My Trip to Yellowstone and Fishing the Woven Nymph - Lawrence Finney
Friday the 21st, August 2010, saw our first ever trip to the states. Gerry Teggart and I had been invited by Jessica Atherton of the Federation of Fly Fishers to come to the 2010 Conclave in Yellowstone Montana to carry out workshops demonstrating the wire weave technique. I developed this technique a couple of years ago and applied it to several patterns with amazing results. The basis of dressing a fly with the wire weave was to produce a nymph that was slim in appearance but with weight while giving it a segmented effect of the abdomen. Gerry and I were looking forward to fishing the rivers inside West Yellow stone. My fellow fly dressing colleague, Arthur Greenwood had recently returned from three weeks fishing in Yellowstone and Alberta and shared his stories about them. “Don’t forget Panther Creek and Soda Butte” was Arthur’s advice about Yellowstone.
We arrived on Friday evening in Chicago to get our connecting flight to Bozeman. The first thing we needed was food as it had been over eleven hours since we last ate. Immediately upon entering the terminal we were overcome with the delightful aroma of cooked onions, which anyone knows is irresistible to any living creature. ...Two hot dogs and a cup of coffee and then onward for our flight to Bozeman.
Three hours later we arrived at Bozeman. As it was 10:30 in the evening and we were new to the area, we decided to rest overnight. The next morning we rented a car and headed the final 95 miles through the Gallatin Valley to West Yellowstone. Once there, we booked into our motel and met up with some of the locals who, once they found out we were from Ireland, invited us to the bar for a drink. “What no Guinness”, was our cry, when the bar steward said no. “But we do have Moose Drool and Fat Tire” (local brewed beer) was his response. Arthur had pre warned me that this Moose Drool was a local beer with a kick! After sampling a few of the local brews we were offered Moose Drool with a glass off vanilla vodka dropped in it. “It’s called a car bomb”, explained the waitress. ...Well the look on the waitress’s face when she finally put two and two together. We just looked at each other and laughed. All this way from Belfast and we are offered a car bomb! The bar erupted in laughter and we knew we were in for a good night.
The Next day with a head like a ‘Bouncing Betty’, we made off in our rental waving good bye to our newly made friends. The sun was edging over the mountain range and in front of us was the Gallatin National Forest.
What a magnificent sight! With the majestic Northern Rockies on both sides of us for the next two hours, our heads were spinning from left to right trying to keep the magnificent landscape in view. The sight of the mighty Gallatin River with its pristine waters tempted us to pull over and fish it. The river crossed and re-crossed the highway all the way up to Yellowstone and every few hundred yards you could see fly fishermen casting over rising fish. Eventually we approached West Yellowstone. To the right of us was Hebgen Lake, famous for its gulpers. As we entered the town there were the shops - Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop, Bob Jacklin’s... Fly shops that we had only been told of and had read about over the years.
Our first stop was the Sleepy Hollow Lodge to see our host, Larry Miller to register for our stay. Our accommodation was a rustic log cabin situated in the town. For anyone staying in Yellowstone for fishing, Sleepy Hollow Lodge is an ideal location. It can sleep up to six people with 2 double beds and a double bed settee. With our suit cases dumped on the beds, we were out like a shot to see the sights of the town. “WHOAAAA, Gerry they drive on the wrong side of the road here” was a phrase repeated several times over the two weeks!!!
On Saturday, we decided to do the tourist bit to see Old Faithful, the Fountain Paint Pot, and Quake Lake before the Conclave kicked off. Once we had bought our permits, we ventured into the Park. Our intentions were to field test the wire woven nymphs on as many of the rivers as possible before Tuesday. One word of warning... When travelling in the park, Bison are the king of the road. Very often we were surprised to meet this beast casually walking in the middle of the road as we rounded corners and bends. The only thing we could do is pull up and watch as they walked on - oblivious to vehicles and gawkers. Elk, Osprey, Bald Eagles - you name it. It was unbelievable what we encountered. ...Not to mention the skunk we stopped to photograph.
We were forced to drop Soda Butte from our list of areas to fish on the advice of the park rangers because there were two fatalities the previous week from Grizzly attacks on campers. This brought home to us the reality of the Wild West and the need for bear spray!
The first river we stopped to fish was the Fire Hole, just above the falls at the Fire Basin. Tackled up with a size 14 Black and Silver Woven Nymph on the dropper and a size 12 Woven Mayfly on the point, we entered the waters. ...A note of caution to all. The water is so clear, it looks shallow, but I soon realised that it wasn’t. The shock of instantly ending up to my chest in crystal clear water that looked only 2 foot deep unnerved me for an instant. Once we got accustomed to the depth of the water, we waded out to the middle of the river where there was broken water cascading over the rocks. Suddenly I had a take but missed him. A quick flick of the wrist and a cast over the same spot, and I immediately had another take - a beautifully marked Brown trout. With that quickly released, I cast again in the same spot and again had an immediate take. This was to be the case for the next four hours. On a stretch of no more than 50 metres I had connected into well over thirty fish. Gerry was a hundred metres below me and each time I looked down stream he was into a fish. By this time Caddis were coming off the water big time and then it started! The river erupted with fish taking the dry. Locals who were fishing did not seem to getting anything at all and a few gave us sly glances as we hauled in fish after fish using the nymphs. Why change when we didn’t need to. Most of the anglers we saw were fishing dry fly but no fish would take their finely presented flies. But here we were, swinging the nymphs and connecting with virtually every cast. This got to one guy who came over to inquire about what we were using. We showed him the nymphs, without hiding our delight and his very words were “Damn it, where did you buy them from?” He eventually left with half a dozen variations - not to fish, but straight to his car and away to home to try to copy them. By that time, it was about lunchtime, so we decided to have a break and go down stream where we had seen three massive rocks in the river. We both agreed that this looked like a good holding area. Right enough! Fish after fish were taken in the course of the afternoon. Much time was also spent watching the Elk coming down to the river to quench their thirst. The nymphs had certainly done the job and we could do the workshops with all confidence, knowing that the patterns the students were going to dress would out fish other patterns.
On Tuesday morning we registered for the workshop at the Holiday Inn, this was to have been a class of only 10 but word had got out about these wire woven flies. We eventually ended up with a class of nearly 20. Thank God I had brought over extra starter packs, just in case. The Workshop was an absolute success and by the end of the day all in the class were dressing up wire woven patterns. As we exchanged jokes and experiences all in the class were in stitches, trying to outdo each other with fishing tales. That, in turn resulted in a crowd amassing outside the door, listening to our wild tales. I must admit the yanks were better at telling the tales.
Another of my colleagues who attended the Conclave was Liam Duffy of Killeshandra who had conducted single and double handed casting workshops on Hebgen Lake. Later in the evening we did an evening’s talk on fly fishing in Ireland which was well received. As we left the hotel we bumped into our fellow fly dresser, the ever youthful Charles Jardine and his son Alex who were giving lessons at the Conclave.
That evening we were invited to the bar in the hotel as a thank you from the participants of the work shop. Low and behold they had Guinness, not draft but never-the-less it was Guinness! We all talked excitedly about the nymphs and different types of fly fishing when suddenly the bar man announced there was no more Guinness left. We had only drunk seven bottles each, but of course America being America, word got round that the Irish had drunk the bar dry. The barman assured us he would replenish the bottles. A crate was brought in the next day and again late in the evening the barman announced we have no more Guinness. Well I can assure you we were sober, but try telling that to the rest of the guys. Needless to say we had gained a bit if a reputation!
Wednesday was our day off from workshops and demos so we decided that we should head into the park with two of our friends Gene Kaczmarek and Dean, first to be fished was the fire hole, Gerry could not resist the fast flowing waters downstream and fished away merrily oblivious to all around him.
As Gene, Mark, Dean and I fished leisurely through the riffles and glides, Ospreys and Bald Eagles were flying overhead as though they were waiting to intercept our fish. What an impressive sight! I had decided to keep to my wire woven patterns as they had already proven themselves. Sure enough, with each cast of the black and silver nymph I had a take. That carried on for at least 90 minutes, accounting for over 25 fish. Suddenly we saw Gerry making his way upstream at what I would call a rapid pace. As he got closer, you could see his face was as red as a beetroot. “What’s wrong guy?” asked Gene, to which Gerry replied, “BEAR!”
We could not stop laughing because what he had seen was what he thought was a bison lying down, but it was actually a bear, not realizing that until it raised its head and sniffed the air. Needless to say Gerry’s middle name was christened to ‘BOO BOO’ from that day on. This was not the only wildlife we were to come across; when I waded out of the Madison River I ended up standing on a garter snake, resulting in me leaping about screaming. After that Dean said “we thought you were performing river dance”. My only reply to him is not allowed in print.
The finale to the conclave was the evening BBQ. I felt fortunate to be seated next to two fellow fly dressing friends - Mark Romero and Bill Heckell. Anyone who has met Bill will know he is one of America’s greatest fly dressers and a genuine Gentleman. Bill and I met several years ago at the British Fly Fair. He was enthralled with the weaving technique and said that he would certainly be dressing some of the nymphs for future use. We arranged to meet Bill in Chicago, but unfortunately due to mobiles not working properly we missed him. But in a follow up e-mail he confirmed that he will be over in Ireland next year attending the 2011 Irish Fly Fair.
To sum up the trip, it was an experience of a life time. The workshops were filled to capacity and demand for demonstrating the weaving technique was huge. One of the things that stood out was the fascination of fishing with bamboo and there were plenty of exhibitions showing how to build these little beauties.
It was with great satisfaction that of all the rivers we fished the wire woven nymphs out fished the American’s patterns, and I was overjoyed that I had caught Brownies Cutthroat, Brookies and Rainbows; my only regret, expressed to Arthur when I got back “I never got one whitefish”, which Arthur could not believe. …But then there is next year. Now back in Ireland it is time to get back to the grind stone, re-stocking my flies and getting things ready for the end of the season. The tying studio has been fitted with a new tying bench that can seat six. Hopefully I will start workshops from November onwards each Saturday 10.00 am to 3.00 pm
The workshops will cover fly patterns from the beginning of the season until the end and will also include sections on wire woven flies.
These workshops are restricted to a maximum party of six.
Cost per workshop is based on six participants 50 Euros £40.00
All materials and equipment are supplied.
To book workshops contact Lawrence on 07764 533823
Or e-mail Lawrence.firstname.lastname@example.org
Multi-talented Fly Tyer Lawrence Finney, who hails from Moira County, Armagh, Northern Ireland ties a variety of flies - from those for Pike, Salmon, and Sea Trout - to those for Salt water. His main passion is traditional Irish Lough style patterns, including new variations that have been articled in Irish Angler Magazine. He also has been featured in Total Fly Fisher and a special edition of Irish Fly Tyer. Those accomplishments are impressive, but if that is not enough, he is certified as one of only fifteen Association of Professional Game Angler Instructors (A.P.G.A.I.) in the whole of Ireland and only one of four certified as a fly dresser. You can see a few of his of his flies here, but there are many more fine examples to view or purchase at his website, Finney's Flies. Read on about what Lawrence has to say about himself, but don't miss the opportunity to view his flies.
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