Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Tackle’ Category

The “Hugh Glass” Fly

March 23, 2015

I have some grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) fur, and I’d like to tie a few nice flies for the person who gave it to me. I had thought about tying some Adams dry flies, using the lighter under fur for dubbing and the guard hairs for tails. Obviously, the grizzly hackle normally used on Adams flies would  fit the theme nicely. I would love to hear some other suggestions, however.

I might also tie a variation of the “black bear red but” salmon fly. I’ll call it the “Hugh Glass.” This name comes to mind because I am reading Missoula, Montana author and diplomat Michael Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. In the book, Punke describes the mauling of Glass by a grizzly on the Grand River, in present-day South Dakota, and the events that followed. Glass’s companions left him for dead after his encounter with the bear, and they took his prized rifle with them. The badly wounded Glass famously crawled approximately 100 miles to the Cheyenne River. He then floated downstream to Fort Kiowa, on the Missouri. After recovering physically, he set out after those who had abandoned him.


“Human Blood and Woman’s Milk”

December 7, 2014
Tegernsee Abbey today. It no longer houses a monastic community.

Tegernsee Abbey today. It no longer houses a monastic community.

Richard Hoffman published a translation of a fragmentary text written around 1500 AD, which has become known as “Tegernseer Angel- und Fishbucklein.” In his book, Fisher’s Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts on Fishing from the End of the Middle Ages (1997), Hoffman identifies the text in English as “Tegernsee Fishing Advice.”  The “advice” is that presumably recorded by a Benedictine monk at the Tegernsee Abbey in Bavaria, in the late 15th century. The advice was probably intended for one of the fishermen licensed by the abbey to provide food for the monks.(117) Interestingly, much of “Tegernsee Fishing Advice” is devoted to fly fishing. This means that fly fishing was not just a pastime of nobility in 15th and 16th century Bavaria; it was also used to acquire food by peasants such as those working for the Abbey. A passage from the translated text, dealing with flies, follows:

Thereafter, as soon as the brooks become small and clear, like in May, [whether it] is the first month or second, then see to it to put ‘stone bait’ on the feathered hook which should be tied with yellow silk and with pinkish-coloured silk around the ‘heart’ [and] with a black one mixed around the ‘heart.’ (141).

However, the monks also provided fishing advice for fishing in still waters that is even more surprising to read:

If you want to catch fish in still waters, in brooks, or in lakes, then take and prepare a bait this way. Take human blood and woman’s milk together in a vessel, and take raw barley and cook it very well and completely and press it in a mortar while still wet until it all becomes like a gruel. After that press it through a cloth, and if it will not go easily through the cloth then add to it a little of the liquid in which it was cooked so that it does go through easily.Take that very thing [that was] pressed through a let it parch and dry up completely, and then make it into a fine powder. Then take that [powder] out and the above-mentioned blood and woman’s milk and stir it [all] together then, and make something like a gruel. Then let that become very hard and dry in the air. Thus it is ready. …. To that thing [will] so rush all the fish which live in that same water, and they will not turn back until after they have come into the trap. (171).

Today, we often think of fly tying as a time-consuming passion. But just you try making a complicated bait from human blood and woman’s milk.

Ready . . . .

November 20, 2014


Opinel “Trout” Knife

October 5, 2014

I discovered recently that the venerable French maker of  knives, Opinel, offers a model with trout engraved on an oak handle.  Opinel has made simple, folding knives, in a variety of numbered sizes, for over 100 years.  Despite their continued popularity and the fact that they are still made in France, Opinel knives remain very affordable to the working people for whom they were originally intended.

photo opinel 2

Today, Opinel knives are popular enough among outdoors persons that Patagonia sells them along with its own products.  Patagonia describes the Opinel No. 8 that they offer, online, they describe their Opinel No. 8:

If we made knives, this is the one we’d want to make. The Opinel folding knife, with its clean, simple design and remarkable utility, has been prized by adventurers, artists and chefs for more than 100 years. This modern version of the classic Opinel No8 features a 3-1/4” stainless steel blade and beautiful olive-wood handle. It fits easily in a pocket, but also comes with a leather belt sheath for easier access. Packaged in a wooden, slide-top box.

You can read about the Opinel No. 8, oak-handled “trout” knife, available directly (and much less expensively) from Opinel, at their website. You will notice that they offer custom engraving.  When ordering one, I could not resist making use of this service. It has been a handy companion during my time beyond the paved world.

photo opinel

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths and Religion

August 4, 2014

CBS Evening News has done an On the Road segment, entitled “Legendary Fishing Rod Creator shares a Special Secret,” on Tom and Gerry Morgan, of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths.  It is always interesting to see such stories in the mainstream media. In this particular case, the commentator, Steve Hartman, makes reference to the connection between religion and fly fishing that so many writers have claimed for so many centuries. Sadly, though, Hartman then describes a Tom Morgan rod as the “Holy Grail.” Of course, those who attribute deep meaning to fly fishing are inspired to do so by the experience, not the sometimes very expensive tackle. The commentator’s view reflects our society’s misplaced obsession with material wealth. No doubt, this obsession is often brought to the sport by certain tackle collectors and even by those who seem more concerned about what they look like on the stream than they are with the water and the life all around them. The inherent value of the living environment is so much greater that the merely symbolic value of our possessions.

Burkheimer, Peak, and Gingrich

March 25, 2014

Filson recently released a promotional video featuring graphite rod maker Kerry Burkheimer. Filson sells C. F. Burkheimer fly rods, and Burkheimer wears Filson’s gear in the video.

I love my Filson “strap vest,” but I have never handled a Burkheimer rod. His rods are popular around here, and I have spoken to people who love them and to people who do not. One thing that interests me, personally, about Burkheimer rods is their pedigree. Burkheimer was mentored by Russ Peak — probably the most revered maker of fiberglass rods. His rods thus have an interesting connection to the past.

My favorite angling author, Arnold Gingrich, wrote of Peak that, “I regard his glass rods, and  the best makers’ bamboos, as fully equal examples of the rodmaker’s craft” (The Joys of Trout, 1973). This is high praise. Gingrich, the founding editor of Esquire magazine, had the money, intelligence, and experience to be a true connoisseur of bamboo rods.

Posted below is Filson’s video. No matter whether your are interested in Filson gear and Burkheimer rods or not, the video is worth watching.  It allows one to imagine what stepping back into  Peak’s workshop might have been like, though Burkheimer is no doubt his own man.

River Crampon Sale

February 21, 2014

While I certainly enjoy my tackle, I really dislike the commercialized aspects of fly fishing, and I don’t normally plug gear. I have to make a quick exception today, however. I’m one of those people who will go almost anywhere to find a trout stream, and I will go almost anywhere on the stream to find the trout. This leads to a lot of climbing, scrambling, and all too often, falling.  Thus, I have become a fan of Patagonia’s River Crampons.  In my experience, they are easy to take on and off, very secure and light when attached.  Most important, I find them very effective in clinging to rock. Like a lot of quality outdoor products, however, the River Crampons are not realistically priced for those who would use them most; people who are addicted to fly fishing and other outdoor pursuits are not typically big earners — earning, after all, can cut into fishing. Currently, though, Patagonia is clearing out their first generation of River Crampons to make room for a new, “ultralight” version.  The original Crampons are nearly half off at the Patagonia website.



November 18, 2013

To me, a large part of fishing and hunting is aesthetic. A diminutive fly rod, neatly done, with a tiny grip to match and a plain reel seat is a joy to look at and carry, as is a short, slender, light-weight shotgun or rifle.  As long as I am not chancing a crippling shot, I’ll take the lightweight every time. The portability and beauty of the equipment are a great part of the game. Bear in mind that when I speak of fly fishing, I’m talking about the average everyday trouting, with a little bluegill and bass fishing thrown in; steelhead and salt-water fishing are not included. So, for my fishing, diminutive rods are entirely adequate.

Ed Shenk, Fly Rod Trouting, 1989.


As a younger person in Montana, the biggest fly fishing influences upon me were Eastern writers.  As their books happened to be on the shelves at our cabin, I read short rod advocates like Arnold Gingrich. When I later moved to Central Pennsylvania, and started fishing many of the streams cherished by those writers, I found that I enjoyed short rods myself. Eventually, I came upon “a diminutive fly rod, neatly done, with a tiny grip to match and a plain reel seat” built by Ed Shenk himself. I have really enjoyed fishing this 5′ 2″ fiberglass rod, but I fear it caught its last brook trout (or any other trout) this past weekend. It’s not suited to the waters I’ll be fishing after my return West, and, as a once piece-rod, it is not travel friendly.  So, I guess it goes to the rear of the closet or to the sale page.  Either way, it’s been nice fishing with you (your rod, that is), Ed.

A Fishing Poet

November 11, 2013

A fly fishing friend of mine, who also happens to be a graduate student in my department, recently won a poetry contest sponsored by Loop Tackle.  His award was a new Cross S1 6 weight rod.  This is no small prize for a fly fishing graduate student, living on a tight budget (in fact, it would be no small prize for anyone).   Congratulations to scholar, poet, and fly fisherman Stan Thayne.  You can read his poem below (notice that he worked a bit of advertising in there; smart man, Stan):

Loop Consciousness

At 4 AM something is biting,
tugging at the line
of my brain,
dragging me out of bed,
and netting me
into the car and on down
the road,
releasing me into the Haw

I scan
my flybox,
choose a cork
for bass, then
thread the line through
the guides of my Loop
opti creek, wishing
I were in Montana
or at least a little further
on the Davidson
or Watauga
or Oconaluftee
casting for trout.

I’ll take what I can get.

The Haw is muddy this morning,
running high
with that faint smell
of gunsmoke
so unlike western
Mist is rising off the water.
I wade
into the warm cool
and begin casting.

I catch several
large bream and toss
them back and tie
on a bigger fly
and move downstream
into smoother water,
casting low
along the surface
to get under
the branches that hang
down along
the bank
and almost touch
the water.

One strikes and
I set the hook
but he goes airborne
immediately tossing
his head furiously
from side to side
and throws
my fly.

That was a big fish.

I’m trembling as
I retrieve my line and
cast again.

Time’s short and
I’m forced
to abandon
the river,
still trembling;

But the river goes with me,
flowing along
the channels of
my consciousness.

Sitting at my desk at work I feel
the spray coming off a cast,
the frigid bite of river morning air,
the feel of wet cork in my hands,
the weight of line rolling out,
the satisfaction of a perfect cast:
loop, roll, settle, and strike:
connecting me to something
that is alive.

My stream of consciousness
is swimming with trout.

Kiss the Water Film Review

October 11, 2013

Recently, I noted that a film about the eccentric and revered Scottish salmon fly tier Megan Boyd, titled Kiss the Water: A Love Story, will soon be released to the public. The director and coproducer Eric Steel (with Kate Swan), very kindly let me preview the movie. I enjoyed the film immensely, and I want to share my impression of it here, in hopes that others will see it as soon as they can.

Megan Boyd spent much of her life living alone in the village of Kintradwell, near the River Brora, in the North West Highlands of Scotland. She did not fly fish, herself, but as a child she learned to tie flies for her father — a riverkeeper — and his friends. Her skill in tying made her flies popular among locals and eventually among fly fishers throughout the world.  Prince Charles was, perhaps, the most famous admirer and user of her flies. Boyd’s reputation as a fly tier was so great that she was memorialized in a New York Times obituary upon her passing in 2001. In fact, it was this obituary that inspired Eric Steele to make Kiss the Water even though, like Boyd, he does not fly fish.

Steele’s finished film is a piece of art, in itself. The movie tells the story of Boyd’s life through a series of interviews with close friends, fly tiers, and others.  The narrative is woven together by a strand of truly amazing animation by  Em Cooper, Sharon Liu, and Veseslina Dashinova of the Film Club Productions studio. The music, by composer Paul Cantelon, complements the interviews, the scenes of nature in Scotland, and the animation perfectly.  Of course, the music is wonderful in its own right, as well.

Boyd’s story, as told by Steel, is so compelling that Kiss the Water should appeal to a wide variety of audiences, well beyond those composed of fly tiers and fly fishers.  It touches upon the themes of artistic genius, nature and ethics, and much more.  Needless to say, the film addresses Boyd’s eccentricity as well. Yet it does so in a loving and understanding way. For instance, one interviewee acknowledges that Boyd “preferred the solitude.”  But then he adds, “And she was never alone. … She had her seasons. You know?”

You can visit to learn more about Kiss the Water, to see the screening schedule and, eventually, to buy your own copy. This weekend, you can see it at the Hamptons International Film Festival in Sag Harbor and East Hampton, New York and at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The trailer for the film is below.

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