|Column nr.7 2001|
| FLY ANGEL
It is a known fact only about five percent of all fishermen are fly fishers! Where exactly will the next generation of expert fly fisher naturalist types come from? Here in sunny California every year fewer fishing licenses are issued as well as fewer hunting permits. This is the case all over America except for a few states in the south where the outdoor life is still attracting new blood.
My featured fly fisher person this month is an angel in every sense of the word. Vicky Johnson hails from a little slice of heaven called Blackfoot Idaho. Located in the Southeastern area of a state famous for its world-class fly-fishing and picture perfect scenery. Ms. Johnson is a Physical Education Instructor who wears a bit of an angelic Halo. In the last twenty years juniors and seniors have been anxiously waiting for their opportunity to join Vickys "Life Sports Class". A kind of aqua fly fishy alchemy takes place in Vickys classroom where youngsters can assemble from scratch their own custom fly rods! This program has introduced eager youngsters to our sport in a wonderful fashion. The class has become so well thought of and popular another more complex course is going to be offered. Now, lets get this straight my fly fishing associates around the world. Here we have a course being offered within the confines of a High School concentrating on understanding and building fly rods? Before we take a brief look at what students can expect from Vickys class. I would like to say a huge thank you to those within her school district who have supported and allowed this course to flourish.
BLACKFOOT HIGH SCHOOL
Life at Blackfoot High is much like the average day at any American High School, except for those lucky few that attend Vickys class. The 12-week class begins with basic introduction to the world of fly fishing and ordering of the blank kits. Weeks 1-4 concentrate on the feathery alchemy of fly tying and explaining to mom and dad the need to pull over whenever an interesting well-preserved road kill appears! During the remainder of the 12 weeks construction and the finer points such as knot tying and casting are carefully covered. The most exciting aspect of the course is the fly fishing field trip where the whole class learns how to use the gear they carefully assembled. It is somewhere along this path when Vicky begins to notice a strange far away fishy glare upon the faces of many students. Many of her former students have gone on to become solidly hooked on mastering the air ballet. This course is no stroll in the park as past students will concede! A comprehensive final exam, which includes both written, and fly tying skill tests, puts students through their paces.
Wish I had gone to Blackfoot High and hung out in Vickys course. It would have been much easier to explain this life long obsession if I could have said, "Hey, its cool to fly fish and its taught at school!" I wonder if Vickys kids really know how lucky they are? If any educator types out there read this little tale and a bell goes off? Contact Vicky Johnson at 208-232-8524 Blackfoot Idaho.
OVER EDUCATED TROUT
Stark quiet and early fall chills greeted me this morning as I slowly crept up on my favorite High Sierra Stream. I climbed up on a jagged boulder and stared at the still waters about 12 yards away where the once coursing Carson River was now only a vague memory. Water level is so low fish are concentrated in their safest lairs. I crawl on hands and knees within six feet as the sun begins to light the water and the first bird noises filter in and out. Five trout are lined up in feeding lanes slowly moving with the almost nonexistent current. Two of the fish are two pounds plus, the others much smaller. This is prime stealth time and all manner of sneakiness will help maybe fool one or two of these human fly fisher shy water residents. Oh yeah, thats the story I always tell myself on these early late fall mornings My weapon of choice, my coveted Walt Powell 4/6 weight Split Bamboo of course. The outfit consists of J. Ryall Reel and two pound tippet. My fly assortment size 22 Prince Nymphs, Mosquitoes, and assortment of my own ants, bees, and the "Fallon Slayer" just in case.
It is only a short toss about ten feet above where the bigger trout are holding. Water current gentle and slow moves the tiny Mosquito just past the nose of a nice two pounder. He never even flinches as the fly almost hits the top of his head? Then to prove the over educated theory I stand up and the fish scatter faster then American-Republicans during the last Presidential election (that was an election wasnt it?).
I repeat the cast three more times with the same result or lack of. The area where this little hide and seek game is unwinding can only be reached after a forty minute hike about four miles east of the Famous Sorensons Lodge near South Lake Tahoe. This is not a get out of the car and put and take area near main roads. Still these trout are so wily and smart after a full season of avoiding both salmon egg throwers and fly tossers. One must truly dig deeper into the stealth bag to have a prayer! Oh well, what fun would it be if it were easy? The best part as usual is the experience of tasting the air and the smells of summers lingering presence . Now the sun is almost up and I move along this almost empty stream staying well back from the waters edge and making as little noise as possible. I hear a fast rustling sound and out glides a fat doe and her twin babies still full of spots. She is busy grazing and they are frozen watching me like life sentence prisoners watching a Madonna concert. I change flies several times and find another semi deep hole on a sharp bend. The black ant with hairy legs glides with the current and here we go. Out of nowhere a fat boy comes right up on it looks like he takes it and then moves away. Im really getting into it now and the old pulse quickens as I regroup and throw into another section near where the trout maybe hiding.
WHO'S FOOLING WHOM?
No go this time as the ant moves on the surface and gently sinks. I never like to have my flies either float too long or sink too quickly. If Im trying to fool surface hitting fish I use sink tip line and ten to fifteen feet of light tippet. If its time for deep diving work I use floating line and a tiny split shot about four feet above the fly. This way in either scenario Im covering both surface and subsurface areas without being confined to only surface or deep water. Its the exact reverse of what is taught in most fly schools. This method works except in situations where bottom hugging nymph work in fast water calls for sink tip line and much touch and feel sensation fly work. Now back to the lazy Carson River.
Its about six thirty and the sun is quickly moving up and warming the chilled air. Now past real prime fooling trout time, I try another stretch under a cattle-crossing bridge. Here the trout are stacked up in shadows and barely moving at all. Each throw moves my size 22 Bumblebee near the gang holding in the middle section. Here we go cowboy, bam a slashing fat boy takes the bee and he is headed south faster then Martha Steward washes dishes. He has me spooling line out fast and furious as he makes his exit. I let him run and then take up slack and he runs again. In about three minutes he is netted and released without leaving the water.
THE NEW CATCH & RELEASE METHOD
When the Carson River Rainbow left my hand I thought about my own catch & release method. I have been guilty of taking trout and salmon out of the water for photos and bragging rights with point & shoot camera firing away as the fish struggles and shakes. Those ignorant days are far behind for this fly thrower. I now hope all fly fishers will observe what I feel are mandatory humane rules for taking and letting fish go unharmed! Let us start from the top my friends.
When you feel that first hit or pull do you really have to yank that line and set the hook as if you have a 200-pound tuna on the line? How about giving the fish a break and gently flicking your wrist to set the hook? Now that you have him, do you have to play him out until he or she is exhausted and near death? Why not let him run and then bring him in quickly before he uses all his reserve energy?
Ok, now he is yours and you have netted him and you cant wait to get him out in the sun and snap those photos Why not take the shots while he is still submerged in the net? Now gently take out your barbless hook and let him swim away. Its easy to be a considerate fly fisher and help our underwater friends recover and live to play another day. When I get wrangled into watching those countless metal throwing bass boys in their fifty thousand dollar 900 mile an hour power boats slamming those poor bass on deck as fast as possible to win the big prize, I cry real tears for those fish. How about we five percent of all fishermen fly fishers setting a new standard for reasonable ethical catch & release?
I always make an effort to stay well away from the park and throw salmon egg crowd of vacationer type fishers. God bless them and thank them for keeping the world of hatchery to stream assembly line going strong. Its always a pure joy for me to watch little kids catch their first trout on an egg rig. This last trip up north to my favorite streams and rivers in the High Sierras was wonderful and spirit lifting except for two incidents of absolute ignorance and disrespect! On two occasions I was well away from main roads perhaps two miles or more. When suddenly families consisting of mom and dad and three youngsters age ten to sixteen came right into my area and without a word to me began throwing salmon eggs and screaming at me "Hey, catch anything? What are they biting on?"
It always amazes me how little respect for fly fishers quiet space I encounter each season. No Matter how far I walk or hike, it seems without fail the restless hordes of would be angler, metal throwers, salmon egg feeders find my sweet spot? Ok. Maybe its true, Im president of the lone wolf leave me alone when Im out on the water club?
Still, how about next time any of you new once a year egg throwers come across a gal or guy trying to quietly enjoy a section of water with fly rod in hand. Think for a moment, just pause and say to your self "Do I really want to spoil this guys day and come crashing into his space?" Please just think for a moment .
The response to my Ira Stutzman/Dan Fallon custom rod has been quite exciting! We are now in the teens in regard to numbers available. The series consists of only 100 rods and thats it period. For more info please check out my web sight at www.danfallonflyfishing.com.
The international trips which Im leading this year and next still have room for a few more world-class anglers. If your interested in either Botswana Africa fly fishing with Cindy Garrison and I this year in October or the Russian Kamchatka wilderness expeditions next year. Take a look at the hot link on my website. The African flies I have been using all year are the absolute top of the line created by Munel Flies and can be accessed via my website.
FINAL FALL THOUGHTS
This year America sort of elected a new President George W Bush. I have always been a big supporter of the Bush family and especially George senior our past President.
Much noise has been made about the new Presidents stand on controversial environmental issues such as drilling for oil in the pristine Artic Wildlife Refuge. I have contacted the Whitehouse formally and asked to guide the new president on my favorite waters.
The response from his media people in a letter to me indicates perhaps at some distant point this may happen. If I do get the opportunity to throw flies with George W Bush, I will ask that we fly to Lake Marie Alaska and join the world famous Wilson brothers John & David on their isolated King Salmon infested homestead about 100 miles North East from Anchorage. If after several days of world class fly fishing in this perfect place. The new president still insists on cutting roads and destroying the sanctity of this cathedral of pristine splendor. I will personally stand in front of every tractor, every land moving rig that plans to make the first slash into this last frontier of natural wildness. I think Mr. Bush has much quality sportsmen blood running in his veins as evidenced by his love for his ranch and the outdoors. I challenge him to join me up at Lake Marie any time he can. Maybe we can alter this madness and save a holy place from mans need to drive a few extra miles and save a few dollars Mr. President any time your ready, lets get up close and personal before its too late.
Written by Dan Fallon, Sept. 2001 ©
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