The Fly

Hooking a fishing fly with a spinner

Fly fishing the Tarryall.

The kid walked up while I was down in the creek fiddling around with a big rock, to tell me that he’d lost his last fly. I was the guide and supposedly the person who’d take care of that sort of thing and thus, knew that I needed to act quickly. The most obvious solution would’ve been for me to just give him one. Normally that’d be a simple and straight forward thing to do– but since, in this particular case I didn’t have any, it wasn’t even an option.

I responded while walking toward him. I took my time getting to him as I slogged through the creek and then up the bank, hoping to give my mind time to come up with a remedy or at least the impression of one. He was assuming, as logic would have it, that I had plenty of extra flies somewhere on my person and that I’d just pull one of them out, hand it to him, and that he’d then get back to business.

It was early afternoon, which in this case meant that there were still a couple of hours of fishing time left in the day. The boy and his father had hired me to take them out into the backcountry for a full day of fly fishing, and it’d been obvious to me from the start, that they were intent on doing just that- fishing all day. Leaving before the scheduled departure time was not in their plan, and they were counting on me to assure that no logistical or equipment details got in the way of that. Having extra flies on hand was one of those things that I would be expected to have. Running out of flies would simply not be cool.

As I slowly waded/walked toward him, my mind worked in a frenzy, struggling to come up with something to do or say besides “sorry” or “oh well.” My truck and all the gear inside of it was more than an hour’s walk away, meaning that the two-hour round trip that it would take for me to do that was not even a realistic option. Besides, I was confident that there weren’t any flies anywhere in there anyway. I did have a fly box in my back pocket, but had already opened it up twice in the past hour out of curiosity and knew for a fact that it was empty. I’d come to the conclusion that even having it with me was a waste of space. And so, the fact that I simply didn’t have any with me was fresh on my mind.

When I finally got up onto the solid and mostly flat ground close to where he stood, I seamlessly launched into what appeared to him to be a plan for getting another fly. And, I guess that’s what it actually was on some level. But it was one that I put into motion not because I thought it was viable, but, because it was one I figured would stall the inevitable for a little longer.

To kick-off the plan, I reached down and picked up the spinning rod I had been using and had propped up against a bush, close to where we stood. I began walking back down the side of the creek in the direction from which he’d just come and said, “where is it, I’ll get it.”

I said it with complete confidence, and there was no doubt that he understood my intentions. Little did he know. He was sure that I was going to go back to where he’d lost his fly, cast my lure out and hook his lost fly, and then reel it in and give it back to him. I didn’t really even consider that to be a possibility. I was just trying to waste time in the hopes that something positive would develop. I was confident that the plan had no chance of actually leading to me retrieving his fly, but figured that at least it would delay things a little longer. Perhaps, I hoped, the boy and his father might decide to head back in a little early, I’d stumble upon someone’s snagged fly in a bush, or a rainstorm would develop out of the clear blue sky and send us running. I wasn’t at all confident that anything was actually going to happen to rectify the situation, but as we walked continued to hold out hope that maybe something would.

After walking for about 10 minutes, we came to the place where he’d lost the fly. At that spot, the creek was maybe  20 feet wide and only about mid-calf deep, although there were some deeper holes. He pointed into a small backwater pool that appeared to be about two feet deep and located near the edge of the stream, thirty feet away from where we stood on the top of the steeply cut bank.

“There, it was right in there,” he pointed.

Without hesitation, I did what he expected and cast out into the pool. What I hoped to do was get the lure near the right spot to continue the charade. And since neither of us knew precisely where that was, I just needed to get it into the general ballpark.

I slung the lure out into the water. Almost miraculously, it landed right where I intended it to, sank, and then quickly disappeared. I waited for only a second and then began reeling it in. I felt a slight tug as it moved across the pool in our direction—a stick or weed I assumed.

As it got to the edge, I reached out over the bank and lifted it up and out of the water. I reeled the lure the rest of the way in until it was snug against the top of the pole and glanced at it to make sure it was tightly in place. The boy immediately saw what he’d planned to see, but I saw even more than I’d anticipated. One of the three treble hooks on my lure had somehow hooked the missing fly through its hook eye, and I’d simply reeled it in.

I set down the pole, removed the fly, and then handed it to the boy. He took it as if that was supposed to be what happened.

“Thanks,” he said as he began tying it back onto his line.

“Be careful with that one,” I answered, “for sure it’s the last one.”

Fly fishing a Wyoming alpine lake
.Evening fly fishing in the Rockies


Author: David Appleton

I was born and raised in Texas and currently live in the Texas Hill Country, spent some 30 years living in the smack dab middle of Colorado, and have spent a lifetime adventuring and leading others on adventures in many parts of the wild world.

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