Squaretails of Iron County

Home » Stories 23 November 2009 692 views No Comment

What have we here? This is big brookie haven! Careful now, approach silently from the upstream shallows and make sure the sunset stays to my right.

As far as I could tell, here was the best hole in this stretch of the creek. Just two hours before, I had painstakingly fished this hole and worked my way through the babbling riffles and all the way downstream of the meandering Cook’s Run. In fact, this is where I entered the creek those hours ago. At the time, I hadn’t a clue that this would be the feature brookie hole having never fished this portion of the creek. With thirty minutes remaining before sunset, I hiked back to the start to get even with Mr. Squaretail and his guardian Mr. Dogwood. These two join forces to prevent the casual fly fisher from an easy cast into the hiding spot of the elusive brookie. The fourteen inch brookie rolled on my fly and on my very next cast, the overhanging dogwood kept my hand-tied as a souvenir. What I needed was to set the record straight.

As the sun played its third set, I noticed the brookies slurping the surface as sparse duns floated with their pale green mast unfurled and held straight together. Ephemerella Dorothea they’re called by entomologists and Latin speaking fly fisherman, but to me they’re little sailing boats, steering a course with the current in a journey where only a few make it thirty yards before the subsurface toothy devils make them disappear.

The mayfly journey is fraught with peril. Life in the silt bottom for a year, then off to the races as you grow from nymph to adult in your incomplete metamorphosis until the big day comes. With an exact prescription of time and temperature and sun and wind, nature’s most delicate winged creation attempts its maiden voyage as it sheds its pupal shuck on surface. Flight, sex and propagation is often a 24-hour stem to stern affair. If Mister Squaretail doesn’t get you on the way to the surface from your wintry incubator at stream’s bottom, he probably will as you wait to dry your wings and break the surface tension. The meadow birds perch nearby to grab you in-flight if the Spotted One doesn’t get you. Your cruel reward for cheating death is another end-of-life sacrifice for the Hungry One as you lay egg on water at the end of your adult day. To wit, you cheat death and fly with fleeting life to freefall to your demise on the water surface; eggs sprinkled upstream of the site your kind has chosen since the evolution of your species. Your God who swims consumes your dried body but has no interest in your eggs, just your life. He’ll deal with your progeny shortly.

I peer into the world’s smallest fly box with hope that I have a little dry look-alike to entice the cold water sharks. Only my #20 Adams sits waiting its turn. Tied years earlier for practice more than play, I’ve since learned to stick with the fly I can actually tie to my leader. The #20 Adams requires a 2-lb. tippet and the precision of brain surgery to thread. I realize that a 10-foot leader will grow to 12 feet with the new tippet material, but this is a good thing. I’m upstream of the run and hole with the setting sun nearly behind me. The long leader will keep me away from the keen eyes of the Speckled One. The three-weight, seven foot rod will show well with a sneaky roll cast