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2018-09-12 / Columnists

Just Bill

Fly fishing on Labor Day, and a Bridge Walk, Too
Musings from the Mind of Bill Diem

My brother Jim brought me the latest issue of the Trout Unlimited magazine on a gray Saturday, and it was Monday morning when I put down my serious book on the 16th Century French philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne and began leafing through beautiful pages of water and trout and expensive gear and invitations to fishing schools and rental properties on good water.

I started skimming an uninteresting article on the perception of “time,” but the author did bring in a detail in the middle of a long first paragraph in which he slips “a Turle knot over a spare Adams.”

A few years ago, I float fished a river in Colorado with my son Ben, and the guide tied on new flies quickly and with very little effort. I know he wasn’t using the blood knot that I have been tying for years. He was too fast. But it was more fun caching fish and enjoying the scenery than asking about his knot.

I tie that blood knot because it is supposed to be the strongest, but I know I can tie it badly, because often when I set the hook way too hard on a “ take” that I break off the fly in the fish’s mouth, and a curly bit on the end of the tippet when I bring it back tells me that the fly wasn’t tied on correctly.

So I drop the magazine and ask the Internet about the Turle knit. Turns out a Major Turle popularized it in England in the 19th Century, and the Wikipedia entry showed an old picture describing how to tie it.

“It looks like something a guide could tie in seconds,” I think to myself. “I will get a fly and a tippet and try to tie it.”

I am still hopping along on crutches and haven’t seen a trout stream other than Teaspoon Creek from the highway, so my experiment could happen in the kitchen. But by the time I locate my gear, I might as well carry a fly rod down to the lakeshore where I have a chair waiting.

So I fished for the first time this summer. An unnamed fly, about a No. 14, tied with a Turle knot, cast from a sitting position over five inches of shaded water. Nothing rose. No minnow passed to taste that strange thing. There was never a chance for that, but none the less I could dream about a patrolling perch or a lost bluegill or a dying sucker in that water.

Then we went into Curtis and parked near the Portage Creek bridge. I got out of the car with my crutches. Several nieces had walked across the Mackinac Bridge that morning, in the classic way, North to South. I crossed the Portage Creek bridge East to West, and then returned the other way to get back to the car. All in all, it was a pretty good way to spend Labor Day.

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