On the fly: A dirtbag fly fisherman’s dream
Ryan Summerlin August 18, 2012
Dreams do come true for Olympic athletes, and, on occasion, even for dirtbag fly fishermen. It’s no secret that I’ve always been enamored with the history of fly fishing and, in particular, the history of fly fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley. As a dedicated fly-tier and dry-fly junkie, I’ve favored a select few fly patterns that have become my go-to flies over the years. One of my favorites is the H&L variant.In my opinion, the H&L variant is the perfect fly. Its high-visibility, white-calftail wings and tail make the fly highly visible even to the oldest of eyes. The H&L floats like a cork, even through the choppiest of whitewater, making it the ideal fly for the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers. As most fly-tiers know, peacock herl is a magical fly-tying material that trout seemingly can’t resist. Any fly that incorporates peacock herl into the pattern is a natural fish-catching machine. Think along the lines of a prince nymph, pheasant tail, royal wulff and, of course, the H&L variant. R.C. Coffman invented the H&L variant, and rumors of the fly’s success spread like wildfire, due in large part to the fly being a favorite of Dwight Eisenhower. Legend has it that the president was so fond of the fly that R.C. Coffman sold him enough H&L variants to buy a “house and lot” on the banks of the Fryingpan River near mile marker 3, hence the name of the fly.A 72-year-old fly-fishing friend of mine named Herb Seymour recently purchased “Coffman’s Corner” on the Fryingpan River and invited me to fish for the day on his property. While taking the obligatory tour of the property, Herb showed me R.C.’s famed fly-tying cabin. A small sign on the cabin reads, “If Coffman twists them, fish can’t resist them.” While stringing up my rod, I tied on a single, size 12 H&L variant. By God, if I was going to catch a fish in here I am going to catch it on the fly that was made specifically for this piece of water.Neither a fish nor a hatch was to be seen. Despite this, I casted my fly confidently into the roily pocket water on the far bank and watched it disappear as a fish exploded on my offering. Upon hooking the fish, I could immediately tell that a solid fish was on the end of my line. To the amazement of Herb and I, a fat and sassy 16-inch brown trout came to my net. I felt like a gold medal was just placed around my neck, and it was undoubtedly as religious a fly-fishing experience as I’ve ever had thanks to Herb and R.C. That day and that fish will be forever burned into my mind, and that’s what fly fishing is all about it: the memories.This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.