April 30th, 2001
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
Archive of Readers Casts
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
Gold Ribbed Hares Ear
By: Ron Eagle Elk
After I retired from the Army in 1988, my wife decided there was
half the money and twice the husband around the house. Shortly after her
decision, I launched a new career as a Wolf Ecology Educator at Wolf Haven
America. It was a great job. I got to be around wolves all day and I taught
classes to people from Kindergarten kids to senior citizens groups.
In late July of the same year, my boss asked me if I had any plans for
the next two weeks. Since I never plan that far in advance, I honestly
answered "No, what have you got in mind." That's when he told me to pack my
bags, I was taking a wolf to Yellowstone to assist the Defenders of Wildlife
gather signatures for wolf reintroduction to the Park.
When I told my now ex-wife I was leaving for Yellowstone in the morning,
she started helping me pack. I guess twice the husband underfoot was more
than she could handle. With my entire collection of wolf T-shirts and
several pairs of jeans in a backpack, I grabbed my trusty forty-nine dollar
PX Special fly rod and reel and all my accessories.
Yellowstone in the summer of 1988 wasn't the crowded, beautiful park I
remembered from my youth. It was, well, smoky. With the forest fires
raging, smoke and ash filled the air around our presentation site at Fishing
Bridge. During the first day we got the wolf a place to stay and plenty of
road killed elk for meals, got the display area established and settled into
The following morning the show was on. Every hour that poor little wolf
had to get out of her private resting area in our van to greet her adoring
audience for ten minutes. At least most of them were adoring. Some were
Montana and Wyoming cattlemen who were making some veiled and not-so-veiled
threats against our wolf's life. At five in the evening we put the wolf in
her quarters, fed her a fresh hunk of elk and went exploring. That's when I
found the Yellowstone River, a couple of miles down from Fishing Bridge. In
a two-mile stretch of river there were only two fly anglers, and more trout
rising than I had ever seen before. These were hungry trout, slurping every
thing that even resembled a bug in the remotest way. That night I dug out my
fly fishing gear and drifted off to sleep with visions of trout dancing
through my head.
The next morning I stopped in at the fishing bridge store and bought two
each of the only flies they had. A Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear and an Elk Hair
Caddis. After putting in the slowest day of my life, I got to slip away to
I found a large stone to sit on while I geared up. No neoprenes or
breathables then, I had a pair of those green boot-foot things that looked like
a really ugly pair of overalls. You remember those. If you fell in
they would hold about fifty gallons of very cold river water and then never
dry out. As I ran my line through the guides on my rod I watched the river
carefully. I wasn't much of a fly fisherman, but I had read Curtis Creek
Manifesto and I had an idea of what to watch for. The first thing I noticed
was the lack of rising trout. After last nights vision of rise rings all
over the river, this was disappointing. I also noticed the other three fly
fishers on the river casting their dry flies everywhere, with no hookups.
Not so much as a refusal. That's when I decided to tie on one of my two Gold
Ribbed Hares Ear's. I'd read Curtis Creek Manifesto, remember.
I picked a spot with plenty of back cast room, and started to fish.
Well, almost fish. I had to retrieve my fly from several bushes before I got
it into the water. I finally managed to get a cast out a respectable
distance and watched my line drift down river. A decent line pick-up, and
another cast out to about mid river. As I watched my line drifting down
stream, the end of my line started going up stream. I started to strip line
in, foolishly thinking I was in an eddy. Instead the line went taut, and a
beautiful cutthroat leaped into the air with my hare's ear firmly embedded in
his jaw. I landed him as quickly as possible, admired his twenty-four inch
length and released him. After that I needed a breather.
It was then I started to hear the voices. No, not those voices.
The voices of the other fly anglers up and downstream of me yelling out those
famous fly angler words, "Whatcha got on?" I was the new guy on the block,
the guy with the cheap rod, no vest, no glasses, no net and a pair of really
baggy, leaky waders. I was the one catching trout. To be helpful to my
fellow anglers I hollered out, "Elk Hair Caddis." Yes, I lied. I even
smiled when I did it. I liked catching fish when the guys with the fancy
outfits weren't. So sue me.
After I landed two more prime examples of Yellowstone trout, the guys
with the fancy outfits figured I was stretching the truth. They were
throwing everything they had in their fly boxes. Everything that floated
that is. Right about then is when I smelled the smoke. Not forest fire
smoke, but pipe tobacco smoke. Cherry blend, I think it was.
I turned to see where it was coming from, and there sat a guy in his
sixties, hip waders, basket creel, and a gorgeous cane rod. He was puffing
on his pipe and smiling. He said something about my funny looking caddis
fly. Summoning up my best Drill Instructor voice, I hollered out "My
mistake, I'm using a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear." The fancy outfit guys
scrambled through their fly boxes to switch flies. That's when the elderly
gentleman pointed at the river and said, "That's a caddis hatch." Sure
enough, there were bugs all over the place and there were rise rings as far
as I could see up and down the river. I switched flies and cast again. I
caught trout all evening on those two store bought caddis flies. They were
so beat up I had to replace them the next day.
For the next two weeks I fished at the same spot every day, and as luck
would have it, ran into that pipe smoking fly fisher almost every evening.
Sometimes he'd give me pointers on my casting, share a few flies with me and
help me drink my thermos of strong coffee. He taught me a lot about fly
fishing, reading the river, and helping out other anglers.
Now, when I'm the only one on the river catching fish, I always tell the
truth about what I have on. I always have an elk hair caddis on my vest fly
patch. That way I'm technically not lying. ~ Ron Eagle Elk
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