Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

There’s said to be an old Chinese curse that goes something along these lines:  “May you live in interesting times.”  Despite the high probability that the translation is less than precise, as stated in English it’s applicable to our current days and times.

We’re going through a curious era of our lives, sheltering in place, sheltering at home, whatever those in control of our respective territories want to call it…and now and then, as rules have very slightly relaxed, many of us have extended that to also include sheltering streamside for a few occasional hours.

And this is where fly fishing shines.

While no one stands directly in front of an angler, other kinds of fishing can be done shoulder-to-shoulder, slapping each other on the back, reaching into the same tin of sun-baked worms or trove of beer…you know what I’m talking about.  But no one can sneak up behind a fly fisherman–the back-casting sees to that.  So “social distancing” is far more assured, with the kind of fishing we do. Bright orange line colors and big yellow wooly buggers can be leveraged as highly visible warnings, much like the bold colors on a poisonous snake.  If you’re casting, you’re pretty safe.

Want to take that to the extreme?  Go with spey.  Mix the cack-handed circle spey with the classic snap-T followed by the same using a Skagit-style hand position, and then all again in reverse order from the opposite shoulder, and you’ve got yourself a whirling whizzing snapping zone of safety around yourself that not even an enemy swordsman could get through.  Try to emulate one of those atom diagrams.  It’s a “full power to the shields, Scotty” protection system.  As long as you don’t hog-tie yourself, no western lasso expert will have a thing on you, and your social distancing will rival that of the proverbial hapless desert island castaway.

Figure 1

Now, game wardens are invariably dedicated and professional, but there have been the very occasional folklore characters who were said to be, shall we say, “overzealous” in their enforcement of rules of their own interpretive variation.  I’m sure such outside-the-law individuals are mere fictional manifestations…but I once heard of one such warden-lady who was said to take some serious poetic license to the “file the barb off or bend it down with pliers” letter of the state law…and to claim that what it really meant was that if her tiny fluffy cotton swab detected the slightest roughness on the hook then you had earned yourself a colossally expensive ticket.  Again that’s got to be folklore…but just in case you know of such a person, nowadays if you see them approaching you, perhaps a loud and horrible non-stop coughing fit might save you the heartbreak of having your barbless fly over-inspected.

They tell us we should wash our hands hundreds of times per day.  Sanitize them.  Not exactly practical…or is it???  Adding a few drops of alcohol to the line dressing and fly floatant goop should do wonders–no self-respecting micro-critter is going to risk alighting on goopy hands.  Indeed, you’re probably safer out there than at home!  “Honey, for health reasons I’d better go fishing again today.”  It’ll work, it’ll work.

Monday through Friday hours see less fishing pressure on most streams. I’ve not yet tried the old midweek “I’m hard at work at home, boss, but my network connection is down” trick, although I’ve thought about it.  If you’re like me, you’ve been putting in 11-hour workdays from home for months…but you’ve forgotten how to use a razor.  This development can be put to work to improve your fishing and tying experience.  First, you can save some money on sunscreen out there–just a little on the nose and forehead…unless of course you also grow hair there.

Second, your beard hair makes great grow-your-own fly-tying material.  Hair from curly beards can be used in a dubbing loop for bushy and very durable fly bodies; ZZToppers make great streamer hair.  Dye it your choice of colors by spilling kool-aid as you drink.

And finally, on the stream (and assuming you didn’t yet harvest that chin-crop for flies), a beard makes an excellent substitute for a wool fly patch, should your vest not have one.  A beard keeps those flies handy, and you’re not likely to leave it somewhere and walk off.

Figure 2

And now we come to the type of water.  Trout have long been revered…almost seemingly in prophetic preparation for these days and times.  Trout water is cold, and if medical science has proven anything it’s that pathogens don’t like to shiver.  The trout seeker is not standing in some tepid soup of slimy germs, but in cold, clear, pristine water.  You’re in the place least likely to encounter weird gremlins.

What’s more, for those of you who have spring and summer steelhead runs in your area, or summer Chinook runs that draw steelhead like a magnet, egg patterns are said to work well.  Fish key in on what’s in the water, and lie in wait and slurp those globules in.  It can be so easy they get bored, in which case slight variations on the egg pattern design can be effective.  Try the pattern shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Other ways to deal with the current climate:

Keep a handkerchief that looks “used” wrapped around your fly box, and your buddies won’t be raiding it.

Hang a note saying “UNCLEAN” on your car at the trailhead; attach a print-out of Figure 3 above, and all but the daringest hub-cap stealers will be scared into turning themselves in at the nearest town.

Best of all, fishing takes on a boastfully fun hue now, in part because when someone calls out from the bank to ask what’s in the creel, you can claim pretty much anything you want–they’re not going to come over and see for themselves (again with the coughing fit, for those cheeky few…really sell it, now…).  Thus, five-inch fish can go down in the logbook as five-pounders, and nobody can say different.

–  –  –

(Afterword:  The above intends no disrespect. It’s a feeble attempt to land a few weak smiles on a few faces when smiles can be in short supply. Serious threats are agreed serious. Our hearts go out to those at risk and to the many who have lost loved ones. We’re all in this together, and like time on the stream, sometimes the ridiculous can yield a brief moment of relief. Stay well, everyone, and keep those spirits up.)


  1. Thanks for the chuckles this morning. Now I’m telling my wife that my health demands that I go fishing today.

  2. Now that is skilled writing of humor. I enjoyed it a lot. The burglar resistance of fly boxes and vehicle broke me up. I also use a medical excuse to go fishing. My wife believes fishing is therapeutic and pushes me out the door whenever I feign crankiness. Now retired, but I took a mental health day as a break from work before I retired. I complained to the boss that I had to regain my edge and focus. He bought it.

    1. Hi Bob, thanks; I wish I had your boss. Mine thinks “mental health” refers to him taking a day off but loading up my task list in advance so I don’t notice he’s gone.

      And the older I get, the less I have to “feign” crankiness. It comes natural these days….

  3. Very enjoyable reading. If one has no sense of humor, he has little other sense.
    Write on! and Fish on!

  4. “ Trout water is cold, and if medical science has proven anything it’s that pathogens don’t like to shiver. The trout seeker is not standing in some tepid soup of slimy germs, but in cold, clear, pristine water. You’re in the place least likely to encounter weird gremlins.”

    Just don’t drink it — GIARDIA is bad stuff

    Good piece, I thing I’ll go fishing tomorrow

    1. I’ve had Giardia Mike, and as bad as it was, if parched to the point of swooning I’d still take a chance on a high mountain stream before I would a creek between the cornfields of Ohio.

      To be serious for a moment, Giardia is technically a cyst, not a bare virus or bacteria; it’s very tough, but the saving grace is that it’s large and can easily be filtered out of water by even relatively coarse water filters. I read one water filtration report long ago that said something like (from memory), “For a membrane to remove giardia from water is no more difficult than for the grill of your car to keep dogs out of the engine compartment.” That may not have been written by a pooch-lover, but you get the point.

      Enjoy the fishing!

      – Mike

      1. Had it too. Took a sip from a cold mountain stream in Kilarnney, Ireland. Didn’t get right for a month.

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