Secret Weapons

Brian O’Keefe, cutthroat trout

The two books I reach for to help me concoct some sort of Water Boatmen pattern were both written by Dave Hughes.  Readers here know how much I admire Hughes, not only because he, along with John Gierach, are the only two writers from my generation who, from what I can tell, actually made a living writing about the sport of fly fishing, but also because, like most of his many books, Hughes’s Trout Flies and his Pocketguide to Western Hatches will remain relevant as long as trout and trout angling exist.  The bugs don’t change.  The essential patterns, say what one will, look much the same as they did a hundred years ago.  Presentation is nearly always the answer, and Hughes has faithfully woven together both flies and fishing tactics that reflect his close attention to the behavior of trout, the things trout feed on, and how to go about fooling these loveliest of creatures.

Whether looking up a description of an aquatic insect’s habitat and life cycle, or ideas about how to represent said bug, I feel lucky to have any number of Dave Hughes titles on my bookshelves.  And I sort of doubt the fly fishing world will see the likes of his work again.  I say that because, already in my career, I’ve published pieces in the final issues of two different popular fly fishing magazines, publications that, for all the usual reasons, had to shut their doors—and it was these magazines, and the work one sold to them, that helped writers like Hughes, along with Gierach, pay for groceries and gas to go fishing, if not also cover the mortgage.

The good news is, O’Keefe was right: the Water Boatmen was just the ticket.  

I’d share my pattern, but I suspect you can find one just as good somewhere else online.

Gray’s angling editor, Scott Sadil, finally began tying flies, 40 years ago, when he started to feel guilty about continually choosing the best flies out of his fishing buddy’s fly box.