What’s in Your Box?

I don’t trout fish as much as I use to, but when I do, I live by these simple ideals:

Choose—Thoughts on Trout Flies

Jeff Mishler

Store bought or custom tied, these days, either way, rarely does a good fisherman carry a vest load of crappy flies to the river: Fly shops, magazines, blogs, guides, your friends and sometimes your wife, make sure of that.  But the fly you choose to fish is a statement, a manifestation of the angler’s persona, an attempt to communicate or connect with the prey through an inanimate object presented in an artful way. Some manifestations seem too elaborate, so precise, so carefully constructed as to imitate rather than approximate fish food.  A lot can be learned about the angler who presents this offering.  As much as can be learned about the man who chooses to toss a clump of roughly clipped dog hair into the stream to approximate a delicate creamy colored mayfly.   To understand each of these anglers and for that matter, the rest of us stuck somewhere in between, one must see the angler and the fly together, during and after the cast.

The old adage that ten percent of the anglers catch ninety percent of the fish is relevant regardless of the size of your fly selection; so if you can’t fish,  you might as well be pick out a size 8, peacock green wooly worm, complete with a stubby red saddle hackle tail, and fish that everyday, cause even a total newbie can catch trout on that fly once in a while.  Truth be told, I use about six flies throughout a trout season.  When I look at my records (not counting the long salmon fly hatch and the predictable recklessness with which bank resting redsides come to a number 2 or 4 bullet head stone—forcing me to fish that fly for almost a full month in the summer) I only use a size 12 prince nymph, a size 14 hares ear, a size 16 PMD thorax dun, a size 14 elk hair caddis in brown, a size 16 elk hair caddis in olive, (I could probably get away with one in brown, size 16) and a number 18 Blue winged olive.  That covers it because  I don’t believe trout today are smarter than they were ten years ago.  They may seem so because we carry so many flies in our boxes and feel compelled to use them.

Chironomids, wooly buggers, stonefly nymphs, scuds, etc. round out my box, but when it comes to my reality, I like to fish for trout at times when the temperature is pleasant and the fish are predictable.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the challenges of early spring fishing when the water is chilly and the bugs lethargic. It’s just that after you’ve done it long enough, each season is another pattern of events repeating themselves, once again, which becomes another year, which becomes more memory, which becomes the bigger experience, which is life. The fly we choose is the ultimate expression because there are only so many seasons left for this fishing bum and I don’t want to die thinking, “Damn, if I’d only tied that Callibaetis emerger slightly oversized on the hook and a half shade lighter back in 92 when the cold weather rolled in and slowed the hatch to a snail’s pace giving the trout a millennium to inspect each bug wriggling in the surface.  Yep, we would’ve murdered them.”