Saturday, September 5, 2009

We need a talking flybox

A flybox can be read like a book for what it tells us about the owner, or it can be meditated upon like an album of old yellowed photographs for what it tells us about ourselves. Most of us own more than one, if we fly fish just a couple times a year, and some of us stuff our vests with foam, plastic, wood and aluminum contractions that hold our dear little trout flies tightly so they are not blown into the river or clumsily dropped into autumn’s pile of leaves on the riverbank.
We all have our favorite, the one that goes to the river when there is only room for one in the shirt pocket, and for me it has to be the big foam box I bought five years ago. These types are typically the cheapest on the fly shop shelves. There are probably more than 200 flies of all sizes inside. Since it fits nicely, if a bit snuggly, into my shirt pocket, it’s my Go-To box when I travel light.
I’ve had wooden fly boxes, with brass nameplates on the outside and magnetic strips to hold your flies. I’ve had, and still do, plastic ones you can see through and some you cannot. I once lost an aluminum flybox in a tiny Madison County creek while fishing in late fall and then found it sparkling on the rocks underwater in the spring. All the flies were fine, though pretty well soaked. None rusted.
Now, I carry the white foam box, a little plastic one you can see through, one with little compartments that you cannot see through and a couple of old Altoids tins I stuffed with big Green Drake flies and oversized streamers. I don’t even like Altoid mints that much, but I love those tins.
There’s no telling how many flies are tucked away in my vest.
Looking at photos of fly boxes in magazines and Web sites and blogs, I’m almost as ashamed of the mess as of my uncut front yard. Those are some scruffy flies, I have to admit. But they are scruffy because they’ve been chewed like dog toys by playful trout in my neighborhood creeks.
There are quiet times when I’ll just stare at all that mess, recalling the days when certain flies nailed certain fish at a particular spot near a waterfall or bridge. When I see the hackle dangling loose as an untied boot lace, I smile at the memory of a wild brook trout that had an exceptional row of teeth. When a stranger looks at that same fly box, he probably wonders if my home is as messy. My sock drawer is. You know I’m no engineer. Neatness is overrated.
The one essential thing a fly box cannot, but should be able to, do is tell the fisherman which offering will fool trout at a particular time of day and year. Somebody should invent such. But for now, all a fly box can do is tell us a little about the owner and remind that owner of days past on wild rushing water full of trout.
And, really, that’s quite enough.