From the files of Donald R. Kirk:
As I peered over the bank a good trout
backed like a phantom into obscurity.
Romilly Fedden. Golden Days (1919)**
Part 1. Fishing on East Creek
As I peer over the bank of upper East Creek in the Warner Mountains of California a couple of good–sized trout fade from view under the far side. It’s early morning and the dew is still on the grass, which shows that no one has walked here before me to scare the fish today. Three days ago, same time, same place, the fish were rising to my heavily–waxed Muddler Minnow, an artificial fly lure that mimics a great variety of aquatic and terrestrial forage and usually works. I played it on the surface as if it were a grasshopper trying to swim to shore. Today, I’ve used a real grasshopper instead of the Muddler Minnow and also salmon eggs. No luck.
I lower myself into the damp grass and lean back against a large rock. The creek is only six feet to my left, but tall grass limits my view to the far side of the stream. As I recline against the rock, I note several mayflies flutter over the water. A short time passes and I hear, but cannot see, a healthy splash. Hey! A nice trout must have jumped for a mayfly.
I go fishing mostly for the fun of just “being out here,” but I do like to actually catch fish. What might be called the “art and science” of dry–fly fishing is a lot of fun. It’s all about choosing the right lure and acquiring knowledge of trout behavior. A friend of mine carries a fly box with 25 or more kinds of dry and wet flies he has personally tied. In addition to the Muddler, my fly box contains other dry flies: three sizes of humpies and several Western Green Drake mayflies, tied by someone else. These varieties nearly always work for me and ‘nearly always’ is good enough.
There are probably over 700 mayfly species in North America. The larvae, called nymphs, are aquatic. Most feed on organic debris or algae. A few are predatory. The nymphs exist in great number and are an important part of the aquatic food chain, being eaten by fish and other insects. Read more about Mayflies next week in Part 2 of my Saturday Blog.
**Quote from Lyons, Nick. The Quotable Fisherman. New York: The Lyons Press, 1998, p. 20