The Dream Cast: Yellow Dun

1.  James Cecilia is a “wet-fly-only angler” who lives in upstate New York. He contacted DSCN7497 me about a mutual interest in the writings of Pennsylvania fisherman, Jim Bashline. Mr. Bashline was a fishing editor for Field & Stream, and author of Night Fishing for Trout: The Final Frontier. He had written of a locally famous fly pattern developed near Coudersport, Pennsylvania, a pattern that contributed greatly toward a rising interest in casting for sizable night trout in the first half of the twentieth century.

As Cecilia and I, among others with an interest in night fishing, have acknowledged, there is very little that’s been written and recorded about the Yellow Dun. There are stories of huge trout caught with a Yellow Dun wet fly in and near the village of Coudersport. Unfortunately, these stories from the rivertops have little in the way of detail about the artificial fly itself. As far as I can see, no one knows exactly how the fly was put together.

DSCN7488Bashline (1931-1995) had left just a brief description of this one-time local favorite: the body was constructed with “… pinkish red mohair, with traces of red and yellow. When wet, it looks like raw beef, but still retains some yellowish tones.”

About a year ago I’d made an unsuccessful bid to tie the so-called Yellow Dun and fish it after dark in Bashline’s Allegheny River. I was glad when Jamie Cecilia contacted me about his interest in recreating the pattern and having me test his flies at the rivertops. He recently mailed a group of wonderful creations and, yeah, I’m looking forward to fishing them this summer and reporting on my luck.DSCN7486

“Each fly is a dream we cast out to fool fish,” said Lee Wulff, and believe me, these new samples of the Yellow Dun, size 6, plus a Governor, size 10, tied by Mr. Cecilia, are like winter dreams around the woodstove that I cast toward a dark summer night.DSCN7503

I like this fly because there’s a sense of poetry, as well as practicality, to it. The flies came to me at an opportune moment. While recovering from a wrestling match with the flu, I put the finishing touches to a volume of poetry that I’ve been writing forever, and the flies were like a gift for this modest feeling of accomplishment. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to add the poetry title to my modified About page here at Rivertop Rambles.DSCN7493

2.  On my feet again and moving forward, I took a short hike in the neighborhood. The recent “blizzard” missed upstate New York entirely, but the sky had been overcast for days. I headed into a familiar forest off Bootleg Hollow Creek but soon found the fresh tracks of a hunter or a trapper, so I turned westward and slowly climbed a steep and slippery slope into territory new to me. It seemed like I was looking upward most of the time while climbing, noting the patterns in tree formations while the broken sky shuffled clouds across a rare blue dome.DSCN7455

I saw a couple of hawks and a deer. I listened to distant ravens and the peep of unseen kinglets near at hand. It was backyard country, but a bit of turf I hadn’t seen in more than thirty years of living here. I saw the opening sky and it was good.

3.  Isaac Asimov is an oft-quoted scientist and author who once said, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means… my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

We all know that people can be stubborn-minded and unwilling to see the world with DSCN7492open eyes. Yes, we call these people “assholes” when we’re feeling a little righteous. They present a frightening characteristic of the human race– an unfortunate trait that’s found in any nation or in any cultural group of the world, and it’s unlikely that even the finest of our poets, scientists and religious leaders are totally exempt from being anti-intellectual every now and then.

The cult of ignorance is everywhere. I see it in the redneck welfare ranchers, in the man-made climate change deniers, in the talk show radio pronouncements, in the loud and narcissistic blogger, in the politician pimping for the corporate dollar, and sometimes I can see it in myself… But the surge for truth and knowledge is equally strong, if not more powerful, provided that the will is there.DSCN7482

The surge for truth is in the poet who says, hike on, fish on, read on, live! It’s in the soldier who’s determined to survive and to explore life’s possibilities until death walks in and draws the final curtain.DSCN7452

It is in the opening sky above the summit fields. It’s there– above the place where the trees have eyes! It’s down in the valley where this life once moved so slowly. It is in the faint chips of a kinglet and a chickadee. It’s in the mind that hears great strains of classical music or the tightly structured pop song or the wildly fraying anthems of early psychedelia.

I taste it in a craft beer brewed with care at a local outlet, or in a pizza made with a dash or two of “new ingredients.”DSCN7496

I see it in a handful of trout flies, thoughtfully designed, with correctness and with beauty at their core.DSCN7474



About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to The Dream Cast: Yellow Dun

  1. Doug says:

    The Dream Cast. Awesome title for this blog. Another well crafted dream smiling down on us. I love it. Pure poetry.

  2. Brent says:

    Sometimes, when faced with daunting and pervasive cultural ignorance, all an old fly-fisherman can do is look to the sky or to the water. If others refuse to learn, we can always teach ourselves something new that was always under our noses (as in #2). Nice post!

  3. Yes, looking at something new that was there all along, makes it worth our while. Thanks Brent.

  4. loydtruss says:

    A new generation of young people is coming along that will make positive changes in this country, not for us in our lifetime but for our children and grandchildren. Your cult of ignorance is everywhere, paragraph is on point.
    Awesome wet flies, looking forward to a report. Great Post!!!

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Another wonderful post, Walt. Here’s hoping you’ve the upper hand on flu – he’s been plaguing us recently, and I’m struggling (oh so quietly!) to get him on the mat. Your dream casts forward, and positive surge certainly help lift the mood, along with the thought that the persistent strain of anti-intellectualism won’t ever get a secure grip – too many good people like yourself will see to that. And to echo the comment above, in my teaching I see lots of young people with bright ideas and sense of what is possible for their future.
    Thanks for this one, I enjoyed looking up, your quest to recreate the elusive Yellow Dun, and hearing you have a finished poetry volume – by sharing it all, you sure trump wilful cultural ignorance.

    • Your commentary is uplifting, PC, always good to hear from you. So you, too, are wrestling down the symptoms of flu? Pin him, my friend, pin him. I’ve got the upper hand and am feeling pretty good these days, got out and did some hiking and fishing today. As for looking up and seeing a silver lining in the clouds of youth today, thank you for that, and for doing your share to guide it along. Cultural ignorance be warned!

  6. I enjoy your writing.

    I too have tried to recreate the Yellow Dun, though I’ve not been all that particular about it. In my experience, fish are either on a night or they are not, and when they are not, it seems that there’s very little I can do to change their minds. However, I do keep the hope alive that there may be a pattern out there that really makes a difference. If you learn that it’s the Yellow Duns pictured above, then PLEASE let me know. I love the night game like nothing else.

    • Good to hear from you, Domenick, and that you, too, have tried to recreate the alledged wonders of this night pattern. I agree that fish seem to be either on or off the night game, and when they’re off, there’s little that makes any difference as far as catching goes. Like you, I hold to the hope that if the fly is right the night fishing can be wonderful. Beyond that, if the Yellow Dun is “on,” it would be a cool connection to the Bashline heritage as well as the traditions of the sport. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes after I put these to the test.

  7. Mark W says:

    Love those classic wets! Keep them coming, Walt

  8. Thanks Mark. Will try!

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