by AJ Morris
Half of my home creek no longer exists, victim of progress and the self indulgent needs of society. The half that does is merely a shadow of its former self. But I have only to close my eyes and I am thirteen years old again, standing under the arching canopy of alders, the air thick with the heady musk of devils club and salmonberry. The creek gurgles merrily, bright turquoise and clear. The trout are here, streamlined and spotted, with the vivid neon stripes of wild rainbows. I don’t yet own a pair of waders and the icy water burns as I step into the creek. From my left shoulder hangs the comforting weight of a twelve gauge. In my right hand is a fly rod.
Teaching myself to fly fish has been a great venture into the unknown. The internet isn’t even a gleam on the horizon yet, and in our little town there is not much call for fly fishing periodicals. However, some months earlier by happy chance and the machinations of my mother, the LL Bean fly fishing catalogue had arrived on our doorstep. I immediately appropriated it and spent hours pouring over its pages. It was a wealth of bewildering information, but slowly, a fuzzy picture began to appear and I am now armed with at least the basic tools of the trade. As I recall, the “classic western fly assortment” were the first flies I ordered, reasoning that Alaska was about as far west as you could get.
I fell immediately in love with the Royal Wulff, as it reminded me of the deadly Mepps spinners favored by my father. The Parachute Adams, the Elk Hair Caddis and a few others seemed too small and drab to inspire much confidence, so I mainly used them to fill the empty compartments in my box and ordered more Wullfs.
Discovering my grandfather’s bamboo rod in the closest was what had initially drawn me to fly fishing, but my father decreed that it was off limits until I demonstrated some responsibility and a true interest in the sport. From god knows where, he found cheap garage sale rod and a new Fenwick line still in the box. We spooled the line up on an old Southbend reel that also belonged to my grandfather, and equipped with my new purchases from LL Bean, I have been the terror of the creek all summer.
A Sitka spruce has fallen into the stream creating a large pool and a break from the current. Along the seam where the slow and fast water meet, a dozen trout are working, bright, quicksilver flashes in a world of green. Happily, I pull some line off the reel and flop my Royal Wullf out there, confident in the knowledge of many past victories. But my fly bobs unmolested down the current seam. I make the presentation again with identical results, except now there appear to be fewer trout. Puzzled, I retreat to shore, and sit on a rock to ponder.
Upon further study, I notice quite a few bugs in the air and on the water. Not mosquitoes, these are definitely bigger and fly differently. And besides you don’t find mosquitoes riding the river where the trout can eat them. (I should note, that at this stage of my life bugs are divided into mosquitoes, no-se-ums and white socks, then everything else. Basically, those that bite and those than don’t.) With some effort I manage to snag one in my ball cap and give it a serious look. Hmm, sort of an uninspiring dull, grayish olive with upright wings…I dig out my fly box and paw through the contents. I have to admit, the Parachute Adams doesn’t look quite right, though it is about the right size and general shape. Oh wait, what is this? Oh yeah, green something-or-other, Green drake maybe? Whatever the heck that means. With an air of martyrdom, I clip off the Wulff and knot the new fly to my tippet. My education as a fly fisherman is about to begin.