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HI MY NAME IS RALPH
Well, you see, it all began when my uncle gifted me a used Diawa Fiberglass fly rod, complete with a clay red South Bend reel. Having read everything I could get my hands in Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and by watching Curt Gowdy on TV, I knew all about fly fishing. So with a reel spooled with the running section of an old floating line, a barbed ring inserted in the end of that fly line and a six foot section of 6 pound Stren tied to that ring (the classic fly rod bait rig), I headed for the neighboring farm pond. In my nylon shoulder creel I carried a Sucrets tin filled with the various wet flies from the wall cards in the local bait shop, A Cow Dung, Royal Coachman, Parmachene Belle, Black Gnat, Iron Blue Quill, and a Hemlock just to recall a few. At the waters edge I promptly tied on a Parmachene Belle (for visual sake only), cast out to the edge of the lily pads and just as it began to sink watched as a large bluegill sucked it in.
That was more than 40 years ago. Since then I have pursued all sorts of fish with the fly rod, but none so much as the beloved trout. Growing up in Pennsylvania trout country I was more spoiled than I realized until much later in life. I've written about it at length, dreamt about it my entire life and tied countless flies in pursuit of trout. I glaze over at the sight of a trout rising for a mayfly, losing all sense of time pursuing the drift. A longtime member of many trout oriented organizations, my trout rod stable has grown exponentially over the years. I live for trout waters. "......And I'm addicted to big Bluegill."
That's right. I said it. I'm addicted to the subtle swirl beneath my twitched deer hair bug, followed by the "glick" of air as a slab sucks it in. And it's impossible not to smile at that first arcing run around my float tube putting a solid bend into my 6 weight glass pond rod as it flexes its shoulders. Then the telltale dance they enter while bulldogging deep before finally tiring. A large bluegill is pound-for-pound one of the best fighting fish you can chase with a fly rod. Add to that the near peacock coloration of a big male, which takes a back seat to no fish in natural beauty and you have a top tier fly fishing species, right? Or maybe not.
To many trout fishermen, the lowly bluegill is not even worth wetting a line. They would sooner sit on the couch watching the Sweet-Sixteen tournament than fish pond water. And there lies the crux of the bluegill issue. While trout inhabit much more pristine and beautiful waters….the bluegill? Well, they are where you find them. They range from pristine mountain lakes and streams to a farm pond, swamp or irrigation canal. They can be and are found in beautiful places, but likewise, they can also be found in some rather unsavory waters as well. Then again, I've caught some beautiful trout on dry flies, while staring down into the water at a white porcelain toilet bowl or freezer door. But agreed, unless the warm-water bug bites you few folks lay prose upon bluegill waters, which is a shame in my opinion. Then again, that is why I'm here in this support group. To confess my sins to the angling world in hopes that if and when they ever find out about my pursuits of fish shrouded in lily pads and pond algae, I may still remain accepted at the next classic trout fly tying conclave. I'm not optimistic….but hopeful.
Looking across the room as I try to get comfortable I see a few glances of recognition as camouflage hat brims are pulled down lower and they pretend to read a text on their phone. There's Anthony Gaglianuverianucci from the South Jersey Chapter. Last time I saw him he was sitting behind a $500 vise, wearing a $150 logo fishing shirt and Maui Jim sunglasses perched backwards on his head, tying classic Catskill dry flies. I recall discussing the finer qualities of individual hackle lines with him. This morning he was wearing a bass pro t-shirt and a Camo Eagles ball cap. But no low-pulled brim can hide that 8AM shadow. It's definitely Tony G, whose face will look like a hedgehog by lunch. He's not fooling anybody. We catch eyes again and both give a listless shrug of acknowledgement. Maybe I'm not alone?
As the morning went on I heard some amazing stories. One gentleman confessed while staring at the ground, to selling his McKenzie drift boat and purchased an Outcast tube and fins this year. A well-dressed lady told of selling all her standard dry fly hooks on EBAY to fund her Gamakatsu stinger hook build-out. Tony G nearly brought the place to silence telling how his Sims waders and boots are gathering dust from neglect in his garage, because his old nylon Redball boot foot waders of old work better in lily pads with fins. It was a touching moment to say the least. But nothing prepared me for Al Piscatory confessing how he sold all of his Whiting Grade#1 saddles to his wife's beauty salon in order to bankroll his deer hair and RIT dye Bassbug bench in his garage. I had to wipe a tear.
As I was a first time visitor, I wasn't expected to speak beyond my introduction. A narrow escape for sure, and thank goodness! As we parted ways I avoided the handshakes and made a quick exit to my truck on the backside of the parking lot. What a messed up group they were. At least my problems aren't nearly as bad as theirs! Pulling out onto the main road I realized the temperature on my dash panel. Nearly 75 degrees at 10AM and overcast. I was scheduled to meet a friend on a nearby stream at lunch. But I bet the lily pads would be on fire up on Johansen's Marsh right now. Calling my buddy I explained to him how bad I needed to paint the back room today and sorry but I just couldn't make it. I hung up as I then turned my truck east on Hwy#72. I could make the marsh in 20 minutes.