Sunday, March 7, 2010
When the water pools on the ice that has had the river locked up since it froze over about mid-January and in places the river opens, its lacy currents playing in the bright March sun, I mentality wander around pondering piscatorial pursue that we are on the cusp of…
My wife scoffs at the idea that fly-fishing is sport. She views it more like an illness that comes on in late winter and leaves around mid-November with various relapses throughout. She is a wise woman and is probably “more right” about her observation than she knows. Though she fly-fishes, she’s not as “bit with the bug” as I.
The phone calls about the coming season start coming from clients, friends, and the one phone call I always expect from by friend and guiding partner: “Are we taking our usual trip out on the opener?” This is the beginning of a “slight fever.” The calls are only a few of the harbingers of the coming on of that sweet sickness that I willingly surrender to. The urge to spend time at the tying bench, the dreams of fishing, I even believe I hear the rush of water as it flows round my legs—though I probably have a touch of tinnitus—it all tells me, much like a sore throat and a headache tells me, I am about to get a full blown case of it.
The internet has done a lot to cool the fever that starts to rise in me even before “the fit is upon me”: surfing around, reading old fishing reports, reading fly-fishing message boards, looking up fly patterns. Though I really do miss the days when I’d start thinking about fishing, which usually sent me to the literature on the “sport.” I did a lot of reading, research and contemplative repose back then. I still do. Some might call it waiting, quietly on your own. Back when I was younger I had more time and I would take trips down to the river, locked up for winter and see if there was anything going on. On warm days when the thaw was going good, I would even go so far as to donning the waders and walking around in the cold current. Occasionally, I’d spook a few holdover steelhead.
It’s different now. People seem to be more connected. We reach out to each other: E-mail, IMs, Tweets, Message Boards, and Facebook. In that regard I find what’s happening just as interesting. The solitary contemplative repose I would have drifted into years ago has commingled with the digital world of the Internet. I find my random thoughts leading off into a discovery of the joyfully unexpected.
I was reading my guiding partner’s fly of the month column on our service’s website (yes, a shameless plug). So I got to thinking about that fly pattern: The Pass Lake.
After looking at my guiding partner’s version of the Pass Lake I got to thinking of why such a wide difference in materials—if you compare both of our versions you’d think they were two different patterns. Not to mention a third found on the internet. I know that patterns evolve this way. One tier takes the pattern and puts their own twist on it. Regional differences on popular patterns often will change a pattern in this way. That’s what makes the “sport.”
Fly patterns account for a good portion of the word count of all that is written about our “sport.” Hook and materials fashioned into the perfect dupe. It is always surprising what trout will take. Back when I cleaned the catch for my clients, I would always check the stomach contents. (You wouldn’t believe how many cigarette butts I have found besides the real trout food that ends up in the guts of a fish.) I once had a client have a eight inch brook trout take a small Pass Lake, only to have the brook trout disappear in the maw of a monster brown as long as my arm. The poor eight inch brookie didn’t survive the encounter neither did the client’s leader when the big brown realized there was something just not quite right about the brook trout firmly held in its kype. The leader parted when the trout decided to shoot out of the hole as quickly as it appeared, shocking the client into a “death grip” on the line and rod, leaving the molested trout to float to the surface. We retrieved the fish with the Pass Lake still firmed planted into the corner of the significantly smaller fish’s jaw.
The Pass Lake has been a part of my fishing arsenal for a long time starting as a wet fly pattern in sizes #12 and #14. Working as a guide for Cedar Island Estates introduced me to the fly as a real go to streamer pattern in larger sizes. Years later, I learned that it fished well as a dry fly pattern. When, on mid-morning in late June (1985), a client hooked and landed a brown of about 25 inches on a Pass Lake dry fly, I came to believe that the legend of the pattern deserved the attention it was getting in all of its variations, a real midwestern legend that has stood up to the test of time.
Out of curiosity I searched for the Pass Lake on the Internet and found a discovery of the joyfully unexpected. On the Wisconsin Fishing Forum “Duke” Welter held court on the history of none other than the Pass Lake by relaying the words of the late Larry Meicher, “The Pass Lake Kid.” At the time Larry evidently didn’t have a “hook up” to the “Net.” (You can read it here.)
It has amazed me how interconnected we are. You talk to someone coming off river from a day of delivering a fly like the Pass Lake and start a conversation and end up making all sorts of connections. Places, patterns, people; they all commingle waiting for a discovery of the joyfully unexpected. Larry Meicher fished the Brule with me nearly 30 years ago and introduced me to the Pass Lake.
Things do run full circle.
Keep a tight line,