Thursday, April 14, 2016

What's in the box

I'm anxious to get out fly-fishing again, but it seems that the wind picks up to 30 mph and gusty every time I have a day off, so instead of photos from the stream I present a tour of my fly boxes. Most of my boxes are by Montana Fly Company and dressed in trout-skin graphics; as a bonus, every box is monogrammed at no extra charge. (MFC=Montana Fly Company and Mark Farrell-Churchill, a happy coincidence.)

The graphics remove the necessity of labeling boxes by category; I just associate a trout species with a type of fly. It's a somewhat arbitrary system, but only somewhat. Brown trout, for example, are highly piscivorous, so streamers go in the brown trout box. (Boxes, actually; this is my favourite category, so I have an overflow box.)

Likewise, I think of cutthroat, the trout of the mountain West, as eating a lot of grasshoppers, so terrestrials get the cutty box.

Dry flies are assigned to the brookie box (attractors on one side, imitators on the other), leaving the rainbow box for nymphs and wets.

My final box (actually a pair; I also made one for my daughter) is homemade, a nod to a classic of fly-fishing literature.

Besides, he's a bait fisherman. All those Montana boys on the West Coast sit around the bars at night and lie to each other about their frontier childhood when they were hunters, trappers, and fly fisherman. But when they come back home they don't even kiss their mothers on the front porch before they're in the back garden with a red Hills Bros. coffee can digging for angleworms.

—Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

He's going to show up with a coffee can full of worms. Red can. Hills Brothers. I'll lay a bet on it.

—film version of the same

What better place to keep worms, then—or flyweight worm imitations, at any rate—than a Hills Bros. can? My box is an Altoids tin with a recognizable bit of coffee can affixed to the lid.

(Don't think me a complete philistine for cutting up an antique coffee can. These things are so common throughout parts of the American West that a BLM archaeologist created a field guide to Hills Bros. cans as an aid to dating sites. This was a 1952-1963 specimen—too new to be authentic to the book, but still at least a decade before its publication.)

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