New Heathens

A Vise & A Vice

When I was a kid I had a kit to make my own fishing flies by wrapping tiny hooks with feathers and ribbons and wild animal hair. I used it so much that my dad took it away from me during the school year in the (vain) hope that I would concentrate on my homework instead.

Smurfette gave me a kit just like it for Christmas, so for the first time in about 20 years I tied some flies. The other night I stayed up until 6 a.m. tying Hendrickson patterns, pictured here clamped in my new vise.

Another thing I hadn't done in years was catch a trout on a fly I made. This past weekend Smurfette and I went on a long-anticipated fishing junket to the West Branch of the Delaware River. We had hoped for warm weather and that river's fabled hatch of big, Hendrickson mayflies that drive hungry trout into a tizzy.

Instead we got rain, cold and muddy water. We ran into several gloomy guys that looked like they just walked out of the pages of an Orvis catalogue. They hired guides to take them down the river in driftboats every day for a week in order to maximize their chances of catching trout. They got skunked.

Daunted, but not defeated, Smurfette and I found a little nook on a side stream. She threw in a pheasant tail nymph that I had tied and, what do you know?

Little trout, big deal.

These brown trout had the honor of being the first fish in many, many years to fall for flies that I made (not pictured is the really big one Smurfette hooked that got away; she's tricky, that Smurfette).

On the way back we stopped at one of my favorite spots in Westchester County and on a big, white wooly-bugger that I tied I caught this dazzlingly little colored-up rainbow trout, all neon red and gold with white-tipped fins.

You know me, I'm more into the aesthetics of trout than their size. Which is why I'm still tickled at all the different places that have run this photograph I took of a Westslope cutthroat trout on the South Fork of the Flathead River in Montana in 2008. The latest was the cool crew at the great fishing website Chi Wulff, who used it to illustrate a story about a Montana hatchery working to restore populations of this Rocky Mountain native fish. Go team!


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