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Classic Flies are Classic for a Reason

I like to fish a Royal Wulff. Big ones. No, I'm serious, don't laugh. Well, maybe you're not, but I can't tell you how often I've been mocked for doing so. If I'm prospecting riffles, having a tough day figuring out what I the fish are taking, or generally don't have another idea in mind, I'll often tie on this time proven pattern and go to work. I know plenty of other anglers who don't even carry this pattern and most certainly wouldn't be caught fishing it. The reasons always seem to be the same: it is old fashioned, non-specific (though what attractor patterns aren't) or -- more often -- it is taken as a sign of a lack of penchant for proper study and deduction on the stream. Oh, and it's not very cool.

Royal Wulff Fly
The effective, but oh-so-unexciting Royal Wulff (photo: The Fly Stop).

As far as I'm concerned, this is all nonsense. Like many other fly patterns which have fallen out of favor with time, the Royal Wulff has -- in my opinion -- simply fallen victim to being unexciting. So many anglers are busy looking for the hot, new, trendy pattern that they've abandoned patterns that have survived for over a hundred years, presumably laboring under the delusion that fly tiers of the entire 20th century and before were completely devoid of imagination and forced to do little more than tie the same few dozen patterns over and over again. Me? I'm interested in what works, and recognize that these patterns survived for so long because they do. As such, I'll often make it a point to carry these classic and sometimes rarely used patterns, laboring under my own delusion that the fish in the stream I'm stalking never see these flies anymore.

Free Flies for a Year

Even if you spend a lot of time behind the vice, keeping your boxes filled throughout the year with what the season, destination and conditions demand isn't always the easiest task. For those of us out there that don't tie or rarely find time to run thread through a bobbin, the task may be simpler, but comes at a much higher cost. So it likely goes without saying that the idea of free flies suited to your personal needs as the year evolves is one that will likely pique the interest of virtually every angler out there.

With this in mind, The Fly Stop is currently giving away free flies every month for all of 2014. And we're not talking about a dozen, generic flies shipped your way. Each winner will receive a stout monthly allotment of flies, hand picked by The Fly Stop's staff and tailored to the each winners location and target species for that particular time of year. Whether you're fishing Colorado tailwaters in June or chasing bonefish in the Bahamas in November, you'll get a generous, custom selection of hand-tied flies to match your needs.

Remembering the Lure of Home Waters

For many years, for a myriad of reasons, I was either limited in my ability or wholly unable to travel in order to fish. These past few years, however, I've been very fortunate to have found myself on the road quite a bit, venturing to destinations I long only dreamed of visiting, fishing storied and wild waters.

For those of us that aren't lucky enough to live steps from the Bitterroot or the Madison, those of us that aren't a short drive from the tarpon and bonefish waters of the Florida keys or the grassy redfish flats of the gulf, our home waters are often comparatively unspectacular.

My home water is a tiny, wild brown trout creek that flows through Valley Forge National Park not far outside my home city of Philadelphia. In the darkness of the shadow cast by rivers like the Henry's Fork or the Snake or the Deschutes, it isn't much to look at. Not much at all. It flows alongside the Pennsylvania Turnpike for much of its run leaving those who fish it with the sound of cars and semi trucks endlessly droning by on the highway above, it doesn't offer much solitude due to its setting in a heavily trafficked National Park, its hatches aren't particularly prolific and the fish are small. Sure, there are a few lurkers in there that will push 15 inches or more, but the vast majority of fish in the creek will tape out somewhere between 5 and 9 inches.

Brown Trout
Small, even by the standards of my tiny home waters.

This past year, I've fished this creek -- where I typically lose count of my days on the water -- very few times. I'd like to claim that this is mostly due to a lack of time, my time on the road causing me to need to devote my time at home to less leisurely pursuits than fishing, but doing so would be largely disingenuous. The fact is, I lost interest. I lost the desire that normally pushes me out the door and onto the stream expecting, most likely, to be underwhelmed. Even bored.

In Search of the Grab: Swing, Step, Repeat

Steelheading isn't a numbers game. Not even on the best days. There's a reason that steelhead are often referred to as "the fish of a thousand casts." Searching out steelhead in rivers big or small takes patience and persistence. In winter steelheading, this reality is magnified. Fish are fewer and less active. Conditions are cold and wet, often icy. If chasing steelhead, in general, can be said to not be for the feeble at heart, then winter steelheading is reserved only for the most hardy of souls. Winter steelheading involves long days spent in tough conditions, launching a seemingly endless litany of casts, prowling water in search of the elusive grab.

Spey Casting Deschutes River
Tom Larimer hucks a spey cast, one of many, on Oregon's Deschutes River.

There may be few that know the winter steelheading game better than Oregon steelhead guide and revered spey casting instructor Tom Larimer. In this short video by well-known fly fishing film maker R.A. Beattie and Simms, Tom and friend Ryan Buccola take to the late season, chilly waters of Oregon's Deschutes River in search of that grab.

Not All Fly Fishing Forums Stink

Fly fishing forums are plentiful. Virtually every region where one can find fly fishermen has an associated forum where both local fishermen and outsiders congregate to share fishing reports, stories, advice and answers to general questions. At least, that's the idea. Unfortunately, it rarely goes to plan. More commonly, fly fishing forums fall victim to one or more of the many pitfalls that commonly afflict most internet forums: they turn into spam factories, they are largely inactive, they are excessively off-topic with little in the way of valuable information, they become insider popularity contests and are excessively hostile to newcomers and so on.

PA Fly Fish

And there are good reasons that these issues befall so many a forum: building a strong, healthy, active forum community requires an inordinate amount of effort and dedication. The assumption is often that because the users are generating the bulk of the content, forum operators need do little more than sit back and watch the hordes amass. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Establishing a base of community members, moderating (which basically amounts to supervising) user contributions and cultivating a community that produces a lively, ongoing discussion is a daunting task. The special combination of forum operators, moderators and members required to build a valuable forum community rarely comes together regardless of the subject matter and this is precisely why most online forums are disregarded entirely by those of us with better things to do than troll forums all day long.

As a result, many fly fishermen have abandoned the forum medium entirely. Even those forums that offer some good information are still rife with the aforementioned maladies, making sifting through the rubble to find the gems a task not worth undertaking. But there are exceptions to the rule.

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