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Caddisflies
A Guide to Eastern Species for
Anglers and Other Naturalists

by Thomas Ames Jr.
2009; Stackpole Books; hardcover; $49.95

 

Review by Seth Norman

YOU MAY HAVE READ THAT GOOGLE could spend $125 million to settle a lawsuit alleging what must be the largest case of copyright infringement in human history, misappropriation of materials from millions of books. The astonishing numbers suggest the case may exceed all similar crimes combined—for all we know the grossest poaching of protected print in this galaxy, although assuming anything beyond would be rank speculation. Google might have also challenged in the field of “biggest lie by a large corporation” when insisting they protected authors by lifting only “a few sentences of text,” by which they sometimes mean “about a hundred pages.” Alas, this is an era of Bear Stearns and AIG, defined by the sureties that a crippled judicial system won’t impose RICO on any campaign donors; that federal agencies charged with oversight are now packed with hires who might as well wear shoes on their knees, so seldom do they rise on hind legs.

I only mention this in passing because not too long ago occurred the official release date of Caddisflies, A Guide to Eastern Species for Anglers and Other Naturalists, so I wonder if anybody’s already scanned it onto a Web site surrounded by lawyers giving authors the finger. If so, and you chose to inspect these sites—if you’re Eastern, savvy enough to know bugs are what your trout are about—there’s a pretty fair chance you’ll jump up and buy the book...which Google will claim was the idea all along.

Why’s that? This Caddisflies is as good as “lay” entomology gets; from a fly-fishing perspective, it’s in the same league as books by the late Gary LaFontaine, Larry Solomon and Eric Leiser, all of whom Ames mentions often. I suspect it contains everything “Anglers and other Naturalists” will want to know. And while that’s more than most can digest, Ames, who claims to be a photographer, presents information in prose so engaging and readable many readers will dive into chapters almost irrelevant to the waters they fish. (I did. Since reading Aloft and A Rage for Falcons, I call this feat “pulling a Bodio,” as in Steve—a kind of a kidnapping wherein a writer of real talent seizes a reader’s attention, fastening it to a subject he or she never thought about before.)

So Bodioed I was, partly for fear of missing tidbits Ames tosses in like Crackerjack toys. To wit: “Too often (anglers) only find the bug they are seeking and find few fishing seeking the same bug”; “With so many species in Rhyacophila, I should have expected that not every one would honor the textbook descriptions of emergence”; and, here revealing a resonant theme, “…there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to hatch-matching. You can read about the experiences of other anglers, but your own streamside observations must be your best guide. Heed the words of the great Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musahi, who said ‘Pay homage to your gods, but do not rely on them in battle.’” Hai.

Return to that “almost irrelevant.” In his introduction, Ames claims to have heeded Datus Proper, who cautioned “when you get close enough to an insect, the danger is that it will become as interesting as the fish.” Forewarned, Ames insists “I have made constant and repeated efforts to pull myself back from the brink.”

Yes, well—somebody should tell him, gently. As in “You fell a long way, sir.”

I don’t mind a bit. Judas Priest, if this kind of thing didn’t intrigue me, I’d probably be fishing live rockworms on a salmon egg hook.


Note: Ames insists his text evolved to accompany his truly superb photographs—special shots, collected from up and down the East, the most comprehensive collection from that territory, equal in quality to those of others he admires:  Carl Richards, Jim Schollmeyer, Ted Fauceglia. Add these to drawings and diagrams that transmute keen insect observations into invaluable fishing techniques….“Fine,” I say, which also describes his book. ?

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Oakley Eyes Fly Market
Oakley, the southern California-based eyewear icon notably associated with sports marketing, is wading into the fly-fishing business. Why would a company that goes “large” with its promotional and sales efforts (enlisting the likes of cyclist Lance Armstrong and snowboarder Shaun White as athlete-endorsers) dabble in this small niche market and why now?

“We’re a technology-driven company, and there’s no sport where technology can be applied to polarized optics for greater effect than in fly-fishing,” said Oakley’s sales director Tom Faulker. “It’s the ultimate proving ground.”


Oakley’s polarized lenses do offer unique advantages, including “thickness correction” that ensures light enters the wearer’s eyes at straight angles (which reduces eye strain), and hydrophobic coatings that repel oil, water and dust.
The company also believes it can be a catalyst for promoting fly-fishing to other demographics it currently reaches, including surfers and mountain bikers. “I think the world is full of people who would love fly-fishing if they gave it a try,” explained Faulker, himself an avid angler after picking up the sport two years ago. “We want to expand the boundaries. There is huge potential in fly-fishing when you think about where this sport can go.”

Tying Sales for Retailers
As we predicted last year, in weak economic times, the retailers who rely heavily on fly-tying in their businesses seem to be weathering the storm better than others.  The lesson: when times are tough, and people might not travel and fish as much as they normally would, they apparently still tie flies.


“We’re up this year, and a major reason for that is the fly-tying materials and tools we sell,” said Charlie Craven, owner of Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and the author of Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying (Stackpole).
Reports from shops in California, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania underscored the trend.—Kirk Deeter

Angling Trade covers the business of fly-fishing. Go to anglingtrade.com.

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Hawaii Bonefish

By Dave McCoy

 

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. I’M FLYING back to Telluride from Belize. As always, I search the airport for suspicious-looking people carrying rods or gear that explains they suffer from the same fly-fishing affliction as me. This guy is an easy find: backpack with three Sage rod tubes sticking out of the top.

I casually walk over and ask him what’s up? He’s headed to Hawaii for bonefish. I sort of scoff at the idea, as everyone knows there are no flats, much less bonefish, in Hawaii. My skepticism leads to a lesson in military-base access and a reminder that just because a place doesn’t offer flats leading to the horizon doesn’t mean that quality habitat and the accompanying bonefish don’t exist there.

Warp ahead 14 years. I’m living in Seattle, running a fly-fishing guide service, spending considerable time angling for bones and other species in the accustomed areas. A good friend, Terry Duffield, officially Capt. Duffield or “Coach Duff”, calls and says he’s moving to Hawaii to start a fly-fishing guide service.

Now, I tell myself, I need to get over there and check out this place. Duff tells me I shouldn’t bother bringing my 8-weight rods. “They won’t cut it,” Duffer says and again, measuring this advice against previous experiences, I take them anyway. Wisely, I soon learn, I also packed the 10-weights. These bones, I find out, aren’t Bahamian or Belizean schoolies—they are oversized rockets averaging five or six pounds and often stretching past 10 pounds.

The Hawaii record bone weighs 18.5 pounds. Local fishermen say they’ve found 30-pound bones in their nets. All I can say about that is, Get the f— out of here!

Duff picks me up at the airport in Honolulu and 20 minutes later we’re walking a flat at Hickam Airforce Base. Duff is a former Marine, so we barely slow down at the entrance. Sweet!

After a fishless day one, I meet Duff the following day. We access some nice flats with a boat as Honolulu shines in the background. An hour into the day and experiencing some bad light in the direction I’m wading, I cast to what I think is a shadow. Surprisingly, my line comes tight and the slack clears. The fish is off to the races, but the edge of the flat is about 350 yards away, so I’m confident with my state of affairs. Moments later, after I’ve tightened my new Bauer Rogue 7 to its near max, line continues to depart rapidly and I see the fish approaching the edge of the flat. I backpeddle while looking at my part-time Spey reel and part-time permit reel—I notice there is barely any backing left and I know there used to be 400 yards of the stuff. I start wondering, bone…or something else?

Fortunately, the fish stops shy of the reef and I slowly tow it back, revealing the largest bone I have ever landed. The Boga says it weighs between nine and 10 pounds. I’m on Cloud 9 as Duff saunters over and says, “Nice fish. Just above average for what we see here.” After ample spirits and a ringside seat at a bar fight that night, I still can’t sleep. I’m like a teenager with a new love—can’t wait for school tomorrow. Over the next few days we get shots at 30 or 40 solid fish, but only land one out of seven hooked. Despite that low success rate, I barely land in Seattle before booking my next trip to Hawaii.

BONEFISH, IN MY OPINION, WERE put on Earth to entice freshwater anglers into saltwater fishing. However, after a few trips targeting those fish, many accomplished fly fishers write off bones as easy, almost mundane targets, simply entertaining fill time between shots at permit, tarpon, trevally and milkfish.

Hawaii, I find, is a completely different story; at times Hawaiian bones are easily spooked and if you happen to hook one you won’t land it without fishing 30-pound test Maxima right to the fly because most of its flats are filled with coral and these fish, let me tell you, are giants.

When targeting Hawaii bones, realize that not all islands are equal. Oahu is rich with bonefish habitat. Other islands have a few reasonable flats here and there. Should you have the explorer gene in your DNA, Molokai and Kauai have flats and there are fly-fishing guides working them. To discover overlooked flats, try Google Earth and see what you can find. For those on family vacation, realize that productive flats are located right under your hotel room in Waikiki, which, I should warn, is at once a blessing and a curse. “Sure, baby, I’ll be back in an hour.” Yea right. Can you say, “Doghouse?”

Sight-fishing is the preferred method in Hawaii even though blind-casting works and is applicable when conditions merit, like when the wind blows up. The flats are not all hard-white sand, which in other locations allows light tippets to easily skim over them with little threat of abrasion. Not here: most flats are forms of coral and rock that eat through 30- to 40-pound Maxima leaders and fly lines.

While bonefishing in Hawaii typically takes place in deeper water than you might find in, say, Belize, anglers do see tailing fish. In fact, on the right flats and corresponding tides, I see tailing bones nearly every day I spend on the water.

Still, the Hawaiian bonefish gig provides its frustrations. One pitfall is that you need a boat to access some of the best flats or you need military-base passes. In some cases a kayak or, to be more authentic, a paddleboard is all you need.

Remember, too, this isn’t the Bahamas or Belize. These Hawaiian bones are big, but they aren’t abundant. Don’t expect to encounter a school of 100 bonefish. In fact, there are days when you may only spot a couple bonefish, especially when wading. On other days, however, those bones come out of the woodwork and you have shots numbering into the teens.

Over the past few trips I’ve followed Duff around with some of his clients and I’ve found a new favorite phrase from experienced bonefish anglers—“What is that!” they yell. We answer: “That was the 15-pound bonefish you just spooked by screaming like a child.”


To me and other accomplished anglers, the Hawaiian bonefish fishery reestablishes the gray ghost as a legitimate trophy fish, worthy of pursuit. Hawaiian bones bring that old excitement rushing back and put the ghost of the flats back on your fly-fishing hit list. ?

Dave McCoy is a writer and fly-fishing guide who lives in Seattle.

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