The Only Fly You Need
The experts' choice of almost-live ammunition
NOTHING IS MORE ELEMENTAL than Jackson, Wyoming's One-Fly contest: two days, one river, one fly. No fuss, no muss, no huge box of elk-hair whatsits, just a posse of cursing, snagged anglers floating unpredictable sections of the Snake River. Points are scored for the size of the best six fish, for additional fish caught, and for keeping your fly until
the bitter end. So take some advice from the river gods:
Carter Andrews, 1994 amateur champ, 1999 pro champ, all-time high scorer
Most Fish Caught in a Day: 169, alternating rowing and fishing with a friend near Jackson.
Flies of Choice: Andrews won in 1994 on Son of Bunny, a Double Bunny (1) variation. Last year he won fishing a Kiwi Muddler (2), a large, disheveled wet fly, the first day and a Club Sandwich (3), a grasshopper-inspired dry fly, on the second.
Secret Weapons: Andrews would taste flies if it did any good. "I'm always turning rocks over and checking the hatch." Obsession helps too. "I live to fish. When I get that rhythm of nice, even casts going, it's just very sensual," sighs the 32-year-old Bahama-based bone-fishing guide. "It's all I think about. Well, that and my
Cliff Williams, 1997 amateur winner
Most Fish Caught in a Day: "Honestly, I don't bother counting after about 30," says the 29-year-old Virginia sales rep, but he's sure he's had his best days on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho.
Fly of choice: Olive-bodied, rubber-legged Woolly Bugger (4), a streamer Williams reinforced with cement and extra wraps of copper wire.
Secret Weapon: The rubber legs. "Cuts and browns like something extra on there moving in the water. This one I made bombproof. Usually I tie one in four minutes, but this one took ten."
Walter Ungermann, 1992, '93 amateur champ
Most Fish Caught in a Day: "I've seen days with 200 big fish, striped bass, off Nantucket."
Fly of Choice: Was Double Bunny (1), until the Bunny proved so successful it was banned. Now, a foam-bodied, rubber-legged Chernobyl Ant (5).
Secret Weapons: Big fly, big 20-pound leader. "I'm not a great dry-fly fisherman," says the 59-year-old Florida charter-boat captain. "A heavy tippet will help keep your fly on—you can tug it free of snags and it won't whip around so much."
Joe Bressler, 1995 pro winner
Most Fish Caught in a Day: "I never count."
Flies of Choice: Turck's Tarantula (6), a wet or dry terrestrial attractant, and a Pheasant-Tail Bead-Head Soft-Hackle nymph resembling a mayfly.
Secret Weapon: Attitude. "I was nursing a hangover so I was pretty relaxed," says the 37-year-old Jackson guide. "I try to stay casual. If you're stressed out, you're probably going to lose your fly." —FLORENCE WILLIAMS
What Burns My Ass
Screw the Purists. It's just fishing. | ANGUS CAMERON
I'VE BEEN HERE 91 YEARS, fishing for 82 of them and fly-fishing for 67, and I still don't fully understand the fishing Purist. Maybe it's as simple as age, but Purists really burn my ass. You can always tell when you've come across one. On the surface, his manners will be impeccable, but his low opinion of you will show through every feature and word. He
will be fishing a dry fly, in a tiny size. Sometimes such Purists fish nymphs (naturally a tiny nymph paired with an upstream cast and a dead drift), but they do so staying as close in method to dry-fly fishing as they can. Once—just once—I managed to corner a Purist on Michigan's Au Sable River while I was fishing a number 14 nymph. Our Purist
had mistaken me for a fellow dry-fly man; he'd noticed that I was fishing upstream and drifting my fly down-current on a loose line, as he was. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were fishing wet," he said, enunciating "wet" as if he were using a four-letter word for human waste instead of a three-letter word of Anglish. Having tangled with his ilk
before, I took on the role of elder ichthyologist. "Yes," I admitted, "I sometimes fish right where the fish are, below the surface, where, as I'm sure you know, trout do about 80 percent of their feeding." Then I added my kicker: "When the fishing becomes too easy, I give up the dry fly."
Our Purist was shaken. He asked me, shamelessly, just which fly was my single dry fly—when I fished dry, that is. "Oh," I answered, "it really doesn't matter, but I fish a Light Cahill as much as any. I usually carry only a single pattern, whatever my choice for the day."
A single pattern? Trust me, it's enough to rattle even the purest of the Pure.
Gear: Clay Ellis