Saturday, March 23, 2013


Flies undergo the worst kind of hazing.  

Every fly box has its out-of-place, ambitious, yet unproven member, and it is he who is relentlessly subjected to every hungry fish's temperament until he has proven himself and finds himself equal with his buggy peers, all because of a difference in status.

Such is the tale of The Swamp Donkey.

Photo by Matt Reilly
Anxious for spring, and in preparation for the oncoming pickerel bite that arrives as a foreshadow, I sat at my fly tying desk, occupying my mind with the task of creating a fly with the right combination of gross, creepy-crawly, creature-from-the-abyss qualities to attract Old Chainsides, but that still retained an attractive punctilious structure as to also be capable of fooling hefty smallmouth, who seem to dine with the demeanor of a fine food critic.

Just as often happens when you've no idea what the end goal is, what formed in my vice was a creation unique in my eyes.  I dubbed it Swamp Donkey (though no dubbing was used and no rabbits harmed in the process, save for the ones that offered up their hides).

One slump-busting attempt at a fish on one of Fluvanna County's reoccurring snow days yielded nothing but a few rose bush cuts and cold hands.

Photo by Matt Reilly
My next chance to initiate the fly came on a much warmer day, the third of spring.  Air temperatures were comfortably clinging to the 50s, and the water temperature too was making its way there at 51 degrees.  The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming visible, and the fish had just made the landmark decision to eat throughout the day.  Swamp Donkey was there.

Though small specimens, I managed to pull two largemouth from a local reservoir, both caught on the Swamp Donkey.  After a long winter, my confidence in this creation of mine has been established, and I, with the willing participation of all species of fish (yet hopefully greater in size), hope to experiment with the pattern in the coming season.

Tie flies with confidence, and experiment with your own patterns tailoring to your local conditions.  Send/post pictures if you've got 'em!

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