J. Castwell
April 12th, 1998

The Echstreamist

She slapped the magazine down on the coffee table. "Did you read this, Castwell?"

Not waiting for my answer, she exploded, "That writer doesn't know from straight up about fly-fishing! He's barely scratched the surface, and he's calling himself an expert!"

Turning from the vise in which I had just locked a custom-forged barbless hook, I looked fondly at the woman who had been my partner in marriage and in lab and field since our college days. "Yes, I read it."
"Well, what did you think?"

"Bird shit."


"No, no. I mean bird manure. The writer missed it. The ultimate lure is bird manure!" Her look of unbelief made me smile, but I wasn't joking. After forty years of the most careful scientific research into the art of fly-fishing, I had come upon an astounding truth.

"Yes, bird manure," I repeated.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This story actually began many years ago when she and I, looking for property away from the city, stood on the bank of the Echstream, a clear, unspoiled brook about twenty feet wide, undiscovered as yet by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. We saw the widening rings on the surface made by foraging trout and knew we had found our home.

Fly fishing was our passion. We vowed we would know more about trout and how to catch them than any other human beings in the world. The true fascination of fly-fishing, you see, lies in the orderly, step-by-step accumulation of knowledge and experience.

Living beside the Echstream she and I studied the various insects upon which the trout fed and lived. We learned about these insects in the minutest detail. We tied imitations of each, and took them to the stream to test them out. In time we had exact replicas of every insect that inhabited the brook and it's banks.

Because a few insects are born misshapen we tied some imitations with only two tails, instead of three, five legs instead of six, one eye instead of two, and even crossed eyes. We made replicas of every form a bug could possibly take. We even tied a fly to represent the unfortunate insect that rises up from the water, gets caught under the wing of a passing bird, is squashed about three hundred times in ten seconds, and is then dropped back to the brook. For this we used a regular run-of-the-mill Occidentialis Improbablis and smashed it flat with a ball-peen hammer. Worked like a dream, after we repaired the hook. We knew our business.

As time went on she and I made copies of literally everything a trout might wrap it's jaws around. We tied flies to represent rusty eyelets from old sneakers, ring-pull tabs, old wader patches, sticks, and rocks. These became commonly know as conforma-eyelets, conforma-tabs, conforma-patches, etc.

One fascinating summer we fished with only two flies. The better of the two was a dry fly imitation, size eight, of the cap from a bottle of Raunchy Deluxe whiskey. (We didn't usually use flies that large. Our gear ranged down to thirteen X leaders and size sixty-four dry flies.) Although it cast wretchedly the Raunchy Deluxe produced several nice trout.
Our second fly was tied to represent the cap from a bottle of very expensive R.F. McDougall Scotch. This latter proved disappointing in that we took only one trout, sluggish with age and good living, which gave rise to much speculation on our part. My wife thought the rise forms of the trout which had taken the Raunchy Deluxe flys showed conclusively that they readily recognized the fly for what it was, as if they had seen many before. We wondered, therefore, if those fisherman who chose Raunchy Deluxe were by nature more careless with their bottle caps than others, or if there were just more of them than those who chose the R.F. McDougall. Thoughts like these spurred us on, and on.

Through our research we learned not only about the insects and their habits, we learned about the habits of the trout as well. At length we came to know how to represent and present the one to the other. We released all of the trout we caught. We are scientists, not gourmet cooks, and to tell the truth, we much prefer lamb chops, but that's another story. Before releasing each trout we tagged him for future identification when he was re-caught. Trout 315? Sure, a stout brookie about fourteen inches long. He's a cinch for a size twenty-two green caddis pupa with it's left antenna broken off. Trout number 655? No trouble at all. A brown around two and a half pounds. Give him a size twelve fly tied to represent a gray millipede with the 213th leg from the front on the right side turned under. Child's play.

In short, she and I devoted our entire lives to fly-fishing; research books, articles, lectures, slide-programs, movies. Our casting clinics drew attention world-wide. When we gave our flies names using Latin, German, or Greek, we revolutionized the fly-fishing world. Useless names such Adams, Royal-Coachman, and Para-shoota-toota just would not do. Angling is a science and as such must not be dealt with lightly. Whoever saw a Royal-Coachman hatching? She and I strove diligently to become Scientific Anglers!

"Did you say bird manure?" She repeated.

"Of course! We've been blind!"

Excited as a child with a new toy, I waved her to a chair and began to explain the most important discovery of our career. As all fly fishermen know, when the insects are hatching and flying over a stream the birds soar and swoop. Nearly all species of birds have, when feeding, one thing in common. This is a kind of linkage, so to speak, from one end of the bird to the other. When the bird's beak opens, so does something else. A direct hook-up. This is called the finch connection.

"Bird shit," she repeated, this time, however, with awe in her voice. A whole new field had opened up before us!

Eagerly we threw ourselves into the harness of laboratory research. We would have to know what food the birds had been eating before they flew over the stream. The flight speed of the various birds. We would have to know at which angle the bird was flying when he made his contribution. Wind speed, gravity, dram weight, distance of fall, rate of fall, force of splash-down, all were of prime importance.

Well, she and I spent three seasons in the lab and on the creek bank and sitting at our vises. Finally we had the straight poop!

Perhaps I should mention here that a slight modification of the wearing apparel of the trout fisherman was established as a direct result of our in-depth research. Wide-brimed, cowboy-type hats became standard in our wardrobe, as did a light-weight, washable jacket to be worn over the regular fly-fishing vest.

The age old question as to whether or not a fish can distinguish color cropped up. We had previously observed brook trout at the redds, or breeding grounds, and noted that the flashy males in their fall mating colors always paired off with the dull-hued females. I felt sure that trout could indeed distinguish color. My wife reported seeing two of the gay-colored trout together once, but that seemed queer to me.

Accordingly we created copies of our offering using every possible color combination we could imagine. This was no mean task. Visualize, if you will, trying to match exactly the color of a recently deposited - well, never mind. The important thing is, we did it; contenting ourselves at last with a slightly off-brindle plaid, tied sparse.

Due to the rather unique shape of our fly we found we had to look far beyond the style of all standard flies. Beyond the barbless hook, beyond those flies tied with no tail, or no wings, or those flies tied with complete disregard to a trout's vision and intelligence. We settled for, after much experimentation, a hook with no bend in it at all. It was just a short piece of wire with an eye on one end. The eye of the hook was designed so as to ensnare a trout by one of it's eye teeth.

I cannot reveal the body material we used at this time due to a patent problem with a bubble-gum company. The fly worked as well as you would expect, except when we encountered the occasional trout that had been caught on a Wednesday. A fair number of which had been captured by a "He's-not-in-the-office-today" dentist. Dentists, some of them, the ones who do 'catch and release,' tag their trout by deftly removing a tooth.

With the problems of size, color, and form solved, she and I were satisfied. We presented our ultimate creation with a perfect cast, allowed it to be taken deep into the trout's throat, and swallowed! Then, and only then, was a delicate attempt made to land the fish. In keeping with our policy of using scientific nomenclature we named our fantastic fly 'Der Schwallow.' Since landing a large trout on these proved to be a bit ticklish, we developed a new and revolutionary fly rod combining the best of two worlds. The rod has an exterior of bamboo and a core of graphite. She and I are proud to have left our mark on the rod building profession as this revolutionary new tool is now being mass produced in several weights and lengths by the American Pencil Company.

So, after forty short years we stood at the absolute pinnacle of success. The very substance that had put us at the top now threatened the quality of our existence. Bird shit!

Bird manure was ruining our beautiful Echstream! We began to see evidence of pollution! As you know, every single pinch of bird manure that lands on the water adds just that much more nitrogen to the stream. Nitrogen makes the weeds proliferate, this slows down the speed of the water and robs it of oxygen. Our trout would die! We perceived a vicious cycle. Water weeds are the habitat of insects, birds are drawn to the areas of insect infestations, and birds soaring and swooping over a stream drop ever increasing amounts of you know what!

The solution was simple. To eliminate nitrogen contamination we must wipe out the birds. Naturally we faced some opposition from well meaning but uninformed conservation groups, however common sense prevailed. My wife and I applied for and received the full co-operation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bird kill was a total triumph.

While she and I were digging the holes to bury the bodies of the gulls, starlings, bald eagles, jays, sparrows, spotted owls, bluebirds, and all of the other nuisance birds, we made a most interesting discovery. Living in the earth are some fascinating little creatures about three inches long, rather like miniature snakes, and covered with a peculiar sticky slime.

"I've a notion to impale one of these on a naked fish hook and see if a trout would look at one," I exclaimed to my wife. ~JC

Till next week, remember ...

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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