Constantly trying to find ways to heal my mind can drive me crazy sometimes. I have a granddaughter on the way. It’s OK to stay a little nuts I think.
Not to long ago I asked some people in one of my Facebook groups to send me feathers so that I can continue to tie flies. As you probably know by now, I live off a veterans disability and I cannot afford to by the supplies I need to continue this past time that really helps me to take my mind off of the anxiety, stress and depression that I would otherwise face if I didn’t stay busy doing something so enjoyable to me. Not only couldn’t I afford the beautifully colored feathers, but they generally come on the hide of the bird. I have read about how some exotic birds are now extinct because they were killed for their feathers; not neccessarily for fly tyers, but mostly hat makers. I don’t want to be a part of killing birds for flies when birds shed plenty to share without dying. I’m by no means a vegetarian; but I was taught since childhood not to kill something unless it is for food.
People of the group came through for me. I received tons of feathers from people across the United States. One lady sent me a huge envelope full of feathers from her 12 parrots. As you can tell by my profile picture, some salmon flies take many feathers to create. Other flies although, such the one I created in this post, only use a small amount of feathers at the collar and tail. The rest of the fly can be made from thread, floss and litteraly thousands of other kinds of materials.
The lady that gave me all of those feathers sent me a message today asking me if I’d do her a favor. She wanted me to make her a fly. I told her that after what she did for me, I’d send her as many as she wanted. She replied that she only wanted one. She wants to give it to a friend that is a veteran and about to turn 75. She sent me a video of him dancing around in a diner. I could tell why she loved him so much. He looked like a fun guy to hang around with. I asked if she wanted one to fish with or just something artistic, and she said it was just to put on his hat. That made sparks go off in my head.
In a prior post titled “Thank You!” I told you how much I appreciate Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing #PHWFF for introducing me to fly fishing and tying. It truly is a therapeautic past time for me and many other disabled vets. I told you in that post that I created a web address called fliesforlife.com; which at the moment is just directed to this blog. When I get the page going I eventually want it to be a non-profit fly and tackle shop. By making flies, building and repairing rods, etc. it will give me a chance to give back to project healing waters and to other charities.
It’s a circle I guess. I go to war and become disabled. Organizations like Healing Waters show there appreciation the best way they know how. Then I in turn want to show them that they are appreciated. I wish everyone would get into a repetative circle like that. Maybe we’d all get along better.
Anyway what has kept me from starting this web site is an idea of something that I could do that was different. I wanted to create something that wouldn’t cost a bunch, yet start to earn money to donate to the organization. Thanks to this woman’s request I came up with that idea. This is the first one. It needs improvement; but I made a fly with a pin attached to the back designed to look like his Vietnam Service Ribbon.
I figured that I could create ones for all types of service ribbons and combat awards etc. They would be inexpensive to make and I believe they would sell.
Compare the Vietnam ribbon in the top photo to the ones of the “fly” hat pin that I made below. What do you think?
If you have not noticed I like to make big flies. Firstly my eyes are no good but my new bifocals are on order. Mostly I have a problem tying because of how bad my hands shake. There are days although that I’ve been steady and tied some size 20 hooks. Give me a 3/0 or anything as small as a six and I enjoy creating. That is my therapy zone and why I joined Project Healing Waters in the first place.
Even at those sizes, it is hard for me to follow patterns. I can, but I get bored quickly; or worse frustrated when I do feel physically limited by my shaking hands.
Today I worked on solving one problem. Hairs to close to the eye (or feathers etc.) that need to be trimmed. Nicole, from Quilted Tyler and my tying instructor at Healing Waters is amazingly motivating. She doesn’t let me get frustrated even when I would at home. She just tells me keep trying, you’ll get it. There is a bright side to anything to her! I was tying something with a beaded head, wire body and some sort of hackle that ripped off right at the end. She saw my frustration and said “cool, you made a brassy!” I was like what the hell’s she talking about and then she showed me pictures. She wasn’t lying to make me feel good.
When I’m at home I don’t have experienced people to hold my hand and guide me. In fact, I have nobody but my dogs here with me. Once in a while I talk to the mail lady and then there is social media. I do have people I can text like Nicole and my friend William at Eastern Trophies and lately since I have started rod building, Brian from Ye Old English Fly Shop but they are not waiting by the phone to help me. I have to wait for them to get back to me (sometimes a day or two) or figure something out for myself.
Back to the eye of the hook. I was trying to trim some red dyed buck tail from around the eye. I got close but it needed more trimming and I gave up. I thought if I took a lighter t to it quickly it would burn off without damaging the fly. No such luck. All of the buck hair cought. I came up with an idea that worked when I tried again so I wanted to share. What I did was heat the bodkin and clean in and round the eye that way. If you already sealed the thread and led it dry, it won’t hurt to touch it either. In the video you can see that my hands are not shaking as bad as usual but I demonstrate what I’m talking about because it is easier for me and probably other shakers like me.
I hope you learn and enjoy:
Guess who caught his first trout of the year and first ever on a fly rod. Well if you guessed me, you’d be the April fool. I need more instruction! I had such a bad day out there. Whoever says a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work should come swimming with me in frigid water. 😬 But actually I still was glad to have time away from the house. I don’t get out much.
After I dried off this morning I tried a few other creeks. Black Creek in Esopus changed it’s name to white creek I believe. There was no way I was ready to fish those rapids. I drove by the Wallkill River and it was flooded along with the pumpkin farmer’s field. There was no use there either. I remember about ten years ago that farm got flooded during harvest and people were catching pumpkins with fishing nets. (I know that has nothing to do with my day. I just saw it as funny and sad at the same time.)
So I went back to Rondout were I was this morning. I had neoprene waders on this time and the water wasn’t nearly as cold. In fact it wasn’t bad at all. I was there about 30 minutes this time when my so called service dog Sadie decided to come in the water with me. As soon as she realized how cold it was she took off running toward the truck. I was parked on a busy road, so I got scared and called her back. She came but was shivering so bad that I had to get her into the truck and call it a day. There’s a lot of time between now and October when season ends. I’m not giving up.
It’s April 1st and here in New York that means it’s the first day of trout season. I was up at 4:30am but I didn’t make it on the road until 6:00. (I still haven’t taken my medication but my wife doesn’t read my blog. 😬) I decided to head over Minnewaska Mountain to the Rondout reservoir and creek for the day. It’s about an hour trip. When I got to the lake part of the reservoir at around 7:00 it was already shoulder to shoulder with people so I decided to go to the creek.
I parked my truck at the first pull-off and there was only one other car there. I walked down to the water and there was a nice deep pool with good flow in and out for plenty of oxygen. I decided to fish it for a while because why wade in recently thawed water if you can catch fish from the bank?
I am new to fly fishing still. I’ve been learning through Project Healing Waters as most of you know. So I didn’t know what fly to use. William from Eastern Trophies told me to use a CK Clawdad. I thought it’d be a little big since most people up here have told me to use little flies, like nymphs and small worms etc. But it would be nice to catch a big brown trout and the Rondout is known for them. I convinced myself that there were no bugs anywhere near hatching in that ice cold water so I’d try other things.
The first thing I tried was a small gold and silver streamer. I have always had luck with the classic silver and red spoon when fishing with a spinning rod so this seemed to be a good idea. After fishing it for a while with no luck, I gave in and used the clawdad. As I was bringing it in the first time, it got snagged on the bottom. I worked my way into the water to get it back and even with to layers on underneath my waders, I wished I wore the neoprene. It was deep, but I was able to get close enough to get it unsnagged and I walk back to the bank. I tried it again a few more times but then snagged again and it was too deep to retreave. I snapped my line and it was time for a new piece of tippet. I tied that on and decided to try a worm. After a while, I was moving down stream (but still casting into the same pool) I decided to try a nymph on the bottom just in case. I cast a few times into a hole near a big rock and then stepped onto the rock when I had no luck. I took about ten more casts to different parts of the pool and decided to head down stream. I carefully stepped off the rock but not as careful as I should have. Less than two hours into my fishing season and this April Fool fell in the frigid water.
One thing I did learn from it though is that the belt around your waste is necessary. I was always told so, but I saw quickly how it saved me from being weighed down. I was drenched and like a fool, I had no dry clothes. I took my jacket and heavy shirt off and got the heat going in my truck. I wringed the water out of my t-shirt the best I could and though my pants were wet, it was through wicking from my coat. The belt was on tight enough that the waders kept my lower legs and socks dry.
So I’m at home right now writing to you. This fly fishing thing is supposed to be therapy. Well so far laughing at myself has been the best medicine. I do enjoy my time in the quiet. I am going back out today after I thaw and eat something. This time I will wear the neoprene, and try not to go so deep…lol
If anyone has advice on what flies are good here in Ulster and Sullivan Counties, please share some advice to this April Fool of a vet. I’d do anything to get my first trout on a fly line today!