The Fly

Hooking a fishing fly with a spinner

Fly fishing the Tarryall.
Fly Fishing Tarryall Creek in Colorado.

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 almost instantaneously, walking up to where he stood. I took my time 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 something that I could say that would at least give the impression that I had 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 he’d get back to business.

It was early afternoon, which in this case meant 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- that is, fishing all day. Leaving early 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 and 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 it would take for me go there and do that was not even a realistic option for providing a timely solution. Besides, I was confident that there weren’t any flies 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 was sure 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 plan for getting him another fly. I guess it was actually just that on some level. But it was one that I put into motion not because I thought it was actually viable, but, because it was one that I figured would stall the inevitable for a little longer.

To kick-off the plan, I reached down and picked up the spinning rod that I’d 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 certain that I was going to go back to where he’d lost his fly, cast my lure out, hook his lost fly, 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 certain that the plan had little to no chance of actually leading to me coming up with the fly, but knew that it would at least delay things a little longer. Perhaps, I hoped, the boy and his father would decide to head back a little early, I’d stumble upon someone’s snagged fly in a bush, or a rainstorm would develop out of the blue sky and send us running for the trailhead. I wasn’t all that 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 about 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 on 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. All I wanted to do was get the lure into or near the right spot. Since neither of us knew exactly where that place actually was, I was just hoping to get it into the ballpark.

I slung the lure out into the water. Almost miraculously, it landed right where I’d intended it to, sank and quickly disappeared. I waited 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…… of the three treble hooks on my lure had miraculously hooked the missing fly through it’s hook eye and I’d simply reeled it in.

I set down the pole; held the spinner as tightly as I dared, while I 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 said, “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.

One thought on “The Fly”