Winter Fly Hatches, Or, Let’s Tie One On

The important winter fly hatches are happening now! Mayflies, caddis, emergers, spinners, nymphs — all rising in clouds from tying vises across America and beyond. I mean, what else do we have to do in the winter?

I am not a proficient fly-tyer and do not pretend to be. One of the reasons for that is our beloved Internet, which led me to sources such as the Big Y Fly Company. If I had to buy all of my trout flies at L.L. Bean, or Orvis, where I would pay around two dollars for a single Pheasant Tail nymph or caddis imitation, I would be seriously into tying my own flies. But at less than a half-dollar a fly? I’m happy to let some nimble-fingered Thai or Vietnamese or Bangladeshi do the tying, freeing me up for my more important work as a bourbon taster (unofficial).

I do love to watch, though. The L.L. Bean Spring Fishing Event, which is apparently not happening this year, offered the opportunity to observe really, really good fly tyers do their stuff. In the past I went, I observed, I admired, I marveled at the skills of Don Bastian, Dave Klausmeyer and others. Did the experience motivate me to break out my vise and feathers? No more than an evening at the Portland Symphony Orchestra inspires me to take up the violin.

Fly-tyer Doug

My friend Doug, an outstanding fly tyer, created one of the most effective flies in my fly box. Wait. I take that back. It is the most effective fly in the box, the Fly Whose Name I Dare Not Speak (I spoke it once and was taken to task by my brother) because it might be legislated against if too many anglers get hold of it and deplete the trout fishery. Doug is no longer in fly-tying mode because he is shackled to an automobile assembly line in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is worked to exhaustion on a daily basis. He once patiently instructed me in the tying of this fly, but my efforts produce Edsels to his Bentleys. However, I know that someday soon I will have to forgo my various vices and get back to my vise for another go, because my current supply of the fly is threatened. Trout and salmon chew on it so vigorously that the fly has a short, albeit productive, lifespan. I would show you a picture of the fly but my brother would drill holes in my canoe. Actually, I wouldn’t show you a picture of the fly. What was I thinking?

Bunch of Stuff

Instead, here’s a picture of a bunch of stuff. The Fly Whose Picture I Dare Not Show is, unfortunately, covered by another fly box. Darn! And by the way, this fly is not sold in fly shops or online.

Here we are at the Ides of March. Beware, indeed. We were allowing ourselves to have thoughts of spring, but then March marched back into February and, Lo! The Blizzard of ’17. The winter fly hatches will continue.



Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.