Winter Dreams of Fishing

Quill Gordon. Photo: Allen Landheer, Facebook post

I shoveled snow this morning, but I was thinking about fishing as I sent shovelsfull of snow on top of snowbanks created from previous similar exercises. Make no mistake; it’s still winter and my next few recreational outings will likely involve skis, not flyrods.

 Still, the days are getting noticeably longer as an additional three minutes of daylight every day makes a significant difference.

 One sure sign of a coming fishing season is the almost-annual fundraising banquet of the George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The last previous banquet was in March 2020, at the beginning of the Covid Pandemic, when the first covid-19 cases appeared in Montana. The leaders of the Trout Unlimited chapter elected to do an on-line auction last year and avoid having a super-spreader event.

 Unfortunately, the Pandemic is not over, and all signs are that it will never go away, so at some point we decide to resume life and hope that we and other people will take some precautions to limit spreading viruses to our friends and neighbors.

So, the 2022 Return of the River Rat Rendezvous will take place on Friday, March 4, at the Copper King Hotel. If you’re already on the mailing list of Trout Unlimited you have likely gotten an invitation. If not, you can check the website of the chapter at for more information or to make your reservation. Don’t delay, as in most past years the event was a sell-out.

 In addition to daydreaming about early flyfishing, I’ve started tying flies again. From a practical standpoint, I have no need to tie flies, as I’m pretty sure I will never run out during my lifetime.

 Flytying is a fascinating way to spend a winter afternoon, creating imitation bugs that hopefully some foolish trout will think is a bite of food.

I’ll note that people are always developing new fly patterns or devising some new wrinkles in some of the old standards. The last couple years, however, I’ve been dabbling in some older flies, learning to tie Catskill-type dry flies.

 The Catskill flies take us back over a century to some of the early anglers who, in effect, brought some of the classic English techniques of flyfishing to North America. Theodore Gordon (1854 – 1915) is recognized as one of the most influential of those early anglers. He studied English literature of flyfishing and corresponded with prominent English writers, such as Frederick Halford and G.E.M. Skues to learn some of their techniques. He went on to create flies intended to imitate American insects.

 One of those Catskill flies is, appropriately, the Quill Gordon.

 Those flies tend to be a bit sparse but still on the elegant side. In any event, there are several dry fly patterns that fall into that classic Catskill fly category.

Some of those flies have wings from wood duck flank feathers and I lucked into a nice collection of Woodie flank feathers following a Facebook bird hunting post from a person in Missouri who told of a fun day, collecting a limit of wood ducks. I sent him a message asking if he saved some flank feathers. He responded that he saved all of them and sent me a packet of feathers.

 A couple months ago I reported in one of my columns about taking a fall when I was out chasing pheasants on the prairies and incurring a major rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder. I’m happy to report that a couple months of therapy has helped a lot in regaining strength and function in my right arm. My doctor agrees with me that I can avoid surgery.

 Still, I’m learning some new issues, especially when it comes to holding small flytying tools in my right hand and doing dainty work. I’ve gotten around some problems by standing up for some functions—if that makes any sense.

 So, I have work to do, as I continue therapy for my injured shoulder.

 Next, I should probably take some lessons in how to fall more gracefully.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at

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