Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
April 23rd, 2001

Those Things That Define

by Old Rupe

All that is in me goes back to the Hudson
and those days as a boy in Hyde Park

Franklin Roosevelt

It's amazing how the childhood years shape the man. I never had the Hudson River or Hyde Park, but I did have the Au Sable River in Michigan and Jackson County, Ohio. Even though I was never President I wouldn't trade my childhood for his. At an early age, from my father and his friends, I learned a man's word was his bond and one should always help his neighbor. Maybe I've forgotten those credos a little over the years, but the basic ideas prevailed. I still love a slow moving stream with small flies and long leaders, and years ago I made a firm resolve to never drink a single malt younger than the girls I date. I think the single malt was the more expensive of the two, a sad tritest on the modern world.

It was a great time growing up. Walter, Gerald and my Dad hunted together every day of the season. Each would take turns cooking during the noon break. I was a senior in high school or so before I realized Gerald was black. It just never seemed to matter I guess. A man was judged by other criteria. If you could bust four quail on the break and were the right sort of person you were accepted. There are few today like Walter, Gerald and my Father. My Father and Gerald are long dead but Walter still exudes the same quiet integrity when he steps into a room. Maybe in the summer months he coached John Wayne. If John had any sense he would have really paid attention.

There were the early lessons of never killing more than you would eat. I also remember the hard work planting food so the game we hunted would survive the harsh winters. Selective harvest was adhered to with a religious fever. Some game we shot or caught and some we didn't. No one had to tell us, we knew.

I learned my fly fishing on the Au Sable in Michigan with old George Wallace and the two school teachers who always fished the wet fly down from Deward and so many others. I tied flies with a kid of sixteen or so that went on to become rather famous. Chris was even a nice guy which is unusual in fly tying today. I have never forgotten the girl that sunned herself on the dock below Stephan's Bridge. Over the years I have read two articles that mentioned her, just watching her was better than trout fishing.

There was a stone fly (moth?) that was as long as my forefinger at McMaster's Landing. I was never afraid to fish a big fly after that.

Big Creek one day held a motorcycle climb where I was fishing, charging through the stream and up the opposite bank. God favored them, I think. That day I had left my 45 in the van. It would have been ugly.

I remember the doctor who had a cabin above Stephan's landing that wanted to trade his Winston presentation rod for a Lamiglas rod I had made. Once he understood the leader thing his Winston was safe. He thought it was a Russ Peak rod. It's amazing what the right leader will do. He dumped his shrew of a wife and a successful OBGYN practice and worked emergency rooms three days a week. That let him fish and maintain a cabin on the water and the prettiest nurse I have ever seen. I never heard her say a word, she just seemed to be part of the scenery. After talking to his ex-wife on the phone one day I understood the move. I have always felt the Lamiglas was the better of the two rods.

One morning we had high winds of 70 mph plus. I parked the van so that limbs and trees wouldn't fall on it and watched as limbs as big around as my leg floated down stream. I was amazed to see two fishermen dodging logs and fishing wet as they worked down stream. One was the director of The Cleveland Museum of Modern Art and the other owned a seafood restaurant a mile from my home. I had never been to the museum and would never return to the restaurant. I showed them the nymph-under-the indicator bit and watched them catch trout between floating tree limbs. It took awhile but I had finally found two fly fishers crazier than me. A few small Baetis were hatching in the protected areas but the fish weren't on them. I didn't feel so bad about fishing during the tornado that touched down in Grayling the year before.

I had found some water where I could take 70 to 80 trout a day, every day. It took me years to really understand why I only fished it on rare occasions.

Many evenings I would fish the water upstream from the CCC bridge. Big trout at dusk. One evening I had 5 fish open up Mustad 833's. I was devastated. I have never used them since.

One of the deadliest acts I have ever seen was this old man fishing a long spinning rod, probably done on a fly rod blank, pitching live minnows into the cover on the far bank. The minnows were threaded on the hook and a weight was placed ahead of the hook. I now understand fly only and artificial lure rules. He didn't carry a creel, he carried a basket.

The thought that caused me to write this was the comment of a friend asking, "What I am is the result of forty years of fly fishing?" I can relate to that.

It hasn't been a bad sixty years and I wouldn't have missed the other players for anything. ~ Old Rupe

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