High river flows this spring gave me an excuse to spend time reorganizing my flies so that I could find specific patterns more easily. Iíve settled on nine fly boxes for my trout fishing: fast-water dry flies, fast-water nymphs, flies for still waters and spring creeks (nymphs, emergers, dries, spinners), weighted streamers (mostly for banging banks while drift-boat fishing), unweighted streamers, wet flies, a small box loaded with a variety of flies that I can slip into a glove box for opportunities when on the road, and a couple of nostalgia boxes, one a gift from an uncle that he had filled with his favorite dry-fly patterns and another an old, slender box of my grandfatherís in which I keep honkiní huge nymphs.
As I was sorting and placing flies, I found I was also sorting and placing recollections of experiences, of people and waters and fish caught. Jumbled among the emergers was the first fly I had purchased as a kid, a tiny winged wet that had caught my eye because of its elegance. And there was the Spruce Fly, an old-school streamer, with which I hooked two huge browns on Montanaís Jefferson River three decades ago ó and dammit, Iím going to fish it again this year. The last Serendipity of the bunch that proved so successful with redbands on the Deschutes was stuck in with the dry flies, so I gave it pride of place with the fast-water nymphs. Pride of place in the spring-creek box went to the remaining two sparse caddis pupae that had unlocked the Fall River and Hat Creek for my friend Bob and me on our first visit back in the mid-1980s. And geez, Bobís favorite pattern for Montana, the Bitch Creek Nymph ó those rubber legs donít last, do they?
What lasts are the memories, and perhaps they reflect the ultimate value in our sport of angling: the connections we make with other people, with the places we angle, with the astonishing, wild world in which we find ourselves immersed. Pay attention to the fly you tie to your tippet. What it hooks may be far larger than just a fish.
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