Dog Days

Neo-Freschi Bulldog

by Scott Sadil

Joe Kelly calls.  He’s been out of the country – so have I – and there’s barely a week left of summer before he has to return to the classroom.  What about fishing?  Maybe we should tie some flies.

But for what?  Joe takes a morning walk with his sweetheart along our favorite local steelhead river, brown as shredded cardboard, or sawdust from kiln-dried oak, due to a long season of high temperatures that have sent runoff from melting glaciers cascading down mountain flanks, carrying finely ground precipitate exposed by retreating ice.  A good spot right now for chinook, too, if the water weren’t so dirty.

“What about the Peanut Envy?” Joe asks, attaching his vise to my dining room table.

I open Kelly Galloup’s Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout II to the appropriate page.

“What about it?”

I’ve got a box of over-sized streamers open on the table, as well. Joe pulls out one of the outrageous Gatos I brought home from Chile last winter, an absurd and all but obscene thing used to pull monster browns out of the eddies while crashing down through the rapids of rivers tumbling off the Andes.  Joe gives the big fly a wiggle.

Where ideas often begin.

“That would move something,” he says.

I sense he has an idea.  I know I’ve said it elsewhere, but one thing you need to know about my buddy Joe Kelly is that he loves the concept, the weltanschauung, of using big flies to hunt up big fish.  Match the hatch?


Joe pulls out another fly, about half the size of the Gato.

“I like this thing,” he says.

Me, too.  It’s my own take on Don Freschi’s Bulldog, a bastardized Woolly Bugger that I call the Neo-Freschi Bulldog, a pattern I included in an upcoming new book, Pacific Coast Flies & Flyfishing.

“Isn’t this what you used this spring on the Deschutes when it blew out?”

I head to my office and tying bench for supplies.  Joe says he has some big hooks.  I’m not surprised.

After we get rolling, each of us setting examples on a page of Galloup’s open book, I go to the kitchen and fix a snack.  Saturday, I’ve got bread fresh out of the oven.  A little Calvados poured over ice, and topped off with tonic and lime juice, will help wash things down. 

“That’s a good summer drink,” says Joe, setting down his glass.

We tie awhile longer before Joe finally reveals what’s on his mind.

“If you hook two of these together,” he says, holding up a fly by its head, “it would be big enough for those bull trout in the Metolious canyon.”

He gives the fly a shake.

“That rusty marabou and orange and green grizzly hackle are perfect kokanee colors.”  Another wiggle.  “It just needs to be bigger.”

“The bull trout eat the kokanee?” I ask.

I know the answer.  But I just want to hear Joe say it.  I have a tendency to make up my own far-fetched stories.  Joe, a biologist, can usually keep the fabulous in check.

He sips his drink, smiles.  No doubt, he imagines it, too.

Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil is quick to point out how often good fishing begins with a wild idea.