Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps . .


Part Thirty-eight

The Feud

By Old Rupe


There's nothing like a good feud to get the juices moving. It's more fun than fishing and can approach loving in its intensity. I should know as I had a fishing feud for about ten years with a local lodge owner. Even though these were my formative years as a fly fisherman, when I caught more trout and fished more water than I thought possible, the high point of that period was the feud.

I was rather new to the game but was fishing 10-12 hours a day on the water nine days a month, living in my ratty old flower van and tying flies at the local pizza shop for supper. I would tie on a hand vice in the shop while I ate pizza. "Buy a me some pizza and I'll tie you some flies." At the time my nymphs tied with wire instead of thread were 'hot.' I guided a little but not enough to interfere with my fishing.

I liked to fish the water in front of this lodge. It had more fish than a hatchery pond and I could always count on a nightly pizza sponsor there. One day there was a baetis hatch early in the season that the trout just were not on. A blanket hatch with no takers. I tried every dry that I had and most of the nymphs with no success. I hung my head and walked into the lodge shop and bought some blue- winged-olive dubbing and asked, "How do you fish a nymph during this hatch? Dead drift or down and across with a twitch?" I was then informed by the lodge owner that an uneducated dummy like me should take one of his courses and not bother him with my stupid questions. The steel entered my soul at that point and I paid for my dubbing and left.

I then became one of the premier nymph fishermen on the river, one of the first to utilize a strike indicator. I really became entomologically aware. I researched anything I could on nymph type and behavior, and even though I preferred to fish dries I became known as the 'nymph fisherman.' People would ask me to show them my indicator act and I would, sometimes I would have 3-4 people in line. Then, I never thought to charge for it. One didn't charge for showing someone how to do a fly fishing thing. My how that has changed.

I would spend all winter thinking of ways how I could break it off in the lodge owner. Some of the things I did are still remembered today, 20 years later, I was forgotten but the trick wasn't.

I went to a local livery stable and sent him some horse manure with the card, "from one horses-ass to another." UPS will send anything.

One day on the stream I met the fly-fishing editor of one of the major magazines. He was staying at the lodge. I was slaying them with a high wing thorax dry I had tied and he was doing without. I gave him 3-4 flies and after he had lost them all he edged over for some more, which I provided. He knew his flies. When I opened my box and offered them he picked the best. I remember that 20 years later. He asked me, "what do you call this fly?"

I replied, "It's named after the lodge owner. It's called a Horses-ass fly."

He replied, "Oh, you're the guy from Dayton."

I guess my act had got around.

Once while he was having a cookout for his guests I saw the chance to do it again. He had a bread hole that had lots of big trout. These monsters would only eat bread. His big joke was to throw bread into the hole and watch the trout fishermen cast to fish that were wallowing like pigs and would only eat bread. I edged into the stream and stood still for 2 hours, never making a cast just standing there. One of his guests came over and asked what I was doing.

I replied "fishing."

"But you haven't moved for two hours."

"Yes I'm waiting for that dummy to chum some bread for my trout." I then proceeded to show him the 8/0 turtle hook imbedded in a 3 x 5 kitchen sponge. He knew he had been had. When he returned to the party and told the tale - the lodge owner left for the day. Success is sweet.

He wasn't generally well liked by the locals and as the word of the feud got around I became somewhat of a local legend. One fishing shop owner loaned me some frozen steelhead. These were really big fish that had been gutted and frozen. I waited till noon when all the guests were back at the lodge for lunch and put those three fish down inside my waders and waded into the bread hole with the bamboo carpet rod and a bobber the size of an apple. There was a little brush around the hole and I yelled and beat the water with my one-inch bamboo carpet stick. I couldn't be observed from the lodge really well due to the brush. I then removed the fish from my waders and dragged the three fish past all and got into my van and left. I never slowed down. I guess he almost had a stroke.

It was suspected that he fed the trout in front of the lodge since the river never could support a population of this density. I then called the Department of Natural Resources and reported him for throwing trash (trout food) into the river.

I fished his water every morning before his guests got up and every evening before they returned. I caught or stuck every fish that was feeding. I would have been hard to fish behind. One year I kept count and I logged over 650 trout from the bridge to the canoe take-out. I released no keepers.

I slept in the town park and local police knew me and permitted this. One morning I noticed a group of Boy Scouts, maybe a hundred or so, renting canoes for a trip down the river. I rushed to the local hardware and bought some poster board and duct tape and a magic marker. I went to the bridge 50 feet above the lodge property and taped up the sign. The sign read "Boy Scout take-out 50 feet on right."

I then woke up his neighbor that had the dock on the opposite side of the river. There was bad blood there too. I said "there is a happening you really want to see." I poured him a big shot of Scotch and we retired to his dock to watch.

Watching him try to convince 100 plus scouts that there was not a take-out on his lodge lawn was a blast. We were sitting on his neighbors dock and almost fell in laughing. We even resorted to encouragement like, "get em #%*!," or other bits of wit. "Glad to see you support scouting. How many cookies did you buy to get support like this?" He knew from whence his troubles came. We did serious damage to that bottle. A real dog and pony show.

One year I met a famous writer, that was staying at his lodge, at a local bar. I recognized him and complimented him on his stuff and bought a drink or two. I then proceeded to tell of this feud between this nymph fisherman and the lodge owner and how the nymph fisherman had developed this fly made out of monkey tail, horse tail and only rearward parts of animals that he named after the lodge owner. I recounted how the nymph fisherman caught amazing quantities of fish with this fly. Not because the fly was good but because the nymph fisherman was really a nymph fisherman. He would pass out six or so nymphs to everyone he met on the river hoping to get the fly into the literature. A fly only made of rear animal parts named after the lodge owner. A colossal joke on the owner which with a little luck might pass into fly fishing folklore. We laughed about the concept and when I left I handed him six of the nymphs and departed without a word. He never published the story. I thought I had him but I guess not.

When the lodge owner died I found I was really saddened. It was, I guess, like losing an old friend. He was as much a part of my trout fishing as the trout. I had, through the years, grown attached to the old scoundrel.

I sent flowers. The arrangement was baetis green. ~ Old Rupe

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