It is no secret that I am a man of rivers. Drawn to their mysteries at a very young age, my identity has been forged on moving water where a fly rod has been a constant companion for more than sixty years.
With dry fly fishing as the primary focus, my profession as a fly tyer hinges upon understanding trout and the organisms that draw them into view as they feed on a fluid surface. Knowledge and skill are the primary components of finding big trout and then overcoming their resistance to an artificial fly. Over the decades, my comfort on the water has evolved in proportion to the confidence gained from a near obsession that demands a solution to every problem encountered. In recent years, however, a growing distraction has pulled me toward a dimension of fly fishing that forces a level of humility that I sometimes struggle to accept.
The mental exercise of probing the depths of still water has become a stimulating factor that now accounts for perhaps fifteen or twenty percent of my attention. The steep learning curve installed by such a late start in an already long life might have compelled an early withdrawal were it not for a mentor several decades younger than I.
Gareth Jones is a still water master of international acclaim, and we fished together again just last week. Every visit from this friend of more than a dozen years has been an opportunity to learn, and his latest was no exception.
Fishing two distinctly different lakes over the four day visit, Gareth again proved an uncommon ability to quickly ascertain the requirements of getting fish in constantly changing weather conditions varying from near disastrous to ideal.
It mattered little to Gareth that cold, strong wind and discolored water wreaked havoc on Henry’s Lake, a splendid public fishery of notable reputation. He had a solution for the problems that drove nearly everyone else from the water, and the day ended with more than a dozen respectable trout.
On privately owned Sheridan Lake, Gareth’s still water prowess kicked into high gear in fall weather that could not have been more pleasant. For an observer, it was like watching Houdini perform magic tricks as fish after fish succumbed to his mastery.
Through each impressive demonstration, Gareth provided detailed explanation of technique along with generous access to his impressive fly boxes. At days end my brain was swimming with new information that will keep me busy on the water and at the tying bench for at least a year. I know too that the learning will continue on Gareth’s next visit, which I hope is soon.