Outside the blizzard was raging. It sounded like
the wheezing and groaning of a sleeping giant.
The house creaked and the windows rattled. Off in
the woods, an occasional sound like a pistol shot
could be heard above the wind, as another tree limb
cracked and fell under the weight and fury of the storm.
I was in bed. The power was out. It was dark outside.
The covers and two extra blankets were pulled up just
below my nose. I was staring at the ceiling.
"I could be all warm and toasty right now," I thought
to myself. "I could be down fishin for bluegills with
Jim Hatch. Instead, I'm up here in the north country,
freezing my tail off, waiting out winter for a few months
of brook trout fishing," I muttered.
"Who's Jim Hatch?" Self said.
Self had been dozing. He'd planned to ride out the
storm in bed, like my wife, who was already fast asleep
and snoring. The word "hatch" had jarred him out of
his reverie. Self loved fishing, fly fishing in
particular. But sometimes he was a little "off the wall."
"Jim Hatch is a famous panfisher from the Santee-Cooper
Region of South Carolina," I replied. "He's a bluegill
enthusiast in particular." He invented the Pig Fly and
the slogan "When Pigs Fly."
"With a name like Hatch, he shoulda been a trout fisherman,"
"Well, he's that too," I said. "But his first love is
panfish. He's a regular on the Fly Anglers On Line
website and his reputation is growing."
"I thought that Johnny Gillfisher, from the Texas Gill
Country was the big "panfish guru" on FAOL?" said Self.
"That's Hillfisher, not Gillfisher. And it's the Texas
Hill Country," I shot back!
"Whatever," said Self.
The storm was at it's peak now. Self was being unusually
quiet. It wasn't like him at all. He doesn't spend much
time thinking. Usually he's spouting off about one thing
or another. I knew he was hatching up another of his
"You could be famous too!" he finally blurted out.
"Yeah, right! How so?" I said.
"Create some new flies," said Self. "Like, dry flies
for the discriminating bluegill angler," he added.
"There's no such thing as a bluegill purist," I told him.
"Panfishers fish with worms and grubs and crickets. . .jigs
and poppers and wet flies. They kill their catch and eat it."
"We could change all that," said Self. "Think if it!
"Dry flies only" for bluegills. We could bury Hatch
and his pig flies. The yuppies would eat it up.
There'd be "gill bums" camped at every stock tank
in the country. Brad Pitt would make another movie
called "A Farm Pond Runs Through It."
"Runs through what, you idiot?" I was getting a little
annoyed at Self now.
"The farm, stupid, the farm!" he shot back. "Ketona
Lake in Alabama would be "Mecca" for gill fishers. You
know, where T.S. Hudson caught the world record bluegill
in 1950. Fly fishers would come from all over the world
during the spring spawn. We could make Livingston, Montana
a ghost town. All we need is to swing all the gill
fishermen over to fly fishing."
Self was really on a roll now.
"We can take the old pick-up," he went on. "Drop the
wife at her brothers in North Carolina and tour the south.
We could sell your flies and promote your new book,
Bluegill Dryflies: Theory and Practice. It
will be a good primer for your next, soon to be published,
best selling blockbuster Gill Bums. Then
when you really get old you can write your life story,
A Gill and Crappie Fisherman For Seventy Five Years.
"Listen Self, I'm not writing any books. You really are
crazy," I added. "The way you describe it, I can see me
now. A Yankee, with my delicate, little 2-weight cane rod,
casting dry flies off the fishing pier at Monk's Corner on
Lake Moultrie in So. Caroline, while explaining the merits
of dry fly fishing to two big guys with hairy arms and
tattoos sitting on beer kegs, dunkin worms with K-Mart
spinning rods. Are you trying to be me lynched?"
"No guts, no glory," said Self.
"Okay! I've heard enough. I can't sleep. Think I'll
go tie some flies."
"We've got no power, no lights," Self reminded me.
"I'll think of something," I replied.
I noticed the house was starting to get cold as I headed
for the kitchen. The wind was still howling and there
was already a foot of snow on the deck. Earlier weather
reports had warned of over 20 inches before the storm
was over. I built a big fire in the wood stove, lit
all the burners on the gas range and opened the oven
door. Then I gathered up my candle lantern and a couple
of oil lamps.
"Where there's a will, there's a way," I reasoned.
After the room got warm I set up my vise on the kitchen
table. "Maybe I (will) create some bluegill dry flies,"
I thought. "Self might be onto something."
"That's the spirit," said Self, who had followed me into
the kitchen. "You know, Abraham Lincoln read books by
candlelight and he became President of the United States."
"Yeah! And I suppose if I tie flies by candlelight I'll
become the next Theodore Gordon?" I shot back.
"Nope! He was a trout fisher," said Self. "You gotta
think gills man, gills! You need more than one fly too.
You need a series of flies like Lee's Wulff patterns,
or Joe Brooks and his blondes, or Swisher and Richards
with their no-hackles. And don't forget to use the
color red. You gotta have red somewhere in a gill fly.
I heard that somewhere," he added.
"Don't forget to use Conranch hackle either, said Self."
"Is there any one kind," I said, finally getting a word in edgewise.
Self was always good with advice, although he was never good at taking any.
"Well, if I'm gonna be famous, I've got to come up with
something quick," I told him. I'm not getting any younger
Self readily acknowledged that last point. He gave me his
best evil grin and said, "Why don't ya steal? Gordon
stole from Gillford."
"That's Halford. Frederick M. Halford," I corrected.
"And he didn't steal from Halford. He changed a few
things to adapt Halford's English flies to American
"Whatever," mumbled Self. "But that's what (you) gotta do.
Changed a little something here, a little something there
and you've got your own creations."
Self was determined. "Okay," he said. "What about that
Emlyn Gill? He wrote "Practical Fly Fishing in 1912.
Everyone knows Gordon had one of the first
copies. . .autographed too. With a name like Gill it
makes you wonder if it was really a book about trout
flies. I'll bet old Teddy G. stole from him too.
Probably changed all the names and then took all
"Okay Self, that's enough! You're really over the
edge now," I told him. "Go back to bed. I'll be
along in a little while."
Self tottered off down the hall, muttering something
about Irresti-gills and Rat-faced McGoogills. As he
disappeared in the dark, I could swear I heard him
say gillies were really misplaced panfish guides.
"He's really slippin away on me," I thought.
Just them, my wife came into the kitchen. "You'd
better come back to bed. It's really late," she
said. Then she noticed the fly in my vise.
"Oh my god! That's a pretty one!" she said excitedly.
"What are you going to call it?"
"Well, it's a gill fly. I was gonna call it "Fruit
of the Loom," because it looks like the label in my
underwear," I laughed. "But you gave me another idea."
When we woke up later that morning, the wind had died
down considerably. The sky was clearing. The power
was back on and the house was back to normal. Outside
it was a blanket of white. Twenty-plus inches of pure
"You were restless last night," my wife said. "Tossing,
turning and mumbling things about an elf, the Gillowemoc,
Beaver Gill and the Cat's Gills, whatever they are."
I laughed. "Probably just a crazy dream."
"You must have got up and tied last night too," she implied.
"Nope! Slept right through the storm," I said.
"Then what are those?" She pointed to the kitchen table.
I looked. There was the burned out stub of a candle.
Feathers and scraps were everywhere. Neatly arranged
on the table were 12 little clear-plastic boxes, holding
one fly each; four sets of 3 different flies.
They looked like familiar patterns, but somehow different.
They were labeled: Grizzly Bi-grizza-Gill, Royal Brown
Bi-visa Gill, and Oh My Godzilla Gill. The Grizzly had
a red head, the Royal Brown had a red tail, and the Godzilla
Gill was every color of the rainbow. I didn't remember
tying any of them.
"I like that one on the end," my wife exclaimed. "The
one with all the pretty colors. But I would have named
it something else. "Fruit of the Loom," maybe. It
looks just like the label in your underwear."
I thought I felt the slightest breeze go by my face.
My eye twitched an uncontrollable wink. Just then,
the radio blared out the weather report. "Another
big storm expected this weekend."
"Whatever," I muttered, to no one in particular. ~ RW