Backwood Beginnings

By Braxton Batey

The early morning haze, the hum of insects, and the sound of running water stimulate my senses. It’s early, really early. I’ve made my mile hike to the creek at dawn to catch some smallmouth and largemouth before it gets too hot. There ahead is a nice eddy and what looks to be a 3lb bass waiting to ambush its prey. I make a perfect cast and the fish spooks. This happens again and again and causes me to leave early frustrated. On the hike back I’m racking my mind on what I could do to avoid the splash and hard casting of a spinning rod. I get home and turn on the tv to a channel that normally broadcasts fishing shows, low and behold I find my answer. Fly fishing captivated me from the moment I saw it and I realized the soft presentation is what I needed in the low water conditions I was dealing with. There was just one problem. I saw the cost of fly setups and tying equipment and knew it was out of my league as I was strapped for cash after breaking my leg and being laid off for a while. But as persistent as I am I realized I had to make do with what I had.

A few minutes later I had the contents of my tackle box strewn about my desk. And after my research, I needed a couple of things—a bobbin, thread, fly hooks, and tying material. I grabbed several items that looked similar to a bobbin. I finally took a ballpoint pen and took the ink tube out. Now I needed some thread. All monofilament was too thick. Aha, there is some moss green 4lb braid. I required long hooks to tie streamers, poppers, and crooked hooks for nymphs. I rummaged through several packs of hooks until I came to some 2x size 4 Aberdeen long shank hooks. The last bit of material had me stumped. Feathers I thought, where would I get feathers? After a brief moment, I ran to my mancave. I had a duck mount, a turkey mount, a deer, and several squirrel tails. I begin trimming a little material off of everything in inconspicuous locations. At that moment I realized I had successfully gathered everything needed. 

After that, I began tying. To say it was easy at first would be a lie. I had several flies that went to the trash immediately, but after much trial and error, I ended up with 3 distinctive fly patterns each with its own purpose. The first was a streamer. I took the hook and laid down some thread aka braid. I then put two split shot sinkers crimped onto the hook for even weight distribution. Then I took some deer hair to give me a straight stiff core and then put a good portion of the end of a squirrel tail and tied it up. Finishing with some stick-on eyes I found. The next fly was a popper. I cut some foam I had lying around and made a head. I then stuck it onto the hook and selected a nice turkey tail feather for a solid wide body. After that, I dressed up the edges with some duck feathers. Lastly, I bent a hook and made a bead head nymph out of duck feathers and deer hair. I sat back and documented the flies with a picture.

So naturally as soon as I could I bought a 30$ fly rod kit and struck out to the nearest body of water. After about an hour of screaming obscenities, and hitting everything but the water with my casts I found my groove with casting a fly. I fished a friend’s lake and caught several fish on every fly. The popper provided by far the best results and was such a thrill to fish with. I would throw it towards the edge of some grass, a downed tree, or some moss and it didn’t take long before I hooked up. The first strike on that popper was the first fish I had ever caught on a fly rod. From there I went to the streamer and it resulted in more fish. When that bite died, I kind of just hopped the nymph and cleaned up any stragglers. I bet I caught 20-25 bass and a few sunfish that afternoon.

Since that day many years ago, I have spent a lot of money and a lot of time getting into this great sport. Somedays I find myself getting lost in wanting more expensive gear or learning the latest craze etc. However, I just take a quick pause and remind myself of the day I went with little to no knowledge, refused to say no, and got it done. If you are new to this sport, cut out the noise, learn the basics, believe in yourself, and don’t give up. Don’t worry about how pretty your flies look. The fish seem to like the ones that have been torn up better anyway. Don’t worry about casting super far, if you’re getting bites that’s far enough. Getting better is great, and having new gear is great, but remember fly fishing boils down to a rod, line, a hook, and some feathers.

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