Tag Archives: Purple Haze

On Retiring Flies

The hackle fibers are usually the first to go on store-bought dry flies. They unfurl and twist like ribbons on birthday presents. If that doesn’t happen, whatever they use to make ribs (I’m guessing something related to toilet paper) unzips and the dubbing spills off. Nymphs are a little tougher, but look worse; even when they’re still sitting in their bins at the shop.

My buddy, who doesn’t tie flies, will occasionally bring me his store-boughts and ask me to doctor them up. I’ll put cement on the knots, I’ll whip some thread around the heads, but it only ever buys him maybe an extra hour on the water.

One of the first flies I ever tied was a size-16 Purple Haze. It had a moose-hair tail and grizzly hackles. I caught more fish on that single fly than any other. I think because it was one of my first flies, I embedded it with sentimentality and a superstition that produced fish. When it snagged in a tree, I wouldn’t just yank hoping that it would come down. I would exit the river, reach high and try to pull down branches and, occasionally, trees to retrieve it. And the fish. I don’t remember them all, but it caught palm-sized brookies, gnarled big browns and everything in between. First the tail fibers fell out. But that was somehow OK because the dubbing brushed back around the bend making the body almost look like a comet. Then I bent the hook when I extracted it from a fish that sucked it down deep into its mouth. With my hemostats, I bent the hook back, but it was never the same. Nearly any fish that gave me a fight or that foul hooked would result in a bent hook. Eventually it couldn’t stay dry even after a week off the water. The hackle fibers became brittle and looked like split ends on over-styled hair. Even though I stopped fishing with the fly, I kept it pinned to the top left corner of my flybox for months.

One of the appeals for tying my own flies is that they aren’t permanent. That unknown expiration date keeps a constant flow in and out of my flybox that ensures nothing grows stagnant. If I was Buddhist I would say something about the importance of learning about impermanence. I would talk about the monks who construct elaborate sand mandalas only to destroy them (sometimes by dunking them in a river) when they finish. But I’m nowhere near a Buddhist–just a dude who tries to find the beauty in an unraveling thread.

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Surface Action Yes, Salmonflies No

A quick update about the 2012 Blacksmith Fork River salmonfly hatch. I scouted the entire canyon early this afternoon (Saturday, 19 May) and saw very few salmonflies. I saw six specimens to be exact, anywhere from the lower canyon to the upper reaches of the river. I fished some high sections of the river and saw only a handful of anglers on the drive up. I had a great day fishing my Tenkara Iwana with a Purple Haze and (off and on) a Zebra Midge dropper, but I didn’t even bring out the salmonfly patterns. While driving down the canyon I saw a few more anglers–perhaps a dozen–but nowhere near as many as last Wednesday. Lots of spin anglers out today fishing the deep pools and bends, maybe taking advantage of the fishes’ increased interest in worms after yesterday’s big rain. Around 4:30 this afternoon I stopped and spoke with a few fly anglers who were heading home for the day, and they reported similar findings–good dry fly success but not too many salmonflies in evidence. They said caddis patterns, Stimulators, and Sofa Pillows (along with a variety of droppers) were working for them.

I asked a friend who I consider to be an expert on this subject about the timing and duration of the salmonfly hatch in the Blacksmith Fork. I’ve never been very clear about whether it starts and stops and starts again, as mayfly and caddis hatches often do, or if the Pteronarcys californicus just starts then stops for good. He said if salmonflies have been spotted in the upper canyon (and they have, by me anyway), the hatch propper is mostly likely over with. Adults may be seen for some time to come, but no more swarming clouds as were seen on Wednesday.

It’s looking like the 2012 Blacksmith Fork River salmonfly hatch is done, folks. If you’ve got additional info, please leave a comment and let us know how it’s going for you.

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