Lighter Side

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June 19th, 2000

Giants, Part 4

by Jerry Dennis

Kelly's tactics have changed my entire approach to trout fishing. I still prefer fishing to risers during a hatch, but I'm no longer disappointed when there are no risers. Most of the time, after all, they aren't. And since I'm not content to spend all day waiting for bugs to appear, I've become a maniac for streamers. I fish them all day long. My casting hand is nearly as callused as it was when I swung a hammer for a living. And I'm catching more big trout then ever. Not as many as Kelly - this student will probably never match his teacher in skill - but more than I ever expected to catch.

The most efficient way to hunt big trout is in a boat, especially one that allows a casting anglers to stand. We often use Kelly's McKenzie River drift boat, two or three of us taking turns rowing and casting, covering ten miles of river in eight hours. When you fish with Kelly, you have to be prepared to spend all day on the river making cast after cast after cast, each with deliberation and concentration, placed just so, the streamer slapping the water as close as possible to every bank, stump, and rock. The streamer's escape route takes it streaking past a sunken log or parallel bands of sand, mossy bottom, and shadow, or past the woven, algae-encrusted sticks drowned near a beaver lodge - places where giant trout stake out territory and guard it. We sometimes cast all day without a single strike. Or we have six strikes and land three fish. One or two will be about sixteen inches long. Another will be over eighteen inches. Once every three or four days one of us catches a trout over twenty inches. My biggest is twenty-three inches. Every season Kelly gets a couple over twenty-five.

Kelly, who is an innovative fly tier (his Troutsman Hex and Troutsman Drake are the best imitations I've ever used for Hexagenia, brown drakes, and Isonychia spinners), invented a streamers he calls the Zoo Cougar specifically for casting with sinking lines on rivers filled with structure. The writer Bob Linseman, who's had some big days with that streamer, came up with the name after he decided the fly had the cynical and overfed look of a cougar confined all its life behind bars. It can be grouped with Muddler Minnows, and other streamers constructed with heads of spun deer hair, but otherwise it's revolutionary. It's tied with a yellow marabou tail, gold tinsel body, and a wing of calf-tail hair overlaid with a mallard flank feather dyed lemon and seated flat over the body, not edgewise as is traditional with most streamers. The head is deer-body hair dyed dark yellow, spun and trimmed loosely with a razor blade. The finished fly has a substantial profile and markings suggestive of a sculpin. Most important, the flat position of the wing and the broad deer-hair head cause the fly to swim in an undulating hula dance. There are days when trout will eat no other fly. ~ Jerry Dennis

Concluded next time!

About Jerry Dennis

Jerry Dennis lives in Traverse City Michigan and feeds his obsession for fly fishing (and giant trout) by spending as much time as possible on the Boardman, Manistee, and AuSable rivers. He has been a full-time writer since 1986, writes for numerous magazines, and was the recipient of the 1999 Michigan Author Award. His seven books about nature and the outdoors include A Place On The Water, The River Home and From a Wooden Canoe. The River Home was name Best Outdoor Book of 1998 by the Outdoor Writers Association of American and is now available in paperback.

Excerpt from The Riverwatch The Quarterly Newsletter of the Anglers of the Au Sable.

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