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Old 03-07-2013, 11:58 AM
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Default the appalachian trail and a “homegrown” fly…

This story starts back in the early 70′s

…on one of my sojourns,(I have in my resume 7 cross country trips via my thumb…hitch hiking that is). On one trip I ended up on a small island off the coast of North Carolina, Ocracoke…the main draw to that place was my passion in those days for Surfing…it was also a place where a young man could make a living banging nails and catch every south swell the ocean dished up…what more could you want…in those days life was pretty simple…and possesions were at a minimum…I always traveled with my short surfboard under my arm, my nail bags & bible in my back pack and a pair of old ” Cowboy” boots on my feet…

I made friends easily there…since I shared so many values and loves the locals did…all based on a love for the Ocean and the outdoors…my best friend was a cook in the coast guard station there…he was from Pennsylvania…and was a real outdoorsman at heart…bowhunter, fisherman, and now…being stationed at that post…a surfer too…he was always telling me tales of the woods and mountains he loved so much. We also shared many hours of beautiful waves at what was called “The Point”, a spot where the island jutted out into the Atlantic…the autumn would bring really good waves (for the east coast) regularly. And we would drop everything when they would come.

At the end of his service in the Coast Guard, my friend Frank, convinced me to join him and another friend that recently left the CG for a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, something that really stirred an interest in me. He was an expert, whereas I was a total novice at such matters…With his help I got a pack and some other gear from a catalog company then…Eastern Mountain Sports…what a pack…aluminum frame, heavy nylon shell, seemed ready for some huge rugged mountain trek. I also bought my first “chamois” shirt…a prized possession, a beautiful green one, something I would hold onto for years to follow.

My friend had actually moved back to those mountains a few months earlier…he was on a mission to recreate a place like we had seen in a recent movie we saw together…”Jeremiah Johnson” . He actually felled trees and dressed the logs for a cabin…leather hinges and all for the front door…I was so impressed…and he did it all himself, and wouldnt allow anyone to help…I tink it was something he had planned all those years of being in the CG…a good place for a young man during those years of his age…he was a few years older than me…and found an honorable way to avoid the jungles of Viet Nam…I was registered for the draft then, but it was decided by those that made such decisions that I wouldn’t have to go..unlike many of my friends at the time…some who never returned…

So I was fully motivated for our “journey” after seeing what he had done…his incredible cabin…and experiencing the Fall weather in the mountains, something I had missed living on the Ocean for a few years…We started at the Northern end of the trail in Pa, and headed south…making up to 10 miles a day …up and down through some beautiful country. My friend had a lab/Shepard mix pup that was about 6 months old…”Smoky” who was a companion to us all…he had his own little pack, with his bowl on one side, and his food on the other. I later in life named a chocolate Lab I after him…

We were seeing wildlife, Wild Turkeys, White Tailed Deer, Grouse and other small game…up close and personal, since we were pretty far from any remnants of villages or farms, and made relatively little noise hiking the trail…We would forage apples from trees gone wild, picked onions that we found growing along the way….Frank even shot a squirrel with his .22 cowboy revolver he carried…we all took shots at the gray squirrel that ran up a tall Oak…but Frank finally hit the mark…we added all those ingredients, with that critter to our staple of corn meal, granola and powdered milk… The ritual then after a days hiking…just before sunset, when we would pick out a spot to spend the night …one of us would build a fire pit from the stones everywhere…one would focus on firewood…and the other would get a meal ready…and whenever you were done with what you were assigned to…go get more firewood .I still remember those evening’s with great detail making our own apple turnovers on a camp fire, and lapping up that onion soup on those cold fall evenings at the end of the days hike. And the incredible feast of roasted Gray Squirrel seasoned with only your imagination…one leg a piece, and the front half to the other…it was a big deal…one we were very grateful for.

On several occasions we crossed streams with wild brook trout in them … I had a small survival kit on me that had some hooks and monofilament line…I did not have my fly rod with me, (the fly fishing bug had already gotten me a few years earlier, but that’s in another story), but was determined to not let that stop me from catching one of those brookies…I made a small rod about three feet long from an Oak branch with my Buck knife…I even carved some special “ceremonial” patterns on it for the effect…You have to understand…We were in full survival mode after a week or so of hiking, the spirit of Jeremiah Johnson had totally fallen upon us all…and we loved every second we were on that trail. Without a doubt a real turning point in all of our lives.

I found some Blue Jay feathers on the trail and fashioned a small streamer fly on the hook from that survival kit…I managed to be able to throw about 15-20 feet of line out, that I had wrapped around the small rod, pitch it upstream and do a slow retrieve…eventually catching one of the small brookies…It wasn’t something I felt was enough to even make a mouthful…and I did my very first catch and release of a wild trout!…something that I would do many,many more times in my life ahead of me…

Years went by…and I managed to collect as many trout and salmon flys, flys rods and similar as I could afford…I worked in small hunting and fly fishing shops part time off and on from age 16 on..whenever I needed some more stuff…taking a good part of the wages for getting the newest gear and tackle…and always looking at those little plastic bags with all sorts of animal fur and feathers meant to tie your own flies…I finally bought one of those tying kits in I think ’77 0r ’78 with a vise and a bobbin etc, beginning what would become, a life long passion…always remembering that small blue jay streamer…

I recent years, I still worked in a fly fishing shop,and even worked as a guide too…tying up my special “secret” patterns for my clients day astream…and more and more started using materials from my own ranch over the “little baggies” from the shop, only buying hooks and thread …my fly fishing guests loved the fact that we were catching trout with items tied from that seasons harvests, or even from the buffalo I raised …

This evolved to what I do now, creating patterns base 99% on materials based on my harvests or other sources…many times I have found a peculiar feather or piece of fur just being out hiking , fishing or hunting, that makes a special tie or pattern…I always have a little “baggie” of my own on me for saving such items…I do use some store bought stuff at times…but try to always find a natural replacement…one Elk hide can probably tie over 10,000 flies. Its just a matter of finding different sources, and trading with others for special items. Something I do with great regularity, and known for with my other tying friend folks nowadays…not only here but all over the world…

I think that experience back on the Appalachian Trail stuck with me…given also that I gained a deep respect over the years for Native American culture, having many fast friends that are of that ancestry…I have applied the use of natural or “homegrown”as I like to say, into my patterns and bamboo rods I make… Native lore says that using parts of harvested animals ( Talisman) on their bows or other things like knives etc, gives not only a connection with the earth, but also a sign of respect for the creatures pursued…I bear witness…wm

this story appears on my blog also...
the appalachian trail and a “homegrown” fly… | tales of a wandering monk
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ted...trout bum/wandering monk
public water 20"er
public land pope & young

Breac à linne, slat à coille is fiadh à fìreach - mèirle às nach do ghabh gàidheal riamh nàire.
a fish from the river, a rod from the woods and a stag from the mountain , thefts ne'er a Gael was ashamed
...and old gaelic proverb...

my blog & website
http://wmflyrodco.com/

Last edited by silvertip8k; 04-08-2013 at 06:38 PM.
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