Fly on a Hook… Revisited

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. Of course, the most obvious solution would’ve been for me just to give him one. Usually, that’d be a simple thing to do– but since, in this 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 I could say to 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 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 had been evident from the start that they were intent on doing just that. As soon as they drove up to my lodge and we first met, it was clear they intended to get in a full day of fishing. Leaving early was not in their plan, and they counted on me to ensure 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 find something to do or say besides “sorry” or “oh well.” My truck and all the gear inside it was more than an hour’s walk away, meaning that the two-hour round trip I would take to go there and do that was not even a realistic option. Besides, I was confident 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 had noted it was empty. I’d concluded 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 flat ground close to where he stood, I seamlessly launched into what appeared to him to be a plan for getting him another fly. While that’s what it was on some level, it wasn’t the one he thought. I put it into motion not because I thought it was viable but because I figured it 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. Then, I walked down along the side of the creek in the direction from which he’d just come and said, “where is it? I’ll get it with this.”

I said it with complete confidence, and there was no doubt that he understood what I was about to do. But little did he know my true intentions. He was sure I was returning to where he’d lost his fly, would cast a lure with a treble hook out into the water, hook his lost fly, reel it in, and give it back to him. I didn’t even consider the outcome he expected to be a possibility. I was just trying to waste time hoping that something positive would develop. I was confident that the plan had little to no chance of leading to me coming up with the fly but knew that it’d at least delay things a little longer. Perhaps, I hoped, the boy and his father would decide to head back a little early. Or I’d stumble upon someone’s snagged fly in a bush, or maybe a rainstorm would develop out of the blue sky and send us running for the trailhead. Of course, I wasn’t really confident that anything like that would actually happen to rectify the situation. But still, as we walked, I continued hoping that perhaps something would.

After walking for about 10 minutes, we came to 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.

I did what he expected and cast out into the pool without hesitation. All I wanted to do was get the lure into or near the right spot. Since neither of us knew exactly where that place might be, I was just hoping to get it into the ballpark.

I slung the lure out in the direction of the pool. Almost miraculously, it landed close to where I’d intended it to, sank, and 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 water’s edge, I reached out over the bank and lifted it out. 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 ensure 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 its hook eye, and I’d simply reeled it in.

I set down the pole, removed the fly, and 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.”

After the kid headed off to return to fishing, I thought about how that must be my lucky day. So, I walked up to the water’s edge and cast toward another likely fish-filled pool. I was confident I was destined to hook a monster Brook Trout with my Spinner. But unfortunately, when I cast my line, the lure went over the creek and got snagged in a willow tree. The line broke when I tried to pull the lure loose, and I watched it fall and disappear into the water.

So, I sat down, leaned against a tree, and pondered the situation. I was unhappy about losing my yellow Panther Martin but pleased with how the lost fly situation got resolved. I’ve never been able to rectify all of the events of that day, but I did conclude once and for all that sometimes problems just get inexplicably solved, and I left it that.

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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