Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Rooster in a Fly Fishing Book!

"Write what you know," my high school writing teacher told me over and over. "How can you possibly write what you don't know anything about?"

Decades later, I have an answer for her. Easy. You learn.

Case in point, fly fishing. Before I began this project I knew nothing about fly fishing beyond a pole and a creek. My misunderstandings about the sport far exceeded my knowledge. In fact, if I were to make a list of books I would write one day, fly fishing would be so far down the list I wouldn't work my way to it until I turned two hundred years old. Me and Methuselah.

Reality has a way of laughing, though. And I've laughed a lot these past few months.

To show you how much I didn't know about fly fishing, I thought it peculiar that one man submitted a picture of a rooster to include in the book.
Isn't he a dandy!
As beautiful and majestic as he is, he didn't make the final cut, so I'm posting him here, to give him his proper due. He's probably dead now anyway, a victim of circumstances. And no, it's not necessarily the elegant colorful feathers the man tying the fly is needing. It's the hackles, those neck feathers.

This fly fishing book is not a "how-to" book. It is a book of life stories of fishermen of the North Carolina county where I live, twenty-eight fly fishermen to be exact. Each man wrote his own chapter. The family of deceased fishermen wrote their chapters. Ron Beane and I complied them into a magnificent book of real life, introducing the reader to not only the sport of fly fishing, but the men behind the rod.

As I worked through the submissions I ran across several rooster references and gradually I became aware of why this rooster's picture showed up at my doorstep. From a fisherman's family:

  • We always had chickens and he kept the roosters. If he was out at work and he saw a rooster that had a pretty neck for the flies, he’d stop and try to buy it. If they’d sell it, he’d bring it home in the truck and he’d kill it, save the neck for its hackles and we’d have chicken and dumplings for supper.
Or from a fisherman himself:
  • We knew some guys who fought chickens, and several times after a “cock fight” they would bring us a dozen or two of the “losers.” We would skin the necks and dry them on boards. These necks had some of the best hackles we ever used in tying flies.
Or from another fisherman, as part of an interview I did with him, a picture I took of his hackle jar.

And his comment, that I sort of, kind of, maybe understand, but still wrote about:
  • I create a tail using the hackle off the side of a chicken feather and secure it with a second half hitch, running the string up the hook and back enough to cover the hook. 
I'm still in the process of learning about fly fishing. One thing I've learned beyond why a rooster picture was in the mix, it is possible to write what you don't know as long as the information is authentic. And in this book, YES. The information is as authentic as it gets.

I can't wait to share it with you.

Catch of the day,


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