Published January 14, 2011, 08:23 AM

A true fisherman never tosses out anything

By: By Darrell Pendergrass, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram

I guess it was about 10 years ago that I was first bitten by the fly-fishing bug. Most anglers who dabble with flies-and-fur in anticipation of trolling the streams and rivers of Bayfield County — casting about with their whippy long fishing rods — do so at a bit younger age; I was at the rather ripe old age of 30-something.

I’m not sure why I gravitated in this direction and put down my spin-casting junk, it certainly wasn’t because I’d decided to turn my nose up at chucking worms, or felt that fishing with artificial baits was more ethically challenging for me and the fish — I constantly backslide into using live bait. I’m sure my fishing brethren have seen me wandering along the shores of area rivers and lakes with a coffee-can full of night crawlers, or have seen me chasing steelhead with a gob of spawn hanging off my line.

Perhaps I wanted to change my fishing technique because I’d gone and seen the grand scenery of Helena, Mont. and the Bitterroot Mountains in the movie “A River Runs Through It.” I’ll never look like Brad Pitt, have his money or enjoy his lifestyle — ask my wife — but I sure as heck can fish like him.

Perhaps I took up fly-fishing because I’d come to grips with the notion that I was never going to catch much in the way of fish, neither in numbers nor in size. I can face the facts: I’m a bad fisherman, no matter the approach. But I believed I could at least look like I knew what I was doing out on the water, waving a six-weight rod above my head, a hex-fly lofting about over the foam and ripples of a surging stream. Fly-fishermen just have a smarter look, even when they aren’t catching a fish. Anyone can stare at a bobber.

My angling buddy Dangerous Dan Bloomquist is a fly-casting wonder; he actually looks like he’s performing choreographed movements when he’s casting spells from his lengthy magic wand, his effortless movements looping line out across a stream. I’ve stood in amazement watching him work a pool, waist deep in the water, focusing on a rising German brown at dusk on the White River.

But honestly, and I’m sure he’ll agree, we’ve never really caught many trout when we’ve been out together. He says it’s me, and I say it’s him. But we look like we know what we’re doing when we’re getting skunked.

But I digress.

When I fell in for fly-fishing I went in deep. Along with purchasing a couple-a-three fly-rods, a vest, several pairs of waders, fly-boxes and bugs, along with an assortment of bells and whistles that go along with the sport, I also bought a fly-tying kit. You know, I wanted to not only catch trout with dry and wet flies, I also wanted to make the flies by hand; myself. I have problems making toast, so it’s unbelievable to me 10 years later that I ever thought I could do this. There should be a one-day waiting period on the purchase of a fly-tying kit so an angler can rethink his actions.

Initially the plan was for me to while away my winters holed up in the den, a fire roaring in the hearth, turning out artificial bugs for chasing trout when summer eventually rolled around. Of course, my wife’s hobby is horses, so there’s no den. Plus, Queenie doesn’t trust me with matches, so there’s no fireplace. And over the past decade I’ve cranked out about eight flies total, two that might look like a real bug somewhere in South America but certainly not in Wisconsin.

As one can guess, fly kits come with a vice, an assortment of feathers and fur, hooks, thread, tying tools and so forth — everything an angler needs to produce a bait shop worth of flies, if said angler can find the time to sit down and practice this art. And providing he doesn’t have children who enjoy interrupting him nightly for games of hide-and-go-seek and Candy Land. And as long as the angler in question enjoys glaring looks from his wife at the dinner table because he’s forgotten to tend to other “worthwhile” chores.

Needless to say, because I prefer sleeping soundly without fear of meeting my demise at the hands of my spouse, my fly-kit sat dormant for the better part of 10 years. My efforts to tie flies has been miniscule.

Still, as my angling friends can attest to, a true fisherman never tosses out anything related to the pursuit of fish. Never. Thus, my “kit” is still in my possession; its resting spot has just migrated around the house, first from a drawer in the kitchen and then to an upstairs closet. And then from sight all together. The kit simply vanished. I knew it was around, but I didn’t know where.

So after a three hour search, I dug it out from under an old broken VCR in an attic closet, along with a thought that I could create artful flies of such quality they could fool even the smartest of trout. And I set to the task of spinning together artificial insects of heirloom quality. When my wife wasn’t looking, I actually smiled.

For a good 20 minutes.

That’s how long it took to Super Glue bits and pieces of duck feather wings to both my thumbs, spill a bag of No. 6 hooks on the carpet, and string several dozen yards of thread around the living room. Plus, in the course of “relaxing” with my hobby I managed to terrorize my children with an assortment of yells and screams associated with the frustration of trying to create rather poorly designed flies of such quality they wouldn’t fool a carp.

I gave up after figuring out the cost of store-bought flies and coming to the realization they were more affordable than blood-pressure medication. I put the kit back in the attic.

That’s right, I kept the kit. After all, you can’t just throw this stuff away.

Darrell Pendergrass, of Grand View, is a Wisconsin Newspaper Association outdoor writing award winner. Read more of his work at