2009 Traver Award Winner: The Land Beyond Maps

  • By: Pete Fromm
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The 2009 Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award Winning Story: "She casts again, the backcast too low, almost onto the rocks, but there’s only beach back there. This time she strips too fast, the fly skittering across the water, which is all the trout needs to bust after it like some hog bass. Totally hooks itself."

In Hemingway's Meadow

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
In Hemingway's Meadow

"When John Voelker died in March of 1991, at the age of 87, we lost one of fly-fishing’s finest writers. Few have equaled his ability to convey the charm and magic of fly-fishing; his writing is fun and funny; it’s honest, even when it’s fiction. Voelker, using his pen name Robert Traver, helped us live the sport in printed form." From the Introduction to "in Hemingway's Meadow" the exclusive new book from Fly Rod & Reel Books...

1979 to 2009—30 Years of Fly Rod & Reel

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
FR&R 30 Years Logo.jpg

We've celebrated our 30th Anniversary in the July/September and October/November issues this year. Now, some more highlights from the magazine's three decades of serving fly-fishers.

30 Year Moments

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
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In the Beginning From the March/April 1979 issue of Rod & Reel, Volume 1, Number 1: “We freely admit that, as long as it’s not damaging, gossip is a hell of a lot of fun. Time, Inc., has laughed all the way to the bank with its magazine, People. Other people make good reading, especially when they share with us the common ground of angling. That’s why you’ll see features on various fishing folk in this and subsequent issues, although we hasten to add that such articles will extend beyond mere gossip.” —John Merwin, founder and first editor Rod & Reel

Favorite Flies from 30 Years (And Beyond)

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
Bead prince.jpg

Today there are many variations on old and new patterns. What has transformed modern tying is not a handful of patterns, but rather the wide and creative gathering (as well as the use) of tying materials. Now we have CDC feathers, gallo de Leon, epoxy compounds, metal and glass double-drilled beads, rubber legs in rainbow colors, tungsten body shapes, scintillating synthetics, colorful foams and so on. Our feather merchants, such as Whiting Farms, have introduced some new uses for feathers. Have you seen Whiting’s Bird Fur? And the Internet has made materials and tying techniques available world-wide. Finally, what is the shape and color of your hook? The choices are myriad. We have never had such innovative and rich tying. With that in mind, we asked FR&R writers and editors to pick some of their favorite trout patterns through the last three decades.—Darrel Martin, contributing editor

Ted Leeson

My top choice for the most influential fly of the last 30 years would without a doubt be a bead-head anything—probably a generic Bead-head Hare’s Ear (below, top), one of the first bead-head patterns to show up here in the West, though my personal favorite of the bead-head patterns is a Bead-head Prince (below, bottom). In terms of changing the way people fish (dry-fly/dropper combinations) and a style of fly that has become perfectly ubiquitous, the bead-head seems well beyond the others. I like the Sparkle Pupa, too. I might argue as well for the Quigley Cripple, since the dressing style is now widely used on a variety of flies. Something like the Zebra Midge is not a bad choice, acknowledging the small-fly/tailwater phenomenon of recent decades. I’m not sure when the Clouser Minnow showed up—not primarily a trout pattern, but one that does cross a lot of boundaries. I think that CDC flies have been very influential as well; the problem is that there is no archetypical CDC pattern, something that capsulates its importance over the decades. The Stimulator is a reasonable choice, though not a terribly original design, really just tweaking an older pattern, the Bucktail Caddis. But of course there’s nothing new under the sun.
—Ted Leeson is our gear-test maven

Seth Norman

One of first flies I learned to tie came advertised as a Warden’s Worry, which it is not. By most folks lights it’s a long, short or standard, thin, fat floating or weighted, minute or monstrous Renegade. Simple by any standards, it worked for me for years—still does—tied wet or dry. We could do this in one sentence; let’s not: Take two wraps of barred brown hackle at the hook bend, tie off. Follow with a body of peacock herl; rib with pearl Flashabou for dry, copper wire for wet. Add two turns of grizzly hackle up front. Drink, deeply, but wisely. You may wish to time yourself: For me, a pace of one Jim Beam per two pals per hour—it’s hard to describe—will pump out a spring’s worth of these in a period of time I forget. (Note: It does help to admire them at the end of the evening, because by the next morning the later ones may have gone off a bit. Humidity, I’m guessing.) I’m reasonably sure fish have taken tiny versions as a midge or midge cluster, size 18 to 8s as both mayflies (green drakes in particular) and caddis, especially in broken water; and a few fools will mistake fat floaters for snails in lakes. I also do love a parachute tie, and except in white water prefer these to standard patterns. But for me, the Compara-dun style addresses so many mayfly “issues.” To wit, it catches fish—even selective fish, often; also, I can usually see it on the water and tie it at the vise. I even use the wing for a foam-bodied Hex that will withstand an entire evening of toothy cutts and smash-jawed smallmouths. (Note: it helps to—lightly-lightly-lightly!—dab the wing base with a little Soft Tex.)
—Seth Norman is our longtime book reviewer

Jim Butler
I’ll start with the McMurray Ant: Essentially, two cylinders of balsa wood, painted, and strung on a short length of mono, then lashed to a hook; a few turns of appropriate hackle added. More than once, when I’ve been unable to adequately match what was hatching, a McMurray (or some other small terrestrial) has helped me camouflage my angling shortcomings and catch a few trout. Next, an Elkhair Caddis. Not just a fine imitation, but also a terrific searching fly (somehow, its jaunty attitude as it floats down a run almost gives it a personality). Thanks, Al Troth. Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear nymph: The bug that took my first fly-caught trout. Nuff said. Now, in a nod to modernity, I often fish’em with a bead.—Jim Butler is the magazine’s former editor-in-chief

Joe Healy
I’m partial to a Yellow Humpy or a Yellow or Orange Stimulator (hmm, is this sounding like a personal ad?) as searching patterns, or a Joe’s Hopper (of course). Also, a gray CDC Caddis has worked well for me throughout New England waters, and the combination of CDC and a turkey biot in an CDC Biot Spinner is another winner. Also the Compara-Dun is a favorite, particularly in the years since I had a tying lesson from Al Caucci.  —Joe Healy is this magazine’s associate publisher

Val Atkinson

My favorite flies from the last three decades: Quigley Cripple, Black Ant, Poly-Wing Trico, Monroe Leach, Dave’s Hopper. They’re still my favorites. First choice on the top: Quigley Cripple; first choice on the bottom: Monroe Leach. Get’s them every time.—Val Atkinson is a contributing editor. Dave’s Hopper photo by Ted Fauceglia

James Prosek
My go-to flies are Elkhair Caddis, Caddis nymph and Caddis emerger—a la Gary LaFontaine. Also, the Woolly Bugger and Squirreltail Streamer.—James Prosek is a contributing editor.

Favorite Flies from 30 Years (And Beyond)

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
Bead prince.jpg

Today there are many variations on old and new patterns. What has transformed modern tying is not a handful of patterns, but rather the wide and creative gathering (as well as the use) of tying materials. Now we have CDC feathers, gallo de Leon, epoxy compounds, metal and glass double-drilled beads, rubber legs in rainbow colors, tungsten body shapes, scintillating synthetics, colorful foams and so on. Our feather merchants, such as Whiting Farms, have introduced some new uses for feathers. Have you seen Whiting’s Bird Fur? And the Internet has made materials and tying techniques available world-wide. Finally, what is the shape and color of your hook? The choices are myriad. We have never had such innovative and rich tying. With that in mind, we asked FR&R writers and editors to pick some of their favorite trout patterns through the last three decades.—Darrel Martin, contributing editor

Ted Leeson

My top choice for the most influential fly of the last 30 years would without a doubt be a bead-head anything—probably a generic Bead-head Hare’s Ear, one of the first bead-head patterns to show up here in the West, though my personal favorite of the bead-head patterns is a Bead-head Prince (seen here). In terms of changing the way people fish (dry-fly/dropper combinations) and a style of fly that has become perfectly ubiquitous, the bead-head seems well beyond the others. I like the Sparkle Pupa, too. I might argue as well for the Quigley Cripple, since the dressing style is now widely used on a variety of flies. Something like the Zebra Midge is not a bad choice, acknowledging the small-fly/tailwater phenomenon of recent decades. I’m not sure when the Clouser Minnow showed up—not primarily a trout pattern, but one that does cross a lot of boundaries. I think that CDC flies have been very influential as well; the problem is that there is no archetypical CDC pattern, something that capsulates its importance over the decades. The Stimulator is a reasonable choice, though not a terribly original design, really just tweaking an older pattern, the Bucktail Caddis. But of course there’s nothing new under the sun.
—Ted Leeson is our gear-test maven

Seth Norman

One of first flies I learned to tie came advertised as a Warden’s Worry, which it is not. By most folks lights it’s a long, short or standard, thin, fat floating or weighted, minute or monstrous Renegade. Simple by any standards, it worked for me for years—still does—tied wet or dry. We could do this in one sentence; let’s not: Take two wraps of barred brown hackle at the hook bend, tie off. Follow with a body of peacock herl; rib with pearl Flashabou for dry, copper wire for wet. Add two turns of grizzly hackle up front. Drink, deeply, but wisely. You may wish to time yourself: For me, a pace of one Jim Beam per two pals per hour—it’s hard to describe—will pump out a spring’s worth of these in a period of time I forget. (Note: It does help to admire them at the end of the evening, because by the next morning the later ones may have gone off a bit. Humidity, I’m guessing.) I’m reasonably sure fish have taken tiny versions as a midge or midge cluster, size 18 to 8s as both mayflies (green drakes in particular) and caddis, especially in broken water; and a few fools will mistake fat floaters for snails in lakes. I also do love a parachute tie, and except in white water prefer these to standard patterns. But for me, the Compara-dun style addresses so many mayfly “issues.” To wit, it catches fish—even selective fish, often; also, I can usually see it on the water and tie it at the vise. I even use the wing for a foam-bodied Hex that will withstand an entire evening of toothy cutts and smash-jawed smallmouths. (Note: it helps to—lightly-lightly-lightly!—dab the wing base with a little Soft Tex.)
—Seth Norman is our longtime book reviewer
Jim Butler
I’ll start with the McMurray Ant: Essentially, two cylinders of balsa wood, painted, and strung on a short length of mono, then lashed to a hook; a few turns of appropriate hackle added. More than once, when I’ve been unable to adequately match what was hatching, a McMurray (or some other small terrestrial) has helped me camouflage my angling shortcomings and catch a few trout. Next, an Elkhair Caddis. Not just a fine imitation, but also a terrific searching fly (somehow, its jaunty attitude as it floats down a run almost gives it a personality). Thanks, Al Troth. Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear nymph: The bug that took my first fly-caught trout. Nuff said. Now, in a nod to modernity, I often fish’em with a bead.—Jim Butler is the magazine’s former editor-in-chief

Joe Healy
I’m partial to a Yellow Humpy or a Yellow or Orange Stimulator (hmm, is this sounding like a personal ad?) as searching patterns, or a Joe’s Hopper (of course). Also, a gray CDC Caddis has worked well for me throughout New England waters, and the combination of CDC and a turkey biot in an CDC Biot Spinner is another winner. Also the Compara-Dun is a favorite, particularly in the years since I had a tying lesson from Al Caucci.  —Joe Healy is this magazine’s associate publisher

Val Atkinson

My favorite flies from the last three decades: Quigley Cripple, Black Ant, Poly-Wing Trico, Monroe Leach, Dave’s Hopper. They’re still my favorites. First choice on the top: Quigley Cripple; first choice on the bottom: Monroe Leach. Get’s them every time.—Val Atkinson is a contributing editor.

James Prosek
My go-to flies are Elkhair Caddis, Caddis nymph and Caddis emerger—a la Gary LaFontaine. Also, the Woolly Bugger and Squirreltail Streamer.—James Prosek is a contributing editor.

A 30 Year View

  • By: John Gierach
FRR Cover 0504.jpg

In my address book, Fly Rod & Reel Magazine is still listed under “R” for “Rod & Reel: The Journal of American Angling,” which is what it was called when John Merwin started it back in 1979. It was originally intended to be a high-class, thoughtful publication that would cover all methods of sport fishing. I appreciated that egalitarian ideal (fly casters don’t have a monopoly on a love of the sport) but it wasn’t until the word “Fly” was added to the title that the magazine found its true voice and its readership—although it never did make the move to “F” in my address book.

I wrote occasional articles for the magazine early on, and then signed on as a regular columnist in 1992 and went on the masthead as an “Editor at Large.” That’s one of those honorary titles that can sound more impressive than they really are, especially in my case, since I’ve never done a lick of real editing in my life. I’ve now lasted through 17 years, five editors and, as of this issue, 106 columns. To a freelance writer, that almost begins to look like steady work.

For the most part, my columns have been as well received as the rest of the magazine, but I have heard from some who I rubbed the wrong way. All writers secretly crave approval (that’s why we sign our work) and discouraging words always smart a little. On the other hand, I come from a newspaper background where it’s believed that if your columns aren’t pissing off at least some readers some of the time, you’re probably being too careful. So with that in mind, I treasure every critical letter. Of course, no one on the staff could top the great Ted Williams for sheer volume of angry mail.

I know the magazine has evolved over the last 30 years. The Kudos and the Traver Awards come to mind as once-new features and the look of the publication has changed from time to time, but most of the rest happened slowly and I barely noticed. The same goes for fly-fishing itself. There always seems to be something new, but at the same time rods, reels, lines, leaders and flies are all still entirely recognizable. Waders may be made from different materials now, but they’re still intended to keep the water out and you still put them on one leg at a time. Fish are still as fascinating and maddening as they’ve always been and people still go fishing without knowing if they’ll catch anything that day.

There was that big boom in the sport in the early and mid-1990s that brought more people into fly-fishing and changed the charming little fly-tackle business into a full-fledged industry. That expansion was widely attributed to A River Runs Through It (the movie, not the book) but I actually think it was the other way around. I think that by then fly-fishing had become popular enough in its own right that the movie would have an audience. Whatever the cause, fly-fishing gradually became fashionable and entered the mainstream. It began to show up in TV commercials for everything from credit cards to pain relievers—unfortunately, most of the supposed fly fishers in the ads dress too neatly and put too much wrist in their casts.

If the sensibility of the sport has changed over the last 30 years, I haven’t really noticed that, either. There have always been competitors for whom a fish was nothing more than a checkmark on a scorecard, but there have always been others who could go to great lengths to catch a few fish, only to spend the next hour sitting on a log wondering what it all means. There’s either room for all kinds, or at least there’s no sergeant at arms to eject people for wrong thinking.

For that matter, beginners still learn the ropes from older fishermen—in person, in print or electronically—and older, supposedly wiser fly casters still learn new tricks from the young guns. I know some older anglers who get grumpy when they’re having a slow day and some whippersnapper walks by and says, “Dude, we’re killing ’em on Girdle Bugs.” But most of us aren’t above accepting generosity from strangers and I, for one, have caught too many fish by taking that kind of advice. I no longer even wait till the guy’s out of sight before changing flies.

By all accounts, there are more people fly-fishing than there were three decades ago, but again, that happened gradually, so it snuck up on some of us. I have noticed a few more fly fishers on some of the small mountain streams in the Rocky Mountains, but I’ve been told I may have had something to do with that by waxing poetic about creek fishing every chance I got. Oops.

You do hear more about rudeness than you used to, but I don’t think it’s any more prevalent than it ever was, nor is it confined to any one group. It’s also not a recent development; so don’t let any geezers tell you that back in the old days everyone was a perfect gentleman. Honestly, I fish a lot and on average see maybe two or three cases of outright assholery in a season, and some of those are caused by ignorance rather than actual evil intent.

Bad behavior among fly fishers might seem more prevalent than it really is because we tend to vividly remember anyone who we think screwed us over on the water. What we don’t always recall—or even consciously grasp at the time—are the many other fishermen who get out of the river downstream, quietly walk around behind us and leave us three-hundred yards of water before getting back in. I guess that’s just a characteristic of the sport: as long as things are going our way, we’re oblivious.

John Gierach is…John Gierach. We’re honored to embark on our next 30 years with John as our back-page columnist.

Letters

FRR Cover 0906.jpg

After reading your article on cold feet I was compelled to send you some information about a product I have used over the last couple years. My passion for steelhead puts me in some cold and unforgiving environments. Cold feet are an everyday occurrence. I met a fellow steelhead fisherman some time ago named Tony Gullo. Tony owns a sock company called Tech Spun. Tony’s sock concept is a two-part system just as you have described in your article—a thin liner and a heavyweight insulating sock. When I first met Tony I was steelhead fishing but out of the river trying to get my feet warm. Through conversation Tony offered to send me a pair of socks and I have to tell you they are worth checking out. I have several pairs to date and they wear like iron. I cannot tell the first pair from the new ones. Tony recommended that I size up my boots for proper fit and this has made all the difference. I routinely am on the river all day in water temps in the 30s. Tony has two insulating weight socks available. If you have the opportunity you should contact Tony. He’s got a great product that works—www.techspun.com.
Rick Aspinwall
Sent via e-mail

Like the Pike

Looking at the pike photo essay in the June issue “Pike of the Midnight Sun” took me back to my boyhood days more than 40 years ago in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula (I am an ex-patriot now). My buddy and I would take my dad’s duck boat into the harbor in Menominee. We were 10 years old and on summer vacation, which meant a lot of fishing. We would regularly catch “northerns,” as we called them. We always fished as a pair because it took both of us to haul the fish into the boat. To get them home we had hooks made from coat hangers stuck into the handlebar grips of our Schwinn balloon-tire bikes. The trick was to keep two pike that were the same size so the bike would balance. Usually, 8 inches of tail would drag and that would make them 48 to 50 inches long. We would ride past office windows going home for lunch. The next day there would be 10 men from that office fishing our spot during their breaks! I really miss those fun-filled days and your articles always transport me out of the cubicle farm. I plan on fishing back there in the UP when I retire. By then I’ll be so old I’ll still need a buddy to help me get the fish into the boat!
Peter Dallman
Irvine, CA

Sneaky Tactics
I received a subscription to your magazine as a Christmas present from my son-in-law and have found it to be my favorite reading. Your articles are always entertaining and educational. I especially enjoyed the June article “The Approach” by Galen Mercer. I really need to work on a sneaky approach and his article fits the bill. This is definitely a subscription I will renew.
Larry Tucker
Hayden, ID

Presentation Mayfly

We received many responses to our Presentation mayfly quiz last issue. In sending his correct answer Yellow Quill or Epeorus, Rick Sanders of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho wrote “I understand that they are delicious.” We’ll choose two other winners at random and will notify them by e-mail. Each will receive a collectible fly-fishing print. Thanks to Ted Leeson and bug guru Rick Hafele for their assistance in verifying the bug’s identity.

Hawaiian Bones
It was with some interest I read the article last issue in Short Casts on Hawaiian bonefish. I have been fly-fishing for bonefish on the island of Kauai for the last two years with some limited success. What was not mentioned in the article was the size of the environment to be fished. Kauai might have 5 square miles of bonefish flats. If you are going to Kauai to bonefish you better have a Plan B for the rest of your time. This isn’t the Keys or the Bahamas with miles and miles of flats. If you go, good flats boots are a must. The “flats” are all dead coral reef, which is extremely sharp and is difficult to walk on. There are large bonefish and you might actually see two or three in a day’s fishing, but you will not see tailing fish as the water the fish occupy is too deep.
Paul Franko
Sent via e-mail

Send your comments to editors@flyrodreel.com. Please include a daytime phone number and your hometown. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Freshwater Game Fish of North America

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
FreshwaterGameFishjacket.jpg

Like the angling field guides by A.J. McClane, the new book by author and artist Peter Thompson is an indispensable fishing and naturalist aid. We're proud to offer this exclusive, first release by Fly Rod & Reel Books.

30 Year's of FR&R: More Favorite Flies

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
bugger.jpg

WEB BONUS: Pattern Picks through the years…John Gierach, Ted Williams and Jim Reilly share their favs. "Today there are many variations on old and new patterns. What has transformed modern tying is not a handful of patterns, but rather the wide and creative gathering (as well as the use) of tying materials."