“What’s this doing in here?”
I plucked the oddball fly from its slot on the backside of a swinging leaf in my nymph box, from a place reserved for trial runs and rarely used once-or-twice-a-year kind of stuff.
Holding the flashback fly between my thumb and first two fingers, I shook my head.
“No, you didn’t quite make it into the lineup, did you bud?”
I should tell you this: The solitude of my favorite trout river provides me the freedom to talk to myself. And it’s become a habit — not often enough to consider me too strange, I wouldn’t think, and certainly not loud enough for streamside starlings to hear me over the breaking currents. I only comment aloud on the remarkable things, and I do so somewhere above a whisper.
But I like to speak the questions. Because these thoughts seem to command more answers when they resonate aloud.
That last question needed no reply. It was obvious. And I’ve known it for a while now. The first time out, a new fly has to make a good showing. It needs to run strong out of the gate. If any die-hard angler is to lend his fragile confidence to a new fly pattern, it takes more than the adoring recommendations of a friend or some well strung sentences of persuasion in a magazine article. No, a new fly has to show up at the first dance. It must make a good impression. It has to put fish in the net.
And this is how confidence flies are found.
I stashed the odd flashback thing on the scrap side of a small foam box — a place reserved for retired flies, rusty things that I find in the low hanging branches and some of my own flies that have run their last lap. For some of them, I strip the hook with a razor blade and re-tie with new materials. Others find the trash bin. This flashback thing will no doubt make it to the wastebasket, in part because the hook was just unlucky.
I flipped my box’s inner leaf over and scanned my few rows of go-to patterns. Every one of them has a story about their first time out. And as I tied on a #14 Walt’s Worm (copper bead, orange collar, mono rib) I thought about what happened with that flashback fly. I easily remembered the day and the details, because fishermen don’t forget the fishy things.
No, that flashy fly didn’t get it done. And I won’t complicate my selection process by keeping any hangers-on. Turn ‘em loose. Let ‘em go.
“I keep a clean box,” I said as I tucked the #14 Walt’s into an upstream pocket at twenty feet. “And you, Mr. Flashback Thing, just didn’t make the cut.”
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N