One of my older fishing pals told me that his favorite fly pattern for night angling on the home river was a Picket Pin. Another elder told me that he likes to cast the same time-honored pattern (first developed in early twentieth-century Montana) on the upper stream because it imitates the plentiful stick caddis when tied with only peacock herl and squirrel-tail for a “wing.”
I tied a few Picket Pin dry flies but they didn’t look right. Hopefully the trout like them better than my photo editor does. Other than a trout fly, a picket pin is a steel stake with a rope and swivel useful for tethering a horse. Additionally, it’s a nickname for several Western ground squirrel species that stand up on the prairie, looking like a stake, while gathering sensory data for their own survival. The Montana fly pattern took its name from the squirrels and eventually became an angling favorite across the land.
It had been a good week fly-fishing the upper stretches of the home river, rambling through some interesting hemlock woods and pasture edges in Amish country. I was fascinated by what appeared to be unusually good numbers of wild and holdover browns– much better than I found in larger, downstream sections of the river. I surmised one reason for the difference: the upstream water had sufficient shade and more than ample springs to keep it cool throughout the rainy seasons of the previous year.
The Hendrickson mayfly hatch came off each day at mid-afternoon and lasted for the better part of 90 minutes. I was lucky to observe the feeding habits of hungry trout before the local Amish families finished their work in order to fish the big pools that were new to me. I spoke to several of the pleasant farmers, young and old, and they were eager to fill their grocery bags with trout. Where Jim K. and I had fished one pool in solitude on Tuesday afternoon, there were close to a dozen family members on Wednesday slinging earthworms as the mayflies reemerged.
I want to go back and find new holes and undercuts far from boot tracks and discarded bait containers. They’ll be found, I’m sure, and maybe I’ll report on them while keeping old Ben Franklin, scientist, diplomat and inventor, in mind.
I’ve been reading some of Franklin’s inspirational letters that reflect his multi-faceted interests and I’ve noted what’s been said of his own requirements for good writing. Everything that the good doctor wrote had to be “smooth, clear, and short.” The writing helped to keep his unusual talents focused and attractive. Like a Picket Pin on a riffle or a short stake in the ground.
[And from the picket pin of Benjamin to the horse of a different guy with identical surname, a gentle reminder that his latest is available on Amazon if you still need some tasty literary fodder…]