Fly Fishing: A spot of déjà vu 4,000 miles from home

Woodcock and yellow fly dressed by Stephen Cheetham.
Woodcock and yellow fly dressed by Stephen Cheetham.
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My wife calls it the playroom.

It’s actually the place in the house where I keep my fishing stuff.

Well, actually there is some in the shed and a bit more in the loft as well.

Oh, alright then, there are a few bits and pieces in the porch and on the shelves on the landing where I sat in the playroom the other day, just thinking.

It’s time to knock up some flies for the spring opening of the trout season.

Perhaps I should clarify; Steve dresses flies, I knock them up. There is a difference!

So, I was thinking about which flies should stock my box for 2015.

After faffing about for an hour, a thought struck me. I didn’t need to bother my brain. The thinking was done for me during the years when Adam was a lad.

Better still, it was mainly northern thinking, uncluttered by any southern nonsense.

In the nineteenth century, such folk as Swarbrick and Pritt had produced simple flies made from bits of fur, feather and fluff.

If you look out your Yorkshire Post for Saturday April 2, 2005, you will find some useful information about these so called spider flies.

What do you mean, “You lit the fire with it?” - shame on you, but in that case you need to consult Steve’s website.

North Country spiders have proved to be devastatingly effective for over 200 years. Job done, I just need a few of these flimsy hackled fellows and off I go.

Just as I sat in my playroom the other day, one bright, warm afternoon in September I sat on the bank by a riffle on the Firehole river in Yellowstone National Park, USA.

It looked to be perfect trout habitat; two to three feet deep, gurgling over small stones and gravel with randomly scattered bigger rock.

The occasional hapless insect would run the gauntlet of the riffle and disappear in the midst of a splash or a swirl. This was a tricky situation because my intuition monitor could detect my wife’s feeling of inevitability.

To cut a long story short, the following day found me once more ensconced by the Firehole but this time with rod in hand, thinking how I might best fish this beautiful river four thousand miles away from home.

Slowly, a tingle of Déjà vu crept up my spine.

Why on earth was this riffle any different from similar ones on the Swale, Ure, Wharfe or Nidd?

Even the fish were the same; trout.

I tied three North Country spiders to my leader.

Right on the very end was an Endrick spider (see December 2012), in the middle sat a hare’s ear and golden plover (May 3 2014) and for the top dropper I chose a woodcock and yellow just because the Montana sun reflected so prettily from it as it rested in my fly box.

I slipped into the river and cast my flies all of five yards, upstream of a rock just big enough to divert the current.

As my flies fluttered by the rock, I saw the brassy flash of a brown trout flank beneath the clear water, lifted the rod tip and was rewarded by the sight of a brown trout airborne and attached to the woodcock and yellow.

I worked very slowly downstream, carefully picking my targets.

I travelled no more than 30 yards that day and made the acquaintance of 19 brown and rainbow trout.

Not one of them over eight inches in length, but every one of them bright and beautiful.

I checked my emails later in the day.

One from my pal Charlie back in England simply read: “If you fish the Firehole, use spiders.”