Fly Birding

by Bruce Cleverley

Fly fishing. A wonderful sport in which the angler uses flies tied with feathers and assorted bits of yarn and other paraphernalia, as a lure so to speak to catch fish. The fly is supposed to look like the natural insect or bug or whatever you are trying to simulate that the fish are currently eating. Fly birding is also a sport which is hard to perfect because very few people ever admit to doing it and fewer still (to my knowledge no one) teach it.

     I first was introduced to the sport of fly-fishing as I learned to tie flies from an old codger that lived just down the street from me. He was an extremely nice fellow, with tons of patience, as evidence to the fact that he tried to teach me to tie flies at the early age of fourteen. Our local church had what was called a budget auction in which someone donated an item or skill to use or teach and you bid on the item and if you won you paid the price to the church and enjoyed the item you had purchased, hopefully. My Father at the time was doing his best to quench his son=s thirst for the great outdoors. I grew up in the west in a small town in eastern Idaho. Beautiful country for the outdoors. At the auction my father was the winner on two outdoor bids. One was shooting, the other, fly tying...

    I remember the kindly gentleman patiently teaching me to pick the hooks and feathers, and other items to tie the flies and then how to tie them onto the hooks. My first few flies probably looked more like a fur ball an Owl had coughed up. The next introduction fly fishing came years later as I was working as an office supply salesman selling copiers and cash registers and other paper goods in and around the Pocatello Area. The Owner of the Business was a nice man who loved to fly fish, and I wanted to get on his good side, and so too, became intensely interested in fly-fishing.

     In my youth I had won a fly rod as a prize in the lucky trout contest that one of the local TV stations held. They were weekly contests during the summer months. You caught your fish and then took it to a designated weigh station and it was entered. I had caught a five pound trout in Island Park by McCraes Bridge. Bridge. Hmm Interesting Omen for what followed years later.

    I decided to take my fly rod out and see what was needed to get it going. After rummaging through all my stuff in the shed and house My wife asked me what in the world I was looking for and why I was tearing the place apart looking for it. I told her I was looking for my fly rod and promptly was given directions as to where it was and what she had intended to do with it. Taking the fly rod, I went to the local sporting goods store and bought the reel and line and items needed to rig up the rod... (I still have the rod. It is lying on my desk as I write this. It is, or rather was, a bamboo telescoping fly rod. During one of my Lapses of judgment I left it where the boy=s could see it and it became their rather expensive sword for playing Zorro.)

    At the store the salesman directed me to a book dedicated to teaching you how to fly-fish and what to do and not to do. He also selected a few flies for me to use. I glanced over at the fellow next to me and he just nodded. I read the thing through several times and now felt I was the local expert on fly-fishing. I began to have several conversations with my boss on good trout streams and lakes. I looked for any stretch of river that looked fishy while I sold copiers during the week.

After, a couple of weeks I found three or four that I felt were promising... One was a stream next to lava hot springs, I figured I would fish till dark then soak in the hot pools. The other was the stretch of the Bear River just outside Preston Idaho, by another bridge. I asked My wife if I could go fishing the next Saturday instead of mowing the lawn, and was greeted with a groan, but I managed to get an ok from her, I think It had something to do with the height of the lawn or the fact she couldnt find her flowers anymore, But I had my time to go fishing. The next Saturday I rose early to go at 5 a.m. us flybirders err, fly fishers are the dedicated sort you know. I drove to Just outside Lava Hot springs and found my stream, Located along a beautiful section up against the mountains and alongside a railroad. There was a Railroad Bridge by which I felt I could go fishing.

     After rigging up my fly rod and ting on the recommended fly, which was probably a caddis or something that was at least supposed to resemble it? I was wading into the stream and getting set to make the first cast when a young boy and his younger brother happened by with their dog in tow. They stopped just as I made my first catch of the day, the Bush on the other side of the stream. I tugged, it tugged back. I pulled, it pulled back. After several attempts to get it loose, I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to set the pole down on the bank and walk the three hundred yards to the bridge, cross the stream, walk up and free my fly and then walk back.

I noticed the boys watching me from their perch on the rail fence that ran by the bridge, as I freed my fly. I walked back and picked up my rod and began to get ready to cast again. The young kids were enjoying watching my misery. I decided to try to parachute cast to the spot I felt the fish were. I cast out only to feel a tug from behind and up. I had now made my second catch of the day. A cottonwood tree. Those young kids were sure rude to be laughing that loud. It would scare the fish. I only had a few flies and no extra leader so breaking it was not an option. I climbed the tree and retrieved the fly. Honestly you=d think those kids never saw a man in his waders and fly vest in a tree before.

. After getting down and being just about ready to make the cast I heard a distant sound. Ignoring it, I made another cast, into the bushes across the stream again. Muttering I waded out of the stream to the howls of laughter from the direction of the fence. As I walked to the bush, the Train made its morning run, with the conductor waving to me as I freed my fly from the bush.

Hey, that guy in the train looked familiar I know I have seen him before. Oh well I=d figure it all out later

I decided to go somewhere else to fish. Besides those boy=s were going to make themselves sick laughing that hard.

   I then drove to Preston and to the Bear River just north of the town. There was a nice area there by the bridge where I could park the car and fish .Also No Kids. I pulled my fly rod out of the car and began getting set up again. I went down to the river to turn over a few stones to see what kind of bugs there were. You are supposed to find a fly to match whatever the fish are eating locally. I watched as several birds were flying above the river. I noticed the insects looked a lot like the new flies I had bought. I tied one on and began wading into the river I waved to an old grandpa walking across the bridge on the side walk there. He waved and then stopped to watch me fish.

     I made several false casts and then let the fly gently land on the river. This was good No bushes. Working myself upstream towards the bridge a little I made several casts. The Old man smiled and nodded. Just then A Minivan stopped by the side of the Bridge and Several Japanese people climbed out with their camcorders and began no doubt taking a few shots of a western fly fisher to show their friends back home... The Pressure was on now to catch some thing and preferably not a tree or bush. With cameras rolling.

I then decided to cast to a spot just to the side of a pillar... I pulled back. The line rolling gracefully behind me in a large loop I pushed the rod forward and waited for the line and fly to hit the water, and waited and, hey where the hecks the line going to? My fly line was stretched out in front a good twenty feet and then went up in to the air. As I looked up I followed my leader and tippet up to a sparrow flying now in a wide circle above me in the air. I could hear excited Japanese voices from the direction of the bridge. I also heard a loud guffaw from the old Man.

Years later I can laugh at myself, not then. I was however worried that the old man was going to fall over the rail in to the river laughing that hard. I am sure that somewhere in Japan there is a video that made some funny video show and the owner of the film several thousand yen richer.

  I realized then that the Sparrow was hooked.  I began reeling in my third catch of the day, a bird.  I had to get the bird in fast and get out of here.  I pulled in great lengths of line and the sparrow struggled to get free.  I finally yanked and the sparrow went plunk. Into the river.  The Japanese were supposed to be real polite, I thought, they now were laughing uproariously at my situation... I splashed over to the bird and grabbed it.

After suffering numerous bird pecks on my hands I finally had the line untangled from it to the end I thought I had hooked it in the neck. But to my surprise I found that the fly had run around the neck and then caught the line on the other side, thus lassoing the bird. I had roped me a bird. I was now a Member of the flybirders association. I stumbled to the shore amid the laughter and freed the bird.

I glanced over at the bridge and saw the old man wiping his eyes with a hanky, I thought to myself for a second that he looked liked someone I had seen before somewhere but I shrugged it off. Waving to the growing crowd,

   I gathered my belongings and drove into the west with the camera[i] rolling. On the way home I passed those kids, they were still laughing.

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