Sunday, November 02, 2008

A return to an old obsession

I have been overcome, for the moment, with an obsession from my past - fly-fishing and fly-tying.  When I was in high school and for some time into college, fly-fishing occupied a pretty big chunk of my brain, along with the Clash, H.P. Lovecraft's horrors from outer space and  whatever crazed psycho I was playing in the ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  Girls came later, mostly; I was a late bloomer in that department.  I spent many an hour during class letting my mind drift along, thinking of mayflies and trout, windswept meadow streams of Idaho, my nimble 4-weight fly-rod connected to a yellow humpy or hare's ear nymph.  I wrote wholly imagined stories about getting tangled up with big lunkers that got away and spent hours in the basement poring over books full of fly patterns and tying them up as best I could.  My specialty was the 'western' Adams, which took a standard Adams pattern and replaced the hackle tail with moose hair.  
We, my dad and I, fished mostly in the West during this time; apart from an unsuccessful trip into Pennsylvania and two trips to Michigan (the Pere Marquette, where we got bageled, and the AuSable, which was very nice) all of our fly-fishing for trout took us close to or west of the continental divide.  We fished the upper Green in Wyoming, the Henry's Fork in Idaho, Henry's Lake in Idaho, the Roaring Fork and the Frying Pan in Colorado, the Bow in Alberta, the Brooks in Alaska, the Deschutes in Oregon...I can't remember all the spots (we may have fished the Umpqua, also in Oregon, but mostly I remember the first truly gourmet meal I ever had there at the Steamboat Inn - and of that I mostly only remember that the main course was lamb).  
Once I got a bit older and went off to college and did some traveling of my own, I developed a taste for high-country fishing while camping and backpacking in the Uinta mountains of Utah and the Cascade Range in Oregon.  Though not the most difficult or technical fishing in the world, I just loved watching little brookies snapping at my fly in a high-altitude lake, and then eating them, dusted in flour and fried. 
Anyway, life and my crazy mind drifted along and leap-frogged to other things, birdwatching, songwriting, novel-writing, work, relationships, cooking, snorkling, fiddle-playing, what have you.  Over the years I only made fitful attempts to get back into fly-fishing - a trip to the outer banks of North Carolina to try some saltwater fishing (a miserable failure, at fishing that is - otherwise I enjoyed myself) and a couple of days on the Beaverkill in New York - great fun but very modest success (two or three 10 inch trout on a hare's ear).  And for the last 8 years or so I've gotten up to the Lake of the Woods in Western Ontario for a week or so's Summer vacation, to swim, read, visit with family and also to do some spin-casting and jigging for Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye.  
The last couple of summers we've gotten out my dad's seven-weight fly rod and done some casting, with pretty decent success with the bass and the pike.  I guess it's taken a while, but it's been sneaking up on me and now I find myself tying every week, brushing up with some of my trout books (reading the water, rigs and tactics for trout, essential trout flies, etc) and researching local waters.  Apparently, there are some nice ones.  Closest to home, about an hour away, is the Nissitissit, which I went out to see today.  I didn't fish, as I haven't gotten my license yet and wasn't sure conditions would be right this late in the season, but a local fly-shop proprietor (Charlie of the Evening Sun Fly Shop in Pepperell - an excellent shop and a knowledgeable host) told me that it can still be fished up until early or mid-December.  So I just might get out in the next few weeks.  If not, well, I'll continue daydreaming and tying flies until Spring.  Or perhaps I'll get sidetracked and start playing Dungeons and Dragons again instead.

Pictures are: Above:  The Nissitissit River.  Below:  The last of the fall colors, the mighty oak.  A muddler minnow I just tied.  A few woolly buggers I tied this week.

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