Fly tying project takes a back seat to colonoscopy
Hardly anybody knew why Headwind hadn’t been at the Fish or Cut Bait Society clubhouse for a few days, but everybody wondered. In other fishing clubs one mem- ber’s absence might go unremarked for a month or longer, but not in this club and not that member.
I knew the reason and agreed with Headwind that it was no big deal, but he thought the others would think it was and make a fuss over him. I agreed with that, too, so I didn’t tell anyone.
Not even Tiller, who’s chairman of the steering committee, when he called me aside to express his concern. “Headwind isn’t answering his phone or returning calls,” Tiller said. “I wish you would look in on him.” He was worried because Headwind likes doing things the hard way. Tiller thinks that’s risky and foolish. Headwind doesn’t. He says almost all the best stuff he knows, he learned by taking chances on his own more than advice from others.
I didn’t want Tiller to think I knew something I wasn’t saying, so I played along and swung by Headwind’s house — you know, the one with all the decorative nautical thingies.
“It’s open,” he shouted when I rang the ship’s bell at the back door.
Inside, I steered to port through the door with the sign that says “Bridge.” That’s the fishing room, his headquarters. Headwind was behind another door with a sign that says “head.”
I supposed he would be in there a while, complying with doctors’ orders. We have the same gastroenterologist. He had an appointment the next day for something called, ha ha, a procedure.
“Take a look at that fly,” he called through the door.
In the vise on his cluttery fly tying desk was an unfinished red and white streamer that sort of resembles a Dardevle spoon, a popular all-purpose lure that catches practically everything Up North. A photo of a finished fly was up on the computer screen.
Headwind had caught a nice snook on that fly. When he showed off the pix at the clubhouse, everyone in the fly fishing clique asked for one. I hoped I would get one because I said please.
Headwind told me the back story when he came out of the head: “I found it online about a year ago and made one copy,” Headwind said. “I never fished it until last week. Then when all of you wanted one, it took me a while to find it again. The guy who designed it misspelled Dardevle but I couldn’t remember exactly how he wrote it.”
That guy is Mark Dysinger, a Connecticut fishing guide who posted his design — named Daredevle Grocery with the extra e — on flytyingforum.com long before Headwind found it last year. He contacted Dysinger, asked a few questions and then tied the fly on a size 1/0 circle hook with snook in mind. When he finally used it, it got him a few missed strikes before the 4-1/2-pounder he boated.
The fly has a four-feather tail made of a pair of white feathers and a pair in grizzly-striped red — “sort of a cross between the Dardevle and a Lefty’s Deceiver, but more elaborate than the deceiver,” Headwind said. “Uh-oh, I gotta go,” and he darted back to the head.
You can see why he hadn’t been answering or returning phone calls, right?
While Headwind was in the head, I looked at his computer and learned up on the fly’s origin. Dysinger designed it with northern pike in mind. That’s why it’s red and white, and why the tail feathers are longer than those of a typical Lefty’s Deceiver, which was created by fly fishing guru Lefty Kreh. It has the Deceiver’s white bucktail wing, skinny strands of flash material and dorsal of peacock herl.
Dysinger gave his hybrid a bit of red bucktail to support the tail feathers, a two-tone throat of white and red marabou feathers and bulgy cheeks of red marabou. The cheeks flare in water. The long tail feathers add to the swimmy effect. Dysinger encouraged Headwind to tinker, and he did. He subbed calf tail for bucktail to boost the tail feathers because calf tail is puffier.
He made them on circle hooks for himself and on Jhooks for the others, who think it’s perverse to tie flies on circle hooks, even though they work. If a fly pattern calls for a size 1/0 J hook, Headwind uses a 2/0 circle hook because the turned-in point makes the gap a tad smaller.
“I like the red and white color combination for snook and tarpon,” Headwind said when he came back from the other room. “We catch both on red and white plugs, even though nothing natural looks like that. We can suppose red and white just gets their attention, especially in dark water. Then I think they bite it because it triggers their predatory or territorial instincts, not because they’re hungry.”
I reminded him that Up North, serious lure fishermen used to say if they could have only one lure for freshwater fishing, it would be a red and white spoon like a Dardevle. A lot of them said that if they couldn’t have a spoon, a red and white plug would be their next choice.
There aren’t any red and white forage fish Up North either.
“Down here, I bet most saltwater fly fishing-doers would choose chartreuse and white. That’s more realistic,” Headwind said. “Excuse me.”
While he was back in the head it occurred to me that a lone snook or tarpon, if not hungry or protecting territory, would ignore a red and white fly or lure — unless other predators are present, creating competition. Then any of them might go after the faker just so nobody else gets it first.
Sure it seems stupid, but lately we’ve been reminded daily that men too make foolish decisions, using less sense than fish.
It seemed important to say all that to Headwind sooner than later, so I rapped the door to the head and told him. I also told him I had come over mostly because Tiller had asked me to check on his well-being.
“I’m miserable, but don’t tell Tiller that or mention the colonoscopy,” he said. “Tell him I’m fine and just because he doesn’t see me for a few days it doesn’t mean I died.”
You can’t get much done at the fly desk, going to the head every other minute, I said, so how about letting me finish the one in the vise?
“Okay, but it better be good,” he said. “If you screw it up, that one’s yours.”