The logic of fly fishing is not the logic of commerce. A fly fisherman does not seek the greatest return in terms of fish caught for his investment of time and effort. Rather, he finds more satisfaction in one trout taken on an artificial fly and the delicate tackle used to present it than from many creeled by some coarser means.
Thus we find him using flies in early spring. If he relies on the flies of his region, he will probably be using some of the patterns shown on the following pages, early favorites for the East, Northeast, Inter-mountain West and Northwest. He almost certainly will employ one of the revolutionary lines which are discussed later on.
Traditionally the weather will be disagreeable, made endurable only by the opening day of the trout season. Whether the day is the second Saturday of April in New York or no less eagerly awaited June 4 in Idaho, it is still early spring. The water is dark, cold and uninviting, the sky overcast. There is no sign of insect life on the surface, but in the depths, in the midstream shelter of submerged boulders, in the eddies, there are trout, lethargic shadows whose body temperature is that of the frigid water about them. Their need for food is slight since their digestion proceeds slowly.
Yet the fly fisherman stands, hunched against the wind, and pulls line from his reel with numb fingers and fumbles it through his rod guides. Finally rigged and ready, he wades into the gloomy stream and makes his first trembling cast. He is fishing a wet fly, which sinks, rather than a dry fly, which is supposed to float, because he knows that whatever feeding the trout may do will be upon aquatic life far beneath the surface. He makes each cast hopefully. He carefully fishes out each drift, during which his fly sinks and is carried down and around by the current. Gradually he moves downstream, casting as he goes. He is attempting to drift his fly through every likely spot where a trout might lie, in the hope that one may be more hungry, or more active, than his fellows.
Like most fly fishermen, our angler has passed through a sort of evolution. First bait, then lures, then flies, and for several years he used all three. Gradually he found himself fishing less and less with bait; more with lures and flies, especially the latter. It was more fun. Finally, there came a time when he caught trout on flies or not at all.
Now, as he sits munching his cold lunch sandwich, he reflects. He has caught nothing. He probably won't catch anything during the afternoon. He knows that he could take several good trout on worms or on a little Colorado spinner because he has done it hundreds of times before. Yet he doesn't particularly want to. It isn't that he considers himself a purist; he simply prefers to fish with flies.
Sometimes late in the afternoon he receives a jarring strike just as his line is straightening downstream. It surges, like a charge of electricity, up line, rod, arm and into his very soul. He is revitalized. He lands the trout, which is a good one, and resumes fishing with new spirit. Half an hour later, he catches another, and then he realizes that dusk is settling over the gloomy woods. He quits fishing sadly and begins the long walk back to the spot where he has left his car.
The fly upon which our angler finally caught his trout was not a standard pattern. It was a new creation made from bits of feather, silk and whimsy, late of a winter evening. It may have been pure chance that two feeding trout happened to see this fly rather than one of the many others that he tried. Nevertheless, it merited another opportunity. Again, it was successful. He tied duplicates and gave them to his friends. They, too, caught trout. Thus was born yet another "local" pattern.
SPRING FLY SELECTIONS FROM FOUR EXPERTS
Of the four dozen early-season favorites shown in these pages, 12 were selected by Alfred W. Miller, well known in angling circles for many years as Sparse Grey Hackle. He has chosen the 12 flies that he prefers for brown trout in the East. Ted Janes's dozen favorites are for brook trout in New England. Dave Costello has made his choice on the basis of fishing for rainbows in the Northwest. My own selection, made for the Rocky Mountain area centering at West Yellowstone, Mont., was made primarily for the native trout of that region, the cutthroat.