At first glance it looked fishy, really fishy. But once you were in it you realized that there wasn’t much trout holding water. The bottom was a smooth green shale, sometimes the only structure were the random cracks forming miniature canyons in the creek bottom hardly big enough to wedge a wader boot in. There were only a couple spots were there was enough gravel and bottom structure to hold and produce food for a trout in the ravine, but I still wade it and make occasional casts every time anyhow. It’s too beautiful not to.
But the pile of fly tying materials… It seems to have a life of its own, I cannot control it no matter how hard I try. I clean it up, put things away and brush the scraps off the edge into a trash can with my hand, but no matter how good my intentions, it returns to the same state of confusion as if it were the concierge at the check in of a fancy restaurant. One moment sir, I’ll return momentarily.
When things finally come together they feel like a fish pulling against you at the end of your line…
Patience. By definition it’s the capacity to accept or tolerate delay without getting angry or upset. My Grandmother used to tell me it was a virtue. As a high school kid in ripped jeans and a leather jacket it was the only hit song off the Guns-N-Roses “Lies” album, and today, twenty-eight years later, patience is something I seem to be in short supply of. Whatever it is I want done, I don’t want to screw around, I just want it done now. It needs to happen now. So that I can move on to more important things. Like fishing.
Few words have the impact when spoken that steelhead does. See? You just felt something when you read it. Steelhead. Don’t believe me? Do you remember the scene in Stand by Me, (if you don’t know the movie then stop reading. Just stop. You’re probably too young to have seen it, because everyone else in the world that’s old enough has. Find it, watch it, and then come back to this later) the scene where Ace says to Eyeball and Charlie “You guys are like my grandmother having a conniption fit. I don't see your problem. We brought a whole bunch of fishing gear, and if a cop asks us what we're doing here, we're just here to take a couple steelhead out of the river, and look what we found!” That one line set a tone of extreme maturity and coolness at that moment in the film. Suddenly, a punk, a thug named Ace became a very cool guy for a few seconds. It was a line that would have never worked, never been so powerful had steelhead been replaced by bass, or even trout. Because of the use of steelhead, the line was pure Hollywood gold. I’ve never gone for steelhead, always avoided it because of people, but even I recognize the power in the emotions the name evokes. There’s only one other word in fly fishing that comes close to grabbing the attention of fly anglers by tender regions and making their eyebrows raise, their heads tilt to one side or the other like a dog, listening to the conversation with a feeling of importance. It also happens to be connected to steelhead…Stonefly.
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I’ll never admit defeat because of the seasons or the weather. But I will concede to the fact that come fall, the fishing does slow down a bit up here. It’s a fact of life living in the north east. We all deal with it in our own personal ways, but the one way most of us use the time to take our minds off the details that the sun has gone down before we even eat dinner and that we aren’t on the water is to tie flies. You might tie during the slow fishing season to refill fly boxes that slowly gained empty spaces during the busy fishing season. You might tie just because it still connects you to fly fishing. The idea that you might not be casting a fly rod everyday now but that you’re still supporting the act in other ways has its own way of keeping one’s sanity in check. Or, if you’re JP, you suggest tying with a group at a local establishment that has room for a few people to set up vices in an area off to the side somewhere… and serves beer.