Our Man In Canada
September 2nd, 2002

An Angler Most Blasphemous

By Kevin Fancy
From Fly Fishing Canada, Published by Johnson Borman Publishers

I am a heathen among fly fishers. Yes, to some I am a sinner of hell-bound proportions because, despite tradition, I will use any legal fly-fishing method to catch fish. Is this morally wrong, or am I just an opportunistic angler with some mighty powerful techniques under my fishing vest? I prefer to think I'm simply versatile, with a few years of logic and experience on my side, but other anglers have been less kind.

My first experience with nonconventional fly fishing was, coincidentally, my first fly-fishing experience. It was a fine spring day when I was taken to the backwoods by a fishing buddy who goes by the moniker of "Mac" (this because he has one of those old, oddly spelled Scottish name that no one can pronounce without someone offering to perform the Heimlich Maneuver). At Mac's suggestion, I had armed myself the day before with a brand new 8-weight rod and a sink-tip line.

Our destination was a small lake, maybe 1-2 miles (1.6-3.2km), west of Ottawa, Ontario. Our quarry were the elusive (or so I was led to believe) brown trout. We slipped our boat into the water around 9:00 A.M. only to find a couple of others had beat us to this remote lake. By 11:00 A.M. there were six boats stirring up the lake, including ourselves.

It is a well-known fact that while hunting the wily brown in The East, there is no need to get up early as they seldom bite before 10:00 A.M. As I recall, the occpants of two boats were trolling gangs, one with minnows, the other with worms. Anglers in two other boats were still-fishing in likely areas with unknown baits, and the other boat was drifting as its two occupants works plugs willy-nilly.

We all bucked and weaved, doing our best to offer space to each other, and when the opportunity arose to survey the luck of each other, we did so as friendly anglers do. We discovered that by high noon, none of the others had managed to bag more than a few sunfish. Conversely, Mac and I, who were trolling flies, had taken our first trut around 10:00 A.M. - an eye-pleasing brown of 3 lb (1.4 kg). By 11 we had missed several strikes but had boated another brown almost identical to the first.

About the time the sun hit its apex, the mini-armada started closing in on us. Having noticed our luck, they watched what we were doing, trying their best to find out what kind of bait we were using. There was nothing secretive on our part; we were simply so busy catching (and missing) fish, we didn't take time to explain.

Soon, a line of boats was trailing us like a string of baby ducks following their mother. Some drew so close to our stern that we knew they were riding directly over our flies. It didn't matter. In full view of everyone, Mac and I nailed two more fish, one right after the other. That seemed to be the proverbial straw, for the other boats pulled away one by one and headed for shore.

We followed soon after so we could grab a bite of lunch at the truck. Only one other boat remained in the water when we arrived, for the others were all being packed out. While our boat was pulled onto shore, there was quite a commotion as 11 curious anglers descended upon us like black flies to see if we were willingly share our secret.

We showed them our fish, the flies we had used and the way we rigged them. We even offered some of our more successful patterns for them to try, for the true spriti of good sportsmanship is helping out others whenever you can. Only two anglers took us up on our offer. They immediately launched their boats again, and, in full view of everyone, proceeded to catch a nice brown not 50' (15 m) from shore. After that, our fly boxes were quickly picked clean. We prudently kept our best patterns for the day, offering our doubles or whatever other patterns the anglers thought might work. Later as we sat in the shade and ate our lunches, the newly initiated anglers gathered around us while Mac and I lectured them about the acquistion and various uses of flies.

Fly Fishing Canada

This happened 20 years ago, when the art of trolling flies seemed to have been forgotten by all but the most seasonsed of fly fishers and was against everything fly-fishing purists held sacred. Today, fly trollers are still looked down upon with disdain by those in tight rubber suits with frozen nether parts and wet feet. However, a wise man once said, "Necessity is the mother of invention," which is why I troll flies and still spread the word today.

Although Canada has thousands of streams and rivers which can be plied the "acceptable, old-fashioned way," it also has multitudes of large lakes holding big fish which can't be caught using traditional fly-fishing methods. Not one to miss good fishing opportunities because of archaic traditions instituted 200 years ago and on another continent, I use what works. And trolling flies for lake-drwlling trout outperforms standard methods hands down. ~ Kevin Fancy

Credits: From Fly Fishing Canada, From Coast to Coast to Coast, By Outdoor Writers of Canada, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. We appreciate use permission!

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