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.