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Outdoors: Fishing with my cousin's rod

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I keep a box of flies on a shelf in the office. In it are my mistakes and the flies I don’t think will catch trout, although I know that just about any fly will catch a trout sometimes. The box stays pretty full and I take it along whenever I want some sunfish fillets for supper.

The sunfish family, including bluegills and rock bass, don’t seem to care what fly lands on the water. They’ll pop up and take it whether it’s floating or sinking. Even large and smallmouth bass aren’t fussy. If it looks edible they’ll eat it.

Standing in a corner of the office is my cousin Gordon’s Orvis fiberglass fly rod and a reel he made on the big machinist’s lathe that took up the whole back wall of his garage. He was a Marine, who spent the war island hopping across the Pacific. When he returned he used his G.I. Bill to learn to be a machinist.

He spent his career making valves for all of New York City’s water supply reservoirs. Sometimes his job took him to the Catskills, where he took time to fish for trout. But his favorite method of fishing was trolling the reservoirs closer to home for big lake trout, browns and rainbows.

Sometime in those years he bought the Orvis fly rod and built the bronze, brass and aluminum reel for the times he fly-fished for trout, bass and bluegills. After he died, his children gave it to me and I take it out when I want to fly fish for bluegills and other panfish.

It’s an eight-footer and perfect for casting those old mistake flies with a six weight fly line. It can also cast deer hair poppers and the few Gaines balsa wood poppers I keep in another box for trips to local ponds.

For early season fishing for bluegills and sunnies I usually use chunks of nightcrawlers, mealworms or little red worms. They seem to work best before the ponds warm up.

By now though the ponds have warmed up. The fish are more active and willing to take flies off the surface. For me, seeing the strike is a lot more fun than waiting for a tug on the line or watching for a red and white bobber to jiggle.

Most of the better fly fishermen I know claim it’s easier to teach a newcomer, while fishing for sunnies at a farm pond. They can teach the casting stroke, without worrying about tree limbs on a back cast.

One of the more difficult things to teach a new fly fisherman is to mend line and keep a fly floating on a stream without dragging across the surface. The water isn’t flowing on a pond so they can teach mending later and concentrate on casting and catching fish. Besides, isn’t catching fish the best part of a lesson?

Before the sun dips too much further I think I’ll grab those fly boxes, Gordon’s rod and head to a pond I know. Tight lines.


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