In the early ’60s my father worked as a dry cleaner in his own business, he would come home from work and flop in his favorite chair with his pipe, a cold beer, and the evening newspaper. He worked six days a week with Sundays off and spent his days fishing when he could.
In the 1950s and ’60s there wasn’t any internet or eBay store to buy fishing gear or flies the only place we could get gear was the local sporting goods store, and they didn’t sell flies so if we were going to fish trout Tex had to tie his own flies. “Tex,” as they called my dad had a workbench in the basement set up for creating fishing flies in the winter months when he couldn’t fish the river and it was an unsettled mess of feathers, threads, hooks, and tools where he worked for hours squinting through his bifocal glasses tying flies. I remember the old tube radio would be blaring on the local farm talk radio station and ripples of smoke from his pipe filled the basement with the ripe aroma of tobacco while rambling to himself under his breath spinning miles of thread around little hooks and wool in an attempt to tie the perfect fly no trout could avoid.
The old boy never excelled at creating flies although he was skilled enough to get by and he enjoyed the challenge of tying flies with most of them never lasting long. When I look back I wish I had a few of the flies he tied just for memory’s sake but most of them ended up down the river along with that big one that always got away. Maybe it’s why I like the 50’s vintage prints of a fisherman because it is how I remember him with his baggy old work slacks rolled up over his lace-up farm boots, a plaid shirt, and an old wrinkled fedora with flies pinned on it. He was 6’3 and 150 pounds wet watching him launch that fly line in an arch over his head with that pipe in his mouth, it was truly a work of art and there were no modern-day technics to the way he cast. It might be overhead, sidearm, or flipped off the water and under the trees, I’m sure any instructor of a fly rod casting class would cringe watching him but he could put it places that were unimaginable including a few in his head I had to dig out with pliers and a jackknife.
I learned to use a fly rod because of him and I too am an unorthodox fly fisherman, I care little about fishing protocols, whatever gets you a hit is what counts. My father and law never used a spinning reel in his life and had no concept of how to cast one, nor cared to learn. He also was a fly fisherman and caught more trout on Velveeta cheese and corn than I ever have with a fly, he figured out the cheese thing when he drove to Bloody Run to fish trout one morning and forgot his bait and fortunately, his wife packed him a sandwich and he used the Velveeta as bait, needless to say, he never went back to worms. I learned how to rig a bobber and baitfish with Velveeta on a fly rod from my father and law who didn’t know what purpose tippet and tapered leaders served, he was an eight-pound monofilament guy. A new world opened up to me in how to catch trout surface floating Velveeta while drinking a cold beer on a hot summer afternoon and napping in the shade on the riverbank.
It was amazing what I learned from these old boys about fishing, my father and law told me, “a trout has a brain the size of a pinhead and can see and hear you coming 50′ away, he’ll outsmart you every time .” So his philosophy was if you float the bait and take a nap the fish thinks your a log on the river bank and comes after the bait. Hell, what do I know, it worked every time. On the other hand, my father taught me to always cast upstream and let the fly float down naturally because trout face the current looking for food, don’t strip your line too fast and roll it back out. We caught plenty of fish, the old way.