May 31st, 1999
Never Do It Like Everybody Else

by Don Cianca

I'm not a kid anymore, my sixty-fifth birthday has come and gone. For most of my life, I have enjoyed fishing and the places in which it can be enjoyed. Good fortune brought me to Montana thirty years ago and like being in a candy shop to someone with a sweet tooth, Montana is the candy shop for my fishing sweet tooth. The names of classic western trout streams which fill books, magazines and now in these times, videos, are all readily accessible for me. I fish the Big Hole, Jefferson, Beaverhead, Clarks Fork of the Columbia, Big Horn, Yellowstone and other Montana streams that are not too far from home.

Perhaps having been a Fine Arts major where creativity is motivated in many classes, I find repetition or slaving to tradition, not on my main menu. This characteristic has peppered my life in many respects. Whether it be in business, hunting, fly tying, and to my advantage, cooking. (My wife won't let me try to cook anymore because my "creativity" has destroyed her kitchen too many times.)

My fishing partners delight in looking into my fly boxes. Mostly, because there are never two flies that look alike. They laugh at my non-conformity, but I often laugh at the results the flies produce and the surprised expressions on their faces. I have tied nymphs with scraps of blue jean denim and copper wire and called it a Levi . . . It caught fish. I have tied large stone fly patterns with orange Macrame Chord and Elk Hair (now a popular method credited to others) it caught fish. I even tried using purple bodies on stonefly patterns and they worked too.

A saying goes something like: "A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind." My fly tying bench is a sorry sight, unkempt, unorganized and sends shivers down the spine of my wife, but it keeps her away from my messy room. So whatever I need is there on my bench . . .somewhere. When I start tying a fly, I start with a general idea. It's going to be a Caddis, or it's going to be a streamer, or a nymph. I generally use what is close at hand. A streamer can have Marabou, or Ostrich, Buck tail or even doll hair purchased at a craft store. If the shape looks good to me, I figure it should work.

While I fully recognize it is important to match the hatch and many fishermen live by that code, have you ever seen an insect that looks like a Royal Coachman?

The very first fish I caught in my life was as a ten-year-old boy on a lake in southern Wisconsin. I was playing on the end of a boat pier and noticed a school of Bluegill that lived and swam under the pier. When I would accidentally dislodge something from the pier's surface and it hit the water, the Bluegill would dash to the surface to attack it. And idea struck me and I dashed into the cottage where I was staying with my family and found some line and a hook. And returned to the pier.

The bare hook did little to entice the fish, they did come and look at it but it was obvious something had to be added. A man came onto the pier to see what I was doing. He said little and only puffed on his cigarette for a few minutes. Before leaving he dropped the cigarette and stepped on it snuffing it out, then kicked it into the water. As soon as the butt hit the water, ZOOM! The Bluegill were all over it. I searched the pier, found another butt, and attached it to my hook. I positioned myself on my stomach and slowly dangled the cigarette butt so that it just touched the waters surface, making a slight vibration. It worked. The most aggressive of the Bluegill beat the others and impaled itself on my hook! I had caught my very first fish. Not like other kids with a worm or similar bait, but on a damned cigarette butt!

So what is the moral? . . . Don't be a slave to convention. Don't always do it like everybody else, be creative. ~ Don Cianca (aka Uncle Don)

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