We finally got some much needed rain last week and with it came high, off-colored water. The temperatures also dropped to a pleasant degree so I decided to try out a local brookie stream, even though the stream conditions weren't ideal. When I fish for brookies, I like to use a dry-dropper combo as much as possible - stimulator/royal wulff/caddis with a prince/pt/hare's ear dropper. Catching brookies on a dry using a 3 wt. glass rod is quintessential fly fishing. The glass let's you really feel the fish, and it makes a 7" brookie feel like a brute. However, after fishing a few riffles and pockets where I always land a few natives without any takes on my stimulator, I went to my default fly when I'm prospecting for trout - the Greenie Weenie. I love this fly and have caught more trout on it than any other fly - because I fish it a ton and because it's highly effective. This is my ode to the fly which works for me.
There's something instinctual about how we attach ourselves like leeches on skin to the first thing that makes us feel successful. Sometimes we hang on to it too long, and other times it's worth hanging on to for as long as needed. The greenie weenie is the fly that I've grown attached to, for better or for worse, because it's made me feel like a mildly successful angler. It didn't catch me my first trout (thanks black wooly bugger!), but it has caught me the most, most consistently.
Some call it the "weenie", others the "weenershnitlz", and the more erudite (or too ashamed) refer to is as the GW Emerger. For me, I always bless it with its full stream-side name - the Greenie Weenie. And I fish it without care or any possible shame, scold, or scowl. It catches fish. I guess some may think it too close to bait fishing, but I see it as simply matching the hatch. I'll fish it with graphite, with glass, and even with bamboo. I'll fish it on my little home limestone, out on big western waters, and if I ever get the chance, I'll even fish it at some fancy New Zealand or Patagonia lodge. I'm like that dude walking down the street proudly sporting a mullet and jean jacket rocking out to Bon Jovi on his walkmen while everyone else has tight pants, tight smiles, and tight ear buds listening to some highfalutin podcast about certified humane vegan smoothies. He's his own man, and I'm my own angler. I'll strut up to any stream, tie on a greenie weenie, and start slaying them trout (respectfully and reverently, of course).
I was first introduced to the GW by my buddy Scot. He also taught me most of what I know, especially the importance of nymphing (tip - find someone to take you fly fishing if you want to learn, it's the quickest way. Then, take what they tell you and practice it over and over for a few months. You'll start landing trout. Also, buy them beer as thanks and a subscription to The Drake). I was fishing my local water, struggling to catch some freshly stocked 'bows - flinging line around, muttering some curse-word infected prayers, hoping for the best but expecting another skunking, when Scot walked in behind me. He politely asked how I was doing and I admitted my lack of action. He watched me flail around a bit and then handed me my first GW. First cast and I bring in an beast of an 8" fingerling rainbow. I was stoked, even had Scot take a trophy shot (yeah, I know...). Luckily Scot taught me a few more things and showed me a few more flies - enough for me to take out on my own and start actually feeling like an angler. But it all goes back to that Greenie Weenie. My comfort food.
Being a simple fly, there are only a few variations to it that I've come across. The most effective I've found has a nice little loop of a tail, some flashy wire wrapped around the chenille body, and a bit of red thread marking the connection between body and beadhead.
I almost always fish it as my top fly in a tandem nymphing rig. I like to think of it as an attractor, where I'll drop a prince or pheasant tail or one of the other few nymphs I fish behind it on 12-16" of tippet. I think a lot of times trout will move to investigate the GW and then see the small nymph and end up taking that (note: these theories probably originate from my buddy Scot - see above about learning from the best). I've also landed most of my largest browns when they fly out of some little crease created by rocks on rocks and fast moving water to maul the hell out of it right as it hits the water thinking it's an inchworm dropping off a branch. Match the hatch!
I also like it because at the end of my drift I can let it swing like a wet fly, making it look like some sort of caddis emerging or something (I'm barely a competent fly fishing, so take my etymology with a grain of salt). Trout will nail it then and sometimes I'll even start to lift my line off the water for another cast only to realize there's a trout there (I always try to make it look like I knew the entire time....).
What it comes down to is this - if I want to consistently catch trout when nymphing, I'll use a Greenie Weenie. It's versatile, it catches a ton of trout in all types of water, and it's effective. Maybe, someday, when I actually know what I'm doing, the weenie will quietly take a back seat to some other fly, but for now, I'll keep throwing it out there with the same unabashed enthusiasm as a kid flying down a hill for the first time on a bike without training wheels screaming at the top of his lungs.
Here's a really great, soulful medley.
I love how music can take you back to specific moments in your life. Every time I hear this song I slip back into the first time I heard it taking a lonely drive from Millinocket back into Baxter State Park after doing my weekly laundry and making my weekly phone calls on the payphone downtown to friends and family back home or scattered about.
The drive was always bittersweet for I was blessed with a not-so-subtle landscape of Kathadin and its brothers & sisters captivating my eyes while simultaneously feeling subtle pangs of loneliness. Though, that feeling never ventured into disconnect for I worked hard at sending letters and making calls on my weekly visits back into town.
Oddly, whenever I look back at that particular time in my life - living out of my pack, traveling every six or so months to a new place that would most definitely be in the middle of nowhere due to the nature of trail work, finally learning how to cook since no one was going to cook for me - I feel like I was more connected to my family and friends than I've been since. My relationships were more deliberate - laying in my tent at night writing a letter instead of sluggishly scrolling through mindless chatter and meaningless memes, taking a trip to town to find the only pay phone and dialing those 20 numbers on my calling card hoping the entire time someone will actually pick and if not, opening my tattered "address book" to find someone else to call I hadn't talk to in awhile - and therefore kept me more connected to those in my life, even if they were thousands of miles away.
I guess sometimes the further away you are from people the closer you feel.
Random Note About the Song:
This is a quintessential "Maine" song for me. Probably because of the geographical location of the son, but more importantly also the length and cadence.... it's the perfect song to drive down seemingly endless dirt roads in thick forests where you can lose yourself in a beautiful story.
"What a way to ride... ah, what a way to go..."
I stumbled upon the name "Raftman's Path" walking the river trail that traverses through the little town I live in. It was named during the days when lumber was a huge commodity in this area. The Susquehanna River was an industrial thoroughfare - bearing down loads of lumber from the northern reaches of Pennsylvania towards the Chesapeake. Marietta was a stopping point, a place for the lumber either to go to the mills lining its banks or shoot further downstream through pig iron smoke. Raftmen would guide the lumber down to the mouth of the Susquehanna into the Chesapeake - an estuary of salt, water, lumber, ore, eel and shad. When their job was done, they would walk the raftman's path back through the Susquehanna Riverlands of Lancaster County towards their homes. The path is now wooded and meanders through some of the only "wild" places left in the county.