Fly Fishing

From the Mixed Up Bookshelves of Quill Gordon: The Flying Fisherman

“The Flying Fisherman”

Roscoe Vernon Gaddis was born in Mattoon, Illinois, in 1896. When he was thirteen, his family moved to Great Falls, Montana, which is where, among other things, he caught his first rainbow trout and met Buffalo Bill. In 1915, he missed his chance to play professional baseball when he skipped a try-out with the St. Louis Cardinals because he heard the bass were running on the White River in Arkansas. Having passed up a career opportunity like that to go fishing, it is fitting that fishing eventually became his career.

Everywhere he went, whether working as a gandy dancer on a railroad gang in Iowa, selling vacuum cleaners in Minnesota, or driving mules in Louisiana, he fished. When the United States declared war on Germany, in 1917, he enlisted in the Army, signing up for the Signal Corps because that where the airplanes were and he had wanted to fly ever since he’d seen his first plane several years before. Shipped to San Antonio for basic training, while waiting for his air cadet application to be approved, he fished for bass in the Little Medina River. Continue reading

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A Book Suggestion: The Feather Thief

“I don’t think you want to write that story… Because we’re a tight-knit community, fly-tiers, and you do not want to piss us off.” — Roger Plourde, quoted in The Feather Thief

“…The Feather Thief proves that the most obscure, “candy-ass” activities can be made interesting for the general reader.” — The Times of London review of The Feather Thief

Kirk Wallace Johnson served with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Iraq, first in Baghdad and then in Fallujah, where he was the agency’s first coordinator for reconstruction. He has also worked extensively on behalf of Iraqi refugees and is the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. If anyone ever could benefit from fly fishing, it was him, and it was while fishing that he heard a story that made him want to know more. The Feather Thief is the result of his investigation, which took more than six years.

Risking the wrath of fly-tiers and their tiny scissors, Mr. Johnson has taken a deep dive into the “feather underground” which, in this true story, consists mostly of people who tie Victorian salmon flies using authentic materials called for in the original recipes. Unfortunately, many of the feathers in those recipes are rare and expensive, heavily regulated by international treaties and acts intended to protect the endangered birds who possessed those feathers in the first place. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

A Visit to Mossy Creek Fly Fishing

One of the most important things to remember when booking a guide for a fishing trip is to make your reservation early, especially for popular guides on popular water at popular times of year. Still, it never hurts to ask, and the folks at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing couldn’t have been nicer while explaining to me, in mid-April, why a guided float down the Shenandoah for smallmouth bass in early May was out of the question, though they still had spots open for May of 2019.

A self-guided float down a nearby stretch of the Shenandoah, however, was more within the realm of possibility so, when rain chased us off the lake on Saturday afternoon, five damp-ish, possibly smelly, smart alecs mounted an expedition to Mossy Creek’s shop in Harrisonburg, VA, for advice and flies to use on Monday’s river run. Continue reading

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Castwell’s Curse is Lifted

In the short story “Mr. Theodore Castwell”, by G.E.M. Skues, the aforementioned and deceased Mr. Castwell approaches the Pearly Gates and presents himself as a fly fisher. Escorted to a perfectly lovely cottage next to a perfectly lovely piece of water, he catches fish after fish from the same spot, over and over again. When he decides to move along to another spot, he is told he may not, and it slowly dawns on him that he won’t, after all, be spending eternity in the place he thought he’d be spending it.

Halcyon Days

After eleven years fishing the same small watershed and lake in Vermont, Quill Gordon could relate. Same water, same fish, same “fellow” anglers — not all of whom treated him well — year after year. It was a classic case of Castwell’s Curse, exacerbated by the fact that there is some stuff up with which he will not put, and so it came to pass that Quill Gordon broke down his rods, packed up his gear and, unlike Castwell, got the hell out of there, making his way to a cozy hibernaculum at the top of the hill in which to pass the winter while waiting for the sap runs of spring.

“F*ck trout, those dainty, speckled beauties, always delicately sipping in their cold, limpid pools,” he thought to himself. “And f*ck those who are obsessed with them, too.”

Quill Gordon was in a serious f*nk. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem

As if making the transition from aquatic nymph to airborne adult (imago) wasn’t enough, mayflies do so without passing through a pupal stage. Instead, they emerge from their nymphal shuck with fully formed wings as a subimago, somewhat drab and not yet sexually mature. After a short rest with nothing to eat, they shed their skin one more time, spread their clear wings and join others of their kind for the first and only sexual experience of their lives.

Long Arms for Grabbin’ the Ladies

Random handing-off of sperm packets is probably more like it and there’s no regretting one’s choice, for they all soon will be dead. Such is the life of a mayfly. Continue reading

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Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem for Your Monday

People come to these pages for many reasons. Some actually subscribe and come on purpose but others simply stumble in as the result of tragic search engine accidents. Either way, many go away confused, some even leaving before they get to the good stuff.

Short-form posts are not our forte here at Fish in a Barrel Pond. A thousand words is never out of the question, meaning someone could spend four or five whole minutes reading these ramblings. We do our best to reward intrepid readers and most posts end with a treat, whether it finally be the punchline or an interesting photo or video.

No guarantees as to word count, since we’re just getting going, but the plan for this post includes multiple treats. We’ll let you decide for yourselves which are the treats and we’ll also drop the pretense of referring to myself in the third person.

An Unblinking Stare

The so-called “major” hatches of mayflies have begun for the season. Some are sporadic but others come off like clockwork, albeit a different clock than we puny humans watch. Intricate, delicate and very nearly absurd, they exchange the drab coloration and digestive tracts of their nymphal stages for the reproductive organs and gaudy apparel of adults. I find them in boats, on porch screens, clapboard walls, and in spider webs. When someone asks “What’s hatchin’?” I know, and not because I’m fishing all the time. Continue reading

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Objects May Be Smaller Than They Appear

There are those who believe places like this simply emerge from the mist at the beginning of each season, like some rustic Brigadoon.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Those people have never chased a possum from beneath a bunk with a broom. As long as the lights are on, the toilets flush, there’s a fire in the stove and — most importantly — the ice is off the lake, they are free to believe in magic but, just between you and me, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Getting six old camps up and running by the last Saturday in April is one thing; keeping them running is another. Throw in a bunch of anglers at the height of black fly season and May becomes a bit of a blur, even if one’s left eye isn’t swollen shut by a fly bite in the lashes. They can be enough to make a guy want to thrash his arms over his head and go running into the woods screaming but, deep in my heart, I love them and I try to remain stoic. For the flies, I just try to remember the bug spray.

Emerging

Continue reading

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Vermont Tenkara Finally Mainstream

We at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are not above tooting our own horn, especially when it comes to spotting important fly fishing trends, six years in advance. It may take longer for folks to recognize the genius of the Portable Long-Range Angler Management and Training System™ or the practicality of concepts like Gordon’s Getaway Club® (“for anglers who expect less from Nature”™) but we saw this Tenkara thing coming a long time ago.

Stalking wild brook trout in Vermont’s small streams is a delightful way to spend time on (and in) the water. Stealth and a delicate presentation are essential to success. Tight quarters and tiny pools add to the challenge, but there is no denying the beauty of native brookies or the pleasure of a few hours spent following a small, shady stream as it winds beneath a leafy green canopy on a warm summer day. For some, Tenkara provides a perfect set of fishing techniques and equipment to meet these circumstances.

And now, a little more than six years after we first wrote about it in these pages, Tenkara in Vermont has finally gone mainstream, if mainstream can be defined as being featured on Vermont Public Television’s long-running series, “Outdoor Journal”.

The segment below, recently posted on their You Tube page, follows host Lawrence Pyne as he fishes with angler and guide Bill Whitehair, using Tenkara rods to catch lovely little fish on a lovely little stretch of a lovely little stream.

The folks at Tenkara USA should be pleased.

The folks at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are pleased for them, I can tell you that much, especially after the fuss in their forum when we first wrote about Tenkara six years ago(!). Confusion was also reflected in a forum on a Tenkara site in Russia but the translation was poor, I have lost the link and, given the current political climate, I hesitate to search for things ending in “.ru”.

From November of 2006, here is our original post:

Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods

And, while they have not quite come around to our way of thinking, here is the fine piece from the Vermont PBS show “Outdoor Journal,” a very acceptable way to spend the next ten minutes:

(My favorite quote: “Cast it exactly like you would a fly rod. No trick to it at all.”)

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

An Idea That Will Revolutionize Fly Fishing

Having at least a rudimentary command of fly fishing skills and knowledge, I have spent the last ten years in close observation and study of anglers and their ilk. One conclusion I have reached is that a vital segment of the fly fishing community remains chronically under-served. I aim to correct that situation and I do not want you to miss out on this Important Investment Opportunity!

According to this article by Kirk Deeter on Field & Stream‘s Fly Talk blog, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association estimates that, in the U.S. alone, close to 4.5 million of us fly fish at least once a year. As Kirk points out, some sources put the number higher, some lower, and some prefer to look at only those who are regular consumers of fly fishing products. With estimates as high as 10 million and as low as 1.5 million, we’ll stick with 4.5 million as a conservative average.

Obviously, a certain percentage of us fish more than just once or twice a season, in a wide range of weather and other conditions, and manage to have a fine time doing so. We find the time we spend outside, doing something we love, to be an invigorating balm for our souls.

But what about those others, the ones who don’t fish much at all because to do so would mean actually getting outside? The ones who constantly find it too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too windy. The ones who say they’d like to feel they were part of something larger than themselves, if only it weren’t made up of so many things smaller than themselves, like black flies and mosquitoes, spiders and mice. The ones who react with anger at otters and loons, and at the end of the day knock baby birds from their nests for pooping on the porch.

I have seen far too many fly fishing experiences absolutely, completely ruined by the great outdoors. Making allowances for, among other things, the fact that some anglers will struggle on their own for a week, or that an entire camp can be demoralized in a weekend, my observations lead me to believe that at least 25% of all fly fishers would fish a lot more if they didn’t have to do it outdoors.

Over a million anglers, for whom the traditional fly fishing experience holds little charm? Sounds to me like Oppotunity knocking and that’s why, working closely with the same folks who brought you Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods and our famous gear-for-guides Angler Management Device, I am pleased and proud to invite you in on the ground floor of our latest concept, Gordon’s Getaway Club®, the ultimate fly fishing destination for anglers who “expect less from Nature”™. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Book Review: By a Thread

Most of us would have a hard time naming a dozen influential fly tiers of any gender. Erin Block has done that (and then some) in her book, By a Thread, and it just so happens that the tiers she names are all women, which is fortunate, given the book’s subtitle, A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying.

Well-researched, By a Thread is more than a list. With her amiable story-telling style, Erin introduces readers to a number of women who have had a lasting, if somewhat unrecognized, influence on the way flies are tied and even on the way we fish. From some of the most familiar names in the business, to the anonymous tiers of today, working in places where trout are but an abstraction and the concept of fishing for fun is unheard of, By a Thread weaves them all tightly into the tapestry of fly fishing history.

The opening chapter, on Juliana Berners, fly fishing’s legendary matriarch, was an eye-opener. Within the context of Dame Juliana’s time, Erin tells why the treatise attributed to her was written in the first place and gives us an idea of her persistence and adaptability but, personally, if both my father and step-father had been executed by one king, I would have got me to a nunnery long before my friend, the Duke of York, died fighting for another at Agincourt.

Mary Orvis knew one man’s Grizzly King is another man’s Ferguson and liked to dance. Carrie Frost started tying flies at her parents’ kitchen table and created an enterprise that at one point turned out ten million flies a year — all tied by women. She also owned a car but couldn’t drive.

Elsie Darbee tied her own flies and caught fish where others walked away skunked. She raised her own hackle, breeding for elusive true dun and, if anything from Sparse Grey Hackle is to be believed, she defended her birds fiercely, once stepping into the dark with a rifle and returning with “almost 80 pounds of dead coon”.

Sara Jane McBride more or less just disappeared, Carrie Stevens followed a whim and broke a record and, today, women like Cathy Beck, Sharon Wright and April Vokey share their passion and artistry, skills and knowledge with new generations of fly fishers. Some of the names in By a Thread may be familiar, others are more obscure, but there is no doubting the contributions of each of the women profiled in its pages. Erin Block tells their stories in an engaging style that not only makes them even more interesting but also quite human, like the rest of us.

Just as each and every woman in this book would be right at home on anyone’s list of influential fly tiers, By a Thread: A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying would be right at home on any angler’s book shelf.

(By a Thread: A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying, 6×9 softcover, 182 total pages, B&W illustrations, available from the publisher, Whitefish Press.)

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Fly Fishing, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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