|Red Drake ~ CJ Emerson photo|
Naming a Drake
The mayfly in the photo on the left is a Drunella grandis ingens, commonly known as Green Drake. And no, it’s not green. You have undoubtedly noticed that the recently emerged dun is decidedly mahogany in color. There are several specie variants of Drunella grandis & they aren’t all green, which has been the source of some confusion among anglers & angling writers, including myself, who are guilty of misidentifying it. Contributing greatly to misidentification is its popular common name, Green Drake, which, taken literally, inspires visiting anglers to arrive onstream with the wrong color flies. (Western Green Drake, the actual green one, is Drunella grandis grandis). The mahogany subspecies does have a more precise & useable common name, Great Red Spinner, a name that has been around for a long time, yet somehow escapes popular usage within the insect’s range, possibly because it is a mouthful, somewhat archaic & not entirely descriptive, as this mayfly is mahogany red in all phases, including the nymph.
Enter my friend Scott Sadil who is curious & would like to positively identify the important bug. Scott is the author of several books, his most recent, Goodnews River, a collection of (very good) short stories. Scott writes the fly tying column for California Fly Fisher & has recently taken on the job as Angling Editor for Gray’s Sporting Journal, who, in my opinion, are lucky to have him because not only is he an excellent writer but also a gifted angler, adventurer & back country camper. Scott is the real deal. He wants to settle misnomers concerning the mayfly, so he calls in a couple of experts: Rick Hafele, who is both an angler & an actual entomologist, & Dave Hughes. Rick & Dave are lifelong buddies & have co-authored a number of books on angling/entomology, including one of the first fly fishing books I ever owned, Western Hatches, which has not outlived its usefulness. Serendipitous circumstance & things going full circle, the authors are coming to fish with me.
The guys arrive, tents are pitched, & we’re bullshitting around getting acquainted.
Rick, the scientist, has brought along bug-gathering equipment & a microscope. Also a family-sized bag of snack chips made from ground crickets. He’s the only one snacking on them. I try one. Not bad. But I can’t get past the idea of eating bugs so leave it at just one. Rick is an author as well, having published a list of books on aquatic entomology & angling entomology, several of these co-authored with his friend, Dave Hughes. He is easy-going, light & engaging. We share a love of the blues & I learn Rick is the drummer in a blues band.
|Rick Hafele setting up.|
Dave Hughes is a humorous & pleasantly enigmatic gentleman. Also, I find out, a mystic of sorts. Dave hasn’t been here a day & he looks me in the eye & pronounces that he is “a messenger sent from God” to (of all things) destroy my life. “Destroy your life,” he says. He doesn’t smile when he says it. The pronouncement gives me pause. I wonder why God would send Dave to do this life-destroying deed because I think I’m doing well enough on my own, the self-destruction clipping along at a fair pace. Not knowing how to respond I remain silent. He seems like such a nice guy…
Then, the next day, on the river, we’re gathered on the bank waiting for a hatch to get going along a segment of good water & a ski-boat arrives & starts jamming around in circles in front of us, creating a ruckus of wakes cutting donuts over our water. One of the guys on the boat deploys a drone equipped with a camera & the thing is flying around filming the crazy boat action. I am visibly irritated & Dave sees it. He says: “Wouldn’t it be nice if that drone suddenly crashed into those trees over there?” And he points to a stand of firs on the other side of the river, & the moment he points the drone veers from its circular course & smashes into those trees exactly where he’s pointing, as if directed. And that’s the end of the boat problem.
The drone incident gives me concern regarding Dave & his abilities. I think about what he said yesterday. The messenger from God thing.
|Rick Hafele operates the net for Scott Sadil.|
The outrageousness seems lost on Hafele & Sadil who share a nerdish curiosity that allows the outlandish to be taken in stride, regarded as simply normal in a world they accept as outrageous by nature. Besides, it’s time to fish, & the fishing is good.
It becomes evident that all three of these guys are canny, accomplished anglers with enough ass to back up their play. Sadil, I already know, is an intense fish-hound who is better left to his own plans unless you can stand the pace. The tall, lanky Hafele is a methodical getter who wastes no movement. Arms close to his sides, his upper body bent slightly forward, Hafele is the very definition of a heron. Hughes is energetic & totally in-the-game, yet jaded, with nothing to prove. He is a natural storyteller & given the opportunity he’s happy to put the rod down & just shoot the shit. He likes stories – telling them & listening to them.
The fishing is good & we all catch some nice trout. Scott brought some excellent single malt & we have fun with the Scotch while sitting around the table on the porch, late evenings after fishing & supper. Rick & Dave had gathered the drake samples needed for identification. I elect that we need to come up with a useful common name to differentiate our bug from the Green Drake. We toss names around. Mahogany Drake?... We decide not, as it might be confused with the Mahogany Dun, another, smaller, mayfly species. Rick points out that our common names for drakes are mostly primary colors – Green Drake; Brown Drake; Yellow Drake; Black Drake; Gray Drake – so, finally, we all agree on Red Drake as the new handle for this mahogany-colored cousin of Green Drake. As a nod to the old Great Red Spinner, Dave suggests Great Red Drake as the full name, & we all agree that’s okay too.
In the end, all said & done, I come to realize that Dave’s prophecy to destroy my life is actually true, though not to be taken literally or as a negative. In a subtle way, life as I knew it before the visit of these three friends, some old perceptions long held as truths, not the least my wrong identification of the drake, are destroyed. Dave, by his fine example & well-placed suggestions, served to dispel some obfuscating myths I’ve been holding concerning the angling life, the writing life. Life isn’t the same now, every day new, each moment destroyed, each moment new, just as it's always been & as it should be, & that’s okay. I get it, Dave. Thanks.
|Scott, Dave, & Rick examining the local trout menu.|
|Drake eating redband.|
|Scott Sadil with a Speyed redband taken on a swung wee spider.|
|Dave Hughes swinging a run on the North Columbia.|
The Reel News
Must see: The Elder Brothers send a warning from the heart of the world.
Strange fruit of colonization.
Long overdo. Recreational power-dredging has caused a lot of damage where I live.
Considering the Singularity & the book that nobody read.
Indeed there are native rainbow trout haunting the headwaters of those vast concrete washways coursing through Los Angeles. In my teens I was a regular on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. As it was then, I’d consider it one of the best small streams I’ve ever fished. Bright leaves of trout in the shaded, sage scented canyons. Unfortunately, fifty years on, continued lax stewardship, vandalism, & out-of-control recreational gold dredging have severely degraded that stream. Currently within the new San Gabriel National Monument, the East Fork is getting some needed attention & a stewardship plan. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
American Masters of the Wetfly ~ Rick Hafele
Ever wonder what kind of flies an entomologist might fish with? Does close, professional association with bugs lend special insights to fly design that our angling ancestors might have missed? Rick Hafele was kind enough to let me photograph some of the spiders from his box, & I was a little surprised (though shouldn't have been) to find that he relies on a fairly traditional assortment of proven workhorse baits, well-constructed.
|Yellow Pearsall's; partridge hackle; hare's mask thorax ~ Rick Hafele|
|Claret thread; greenwell hackle; gold rib; hare's mask ~ Rick Hafele|
|Olive thread; bronze-black hen hackle; peacock herl; yellow dub ~ Rick Hafele|
|Olive thread; partridge hackle; twisted olive midge flash; pine squirrel thorax ~ Rick Hafele|
|'Anthropocene Memories' ~ watercolor & ink ~ Doris Loiseau ~ featured in the latest issue of Swing The Fly, along with my poem of the same title, & my (humble) two cents: 'Five Essential Spiders'|
Swing The Fly
The latest issue of Swing The Fly magazine is out, & it is fat. If you are into Spey, soft-hackles, traditional salmon/steelhead/trout flies, swinging flies, stories, poetry, art, then you will want to subscribe to Swing The Fly. Best angling magazine out there today. And: it is portable & requires no wiring! Looks good & is usable on the back of the john, next to your favorite armchair, posted on the nightstand, or carried in your pack! https://www.swingthefly.com/
At the Tying Bench
|Soft Sinixt ~ tan UNI 8/0; ruffed grouse hackle; pine squirrel dubbing|
|Ginger May ~ tan UNI 8/0; honey dun hen hackle; wood duck flank tail whisks; gold wire rib; amber-gold SST dubbing; amber-gold SST thorax|
|Ishi ~ yellow UNI 8/0; ruffed grouse hackle; copper rib; blended hare's mask mixed with a bit of Hareline UV Pink Shrimp Dubbing|
|Red Drake ~ rust-brown UNI 8/0; wing-black kip; wing flare-yellow kip; trailing shuck-dark moose & Whitlock Squirrel blend; rib-yellow 'C' rod wrapping thread; body-mahogany SST dubbing; hackle-grizzly dyed rust-brown|
|Midsummer Sedge ~ tan UNI 8/0; honey dun brahma hen hackle; olive Pearsall's with hare's mask thorax; shroud-pinch of Hareline UV Pink Shrimp Dub|
I don’t know what happened but this site no longer allows me to access the comment box. I can’t post or reply to comments you might leave. I’m reading them & apologize, I’m not ignoring those who comment. I greatly appreciate knowing anybody is reading & moved to take the time to comment. Frikkin thing. There’s no tech help for it that I can find. Can’t talk to a live person at Blogger, operated by Google. So, until I can get it squared away, I can’t comment, but feel free. If anybody really needs to contact me about something, email me: email@example.com
|The Ol' Messenger, pointing.|