July 15th, 2002

Ultimate Dry Fly
By James Castwell


The gavel had sounded and the minutes of the last meeting of the 'Raggedy-Ass Bunch' (RAB) had been read and the floor had been opened for old business. The gathering was back in the early days of fly-fishing, the mid '50's, a small cabin on a little known stream in the Midwest. The subject was again raised of the 'Ultimate Dry Fly.' The idea had been broached two years back by the 'Major' and had been the fuel for many discussions, both friendly and not-so ever since.

The 'Presentationists' defended their position with their usual vigor which did not lend to any progress whatsoever. All being said, the 'UDF' still had not taken shape or form, although many were the suggestions and offerings of those so inclined to participate. A contest of sorts was suggested and after a few quibbles around the table, seconded and voted upon. The tallied ballots confirmed the decision and the 'game was afoot.'

Each member of the dias would tie one part of a fly, perhaps the tail, or the wing, maybe some hackle or some other part of a fly. Each entrant would get only one chance to offer what he thought was the most important and his best representation of the part. He would tie five identical flies for submission, four of which would be discarded. At the end of the judging, the top vote getters would be combined into a fly to be named the 'Ultimate Dry Fly.'

A drawing would be held and one tier would be selected to produce seventeen of the flies. These would be again judged and five would be discarded, leaving a perfect dozen of the most deadly flies ever created, the 'Ultimate Dry Fly' would at last live. After the rest of the business was concluded, cards and corks were pulled and the evening progressed as usual. The next meeting would be in one month.

After the fight was over, the 'Judge' as he was called whacked the gavel on the table and the combatants took their places beside their non-bloodied companions. The 'fight' would be dealt with after the meeting was over, the 'Raggedy-Ass Bunch' ran a tight ship, at least when it came to their meetings and tonight was an important event. Tonight were to be the submissions from the tiers for the various parts of the 'Ultimate Dry Fly.' That in fact, was what had precipitated the fight. As you may have deduced, it was the 'presentationists' again. It seems they had arrived early and decided to open their own views on the subject outside the cabin. As it was lightly drizzling, they had been scrunched under the eves and had been in too close contact with one of the well known 'imitationists' who also arrived ahead of time. Tempers and voices had risen and as someone had shouted 'shut-up,' it had been perceived as 'stand-up,' The rest went down hill from that.

'Bang,' went the gavel. Quickly the 'Roberts Rules' were invoked and the hot subject opened. Like a bunch of 'close to the chest' poker players, the tiers around the table would hesitatingly produce the carefully cotton padded boxes containing the flies they had tied. They would start to hold them out, then draw them back, then out again, none wanting to be the first one to make the overture. The 'Judge' simply grabbed one and that seemed to take the 'skunk' from the event and the rest were proffered with out celebration.

History was being born that eve, for right there on that table lay the most important elements of all dry flies. Each tier having taken a full month to decide on which part was the very most important, then tying up five, putting them into the delicately padded fly boxes and submitting them here tonight. As the contents of each box was scrutinized, two of the 'presentationists' being rather bored with all of this, suggested, five card stud. and were admonished for being out of order. The one with the damaged nose excused himself anyhow and went outside (it was still raining) for a smoke.

A committee was formed for the preliminary evaluations and after half an hour in conference the best of each box was selected, the four of each having been destroyed, leaving in each box the one best representation of each of the tiers fancy. The final determination would be made by the full membership of the 'R.A.B.' by secret ballot. All members present must vote, it had to be a unanimous vote or the whole idea would be scrapped. After all the reputation of the group was at risk. At length the elements for the final version of the 'UDF' were selected and each was put into one especially selected box which was put in the center of the table for all to view.

The paper was torn into sections, one to each member of the 'dias' and the instructions to either mark an 'OK' for the project to continue and the fly to be produced, or an 'X' which in effect would 'black-ball' the whole project.

About this time old 'bloody-nose' came in from the rain and again inquired of the five card stud possibilities. It was assumed he may be most willing to cast a negative 'X' ballot and was told that if he put his 'OK' on a little slip of paper and give it to the 'Judge' his 'out-of-order' admonishment would be stricken from the minutes and he would be allowed into the game immediately following the meeting. Seeming a reasonable request he asked for a small slip of paper and scratched his 'OK' forthwith, passing it to the smiling 'Judge,' himself of course an Imitationist.

The recorded ballots were dropped into the hole in the wicker creel which was passed around the table for such matters and ended in front of the 'Major,' who was actually the 'Major-Domo' at the time. With a steady eye but visibly trembling fingers he unlatched the top and carefully laid out each ballot, unfolding them as they came out. Placed face down and covered with his hands, he slowly looked around the table, studying each face intently as he went.

"Gentlemen, should any of these ballots contain an X we will scrap this venture. However, should these indicate our willingness to continue I fear a terrible burden will be our heritage. As we endeavor to create a fly which has no equal, a fly which will surpass all others in all ways, one that will make 'presentation' only a challenge left to the whims of the caster and totally unnecessary for the rising of a trout, we are agreeing we are willing to change the game of 'Fly-fishing' as it has been known for all time. We will, with full knowledge of our deliberate actions, make obsolete all other fly patterns from time immemorial. The works of those who labored before our times, wasted, flopped onto the shore of history with reckless abandon.

Those stalwart designers and tiers who spent years studying and creating the very flies we now use and, indeed, the very ones which led us to this table this night, we are in eager agreement to put them all to waste. Is that how we all view this event?"

Dead silence. A chair squeaked, a nervous shoe scuffled a table leg, a pale hung over the group. Never in the history of the RAB had an undertaking of such magnitude even contemplated, let alone nearly given birth. One member decided he needed to step outside again, still rubbing his nose as he did so. A couple lightly cleared their throats in preparation of possibly saying something, but not a word was spoken. At length the 'Judge' continued.

"Gentlemen, I suggest we count the ballots now and see what we have decided." With that he slowly turned over each, doing so with the same measured attitude as one checks his hole card in seven card draw. As each was turned up the tension rose a notch in the members, now for the first time the full impact of the evenings actions was taking a bigger and bigger bite of each conscience. One X and it would be all over, the tension would dissipate and the cards and corks could be produced, no X and history would be both made and destroyed on the turn of the final ballot. Not a breath was drawn as his hand reached for the final deciding slip of paper. He turned it first toward himself by the corner and having satisfied himself of it's content, snapped it down in true card players fashion with a thump of the heel of his hand at the same time. A collective gasp developed as each club member realized the consequences of the night. An eye jaundiced with age and hard living peered from beneath a deftly elevated left eyebrow; the 'Judge' surveyed each nearly catatonic member. ~ ~ James Castwell

Continued next time.

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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