Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blue Lines


Blue lines beckon this time of year, weeks before they'll be able to actually deliver on promises sketched on a tattered map. Their real-life versions are still smothered in winter, and the fish they harbor rest on the gravel waiting patiently for the sun to sink its rays through the ice and into the water.

But we hunker over maps anyway, dreaming of the high country as the valleys get a dose of real spring. The sun warms the grass, and the trees show a tinge of green. Winter is all but over, and our thoughts turn to wild, spunky trout.

Those maps are gateways to the little waters of our childhoods ... the quiet, willow-shrouded beaver ponds, and the tiny mountain brooks that hide wild, opportunistic fish behind every rock and under every cut bank. They help us recapture those earliest memories. Through dusty pages, we can smell sweet willows and hear the gurgle of trout water. If we listen carefully enough, we can hear the swish of towering firs as their branches push against one another in the Rocky Mountain breeze. We can feel the sun on our skin. We can hear our footsteps on rocky trails as we hike in search of the next little creek to pioneer.

Those blue lines across green paper satiate us, keep us sane during this shoulder season. Yes, we can hit the big water--everyone can. It's a welcome opportunity, and occasionally we can feel as if we're walking where others haven't. But it's not the same. It's not as pristine. Not as remote. Not as ... wild.

That's why, as we shoulder our way to the water and seek out a few hundred yards to claim for ourselves, we can handle the humanity. There's promise of solitary days on the water just a few weeks away, where the only interruption will come from wild trout crashing high-floating dry flies in a stretch of a stream only a handful of die-hards will fish all year.

Yeah, those maps give us directions, but, for blue-liners, they're more than that. They're conduits to warmer days, when a stretch of the legs will take you to places yet uncovered.

To wild trout country.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ode to the Adams

It's nothing much to look at. Gray. Drab. A little fuzzy.

Anybody can tie it, which means it turns up in various stages of gray, and in various stages of quality. There's solace for even the ham-handed tier, however. Even in its finest condition, the Adams is a bit underwhelming.

But not to trout. To trout, it's a magical meal that doesn't match exactly anything on the water, but it sure appears to be close enough. It's a classic attractor. A fly for all seasons.

Oddly enough, it was tied to match a hatch, but, according to fly fishing historian Paul Schullery, it was never actually used on the water it was created to fish. The first Adams was tied by Michigan's Leonard Halladay, who created the fly based on a description by Charles Adams in the 1930s. Adams saw the "natural" on a pond in Halladay's yard. The natural? Nobody knows, but it was likely a mayfly--perhaps a March Brown or just a big gray drake.

After giving Adams the fly to use, Adams took the fly to the nearby Boardman River (not the pond), where he determined the fly to be a "knockout." Halladay promptly named the fly the "Adams" in honor of the first man to put it through its paces. And, to this day, the Adams and the Boardman River are often mentioned in the same breath. Unfortunately, it's creator, Leonard Halladay, is hardly ever mentioned at all.

The Adams occupies a prominent spot in my dry fly box. Unlike the Elk Hair Caddis or the Blue-winged Olive, the Adams is always in the box. It's not seasonal. It's not situational. It's a necessity. In smaller sizes, it'll pass as a midge. Bigger, and it'll work during a caddis hatch. It's a great generic mayfly match.

On smaller water, where wild trout are more opportunistic than cautious, an oversized, bushy
Adams should be the first choice of any blue-lining angler. It's easy for both angler and fish to see in varied light and fast water. It might well be the perfect dry fly. I certainly think so.

But I've made one vow... no longer will I call the gray, fuzzy creation the Adams. To honor the fly's true creator, not the fellow who was fortunate enough to be the first to fish it, the fly, to me, anyway, will be called the Halladay.

After all the fish the fly has managed to catch for me, much like it did for Mr. Adams, that's the least I can do.