Sunday, January 12, 2020

Soft~Hackle Journal January / February 2020

Summer River ~ Watercolor by Doris Loiseau

     Hope everybody is wintering well & not struggling too badly with now-unraveling resolutions made on new year's eve. Resolving to be in the moment, I didn't make any this year.

The procession of winter storms has kept me off the water, so nothing to report there. 

Doris drew contributor's names out of the hat & those of you who won stuff have been contacted. All who contributed to SHJ in 2019 will receive quality, signed prints of 'Summer River', a watercolor by Doris Loiseau that appears in my book, 'Upper Columbia Flyfisher'. If you have donated to SHJ & don't receive a print within a few weeks, contact me & I'll get one out to you. Thanks to all of you who've donated. You make it possible to keep this little niche of the angling world up & running, free of ads. Soft~Hackle Journal represents a unique form of engagement principle journalism. Rather than special interests paying for content or me beholding to them for a job, SHJ operates sort of like an honor vegetable stand with a can you put whatever you want into. At the end of the year we draw contributor's names from a hat & names drawn receive any booty donated to SHJ over the year. And everybody receives something. What comes around, goes around. Possibly a world-saving economic model in this.

Note to new writers: If you are a new writer with aspirations to break into print but haven't crossed that threshold yet, & you think you have a story, article or poem ready to submit & would like to try it here, contact me:

Like I said, storms have been keeping me off the water here on the coast, & temps up on the UC are currently near the dead-O-winter single digits. Friends report I'm not missing anything. So nothing left to do but sit near the fire & swap stories. Pour yourself a wee dram. Here's one from 2019: 

                                                    A Crossing

Preface: Had to change some names and leave certain details out of this story.

The Fall trip to B.C. with Doris was meditative. Somehow, she is an iron shield against the rabbit-hole events and wild characters I attract. If there is one crazy person in a crowd of 10,000 that person will walk up and start talking to me. They find me. But have to admit I do make a lot of friends that way. I'll talk to anybody.

So pretty smooth trip up north with Doris. Went to Ainsworth hot springs. Enjoyed a delightful lunch in Kaslo, where I dutifully traipsed after Doris while she poked through every shop on Main Street. 

The trip with Doris was a lot less exciting than the day-trip I took in mid-summer with the editor of a prestigious sporting magazine (Rolls Royce of sporting journals – pays $700 for a mere 1000 words) who'd booked a trip with me, wanting to meet and fish. So, O boy, the editor is coming to fish. I was a little nervous I admit – a little brown man wannabe writer like me rubbing elbows with a chieftain of the publishing industry.

The editor arrived at camp, and he seemed like a nice guy. He set up his kit and looked to be an efficient backwoods camper, and I loosened up some. In correspondence the editor had indicated he’d like to catch a bull trout, so I was planning to take him up to fish the Slocan River, above the border in B.C., the next day.  

Morning lit to a cloudless, July day and already heating up when we crossed the border. We drove almost to Nelson, then up the Slocan river for 20 miles where we found a turnout along a good looking run. It was hubcap-bright and hot by the time we pulled off and got our gear together, rigged, and our waders on. We looked like well-equipped spacemen waddling through the bushes toward the river, already sweating.

The editor went upstream, I went down. The trail downriver didn't go far, ending at a back-eddy where a pair of young couples cooled in the water, naked as the day they arrived in this world. Okay, no thing. I’ve been there. But I was out of uniform and didn't want to upset the vibe pushing through their space, so decided to turn around and join the worthy editor. Then, upstream, blocking the trail the editor took, was a large and lively family group, also naked. I minced through the group sunning on the bank – "hi... hi... nice day for a dip... hih-hih... ya'll have fun eh..."

Caught up to the editor yonder swinging a nice tailout and took a position above him.

Across the river was a neat, log homestead – grassy slope down to the water – and then the cabin door swung open and out stepped a long-haired guy, sans clothing, followed by a full-bushed redhead and they bounced down the lawn and jumped in the river splashing and laughing, casting distance away from us.

The editor kept his eyes on the fishing game, casting stiffly, his mouth a straight slit offering no comment.

Though murder, plunder and mayhem barely raise an eyebrow, and we’re probably the world’s greatest consumers of porn, Americans tend to be Puritanical faced with natural nudity, so, sheepish, feeling somehow responsible for exposing the editor to naked people and obliged to say something, I emoted: “Everybody in the whole damn valley is running around naked today!” By way of apology.

Bare-ass locals swimming in the river everywhere, and too bright to fish anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to guide the editor up to New Denver for some refreshment. New Denver is a funky little assemblage of well-preserved Victorian false-fronts at the end of Lake Slocan, once a booming mining town, now home to a diverse population of mountain hipsters of various stripes. We found an arty little coffee bar with outside seating and I got a coffee and the editor got a chai latte.

We sat in the shade of a big Canadian maple where some locals were hanging out. The editor, though pleasant and engaging, if engaged, hadn’t volunteered a whole lot about anything, so I didn’t have a good handle on him yet. I sensed he was out of his usual element and unfamiliar with the local culture. He sat prim in his chair, knees together, back straight. Me and the two locals at a close-by table slouched, legs outstretched. 

The editor and I started making small talk and the friendly locals nearby overheard us and recognized us as Americans and, entertaining no hard feelings, joined in, welcoming us to their turf. They were Harmony and Gadget.

Harmony reminded me of my wife and her friends, same tribe, she was fetching, young for her age, yoga-toned, sun-browned from nearly constant gardening and outdoor work. Her hands showed it, the nails trimmed short in the way of industrious mountain girls. She wore a breezy India-print skirt and slinky tank top. A hint of refined mischief inhabited her eyes. She had a lust for life.

Gadget was a talker and, turned out, a talking machine, and that started to worry me because I know what that can lead to in this part of the world. The art of conversation isn’t dead in the lonesome northern reaches, and sometimes it gets people excited and the talk turns to nefarious action. I sensed trouble, but the editor was really warming up to Gadget and they talked and talked while I flirted with sweet Harmony, secretly fretting about the direction things were liable to go in. The people of eastern B.C. really do have too much time on their hands

Among a lot of other things we learned about Gadget, he played guitar. “Hey, either of you guys play guitar?” The editor shook is head. And, foolishly, I said: “A little.”

“O man!” Gadget kicked the excitement up a notch.  “You have got to meet Johnny Hurricane! He pointed to a weathered, cedar false-front across the street. “C’mon! Me and Harmony are on our way over there, you guys come with us. You’ll love it.”

The situation was unraveling swiftly, getting away from me, and I protested – “Uh… we’re supposed to be fishing…” But it was no use because they were up and on their way with the overly-compliant editor blithely in tow.

Johnny Hurricane lived upstairs in the old building that had been a mercantile in olden times. Downstairs, a sizeable room, once the store, had been converted to a combination local hang-out spot with a small stage for Saturday night jams, a guitar shop with a work bench for repairs, and a sort of guitar museum. The walls were decorated with an assortment of valuable old guitars, paintings by local artists, and the jackets of old blues albums. A pool table dominated one corner of the room, close by an assortment of upholstered Victorian chairs and couches where a handful of locals lounged smoking reefers. There was a lot of smoke.

It was too late. We were already down the rabbit-hole as soon as we walked through the door. The fishing trip had come to this… this den of hedonism, and I gave up any chance of ever having anything I wrote accepted by The Journal – after this.

A couple of well-fed, hand-polished cats lay curled like hothouse orchids on one of the couches. Harmony walked over and picked up one of the kitties, snuggled it, kissed it on the mouth and sat down with it on her lap, then fished around in her bag and drew out a spliff as big as a cigar and lit it.

Gadget introduced me and the editor all around. Though the place served no alcohol, there was an ornate bar fronting one wall, where Johnny held court, posted behind the counter like your friendly bartender. He was an old blues player and had done a stint with John Lee Hooker. We learned he currently had a band:  Johnny Hurricane & the Storm Riders. I asked him if any of the guitars on the wall were for sale and he said no, they were his personal collection hanging there for people to play, and he invited me to try them out.

I found an old Martin acoustic and brought it down, already perfectly tuned and with amazing sound. I sat on the couch and picked a bit, entertaining Harmony and the kitties.

Admittedly, under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have minded hanging out at Johnny’s playing the guitars, but right then all I could think of was damage control and hustling the editor out of there before he was gassed to brain damage. I figured he must be ready to go by now, hung the Martin back up and wandered over to the bar, where I found Johnny and the editor engaged in deep conversation. Johnny saw I was done playing and put some music on, the wall speakers suddenly blasting Howlin’ Wolf – “…we be down by de firehouse shakin’ dat wang dang doodle…”  And right then everybody in the room lit a fresh reefer.

You could’ve cut and served the smoke in that room. And it was the smoke of some very, very potent stuff. You didn’t need to be smoking. Just breathing I already felt like I was on an acid trip and I was worried about the editor, who seemed unphased and not ready to leave.

Turned out Johnny and the editor were both experts on little-known clandestine spy operations of WWII and going at the obscure subject like long-lost brothers. While I stood there listening to them Gadget and Harmony slipped away. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the spy talk lapsed and Johnny said: “I don’t know who you guys are but I like you, so I’m gonna show you everything.” And with that he reached down behind the bar and brought up a three-pound brick of hashish and presented it to the editor, inviting him to take a whiff. The editor, to my everlasting shock, took a big ‘ol whiff and pronounced, nonchalant: “Hm. That smells like the really good stuff.”

(And O Jaysus I’m shitting my pants now, fearing the Mounties would bust in at any moment, arrest the lot of us and confiscate me and the editor’s fishing gear and the editor’s rented Subaru to boot).

“A-Yo _______, we need to get going if we’re gonna make the border by five….” I announced.

Johnny says: “Oh, hey, before you leave let me give you something.” And he bent and put the hash away and came back up with a couple of Johnny Hurricane & the Storm Riders discs and presented them to us as gifts. I tried to pay him but he absolutely refused to take anything.

Leaving town we drove slowly by a farmer’s market set up in the park. We saw Gadget on a stage playing guitar, a girl accompanying him on fiddle. We also noticed Harmony strolling among the vegetable booths.

Driving down toward the border in afternoon rose light, the windows down and the car flooding with the lush joss of high summer – the road following the glacial-blue river sparking and unskeining lovely beyond thought – the editor pushed Johnny Hurricane & the Storm Riders into the player – and it was good, pure D, top-shelf blues rock. Johnny ripped.

It was better than good, we both agreed.

“Great day,” the editor pronounced. Where we going tomorrow?”  


                                                   The Reel News

Posner walking.

Australia burning.

                               American Wetfly Masters ~ Dave Hughes

Had a good time fishing with Dave Hughes & Rick Hafele this past summer. Before leaving, Dave gave me some of his favorite soft-hackle patterns straight out of his box. 

Green & Partridge ~ Dave Hughes
Waterhen Bloa ~ Dave Hughes

Tups Variant ~ Dave Hughes

Partridge & Yellow ~ Dave Hughes

Hares Ear ~ Dave Hughes

Dave, sporting the latest in fly fishing fashions.

Dave Hughes ~ Canadian Reach

Hook ~ Doris Loiseau

          The Essential Hook

     As hooks are essential to our game, and how a hook performs in the water while fished is important to the downstream approach, I think a brief history and discussion of hooks salient to our discussion of trout spey, or at least, interesting in itself.

     Keep in mind our Neolithic ancestors, free from regular jobs and needing to eat, had few things better to do than think up clever ways to catch meat. At whatever vague point in the distant past somebody crafted a fishhook small enough, I suspect it swiftly followed that some canny fisher-gatherer, having observed large Neolithic trout eating bugs from the surface of the local river, started playing around with dressing a hook to create a fake bug.

     The earliest hooks were simple gorges, a straight section of wood or bone sharpened on both ends. Curved hooks made of wood, bone, shell, thorns and cactus spines followed the gorge, early on. Evidence suggests hooks, like a lot of things that simply make sense, developed simultaneously wherever Neolithic humans found fish. Hooks carved from snail shells dating from around 23000 B.C. were discovered on Okinawa. The ancient Polynesians made long sea journeys, supplying themselves with fresh fish caught on feathered lures rigged on shell or bone hooks, trolled behind their voyaging catamarans – much like modern tuna feathers. 

     Though there’s no description of the hook in his journals, Northwest fur trader and cartographer David Thompson describes natives catching a breakfast of trout from the upper Columbia, fishing a lure made from a tiny piece of softened buckskin – a chamois fly – tied to a line braided from three long horse tail hairs.    

     I carved a #10 hook from a juniper crotch, as the Norwegians once did, and though fat, it was small enough to tie a fly on; and I can see that a smaller, more effective version might be carved from shell or bone. All of the above leads me to think the concept of an artificial ‘fly’ likely predates metallurgy.

     The earliest metal hooks probably followed with the advent of copper smelting at the dawn of the Bronze Age. The earliest bronze hooks we know of were found in Egypt, dating from 3000 B.C.; and copper fishhooks were known to the Americas prior to European incursion. 

     Here’s a theory on the origin of steel fishhooks:

     War, and the tools of warfare, have always served to advance the technologies of humanity. And though the art and science of catching fish inspires a powerful impetus to advancement, I suspect it may have been the development of chainmail armor, traced back to 500 B.C. Persia, that provided the first iron fishhooks. Anecdotal, but I offer this here as it strikes me as logical enough to consider: In the production of chainmail, a length of metal wire is bent into a U-shape. When enough of these are made to form the protective halberk, they are linked together and the U pinched closed to a ring. The early metal fishhooks were simply a bent piece of wire sharpened on one end. So where is our Dark Ages angling ancestor going to procure these? My bet would be it was a visit the local armor smith – who probably had a good sideline going selling fishhooks, or wire for making fishhooks. And I wouldn’t disallow the possibility that, once the process of making wire was developed, the fishhook may have immediately followed as an obvious product, predating chainmail armor and, possibly, leading to its development. If the wire smith happened to be a fisher, it may have. Whatever the case it is interesting, considering the evidence suggests iron hooks appeared at about the same time as chainmail armor.

     Steel hooks were not yet in commercial production in mid-1400’s England when Dame Juliana Berners fished and wrote, so it likely follows the sporting abbess maintained more than a nodding acquaintance with the local armorer.

     The manufacture of barbed commercial hooks arose in Norway and the British Iles. The manufacturing towns of Limerick, Aberdeen and Carlisle lent their names to hook styles we know today. Initially, these were ‘blind’ (eye-less) hooks, available in sizes #2 to #14. If you wanted to tie smaller than #14, you simply tied smaller on the #14 hook – still a useful concept when fishing water holding large trout feeding on wee flies.

     The old hooks were permanently lashed to braided horsehair leaders and, beginning about 1715, short ‘snoods’ (snells) of drawn silkworm gut. The fly is tied over the snooded, or snelled, hook. The snood (about 6” long) is attached to the leader with a loop-to-loop connection. The silkworm’s silk producing gland can be stretched to about a maximum of 30 inches, and at that length fairly weak, so the main length of leader was usually made of braided silk thread. Spain, with a climate suitable to raising silkworms, became the major source of drawn silkworm gut (and we see a warming of trade relations between Spain and Britain during that era).   

    The advent of eyed hooks didn’t come about until the 1830’s, when a die set developed for stamping eyes in sewing needles was applied to hook making. Though bait fishers – now able to easily fasten heavy linen or braided horse tail lines to the eye – were probably thrilled, the early straight-eye hooks weren’t well-received by flyfishers, as the gut snell leaders they preferred didn’t pass through the hook-eye parallel to the hook-shank. Turned-eye hooks, up and down, didn’t arrive on the scene until about 1879, the eyes turned to accommodate a snell (not, as is popular myth, to create a lever to improve hooking). Snelled hooks track and hover well, the fly remaining aligned on a horizontal plane while fished. Wetflies tied on hooks with turned eyes, particularly down-eye, tend to tip or roll (in some cases, screw) when fastened to the tippet by the eye and fished under tension, as in swinging or stripping. Also, when fastened by the eye, turned-eye hooks may hinge from the horizontal posture, as the tippet, with use, has the propensity to align on plane with the hook eye.

     (In the early 1960’s, having long ago gone over to eyed hooks and nylon leader, my grandfather gave me a small, sheepskin wallet containing a few of his old wetflies, snooded to short gut snells, dating from when he was a young fly fisher. I remember there was a McGinty, a Silver Doctor, a Red Ibis and a Parmachene Belle. At the time he didn’t see them as having any particular value. To him they were just old out-dated gear, so he gave them to me to “use up” during my early excursions to the local brook. To me they were gold. Not gold to be saved – gold to be spent. If you dunked the wallet before fishing the wool held water to moisten and relax the stiff gut snells. My first fly-caught brookie came on the McGinty. That was a favorite while it lasted. And the Silver Doctor killed the first rainbow).

     Hooks with turned eyes eventually became available in a wide range of styles and sizes, and gained in popularity. With the advent of nylon tippet, the propensity to roll or hinge was overcome with the use of a turl knot, the tippet passed through the hook eye then fastened around the head behind the eye (possibly the reason for the long, conical heads we see on Leisenring’s flymphs and spiders, making room for a turl knot). The turl was seen as a logical way to achieve the positive tracking of the eyeless snood. Though there are still savvy anglers using the turl knot, it began to diminish from general usage in the 1960’s, as new anglers came to favor knots that are quicker and easier to tie and, I suspect, the original reason for the turl began to fade in the collective memory. As gut snells were replaced by nylon monofilament, the old straight-eye hook did gain popularity with soft-hackle purists wanting to duplicate the positive tracking attribute of the old snells, along with the ease of being able to fasten the tippet to the hook eye.

     ‘Form follows function’ is an abiding principle in designing flies for swinging, though, taking the whole affair into consideration, form and function do coalesce when considering a hook design. We want a hook that will track well, stick and penetrate the fish’s jaw, and hold the fish throughout the battle, yet also possess a shape suggestive and appropriate to the fly design and purpose. 

Canadian Reach Redband ~ Bruce Kruk

                                            From the Tying Bench

                                   Some Winter Flies for Trout Spey

                                                            Rusty Rubber Legs

These may be dressed in color combinations to suit. The rust-orange version featured here is my favorite, simulating golden stonefly & also good when October caddis are present. An all black version is killing where salmonflies are present.

Hook: #4-#8 (Most often, I dress mine on #4)

Thread: rust-orange

Body: rust-orange & black or brown variegated chenille, weighted under the body

Legs: rust-orange variegated rubber

                                                                    Spruce Variant

Hook: #6-#8

Thread: wine

Abdomen: copper tinsel tip & red tinsel

Tailing: golden pheasant tippet

Thorax: peacock herl

Wing: yellow-dyed squirrel tail

Hackle: brahma hen

                                                                   Camp Dog

Hook: #6-#8
Thread: wine
Tailing: peacock swords & red cock saddle whisks
Rib: copper wire
Body: orange tinsel
Palmer: red hen saddle or shlappen
Half-Wing: golden pheasant tippet
Hackle: rear collar – red guinea hen; front collar – black hen

                                                                 Irish Coachman

Hook: #6-#10

Thread: wine

Tip: copper tinsel

Tailing: golden pheasant tippet

Rib: gold wire

Body: peacock herl

Palmer: brown shlappen

Hackle: cock ringneck pheasant church window body spade

                                                                  Mickey Finn

Hook: #4-#8

Thread: black

Tip: red tinsel

Rib: silver French oval

Body: silver tinsel

Topping: yellow bucktail / red bucktail / yellow bucktail

Optional: jungle cock cheeks

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal November / December

Canadian Reach ~ Upper Columbia River



Everything changes.

Back at winter camp. Got in late. Home, the cats, restless since Paso Robles, scrambled over our laps & poured from the truck ecstatic the moment we opened the doors. While unloading we could hear the waves breaking down on the beach, over on the other side of HWY 1, reminding me to check the tide book first thing in the morning.

It was an odd year in our part of the Northwest. Cooler temperatures this summer with rain, & not so many forest fires this year. An arctic cold front curved down a week after the last day of summer, & stayed, bringing us straight into winter. It snowed in September. The outdoor shower froze & busted & the ground froze solid before we could finish setting posts for a new garden fence, & stayed frozen. 

The cold weather didn’t put much of a damper on the October Caddis hatch, & the imitations worked well from the first week of September until at least the second week of November. Fishing was good; Gary LaFontaine was right: October Caddis is the most important big-fish insect of the West. And to that I would add: OC is the most effective insect to imitate & proffer on a swing presentation – making it particularly valuable to those who practice Trout Spey. The season past & done, I’m already looking forward to next Fall.

But no need to rush things, life is short enough. The mighty Columbia has other sweet seasons as well. Like all rivers, it has seasons of peak activity & also slow seasons of touchy, unreliable trouting. We won’t sell anybody on a trip during the dog-days of August, for example. The health of our fishery is #1 priority. Fishing only short seasons through the most productive periods reduces stress on our trout. And guided fishing trips are expensive, for some, the dreamed-of, anticipated trip of a lifetime, so we’re committed to making that adventure the best possible.

Because we see a growing interest lately, & because we happen to live beside the Mecca of Trout Spey, the 2020 guided trip itinerary puts more emphasis on Trout Spey. Anyone interested in meeting the U.S. upper Columbia, booking a trip, or just curious, get more info here: 

                                                 A Few Things I Like

From time to time SHJ includes reviews of things I like. Mom said: “If you don’t have something good to say about something, better to not say anything at all.” So, in an effort to do the least harm possible, I only post the positive ones. Here are a few things I’m liking:

    The Red Truck Diesel Reel

I’ve always preferred the simplicity & utilitarian longevity of quality click-pawl reels for trout & steelhead fishing. I love the sound – & there is no drag system more sensitive than a human hand against a spool rim. A thing I don’t like is: watching somebody lose a good fish while faffing around adjusting the disc-drag setting on the stupid reel, attention off the battle. Using a click-pawl, the angler develops an intuitive skill set, applying just the right drag pressure with the palm or fingers, eyes on the fight, not the drag adjustment knob. I & my clients have been using the Red Truck Diesel click-pawl reels on the camp Spey rods for several seasons now – the Chrome Spey on #5 & heavier Spey rods; & the Diesel 7/8 on the lighter two-handers (also good on 6-8wt single-handers) – & with as many days on them as the average angler might put on in a lifetime, they still perform as well as they did right out of the box. These are narrow-spool, large-diameter reels, which I prefer, as they pick up line quickly, & the running line coming off the reel in large, relaxed loops. A good kind of reel on the UC, where larger trout are in the habit of charging you, requiring rapid line recovery. In looks, the Diesel series reels very closely resemble the Hardy Marquis; in construction, fit & finish, they are at least equal to the Hardy – & with a larger, more user-friendly winding knob than the Marquis. At about half the price of a Hardy, I think anyone seeking a reliable click-pawl with classic good looks would be more than happy with the Red Truck Diesel reels.



                         Goodnews River

My favorite read this past season was Goodnews River (Stackpole), a collection of short fictions by Scott Sadil. Scott has published several worthwhile collections of short stories but, I think, flexes his writing chops with Goodnews River, & in the process stretches angling literature beyond the more familiar first-person tropes. A teacher of English & Literature, Sadil knows the rules – & in knowing them is able to break them to affect. Rare in angling lit, which is most often delivered as first-person narrative (like Gierach, the cool, well-traveled gentleman you meet in a cabana bar, telling you a story over a beer), Sadil’s narratives are written in third-person-omnipresent, a literary approach, if done well, affording the writer the greatest opportunity to create cinema in the reader’s mind (Cormac McCarthy; Genesis). Sadil pulls it off well, no hint of author judgment to skew the narrative. Readers experience the story through character dialogue & actions. Descriptions of the natural world are fresh, sometimes stunning, reflecting the author’s canny powers of observation. Characters inhabiting Sadil’s tales are fleshed, nuanced & true to life. Protagonists are existential, flawed & multifaceted, not entirely lovable, some not even likeable. There is angling in all of these tales, though it isn’t the principle subject, rather, a reality touchstone where Sadil’s troubled protagonists find reprieve from the human struggles they are dealing with. The nexus of the stories is not fishing, generally, but a twisty exploration of human relationships & foibles. Sadil pulls no punches here – we meet a steelheading English teacher who arrives at work hoping nobody notices the rug-burn rash beneath his lower lip, the result of his face spending too much time between his skier girlfriend’s muscular thighs. Each story in Goodnews River is a quirky postcard of sorts, a slice of life offered unabashed. Sadil abuses the traditional story arc. He jumps you into a story without preamble. Details present themselves. There are no clear, neatly resolved endings – as in life, events of the Goodnews River stories fractalize, sometimes to obscure, unrealized futures, sometimes to chaos, unresolved, yet poignant reminders that, in the end, we really can’t resist the stream in all of its ambiguous funkiness, its unconditional majesty.  With Good News River, Scott Sadil masterfully demonstrates how literary fiction, possibly better than memoir, dissects reality, exposing the truth of things. 

Steelhead Zulu ~ Mark Hagopian

   Steelhead Zulu ~ Mark Hagopian

Another thing I like. Couldn’t wait to share this one it looks so fishy to me. Longtime SHJ supporter & Northeast correspondent, Mark Hagopian, sent us this take on the old Zulu, a pattern deserving its longevity. Mark tied this version for steelheading on the Salmon River, in New York State. A good bait for Columbia River trout too, so we can see that the Zulu travels well. Originally fished by the English as a much smaller fly, I really like Mark’s large, steelhead version of it. I tie a version in #6-#8 for Trout Spey on the UC & it does work well on the big redbands, in the larger hook sizes.

Steelhead Zulu
Hook: #2 TMC 7999
Thread: claret/wine
Tailing: red American opossum fur twisted in loop, topped with red holographic Chroma Flash
Rib: flat, medium, silver French tinsel
Body: black, dubbed, a mixture of Senyo’s Fusion & Diamond Brite
Palmer: black saddle
Collars: burnt goose, rear in black; front, kingfisher blue

                                                      The Reel News

Can we live with nuclear?

A win for steelhead.

Whitman on being.

Duncan River ~ British Columbia

                               American Masters of the Wetfly ~ Jeff Cottrell

Our tier this issue is Jeff Cottrell who, as a kid, won a fly tying contest & a fishing trip with Dave Whitlock & Ernie Shwiebert. For better or worse, that served to boost him toward a lifelong career in fly fishing, including guiding stints in California, Colorado, Wyoming, Tierra del Fuego, Russia, & Washington State, where he now resides, working as lodge manager for the Evening Hatch. Jeff is an angler’s angler. When not busy with The Hatch, he is a handy builder/carpenter & interior designer, his artist’s eye & attention to craft certainly reflected in both his woodwork & elegant wetfly designs. In Jeff’s flies we see familiarity with traditional design frames & the talent & knowledge to combine their elements to create great baits. 
Jeff Cottrell

Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell

Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell
Jeff Cottrell

                                         Why do men have nipples?

           They're actually tattoos. Indicating the man belongs to a woman somewhere. 

                                                   At The Tying Bench

Haven't been tying a lot of variety lately. Until leaving to come South for the winter, been pretty much working through the bunch of October Caddis that are the staple of autumn where I fish. There are a lot of #16 ginger sedges on the river from September into November, trout are keyed on them, & I came up with a decent spider this year for fishing over them, posted it below. The flatwing sculpin has been featured in SHJ before, but I'm revisiting it because it was a good fly this past season.   

Flatwing Sculpin

Hook: #4 Mustad 3366
Thread: UNI mono
Tailing: yellow bucktail
Flatwing: 2 brownish grizzly saddles
Topping: peacock herl
Collars: pheasant rump fronted with 3 brahma hen hackles 

Bucktail for Dollies

Hook: I like #2 Mustad 3366 for these. Fly should be about 4-5” long.
Thread: olive or clear mono
Gills: red tinsel wound on the hook shank
Topping: bucktail: white; yellow/chartreuse lateral; olive

Ginger Sedge

Hook: #14-#16
Thread: yellow silk
Hackle: honey dun hen
Body: light ginger seal twisted on a loop of fine silver wire

Dirty Blonde

Hook: #4 salmon-steelhead
Thread: tan UNI 8/0
Tailing: turkey tail swords topped with a pinch of light tan SST dub
Rear Collar: chukkar body spade
Rib: copper wire
Body: light tan SST dubbing
Palmer: light honey dun saddle
Collar: honey dun hen

Jenny Spinner from Pritt

                                               Anthropocene Memory

  Contemplating Tung Po’s poem & the peace is broken. The rumble of an approaching wave & a fighter jet making the daily border run vaults from behind the ridge hunting low. Tilted to a diving arc the jet claws down the smoky sky & roars down the swollen river course – pines on the bluffs turning red from the beetles. The river writhes bearing the loosened detritus of country ragged & worried at the edges -- traumatized landscapes & topsoil of the Pend Oreille & Flathead valleys, the wracked & splayed medusas of upended roots carried on the spate’s silver tipped shoulders. A fallen tamarack. A drowned mouse. An emptied & crushed beer can & a spent condom. The severed jawbone of a slaughtered wolf inchingover bottom stones. Secret poison & the quicksilver dream of a tiny mayfly – the stained river a canticle of heartbreak whispers hinting shadows passing like the memory of fish – like the muscle memory of arms & hands. Resurrection lays hidden asleep beneath the shifting silt awaiting a word that cannot be written or spoken. Everything passes. And who resists the ambiguous torrent even knowing? Sidestepping a dreadful dream, careful to conceal my executioner heart,
repeating a gesture, I lift the rod & hurl an offering to the dazzling void.

Summer Memory ~ Watercolor by Doris Loiseau



The latest issue of Swing The Fly magazine is just out. STF speaks straight from the authentic core of our game. Simply the best angling magazine out there. Click on the pic in the upper RH column to check it out. 

Special thanks to you ladies & gentlemen who’ve generously donated or contributed to SHJ over this past year. Your support makes this bit of art possible. What a joy it would be to fish with each of you. Wishing you health & all the best through the holidays & the upcoming new year.   ~Steve