Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jackson Hole "One Fly"

By Josh Cooper, Jackson Hole, Wyo. September 11, 2013

Twenty-eight years of Jackson Hole One Fly competitions have produced many stories about guides saving their clients’ flies. They have jumped out of the boat to wade or swim to retrieve a fly that was stuck in vegetation. This year one shimmied up a tree to pull a snagged fly out of a limb. All to keep anglers in the competition, because once they lose their fly of the day, they’re done.

So Don Goodwin wasn’t feeling so good when he snagged a submerged tree 40 minutes into his float Saturday. His guide, Jean Bruun, ferried across the river and fought the current as Goodwin let out 100 yards of line. As they got close to the snag, the fly popped free. Goodwin was ecstatic. Until he discovered the hook had broken off. “I’m sweating at this point,” Bruun said, “because this is the only chance this guy has.” So she innovated. Bruun trimmed off some excess materials, as allowed by the strict rules. She bent down the shank into a hook shape and filed it to a point. She changed the dry fly to a strange version of a soft hackle wet one. With this Frankenfly, Goodwin pulled in a few more fish before the rest of the hook broke off, leaving only an eyelet and a few threads. “He kept the most exemplary attitude of anyone I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bruun said. “He couldn’t have been more of a gentleman about it.”

Manners aside, anglers take the competition seriously. Mark Rockefeller had the winning fly: a size-14 mayfly nymph. He had the highest single-day total Saturday with 695 points — awarded according to the sizes of fish caught. Jeff Currier had the highest two-day total with 1,191. Rockefeller’s team — the South Fork Anglers with Mike Engles, Jonathan Lancaster and Peek Garlington— won the competition over 39 others. They scored 2,805 over two days. Tim Warren was top guide. Anglers in his boat scored 1,719 in two days. Flies can’t be larger than size 6 (a measure of the size of the gap between the shank and hook).

Anglers can use glue to touch up a fly if it starts to unravel, but they can’t add material to it or retie it in any way. It is legal to unravel a fly and to take materials off. This has led to the creation of several kinds of “convertible flies” that have easily removable parts. Anglers seek every advantage, starting with their selection of a robust fly. They go to some of the valley’s top fly tiers as a start. Experts like Scott Sanchez, Will Dornan and Bruce James have developed techniques and patterns that are durable and can take repeated abuse. Their flies can cost around $20. Sometimes you can see one of these enterprising fly tiers pushing their product on the riverbank before the day begins. “It looks like a crack deal is going down,” veteran guide Scott Hocking said. “You see guys swarming around them, cash flying in every direction. It can get crazy.”

When looking at what flies have won the event in years past, there’s no discernible pattern, Hocking said. “It has gone from the smallest to the largest,” he said. “From streamers made with bunny fur to rusty spinners, size 16.” Money raised from the event goes to a number of stream-improvement projects. An auction of fly-fishing goods helps boost the take.

 The highlight this year was a rod and reel that belonged to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Australian Scott Carey bought it for $27,000. Two dozen “bombproof” flies tied by Sanchez sold for $1,000.

Weather was an issue this year, as heavy rain on Friday caused portions of the river to become muddy, making the fishing tricky. That’s all par for the course, said Sue Bashford, the One Fly’s executive director. “All in all it was a great year,” she said. “The river did blow out a little bit, but that’s fishing. The camaraderie was great to see, and everyone had a great time.”

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