fly box



A true story. They're the best kind.




Lost: One Fly Box
by Doc Knoll


Yesterday I decided that I had completed  enough work for the day so I slipped on my waders and took a short walk to the Yellowstone River. The day was pleasant and since there was not a whisper of a breeze, I knew I was likely to get into a hatch. Nearing the river I spotted two kingbirds and a small group of swallows over the water. My heart quickly skipped a beat with anticipation.

A Mayfly hatch was definitely in progress as I tied on a good imitation of the insect. I stepped into the water and chose a target. I cast and within seconds the surface erupted from a rainbow making a valiant effort to free itself from my artificial.
I maintained a steady and slow retrieve being careful  not to overplay the fish. Several minutes later I was kneeling in the shallows admiring a prime example of Montana Yellowstone River trout and as I released the fish that’s when I saw it.

It was a small gray fly box floating slowly against the grassy bank. I moved closer, reached into the water  and took possession. Opening up the find I found myself smiling. The box was crammed tight with flies. I moved out of the river and seated myself in a nest of large rocks whereupon I reopened the box to inspect the contents with slightly more scrutiny.

About half of the selection  were basic elk hair patterns representing Caddis and Bullet Hoppers. One quarter were Woolly Buggers of various colors and sizes and the remaining flies were a selection of hackled flies representing the orders of Adams and Cahill. However, as I continued to look at the workmanship of the find my mind slowly drifted to another location and to another time on the river.

I remembered watching a young boy fishing the river behind  my house one summer morning. As I approached the youngster he waded out of the shallows to meet me. I guess one might call him a “considerate kid”.

“Catchin’ anything?”I asked as he reached a better footing.
“No. . . but I had a few rises,” he quickly added.

I quickly looked to his leader material and saw that it was light enough. His fly selection was a small Bullet Head hopper. “Do you ever use a Light Cahill?” I asked as I slowly reached into my vest for a flybox.

“No.  I only have elk and deer for material,” he replied as he looked a little embarrassed but I sensed that he knew me.
“Well, I’m Doc from Knoll’s and I raise genetic hackle. Stop down at my shop and maybe I can help you out. I’ll trade you even. . .chores for feathers,” The boy was almost surprised but quickly  accepted the offer. “I see we are just at a beginning of a hatch and a few of these might help you out,” I said as I offered the boy a half dozen or so #16 Cahills. “These should get you into some fish,” I added as the boy pulled out his own flybox.

I remembered how he put the flies along the top row of the box filled with elk and deer flies. It was the same box I now held in my hand but some flies had been changed with the injection of feathers.

 Instead, a new row of his own Light Cahill representationsand a few of my "modified flies"  had taken top honors in the box. Isn’t it funny how traditions of flies and knowledge are passed from generation to generation? I guess that's the way it should be.
I quietly I slipped the box into my vest.  I knew that I would be making a call that evening to a very thankful young man.
Doc 

Return to the Library's Table of Contents