I will confess that I am a traditionalist; a dyed in the wool old curmudgeon when it comes to my fly fishing. I started fly fishing over fifty years ago in Michigan on a traditional fly fishing river the Au Sable. It was on the Au Sable River that Trout Unlimited was conceived and all the founding members of Trout Unlimited fished the Au Sable. I had the privilege of knowing and fishing with several of those men during my years on the river. A man by the name of George Mason owned several miles of the South Branch of the Au Sable and when he died he gifted it to the State of Michigan to be kept wild and open to fly fisherman. Today the Mason Tract of the Au Sable remains much like it has always been and I had the privilege of spending many hours fishing on this special place.
I started fly fishing dry flies and I still prefer to fish for trout with dry flies. The lure of selecting a fly and presenting it in such a way that may convince a feeding trout that my artificial is edible still thrills me. Learning the names of the various insects, their life cycles and then tying flies to imitate them added a special facet to the enjoyment of fishing with dry flies.
I discovered the vast amount of literature that is dedicated to fly fishing and I began an angling library of fly fishing books. My mentors in fly fishing were angling writers like Schwiebert, Brooks, McClane, Skues, Flick, Hewitt, Gordon, Marinaro and a plethora of others. Once again, I was privileged to come to know some of these men and to fish with them. On the Au Sable I fished with and worked with Doug Swisher and Carl Richards before they published their groundbreaking work; Selective Trout.
As a traditionalist I love bamboo rods and I have been fortunate to own a few over the years, but I also enjoy and fish modern fiberglass and graphite rods. When I can combine a fine bamboo rod with a silk line spooled on a Hardy reel and fish over trout feeding to a hatch of small mayflies I am completely contented.
I like flies tied with natural materials; fur from animals, feathers from birds. I’m not against artificial materials but I prefer to use natural materials whenever possible.
I confess that I fish nymphs and soft hackles, but I don’t like to use indicators. I enjoy sight nymphing to trout that I can see feeding on subsurface flies.
Being a traditionalist does not mean that I believe that I am better than other fly fishers that prefer other methods of fly fishing. When I started fly fishing, I found it compelling because it offers something for everyone. Unlike fishing with live bait or lures an angler can enjoy a variety of methods and skill levels and still have a great time. I know fly fishers that cannot tell one type of natural fly from another, but they go out and catch fish and have a great time doing it. Some fly fishers find their challenge in fly casting, some find their challenge in fly tying, some chase large fish, some travel to exotic angling venues, and some just enjoy catching bluegills and bass on warm water ponds. May their tribe increase.