November 24, 2009

Observe and Learn

Black and brown leeches. Tied on lightly weighted, but smaller (#12-4x thin wire) hooks. A marabou composition, with just a couple of folded wraps at the eye to give it a slightly thicker profile. No flash. When fished in the slow current, retrieval is a medium fast hand twist.
It then comes alive, wriggling its way through the water back to you, unless attacked along its way.
I had the good fortune several weeks ago to witness this natural (a real leech) attempting to make it to a destination under a clump of overhanging weeds, and, to be honest, I was amazed at (1) the shape, and (2) its ability to navigate through the water column, until it was intercepted, by a large rainbow just before reaching safe haven.
Having nothing even remotely close to resembling that in my boxes and film canisters, I fumbled about, and dug out the closest imitation I had. A bunny-strip leech. I submerged it, squeezing it until it was soaked, and dragged it through the water, observing. I was not thrilled with what I saw. My leech looked like 3 or 4 real leeches glued together. But, since it was all I had, it was given a chance to perform. Several, in fact. And then it was cut off, discarded, and I went back to what I'd originally been fishing.
About an hour later, 2 gentlemen set up nearby, and immediately each was on a fish. This event repeated itself several times in the following hour as my level of frustration crept higher and higher. Finally, able to cope no more, I reeled in, and set out for points downstream or anywhere away from this area. On my way past the second, I sought information.
"Black leech?" I queried, as he nodded in my direction.
"Brown one, actually", he replied. " Lost all my black ones earlier."
"Rabbit strips?" I probed.
"Marabou. Sparse."
So my observation had lead me to the right conclusion. Funny, for as much as I have fished there, how long it took me to finally attain visible proof of the details of a food source so highly prized by these trout. A protein payload. I'd captured scuds, chironomids, sowbugs, BWO and damsel nymphs, but had never had the opportunity to view one of the primary food sources available, and when I did, it was a real awakening. Oh, I'd have tied some anyway after seeing it, but having those gentlemen there underlining it the way they did sure put an exclamation point at the end of this particular sequence.
On my next visit, which was 2 weeks to the day later, I came armed with my usual box full of area-specific flies, and a collection of newly-tied marabou leeches. The day was overcast, threatening rain, with a rather langorous breeze slowly gaining strength out of the southwest. I looked at my 4-weight and grabbed the 5. More pop into the wind if I needed it, especially with the leech.
Anyway, it didn't take long. I went straight to my usual starting point, stripped line from the Evolution, and cast, across and a bit downstream. Here, the current was very gentle, allowing my lightly weighted leech ample sink time as it traveled slowly downstream. I think I got about 4, maybe 5 slow handtwists completed when there was a strong pull. The rod bent, and then recoiled. Then nothing. but,as I've learned from countless similar experiences, I continued retrieving maybe 3, or 4 more. This time the pull was fierce, and he was hooked. So was I. Tight to a fresh one with my new weapon, and grinning like an idiot.

November 18, 2009


In America we can say what we think, and even if we can't think, we can say it anyhow.

Charles Kettering

Those market researchers... are playing games with you and me and with this entire country. Their so-called samples of opinion are no more accurate or reliable than my grandmother's big toe was when it came to predicting the weather.
Dan Rather

There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.
Winston Churchill

Rumor has it
there's been
a change
but the forecast
is for more
of the same...
I'll gather the facts
from my usual source,
of course.

November 16, 2009


I watch the next gust work it's way upstream. The water turns dark as the cattails bow in submission, and then, as quickly as it came, passes on upstream, shredded remnants of its recent visit now quietly floating past and away.
A gray, forbidding sky pursues several geese looking for shelter while a parading muskrat casually turns pinwheels just below the surface with vines of grass he's selected.
After a cast upstream just inches from the bank, I usually let it settle for a second or two before I begin the slow, very slow, erratic retrieve. But the geese and the muskrat have presently provided a diversion. My scud sits where it landed, unattended.
Muskrats are cool. They have so much personality. After shooting me a look, he waddles up the muddy bank oblivious to everything except his grasses, which he now samples, looking, I guess, for the tender young shoots which are probably the best tasting.
I get that far with my observation when I am made aware of a movement to my left. Turning, I watch my fly line slowly straightening as it submerges itself.
Trout are mind readers. They know the exact instant you space out.


Is it weird in here, or is it just me?
Stephen Wright

... and it'd be better
if it rained
hard enough to knock me
face down
into this mud
I'd sooner drown
than think
the skies will take
pity should I
continue to
assume that I have
anything to say
save for a prayer
to no one
in particular
should I decide
to raise my head.

November 12, 2009

One-Hit Wonders

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.

Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye, and deny it.
Garrison Keillor

However, there are those occasions where staunch belief and strength of conviction, or even denial, are not good medicine. I have a very large beer glass above my tying table that is a concrete testament to the downside of faith.
It's full of flies that failed the test. And failed miserably. They brought no interest from the trout I sought, and if kept them around long enough, nor did they in subsequent outings. In fact, to be honest, it's been emptied twice now, and that says a lot about how many flies have found their way into this dubious 'hall of shame', because it's a 64 oz. glass. Held a lot of awfully good beer in its time, now it is the final resting place, the morgue, the home of disenchantment, the mausoleum of faith. And this does not take into account the countless flies out there, too, returning slowly to organic dust, in nearly all of the places I have fished. To be accurate here, though, is to say that most of these OHWs did indeed register some modicum of success, which is, of course, the reason for the title of this offering.
I have, somewhere in the clutter of a basement somewhere, a rather large collection of late-60s through mid-70s rock and roll records, and this collection is also replete with many bands who failed, just as miserably, the test of time. They were purchased after the most superficial scrutiny, in the faith that indeed this band, on the basis of one song, was going places...
Just like the flies in the glass.

November 11, 2009

Anomalies revisited

Another example of BIGGER IS BETTER...
But don't get me wrong. I really enjoy the science of catching fish. Matching perfectly the time of day, color, shape, size, and movements of a trout's natural food sources is an ability(an acquired ability) that I, and all the really serious flyfishermen seek to imitate. Authenticity can many times be the key to a successful day.
It can also be the most frustrating.
That's the main reason for these flies. They have no base in anything even remotely connected to the real world these fish live in. They have almost none of the characteristics of any of the inhabitants of this slow moving stream, and yet, they really do.
How contradictory of me, thank you very much.
This particular fly, another of my at-the-vise-conceptualizations, is a copy of the fly I used Saturday (Nov. 7) at the creek. It held up well, but after releasing the 4th fish of the hour and examining my fly, it was necessary to 'donate' my now very damaged oddity to the waters for posterity. It's what I do with them all when they reach the point of 'no return'.
That's okay. I've got a million more in my head just waiting their turn to be brought to 'life'.

November 10, 2009


anomaly |əˈnäməlē|
noun ( pl. -lies)1 something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected
I'll try to explain. There is, to me, a very sensible explanation for that which you see above, which stands to reason otherwise I wouldn't have tied it. No, you won't find this pattern in any fly-tying book or manual, no matter how hard you look, because it's totally unique. One-of-a-kind. An oddity, or aberration. And I've not only tied several more that are remotely similar to that one, but, depending upon the success rate of these peculiarities, which I am excitedly creating because of the recent successes of earlier designs, probably many more. I can picture it now; a coffee-table sized book with huge pictures... ANOMALIES - Imagine the Possibilities photographed by Jim Schollmeyer The whole idea for this journey into the abnormal came to me one day in the form of an arm-wrenching strike on a fly I had conceptualized and tied with regard to the spring creek I fish throughout the late fall and winter months. See, as the temperature drops there, even though it's a spring fed creek, the water temperature does drop. And the insects get smaller. Even the scuds and sowbugs, those freshwater cousins of shrimp, become less active( and therefore eat less and stay smaller). And, when you couple the need to fish smaller flies with your ability to tie on those flies with little or no digital cohesion because of the cold, well, it can make for some frustrating times. Which leads me to declare: Yes, there are times when BIGGER IS BETTER. Here the plot thickens, because, getting back to the story, the fly I had been fishing was originally designed to float. My thinking was that I needed to offer the fish something BIG and juicy. After all, it was winter and I'd decided that they'd be willing to eat something with a little more meat than the usual fare, and it had to be something they'd see on the surface as I skittered it across. Great plan. And float it did, for all of 2 seconds before the weight of the hook I'd tied it on pulled it slowly below the surface. And as it gradually sank out of view, I took time to reflect, forgetting that my now immersed anomaly was slowly swinging downstream in the lazy current. It probably got about halfway through it's journey when I observed a rather persistent bow wake from a point somewhat downstream suddenly vanish at the same instant my rod nearly separated itself from my digitally-challenged hands."Hmm", I wondered aloud, a huge grin from numb ear to numb ear, and wondered, as I released that first big Rainbow, if what had occurred was an anomaly in itself, but not for long as this was to be repeated several more times that day. And thus was ushered in a new 'phase' in the fly-tying annals of a compulsive fly-fisherman. So....let's see what we've got here. A foam body, and rubber legs, but it's heavily weighted on the shaft. There's an underwing of antron under a section of black rabbit fur. And the body is arrogantly wrapped in an elegant, but rather obtrusive olive glitter-chenille. Can it possibly resemble any life form that would strike a familiar chord in these fish? That question doesn't need an answer. I just cast, let it slowly sink as it swings, and retrieve. And hold on. Actually, the genesis of this and other flies of this 'genre' has been as deliberate and calculated as any of the more 'classic' flies I have tied, or am tying (said with tongue tucked in cheek). The calculations are a hearty mix of what-ifs combined with why-nots. And that's made it one helluva lot more fun.

November 9, 2009


After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

Aldous Huxley

Dissidence is the mask harmony wears.
She smiles, as breathes
the infinite grace of
melody, whose dying twin
within herself
dares mad rhythms
to take root
might they drive her
ever after into
a ceaseless dance
on her lost lover's
wounded heart.

November 3, 2009


"Everyone can't be exceptional though we are taught that we can".
Jim Harrison, The Road Home

It's a quarter to five. Still pitch dark. I'm on the Interstate, heading for my spring creek, south-southwest... at about 35 miles an hour. There are long periods now where I can't even see the front of my car. I have to remind myself to breathe.
The fog gets thicker. Every year. I swear it does. Almost to the point in my life now where I seriously consider turning around, except that it seems easier to continue on rather than try to figure out where or how I might accomplish it. And, as I vow to keep going, a brief, but intense emotion nearly brings me to tears, because I know that the day is going to arrive, probably sooner than I think, where I can convince myself not to attempt the drive at all.
This brings to mind one of the many disadvantages attributed to the aging process. I begin to understand that my ability to justify not doing anymore that which I've invested a great deal of time enjoying throughout my life, especially these past few years, is one of, if not THE clearest indicator of the fact that I am getting old, too old to, when I think about it, keep myself young. Well, yes, I am getting old, but it's going to be a serious time of self-investigation before I let that be the overriding factor in any decisions I make regarding being able to pursue those things that I live to do. Seems to me that the decision to cease such activity is one of the saddest times in life. That scares me. I find myself pushing harder, fishing longer, tying more flies, investigating. Driving further. More often. In fact, in doing so, I believe I am fighting off the whole process, although this may be just another sign that I'm closer to that which I seek to avoid. I'm sure I'll be the last one to know, or to admit to that.
I may already be that crazy old man I never dreamed I'd be.
That's okay, though. Who's around to know?