How to make your own killer fly

You don’t need to be a fly designer to come up with your next great pattern
Photo: Spencer Durrant

The wind howled from the West and snow fell sideways, which made trout fishing rather pointless. It was the kind of spring weather that you just can’t fish through; you have to wait it out. So I stayed home for the better part of a week, tying flies and filling boxes full of patterns I’ll need when summer rolls around. I kept looking out the window, hoping for a break in the weather and warm enough temps to coax a blue-wing hatch into existence.

Living with hunting dogs

The unique bond between working dogs and their owners
'A Pheasant in a Plum Thicket' — watercolor by Eldridge Hardie, 1989 (courtesy:

The guy’s name was Charlie, I think. The one time I met him, at the now long-defunct Gustav Pabst Invitational Hungarian Partridge Shoot (a.k.a. the One Box Hun Hunt), he showed up in a Jaguar sedan with his German shorthaired pointer riding shotgun. That was pretty cool, but what made an even deeper impression—and permanently endeared Charlie to me—was that after a full day of bird hunting in the fencerows and stubblefields of east-central Wisconsin, he opened the door of the Jag and let his wet, muddy, stinky dog jump right in.

Guide advice

To hire a guide, or not to hire a guide -- that is the question.
One of the best guides in the business, Monte Becker, from the River of Dreams basecamp (photo: Earl Harper).

As we were finishing up our annual School of Trout class in Idaho last fall, a student brought up the subject of fly fishing guides. He wanted to book a guide for a couple of days on the Henry’s Fork before he headed home, and he decided to ask for my opinion. It’s been quite a while since I wrote about fly fishing guides, so it’s probably not surprising that our conversation nudged me to type up this particular piece.

Fish are wildlife too

Fish are vital parts of a complicated machine we don’t begin to understand even as we tinker with it
An advertisement for 'golden rainbow' fishing in Rhode Island (photo: NFS).

For most Americans fish don’t count as wildlife. They’re slimy, cold, featherless, furless, silent and, save for anglers, generally unseen. In my last Hatch Magazine article, “A Plague on All Your Trout,” I quoted Wilderness Watch, which passionately defends icons of wilderness like grizzlies and wolves but dismisses icons of wilderness like Gila trout. I don’t mean to pick on this group because it does some good in its own way. But its condemnation of Gila trout recovery, mandated by the Endangered Species Act, provides the best example I’ve seen of how much of the public and environmental community perceive fish: “It is both sad and ironic that it was Aldo Leopold who convinced the Forest Service to protect the Gila [National Forest] as our nation's first wilderness in the 1930s — now, it is in danger of being converted to a fish farm for recreationists.”

I wasn’t lusting for 7-inch trout in 1994 when I flew from Boston to Albuquerque, trekked into the Gila Wilderness and waded up Black Canyon Creek. This recreationist didn’t even tote a rod.

The Biden administration's modest $38 million allocation for fish passage fails to provide any funding for the critical removal of the steelhead- and salmon-killing lower Snake River dams (photo: Ben Herndon / cc2.0).

The Biden administration plans to release $38 million in fiscal year 2022 to help fund 40 “shovel-ready” fish passage projects in 23 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Interior announced this month. And, over the next five years, using money from the recently passed infrastructure legislation, Interior will push about $200 million toward fish-passage projects through the National Fish Passage Program.