Lighter Side
January 8th, 2001
A Fly Box
by John Engels

Excerpt from: Big Water
Published by Lyons & Burford, New York, NY
We thank Nick Lyons for use permission!

In those days when even the beaches
of Green Bay were clean enough
for swimming, the marshes
had muskrat houses and dogfish minnows
and snipe and nesting mallards,
and the wild blue iris that we called
sweet flag - in those days

we fished Queen of the Waters, Ginger Quill,
Coachman, Grizzly King, Brown
Hackle, Gray Hackle,
White Miller, maybe

a Parmacheene Belle from time
to time, Cowdung or Beaverkill,
but I favored
the Professor for tail fly, Silver Sedge or Pink Lady for the dropper,
though nowadays

such dressing won't do,
the trout are all entomologists,
they don't find the idea
of a hatch of Professors
or Queen of the Waters especially
credible, and so

if you want a dressing
that seems to appeal to the large
modern trout, here's one, copied
from the Peshtigo's
Hexagenia limbata: Wing - dark
brown hair, bucktail, racoon or mink, upright
and divided. Tail - hair fibers, as above.

Body: - yellowish spun fur, ribbed
with bold spirals of brown. Rib the body
with brown hackle stems. Hackle - furnace, all this

on a 6 or 8 XL. With this dressing
I've had much luck across the years, even when
it went by the name
of Dark Michigan Mayfly.
Then, of course, there's the Red Quill,
Ephemerella subvaria, a great standby
throughout the early spring,
and at other times as well, and good
for several other flies common
in Vermont, one of them
am Epheorus of dark
complexion. Leptophebia

cupida, this
is the Whirling Dun, although
you are likely to find it burdened
by almost any name, depending
on what fly the angler thinks
he's imitating. We have a writer
on the Post who called it last spring
The Barrington because
that happened to be the fly he was using
during the hatch, and he caught
a few fish, and so he wrote

"The sky was full of Barringtons." A difficult fly
to dress, for the wing
has lost its richness of slate,
and while almost transparent has
something of a brownish-bluish shade
lent it by the veins. As for the March Brown -
no comment needed. He won't often

be required, but when he is
you'll be sick if you haven't
a supply. Stenonema vicarium,
an admirable fly. If he
were an angler, he would be
wise, witty, clear-spoken, graceful, never

ponderous or opaque, never or at least
not often, given
to ripe philosophizing,
forever observant, colorful, full of abhorrence
for the quaint and admiration
for the truly strong of character
and personality. Most authors say

you can substitute the March Brown for
the Gray Fox, when the gray Stenonema
is hatching, and vice versa, and no doubt
they are right, but I
have never tried it, and why should I, because
it's a great entertainment
to dress them both, no better waste
of time I can think of, and besides

if one is going in for imitation
why do it half way? So I say
make up a dozen of the Gray Fox, and you'll be delighted
when you see the natural, abundant in Vermont,
Stenonema ithaca by name, dressed

in grayish mode, legs
handsomely banded dark
and light, very lively, quick

and independent of disposition,
with a personality that seems
developed, at least compared
with other mayflies. The Light Cahill is another fly

it's a pleasure to make, and lovely
to use when the eyes
are not as sharp as they used
to be, and even when they are, because
no matter, you can always see it.
And to it I owe

one three-pounder at the head
of Healey's Rapids, and the memory
of one the same size lost
when the hook bent, and many smaller.
Black Gnat, Equinox Gnat
or Mosquito, these I employ
on the upper meadows of the Clyde, though seldom
on the Connecticut, where they have not
proved useful. The big idea
is to keep them small, no more
than two-thirds the size

the hook will accommodate, and even then
they'll look hopelessly too large. As for
the Blue Dun, an important fly

for the smaller hatches, I don't care
if you dress it as dark blue or iron blue,
but in either case keep it small. Sometimes

in the rain the trout will be slashing away
at the hatch of this fly,
and the gnats will be attacking
the little sails as they come down
the current, and you'll be able

to see the natural better
than the artificial, though if
you're wearing glasses,
you'll be hopelessly
up against it, because
in such weather the lens

fogs over the no doubt
already fogging eye, and I've seen
more than one angler gone thus blind
say the hell with it, clip off

his fly, sit down
discouraged on a rock,
and fish breaking

all over the pools! ~John Engels


About John Engels


John Engels has taught English Literature at St. Michaels's College in Winooski, Vermont for many years. He is the author of five books of poetry, including The Homer Mitchell Place, Vivaldi in Early Fall, and Weather-Fear, for which he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is recognized as one of America's finest poets. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.





Other Poems:

River Bed by Dave Motes
Canyon's coming -- Gunnison by Dave Motes
The Flyline by Dave Motes
Rising Spirits by Dave Salamone
Shadow Jungle or Pike? by Dave Motes
The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop
The Ongoing Saga of Castwell and Ladyfisher by Randy Fratzke
Not My Own by Dave Salamone
Plunge Pool Brookie by Dave Motes
Breaking by Dave Motes
White Miller by John Engels
A Fisherman Reflects (A Tribute to Lee Wulff) by Bob Jacklin
Fly Box by H. Wheeler Perce
When Dreams Are Cast by Dave P. Salamone
Upon the Morn by David Salamone
The Disconnections by John Engels
Damselfly, Trout, Heron by John Engels
Why I Fly-Fish by Ernie Harrison
Oh, what a Day by David P. Salamone
Memories of More than One by David P. Salamone
Mudtrapped by John Engels
What I Leave Behind by David P. Salamone
The Way It Was by Ernie Harrison
Awakening by David P. Salamone
Eros Tyrannos by James Armstrong
Genesee River by David P. Salamone
There Is More by Ken Abrames
New York by David P. Salamone
Reflection by David P. Salamone
Last Waltz by David P. Salamone
Equanimity by Ken Abrames
Deadpool by John Engels
Fly Fishing by Tony Grenier
This Earth by Gwen Frostic
On Waters' Edge by D.P. Salamone
Truth or Tale? by D.P.Salamone
When Rod and Line Again Appear by D.P.Salamone
Too Soon by D.P.Salamone
In Golden Light by D.P. Salamone
The Switch by D.P. Salamone
At Night On The River by John Engles
Rainbows False-Spawning by John Engles
Hatch by John Engels
My Choice by Geno Loro
Falling In by John Engles
The Guardian of the Lakes at Notre Dame by John Engels
Foote Brook by John Engels
Looking For Water by John Engels
Gutting Bluefish by John Engels
The Storm by John Engles
Muskrat by John Engels
Thunder River by John Engels
Forever by D.P. Salamone
Aquarium by John Engels
Bass by Fred Mather
The Crows by John Engles
To Love a Stream by F. Thomas
Opening Day, 1997 by F.Thomas
Pewter River Haiku by Louis J. Wentz
My Highlight of Fly Fishing by D.P. Salamone
So Complicated But Simple Life by D.P. Salamone
Fly Fishing by W.J. Mallory
Here's to the Girl - by Sherman Ripley
Age Lessening by D.P. Salamone
Spring Fever by AF Westervelt
FlyTying by W.J. Mallory
FAOL Fish-In Friendship by D.P. Salamone
Acronyms by D.P. Salamone
Signs of a Highway by W.J. Mallory
Drift Fishing by W.J. Mallory
A Hunters Poem unknown
In Flander's Fields by John McCrae
Lonesome Coho by W.J. Mallory
The Marshes At Suamico, Wisconsin by John Engles
East Middlebury by John Engles
The Raft by John Engles
Eternal Father (Navy Hymn)
Pilgrimage by John Engles
Testament of a Fisheman by Robert Traver
At Night On the Lake In The Eye of the Hunter by John Engles
Indulgence on the Wharfe by Gordon M. Wickstrom
G     n Creek by W.J. Mallory
The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yates
The Au Sable by W.J. Mallory
You're On the Miramichi by William T. Griffin
The Photograph by John Engles
Flye Fishing by L A Garcia
Green Bay Flies by John Engles
T.R.O.U.T. by DP Salamone
Beyond The Fly by DP Salamone
Hemingway, You Old Bear by Joseph Heywood
Individuality by Gwen Frostic
Wa'al I'll be Durn by Francis H. Buzzacott
The Salmon Leap by Francis H. Buzzacott
The Old Bass Ground by Francis H. Buzzacott
When the Bull-Heads Bite by Francis H. Buzzacott
A Photo of My Mother and My Grandpa Lighting Out by John Engles
The Last Day by Deanna Lee Birkholm
The North Branch by John Engles
A Military Christmas unknown
Calendar-spring by David Motes
The Fly Box by John Engles
Game Warden's Lament
author unknown
Big Water by John Engles
The Best Kept Fishing Secret by Andy Hogan
While fly-fishing by Brian Nerney
On Common Water by Andy Hogan
The Last Cast by Andy Hogan
(unknown) by Alfred Lord Tennison
A Good Fight by Andy Hogan
The Bonny Red Heckle North Country Fisher's Garland
This Here Hat's Fer Fishin by Andy Hogan
Un-named By Westwood
Potomac Water Gap by David Motes
More Beyond Time by Gwen Frostic
Grasshopper-hands by David Motes
When Did We Go To The Michigan Woods? by Anna C. Brackett
Behold the Fisherman! unknown
Freedom Isn't Free unknown
From: Beyond Time By Gwen Frostic
Legend of Glooskap By Arthur Wentworth Eaton
Rainbow Rising By David Motes
Fly With A Gull By Gwen Frostic
Self-Knowledge By Kahlil Gibran
The Invitation By Percy Bysshe Shelley
Untitled By Charles Cotton
A Pleasant Time Out By Stoddard
The Brook By Lord Tennyson
Unnamed By W.Pinkerton
The Auld Fisher's Farewell to the River Coquet By Thomas Doubleday
Excerpt from Beyond Time By Gwen Frostic
Words You Never Tell a Guide By Joseph Haywood
Mind Farts & Memory Exercises By Joseph Haywood
First Night at Camp Fish Head By Joseph Haywood
I Am the Flag of the United States of America
Untitled By Whitier
The Fisherman By Jack Schweigert
Retail Night Before Christmas By Al Campbell
Splitting Oak on Motherís Day By Joe Heywood
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fly Rod By Eugena Pilek
In Flanders Fields By John McCrae
Fisherman's Luck By Edward R. Hewitt
Happy Turkey Day By Al Campbell
The Story of The Christmas Guest By Helen Steiner Rice
Fishing By Edith Andrews Sturgis
August 25, 1971 - Jocko River above Arlee, Montana By Brian Ahern
Mr. Cortland By Cole Martin
Fishing By Edith Andrews Sturgis
A Midwinter Reflection By Russ Larsen (Bassbugg)
Christmas Bells By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Trout Angler's Prayer At Christmas By Reverend Daniel P. Adams
An Old Scottish Poem
Voices in the Wall, Requiem 3 By Stev Lenon
In Honor of Memorial Day 2006
Little Brown Wink By G.E.M. Skues
In Flanders Fields By John McCrae
The Little Things By Richard A. (Dick) Taylor


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