is quite effective, too."

So, as you can see, my guiding days on the North Platte didn't quite work out as I had expected, and of course I still hear about the incident almost weekly from Ralph and Vern. As for Gillian, as long as I mail her a jar of western diamondback rattles each year so she can tie her innovative new streamer pattern, she continues to tell her rich, young, aristocratic girlfriends about a marvelous place to flyfish stateside, with sensitive, urbane ghillies that chase the snakes away whilst one fishes.

Danbob's Diamondback

    HOOK: #6 streamer, 6x long

    WEIGHT: 0.015" lead-free wire

    TAIL: Western Diamondback rattle, at least 6 buttons

    REAR BODY: Sparkle chenille

    MAIN BODY: Tan mohair leech yarn

    HACKLE: Dark dun hen

    BACK: Rattlesnake skin, soak in water before tying on

    HEAD: Brass cone head plus propeller

~ Danbob

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