I started fishing when I was four at RMBL the Rocky Mountain Biological Labs near Gothic Mountain Colorado where--with help from an adult--I first held a rod in my hands. I'm 73 years old in 2021 and I still remember that day. A year or two later in New Jersey, when I found I could walk across Mr Bliss' corn field to Princeton's Lake Carnegie by myself, I met a dark-skinned woman from Trenton who taught me how to fish with extra-long bamboo poles and a variety of baits. She usually fished in the same place and I knew how to find her on weekends.
She showed me how to run a thumbnail down the stem of a lilly pad to find the fat white wriggling larvae (maggots) that lived there that you could always use as bait when everything else was gone. We caught sunfish, bluegills and bass, usually a small distance in from the outer edges of the lilly pad gardens. We became good friends. She always smiled and waved at me when I showed up. I loved every minute of it.
I didn't own any 16' foot poles but I did--a few years later--have a spinning rod and Mitchell 300 reel. I fished lures mostly from those days on. The Lazy Ike and the S&H Mirralure were among my favorites. I saved grass cutting money for Fred Arbogast bass lures instead of baseball cards as a young one. When I was 12 our family spent the summer on the West Fork of the Bitterroot in Montana. My father was writing a book. He bought Fenwick fly rods and Perrine automatic reels for him me and my cousin Jon. We spent every day that summer fishing with dry flies.
At the end of that first summer--only a day or two before we started driving our Rambler station wagon back to New Jersey--my cousin Jon hooked and lost a giant rainbow close to 30" inches long up against a fast-moving rip rap bank a few miles upstream from Darby. He hooked that fish on a huge Dan Bailey Mosquito tied on a big #2 hook. Until that day I regarded Jon's giant Mosquito as a transparently absurd fly. After all mosquitoes aren't that big. In the sixty years since that day I've managed to catch a respectable number of river borne Montana trout ranging all the way up to 27" inches, but never again even seen another trout at 30" inches. I've had to adjust my assumptions about what is and what isn't absurd a few times too.
My hand has been almost married to a fly rod ever since, but I never did give up on other kinds of fishing the way so many fly fishermen do. I make every fly I fish with but I make fly rod lures too. I don't bait fish for trout but I do sometimes bait fish for catfish, almost always with a fly rod. Fly fishing for catfish is a lot of fun too, but that's a story for later on in the book.
This book started out as a memoir of sorts. It was all about me and my lifetime's fly tying efforts. But all about me was stilted and boring. It gave me a bit of the heebee jeebees too. An idea bubbled up. I could bring in as many other people as possible--both alive and dead--anybody with an even remotely Montana connection could be here. The keyboard started to glow.
I like to fish. I think about fishing constantly. I make flies lures photographs software and boats. I'm doing my best to write about it now too.