I prefer not to think of myself as the chain-letter type. I don't buy lottery tickets, enter sweepstakes or respond to urgent Mailgrams that inform me there is a 14-karat-gold chain waiting for me to claim at some condominium project. I have been taught, and I believe, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
But free fishing flies? Scores of Light Cahills and Hare's Ears and Woolly Worms, all brought to my door? That was the tempting proposition made in a chain letter inviting me to join something called the Trout Fly Club. The letter had been passed on to me by a friend, Dick Hurd. "If you want to have some enjoyment, put a copy of this letter in the mail to six of your fishing friends within one week," it read. "Send one of your favorite trout flies to the name at the top of the list, and in three weeks you should receive 216 flies!!!"
In the margin Hurd had scribbled: "Sounds like fun." It sounded more like mail fraud to me. I particularly enjoyed the disclaimer near the end of the letter: "This is not a chain letter." I see. It must be a membership drive.
USE. He sent Dick a peculiar
But what the heck. Nobody likes to be a spoilsport, and for $1.75 in stamps and one lousy fly, I could afford to see what lay around the bend. I made six copies of the letter and, in the interest of geographical diversity, sent them to friends in Vermont, Ohio, New York, Maine, California and Illinois. "Sounds like fun!" I wrote, chirpily. Then I took the top name off the list, Frank J. Techar of Houston, and prepared to send him one of my favorite flies.
That was the tough part. I have a lot of lousy flies. Most of my favorites have been left streamside, imbedded in the limbs of willow trees. The few that have survived are too precious to send to perfect strangers. I do not even trust myself to fish them except on special occasions—like when I am fishing with my wife, Sally, and she is catching all the fish. As I rummaged through my tackle, it was looking like slim pickings for Frank J. Techar of Houston.
I thought it would be unseemly to send Frank a fly with a rusty hook, so I decided on an untested Hexagenia that had been tied by my brother-in-law. Hexagenia is the largest mayfly in North America, and my brother-in-law is an inexpert if imaginative flytier. The combination was daunting. He had named this creation Post-Nuclear Mutant Mayfly, and it was 2� inches long.
It was meant to be a dry fly, but I doubt the Post-Nuclear Mutant would have floated in a pool of mercury. So I slipped it into an ordinary envelope with a brief note of explanation—"trout love 'em, confusing them with pre-nuclear mayflies that hatch in Wisconsin and lots of other places far away from Houston"—thinking that after the hackles got mashed Frank would fish the fly wet, maybe even bait it with a doughball, so that there would be a chance of attracting a brave, or blind, carp.
Then I waited. Hurd had already received his first two flies in the mail. One was a lovely #12 Hornberg with the following note: "The enclosed Hornberg works well in Vermont waters either wet or dry. I've had especially good luck with it on browns, after a spate or at dusk. Hope it does some good for you."
What a nice start. Hurd's second fly was from a fellow named Miles Miller of the Oxolotl Society, whatever that is, whose return address read: NO PERMANENT ADDRESS, NO TELEPHONE NO., NO WORMS, NO FISHES, NO USE. He sent Dick a peculiar fly that a desperately hungry fish might have confused for a small worm, I suppose, but that would have looked more at home in an X-rated movie. "Given my experiences in Philadelphia in the late '60s, I figured that the enclosed fly would be just dandy for all kinds of Eastern waters!" Miller wrote. He suggested Dick use it for suckers.
Hurd was thrilled with his haul, and began calling me regularly to report on each new arrival. I had no news to return. Finally, a letter from David Seybold of New London, N.H., arrived.