Tag Archives: halo midge

Eleven Years to Realize

IMGP0312Writing, deleting, tying, untying, the two foot by three foot table looks like the unorganized spillage of my mind. Spewed forth like a snake-in-a-can birthday surprise of creativity, it reflects itself upon my desk. Like a child and it’s box of Legos, our first reaction is to just dump it all out on the floor and start playing. If I still had the agility to do so, I would be on the floor, hunched over, digging through a shoe box of materials, making space ships that were designed to obliterate enemy Cobra G.I. Joe forces. This is now, and Lego as well as G.I. Joe toys of my childhood are now more expensive than my habit of tying and fly fishing. Not to mention my explosion sounds have gone unpracticed for years. The same principle applies today, my childhood creativity taught me a craft that I will take with me until I die.

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My first vise was a gift, unwrapped alongside a fishing watch that replaced my calculator watch. No book that would teach me the art of fly tying, just a box with some random materials and hooks. Materials that look like the type that are found only at craft stores for ten cents a bag. With a little help from the library’s microfiche at my elementary school (this was before the internet), I had finally tied my first blue dun. Into my teens, it was no longer important. The vise was buried in a box of my old stuff and instead of honing my skill, I pushed the easy button. I purchased flies (this is where you gasp).

High school brought on new things, mainly wedgies and girls. To my surprise, as I reflect upon it now, an English teacher changed my fly fishing life forever. His name was Clayton Rowley, and he was usually found behind his desk reading or mulling over some sort of teenage rendition of a movie they had watched instead of reading the book. Probably angrily, and it was probably mine. There was always something different about Mr. Rowley, and it really was his way of teaching. Progression. He stopped me one day after class and said something to me about a literary work that I had written. I had genuinely looked at something from a different perspective and he rewarded me for it. Thinking outside the box was cool in his eyes and his reward of a simple, “I really enjoyed that, why don’t you write like that all of the time?” was imprinted for the rest of my life.

Now, upon my Arkansas thinking rock, there were no shadows darting beneath the graceful current. I drifted flies to no avail for a while before seeing a large rise out of the corner of my eye. The riffle downstream. They were moving. Seems a little early to begin the spawning process, but the colors of the fish were becoming vivid and their bellies full. Practically running across the river, I began digging through my box to tie on a prototype bug. One of many I had tied the week before. One that I was not completely sure would work. Within a matter of seconds after the first cast into the riffle, I was into my first big fish of the day. It had worked. All of the prototypes after, all working and working well. One stood above the rest, one that I really should keep myself from sharing. A new type and color of the “Halo Midge”.

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Last week, I poured out my box of Legos and made a spaceship. A deceptive ship that fooled leviathans. As I brought them to hand, I smiled. Not because I had caught a fish. Not because I tied a fly to catch that fish. The reason for my smile was knowing I had held onto my childhood imagination long enough for it to be effective. When I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, I sat on the riverbank wondering if Mr. Rowley ever fly fished. If he had never felt the bending of a fly rod, maybe my thought of him would allow him the chance. Although our paths of life only crossed briefly, his effect upon my future was great. For that I thank him.

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Accidents and Happenstance

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Sometimes when alone, we ask questions we can not answer to things that have no voice. The reasons why the question is announced is often more mysterious than the answer to the question at hand. It becomes philosophy, and more importantly, these philosophical questions lead us to answers that seem more like ambiguous rhetoric. Even the previous statement clearly defines the enigmatic nature of these questions. As complex as the explanation may be, the question is usually a simple one. A, “How did that happen,” or “Why am I here” seems an easy enough question to answer. Upon further examination, any inflection made could change the meaning completely, and becomes the first step down a rabbit hole that continues for a lifetime.
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Sitting upon a boulder that would be submerged when man forced springtime on the river, unknown bugs were tied to a leader that wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. These bugs were born from a pile of feathers, copper, steel, and thread with an idea that they would mimic an insect. As they drifted through the gauntlet of multi-directional currents, thoughts drifted through the gauntlet of conflict and doubt in my mind. The world is no longer flat. We have, theoretically or otherwise, defined all that we see. We take this as pure knowledge, but not the existance of other possibilities. As humans we have closed our minds to the pathways that could lead us to new heights. What if we found anti-gravity before the wing or solar energy before coal? How would our world be today if we never split an atom? How did all of this happen? How did I come to be here fishing, seemingly for entertainment purposes that are a way of life? Even the act of fly fishing accidentally began somewhere and the possibilities of what it could have been are endless.
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We think that our actions are definitive. With the thought that there could be nothing more functional and utilitarian than the car or wheel, the wing and engine, coal and power, we are lost completely. Doomed to be repeating what has been done and perfecting an idea that may not be a perfect one. Fly fishing is efficient, using human energy to perform fluid mechanical function. Newtonian physics in the simplest form at all times only to be dropped into chaotic fluid and pressure dynamics. Utilizing the creativity of the human mind to replicate the action of an insect that clumsily survives through its ascent. Occam’s Razor at work. Yet, the variables are too great. To this day, something new is learned on the river each trip. Fly fishing carries a history of at least five hundred years and we still stumble upon new ideas each and every day.
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As my mystical fly was drifting through chaotic bliss, it was interrupted by a fish that had mistaken it for being real. As I fought the fish, I thought. Of all the bugs in this river, why this one? Did the fly happen to be drifting perfectly in the current? Was it the perfect color or action? Maybe it was an accident and happenstance. No matter the case, as a fly fishing community, we should look at the way we tie and the way fish see to ultimately determine why fish feed on the end of your line.
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Today, as I write, I have no idea as to the purpose of it, or why I choose to be sitting in this chair. I do know the events leading up to this simple action, but upon deeper inspection, every action in life lead me to this point. Even reading this, your whole life lead to this very moment. Every wrong turn and every delay in traffic brought you right here right now. The moments after are being shaped by the time it takes to read this. Call it fate or divine intervention. To me, even if the other two are involved, it seems like a heck of a lot of accidents and happenstance.
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Divulging Secrets

Sometimes we keep things to ourselves that shouldn’t be kept. They slowly become skeletons in a closet littered with cobwebs. There they sit on shelves barely able to hold the weight of the matter, waiting to be dusted off and shared. Like books in the Library of Alexandria, scrolls of wisdom with whom some use for pure power. We read the book again to be sure it is one we want to allow the world to uncover.

I could probably write about the secret of eternal life, time travel, or the answer to the meaning of life. If I did, only a certain few would know. Heck, most of you would probably not believe me. I don’t think I need to remind you that I am a fisherman and a stereotypical fisherman might bend the truth at times. Whether or not I am stereotypical is decided by one who reads this. Even the secrets I allow through the filter of my meandering style of writing might even be kept secret by some reader out there. Yet another trunk of secrets in a distant Alexandria similar to my own, collecting dust and cobwebs until the moment they pass along an idea that becomes a legend. Progress is the key to the trunk. The oldest ideas die the hardest.

When I tie a fly, I like to mix it up. Automatically, we who tie gain an upper hand. Why? Well, it is simple. We can tie something different, and in head and tailwaters alike, we catch fish based solely upon the idea that sometimes all that is required is a subtle change to a working pattern. Today the secret being shared is based upon the RS2. A fly, that for years I denied and disrespected based upon the idea that it has a certain lack of pizazz. In short, the traditional fly sickens me. Why on Earth do we tie these on straight-shank hooks? Tradition? The fly has been seen by every western fish, lets change it up. Let us progress the sport rather than get bogged down in some traditions. Tying flies is a legacy, not tradition, things don’t work like they used to. We can build a fly rod from bamboo, machine a reel by hand, forge steel for guides and be as traditional as possible with the art. I’ll be damned if I tie a Royal Coachman on the end of it. We have to move away from tradition yet keep it alive to progress in the art of tying.

Tailwater fishing for me is a challenge. Technical fish, easy to read water. It is the best place to hone certain skills or weed out non-working patterns. The Arkansas River is the test water for most of my flies. It is close and I know the water well enough to say, with conviction, that a pattern will not work. Still, the fish are dumb enough to take certain patterns that might work in a different season on a different river, but not so dumb that they will eat any fly you throw. Fishing was slowing enough on the river that I would not return without some new designs. I returned home from work one day and began to research the RS2 and to see all of the ways that this fly is butchered. It is really sickening to see that horrible straight-shank, scissor cut, over dubbed, no taper, monstrosity. On the flip side of the coin, the ultra flashy, under dubbed, over garnished, fly brings my blood to boil. The idea of the original fly is fantastic. It is a naturally shaped, naturally colored, hatching insect. Build from here.

Lets welcome the RS2D2…

The first thing to go was the hook. I can’t describe my disdain of them. Threw out the old 100 and started the size 18, 2457 with 8/0 gray uni.

Simple enough… Start the fly behind the eye and build a thread base to the tail, just past the bend of the hook in the 45 degree area. Here is where I put a twist on the same old thing. I used blue peacock feathers for a single split tail. The original idea here was to see if tails matter by making one naturally flashy. I still conclude that the theory is only that, but the blue tail does attract attention and fished better than its microfibbet brother. You can use a piece of thread to split the tails, you don’t have to. Peacock is a fantastic material to tie with, very strong and adjustable and just pulling them apart works fine. If you do use a thread, fold it around the curve of the hook and bring it up between the tail. A good tip here is to spin the thread together before splitting the tail.  I like to make some things that I feel are triggers on a fly a bit more dramatic, in this case, I like longer tails. Next is to dub. I use a mix of some superfine dub. This mix is only a secret because I can’t remember what exactly went into the grinder before hand. It is oliveish… Again, here is another thing I dislike about the bug. No one ties this thing with any taper. Instead of having an even taper on your thread and building a taper on the fly, build the taper on the thread and adjust it on the fly. Double wraps are bad.Do the tails look sideways? Yup, they are. Not on purpose. Anyway, wrap the dub just past the point of the hook. This will help you taper back down to the eye. This will help to avoid that pronounced lump in most RS2’s. Remember, the wings are out, no need for a giant lump. I know, I know, the tails are still crooked. My apologies to the perfectionist. Next is the wing. Traditionally it is tied with the under feathers of a hen saddle (when you do research on this damn bug you will get a lot of differing theories). Here is another fun, interesting and exciting thing about the peacock. The feather is softer on the fluffy side than most, and it breaks in roughly the same area. That bit of info comes in handy in a second. So, tear some off and tie it in just above the base.The deeper gray fluff is more sturdy and typically I can only get two flies from one feather, but you can use the higher fluff if you want to cut it off. Now, trim all this stuff, even the taper with thread and build a reverse taper dub that will thin as you wrap it to the front of the hook. Maybe that tail thing is an optical illusion. At this point, just finish the fly. Another thing I dislike is cutting the wing. It leaves a flat top that mimics nothing. If you have ever seen a fly struggling with his wings, it isnt pretty. Plus, I enjoy fishing slightly messy bugs. Instead of cutting here, just pinch and pull the feathers. Trust me on this, you got this far, right?Then you are done.
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…and enjoy.

Up next, the halo midge.