|Column nr.8 2004|
George Washington Dry Fly Master
One of my more infamous ancestors Phineous James OFallon was given the honor of being the father of our countries Quarter Master during the French and Indian war in the 1700s.
After Edward Braddock was killed on the field of honor and George Washington was named Commander of all the Virginia forces, many days and nights were spent moving from one rural farm position to another. According to the letters and journals that survived until 1900 when my Grandfather was born, the General was already known as a consummate outdoors men and avid fly fishermen. On one particular chilly fall morning according to my Grand Dad, the men were about to cross a stream on property in eastern Ohio when General Washington stopped the march and summoned my fly fisher ancestor P.J. OFallon to assemble his favorite **Manzanita 5 weight and tie on a #22 Mosquito the General tied the night before out of found Bald Eagle feathers.
"P.J. lets see if we can take a few of these fine rising trout before we stop for lunch, I want you to head down stream and splash around a bit and drive the fish up here for your Commander."
"Yes sir, If I might make a small suggestion sir, that straight red manzanita can land anything this little ole stream can muster!". Maybe let the fly dead drift with the current and Ill try and scare em up to you sir." *My understanding is old George caught the fly fishing bug from a visiting nephew of P.J. OFallons, Tom Fallon whose great grand son my great uncle Tom Fallon Adventurer is honored with a life size statue in San Jose California?
The rest of the men pulled out their tobacco fixings and rolled or chewed while the father of our country played and landed five 15 inch or better trout that morning, according to my Grand Dad a fiddle player broke into *** "Old Sue Zanna Dont You Cry For Me" and a gallon jug of rare Irish whiskey made the rounds... Of course Grand Dad was known to stretch the truth a taste when he had a taste or two!
*** When exactly was that song written? Any body know? Before 1800s?
** Only guessing on the type of fly rod, could have been solid Bamboo I presume?
* San Jose California statue quite controversial as the adventurer was adventurous and said to be a distant relative of the Fallon Clan? Locals try and vote to have statue removed every so often, of course Im quite proud of the old boy!
(Casual reading public beware this historically suspect anecdote is the first in likely a long series of historical illusions de grandeur...)
Dry Fly Manifesto
It is commonly understood it was first the British and later American Yankees like legendary Theodore Gordon (1854-1915) and his adventures on fabled eastern waters like the Neversink that gave American fly fishing its beginning. The proto neo seminal "Quill Gordon" remains an enigma to hard core dry fly sportsmen. Many of the earliest tales of dry fly daring- do include Colonel Ambrose Monell who was said to be among the first to catch a salmon on a dry fly in 1912.
By the late 1920s perhaps less then 100 men were thought skilled dry fly fishermen, my own personal contact with people like the late great Bamboo Rod maker Walt Powell who dry fly fished with many American Presidents from Hoover to Jimmy Carter and movie stars was most fond of his best friends Bing Crosby, and Phil. Harris both consummate sportsmen dry fly fishers who he adventured with on the Fall River in Northern California. My own fond memories of meeting A.K. Best and Jay Fair both avid dry fly masters and legendary fly tiers is humbling. Personally I favor the theory my Irish ancestors educated the British first and that was the way fly fishing came to America, not via "The Sun Never Sets On The Empire" route.
It was my fly fishy Irish country squires resplendent in high scholarly trout lore who first spread the good word to you the unwashed hordes!
HOLY GRAIL BABY
In the world of international fly fishing, dry fly techniques are most respected and coveted. The flies themselves: tiny Midges, caddis, mosquitos, black knats, Pale Morning Duns of many variety, Royal Coachmen, Black Coachmen, Adams Variant, Gunnison Trudes tied by Gretchen Beatty, Gale Doudys Gales Bug, SRI, Irresistible Wulff tied by Bill Black, A.K. Best Pale Morning Dunn, Jay Fairs Mosquito, Walt Powells Double Humpy, Fletcher Quills Electric Trude, Cachibou Caddis by Craig Jansen, Gordon Quill by Karen Graham, Red Barron Salmon dry fly by Pudge kleinkuff, J.C. Caddis by Randy Stonebraker any dry fly tied by Jason Aki, Goddard October Caddis by Mark Hoeser, Spent Wing Caddis by Kieran Frye, Patriot Trude by Gretchen Beatty, Little Black Caddis by Jerry Caruso, Hot Creek Caddis by John Schaper, Kevins Caddis by Kevin McEnerney, legendary Northern California hatches featuring Callibaetis Duns by Craig Hull and of course up Fall River way Hexagenia exploding hatches like Chucks Hexagenia by Chuck Echer, Chain Stitched May Flys by Robert Williamson, Royal Lady by Ruth Zink, Quick nEasy by Gretchen Beatty Walt Powells Royal Trude, all the great Trudes like the Humpy Trude tied by Dave Borgas, anything tied by the noted steelhead womans fly fishing champion Dorothy Zinky. Last but not least any of the Historic celebrity collector sets tied with hair of famous historic figures like the American Music Trilogy set composed of a Black Knat tied with twenty-one year old Elvis jet black hair, The Palm Springs Silk Caddis tied with Frank Sinatras seventy year old hair, Al Jolsen dedicated Smokin Jolson Woolly tied with the twenty-five year old crooners hair into an excellent streamer. Contact Fletcher Quill for availability and current price list, bring a heavy checkbook...
Dry Fly Techniques
Many methods exist and are tried and perfected in different climates with specific water considerations such as clarity, speed, depth, degree of above water structure, common hatches, level of trout higher education. My time (all summer last year) on the fabled Fall River in upper California taught me the infamous Fall River Twitch, a technique where you shake out your fly line and let it dead drift down stream toward trout swimming in crystal clear waters, always downstream.
Hours at a time throwing light #7 weight tippets four to six feet long so as to not scare the over educated wild Fall River strain of Rainbow. Strike indicators and very good vision and rod control were needed as one watched almost all fly line meander down stream until a take or running hit. I had moments when big trout hit and were hooked with only a few feet of backing left on the reel. On the one hand long casting skills did not apply, yet tying invisible #7 tippet that break easily offer great challenges to all fly fishers who learn the proper Twitch dead drift...
First perfected on the upstate New York small streams I fished in the early 1970s, later sharpened on the banks of Yosemites mighty Merced River while dangling from a tree limb and hovering over an area where several rising trout were trying to hit my #22 PMD bouncing and barely hitting the water as I high sticked the tiny fly up and down and all over catching many nice trout. If one comes upon an area where casting or wading or even roll casting or side arm casting wont work? If the area has either high ledges, rock walls, hanging tree limbs? Simply climb up and let your line out until it hits the water, now watch how many trout you fool because they NEVER saw or worse heard your fly line come crashing down on their peaceful back water hide out DUDE!!!!!!! This is a pure cant loose technique if done safely and carefully, I do not recommend serious tree climbing to anyone who knows the local Mc Donald Night managers family history if you get my pathetic super size me drift there cowboy!. I have caught many fish using this basically North American Indian fishing school of thought technique, go in peace (safely) Pilgrim.
Same old Same Old
"Skill comes so slow, and life so fast doth fly, We learn so little and forget so much". Sir John Davies 1569-1626
In the dusty ancient dry fly techniques library in the sky (where "River Runs Through It"- runs endlessly) images of misty mornings where solitary male figures throw perfect long loops with delicate tiny flies that dead drift and are gently gulped by trout and set free fires the adventurus soul. Learning how to throw gentle wide loop casts that slowly, quietly move the air takes much practice and skill. Many once or twice a year fly fishers cannot do this quiet casting effectively. Practice and more practice watching your back cast completely unfold and then applying just enough energy to propel the line airborne. It takes more than two or three fly trips a year, but it can be learned and the complete fly fisher has mastered line control and all its sub levels with practice. Dry fly presentation techniques are learned slowly with an eye toward one day understanding how less energy expanded in first false casts can result in just enough forward line propulsion to resemble a graceful swan landing on water like glass...
It is this hard set of dry fly fishing rules or unspoken hypotheses that make this sport the most complicated, most thought provoking sport available other than Chess perhaps... In this school of fly fishing, long distance is a must and the sooner you learn to throw over 70 feet with accuracy in light wind situations, the quicker and less daunting the idea of actually learning stream current identification, insect hatches, water temperature variables, how to wade safely in fast cold water, and of course how exactly to tie these tiny bugs? It is the minimum required base knowledge needed to begin your dry fly learning journey here in the land of the feather insect makers, watch, listen, read and maybe you will learn what few have ever really learned or rarely master.
Ever region world wide has its own dry fly techniques based loosely on the above three concepts. In my mind one can never stop looking or asking about local dry fly techniques, when I first arrive in any new fly waters asking local fly shop owners and local fly fishers pattern /technique questions is step one. Buying several local patterns and not being shy about asking questions or walking into a local Pub or Bar and buying single malts for the guy who knows his home waters like the back of his hand is the way to go sports fan.
"ADVENTURES OF FLETCHER QUILL"
"Ok you two standing there like a man wearing a living blond cape, that cat never leaves your side, Im getting a little jealous."
"You need not fret sweety, rest assured Timba will be in my arms long after our little deal fades to black, staff tells me Keith will be calling in a few minutes, hope you can find non redecorating amusements this morning?"
Quill and best pal wonder up the spiral staircase where his beloved Dalis are back where they belong and ascend to the fly tying tower and its view to die for. Timba takes his usual place on his special window seat as Quill begins tying back orders of the "American Music Trilogy" three fly set featuring Elvis, Sinatra, Al Jolsons rare hair. Quill notices he is low on several tying materials and begins a list. The tranquil interlude is extended when the sounds of crashing surf and the wings of the resident Sea Eagle flutter across the endless panorama, all at the moment is good and calm at Ravens Haven.
"Its the wondering boulder on the line for you sir."
"Thats Rolling Stones my good man."
"Fletch old boy, how goes it with her Blondness, has she made the castle into a Hollywood bungalow yet?"
"She is working at it my friend, just had to wait two hours to use the master bathroom, how long will this last I ask? Whats up with the Glimmer Twins?"
"Mick is already planning next years tour and working on Charlie to buy into it. We have been working on the "Exile on Main street" type album to be named "Senior Sinners" or something to that effect. Im still healing my hands and fingers from the world tour. Quill we want you to go with us this next time and come on stage for a few songs like "Happy" "Turd on the Run" and other tunes you seem to have a feel for."
"Man, what a thrill for a back yard rocker, cant wait to tell Jive Boy and Jason Aki who love you guys. When you get the itch, my castle is your castle my friend. I been playing "Aftermath" all morning. Gotta go dude, Sharon is standing and staring with her hands on those perfect hips again, must be trouble."
"Mr. Quill I have a question, how the hell do people know for sure your silly American Trilogy flies are real and not your own hair or that cats hair I find every where?" (Timba gives her a hard stare.)
"Every set comes with laser inscribed micro chips that when accessed show DNA proof of who the hair belonged to. I could never run this game any other way. In fact all my rare flies are laser inscribed and have contact info where my computer data base will confirm exactly who or where the tying material came from. These flies are too valuable to leave anything to chance, before I forget we have to prepare for Marthas arrival in a weeks time."
Staff enters holding the Red Phone, "Its the Lone Ranger sir"
"Cute, Mr. President good morning sir, before you say a word, I want to make it crystal clear.I love America and I love the Marine Corps and Im still in your corner on this Middle East mess. In my mind its clear you were not over reacting and were armed with the info given. Back in the early days of your first term, you did not let the Chinese push you around and keep that airplane they were holding. Im quite happy we finally have a President who needs a wheel barrel to carry around his testicular components. Yeah, Im not saying your tenure has been flawless by any means. Im saying youre my President and every other Americans President and we have not been attacked again.In my mind because of your fearlessness period, love my Marine Corps, love my country and Im sticking by you. If you do go down in flames come November, they can torch my marshmello as well!"
Dam Fletcher, I just called to give you an alien heads up and do a little Sharon gossiping, I know youre a patriot son, I know about your 17 year old adventures in Vietnam 1965. You and I are square on these matters. Now you will be getting a visit from a little two foot tall dark green fella named Prious, he is from the alien command center and wants to meet you and discuss the fly trip.
Martha Steward will be arriving next Friday for her two month stay, god save whats left of your soul after her and Sharon get through pushing your buttons boy!"
"So what do I call this alien dude? More important how can I keep all this stuff secret with her Blondness and now Martha on board?"
"Quill another question, is it true you have tied a fly dedicated to the most famous Marine of them all Chesty Puller called the " Puller Trude "? More important when can your President expect a special fly birthday gift?"
"Man, I have no security here at all, I may as well become homeless and tie flies on a park bench!"
"No worries, I had the recycled CIA or the RCIA remove all the bugs that were installed while you were being held captive, from now on your castle is your castle my man."
"Mr. Quill, so what do you think of this little outfit I wore in the made for TV movie Brittany- The last 20 years. Do I look fat?"
"Ahh Sharon its the Cowboy on the line sweety, I ah really dont see the difference between 97 and 98 pounds, better call Oprah and ask that fine lady for a lock of that hair baby doll."
"Listen Quill more update FYI on the space alien Earth take over history. We have been informed all human illness has been preprogramed to go active at certain ages when the human is no longer of any use. Cancer, all the big ones are alien generated and implanted via their incredible genetic engineering techniques. These little guys have been programing and as they say pulling the strings for many hundreds of years. Kinda looks like all religions are sort of useless if that really is the case?"
"Dear boy, I wore this hot red Screen Stealin killer white suite in you know what baby, me and the Michael raising Americas temperature you bug makin fool! ( Sharon is now dancing on top of Quills fly tying table and laying it down hard and mean.)"
"Excuse me Mr. President", Sharon dear, that hot number is the bomb, listen this is the leader of the free world I have on hold for your fashion show, so ah.."Im afraid my time is limited today sir."
"Ohh yeah, got the picture son remember the entire world is counting on you to make these little green guys happy and help us find some day light in this nasty deal."
"Mr. Quill, I know your real busy with important save the world stuff , but I really need to use that phone to call my agent and tell that little twirp to either get on the dam bus or move his flabby- ass on down the line as the new California Govanator would say."
Read about Fletcher Quill in earlier chapters:
Written by Dan
Fallon © 2004
For Dan Fallon's earlier
and later columns; visit the table of contents