Some of Charlie's personal fish tales.

The Birth of a New Fly Pattern

Fud and Little Sandy
Rock Worms, Salomon Eggs, Grasshoppers and Dean
Rocking on Rock Creek

This story is about a fine fishing buddy and the creation of a new fly pattern. The buddies name was Desmond Yorgin, some times known among his friends as Dez, Ole Dez, Dezi, or Dezaroony.

Dez loved fly fishing, was an avid dry fly man and was a well known fly tier in the Denver area. Anyone that fished Cheeseman canyon on the South Platte , any amount of time, knew who he was.  I found him to be an excellent companion and we spent many hours on the stream together.  When I knew him he was a bachelor, his dinning room table was always covered with rooster necks, boxes of hooks, pieces of various furs and all the other items that fly tiers collect. He smoked a pretty smelly pipe, really loved scotch whiskey and was also the only man that I ever knew of that could hear a fish rise. I had trouble sometimes seeing them, but sometimes ole Dez could hear them.  I know it is hard to believe, but some times he’d say, “Hey, Chuck, I heard one pop” and sure enough he would be right.

Usually upon arriving at the river, the rest of us franticly yanked on our boots, rigged up our rods and hurried up the river to bother trout. Sometimes I would take a look back. There would be Ole Dez, his rod assembled and leaning against the picnic table, his line stretched out and fly fastened in a bush.  He was patiently dressing his line, straightening his leader and puffing on that pipe. He was preparing for some serious fishing.  His preparation usually paid off. 

Dez was an excellent caster. I know because I would sometimes put my rod behind my back, stand behind him and looked over his left shoulder like an umpire calling balls and strikes   I could see his cast line and leader as well as he could.  I learned a lot this way, he didn’t mind and we talked it over as he fished.                                                

Anyway, Dez had developed a fly pattern that he was pretty darn proud of.  It was well known around Denver as Dez’s Red Ant.  The fly was dubbed orange beaver, tied with a prominent abdomen and thorax; a light dun clipped hackle between.  Definitely not fancy, in fact pretty basic.   He worked on me and everybody else to try it. I did and found it to be one of the best flies in my fly box; sizes 16, 18, and 20. Sometimes, when I remember Ole Dez, I figure if there is a trout stream where he is now he’s trying to talk St. Peter into trying a red ant.                                   

At the time this story took place, Cheeseman Canyon had become a very popular place.   No longer could we fishermen find much solitude.  The simple act of taking a leak without the risk of being accused of indecent exposure, or of being a flasher, might be a problem. So when nature called one day, I tried to be as discreet as possible and slipped into some waist high willows and lowered my waist high waders. Trying my best to look nonchalant, like maybe a bird watcher or some other nature observer, I emptied my bladder.

I figured I had handled the situation well; after all I hadn’t resorted to the old “hide behind a tree method”.  However, my smugness was short lived. As I pulled my waders back up, the pocket in front now contained more than the fly box I usually carried there.  Well as luck would have it, the box contained about a dozen Dez’s Red Ants; each totally saturated.  No harm done, I thought. Hell, no one knows about this but me. I’ll just dry them out and all is well.

It didn’t turn out to be that simple.  When the flies dried out the bright orange body and the light dun hackle was gone, both had been replaced by an ugly brown. They were no longer Dez’s Red Ants,   the question was, "What the hell were they?”

A brand new pattern had been born.   Not at the bench in a vise, but in the willows in a wader pocket. Maybe history had been made.

On the way home, at the tavern in Pine Colorado, I told my fishing buddies what had happened.  They agreed that this new pattern needed a name. We quickly ruled out Dez’ Brown Ant.  Dez heartily agreed to that.  After a beer or two some one suggested we call it the PISS ANT.   And so it was.  The new pattern had a name, not as classy as Pale Morning Dun, but a name never the less.

As far as I know no one has ever produced any more Piss Ants and they have passed into oblivion along with gut leaders and silk fly lines. If this story were to end like the ones in the old Hunting & Fishing magazine it would end with the PISS ANTS being a resounding success, saving the day on many occasions.  Alas it wasn’t so.  I found them pretty worthless with the bright orange beaver and the light dun hackle gone and replaced with drab brown.  The flies were too hard to find on the water and the trout must have classified them as inedible. And, of course, they are the final judges.

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In 1946, when I came home from what Archie Bunker referred to as “The Big One”, I went to work for the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in the huge hanger where the Akron, the Macon and the blimps were built. The lighter than air ships the navy ordered.  A unique building with a ceiling so high that it supposedly produced its own rain.  Never saw that happen.  I hired into the Jig and Fixture Department as an apprentice. A journeyman was known as an “A” man and an apprentice as a “B” man.  The typical work crew was one “A” man and two “B” men.

The “A” men were a rather cocky group who were pretty independent, usually knew their job well, and were not very worried about losing it.  The foremen had to be pretty diplomatic in dealing with them.  Some what like a basketball coach with his star players.

There was a constant bickering going on among these “A” men as to who was the best tool maker, best athlete, grouse shot, grew the biggest tomatoes, first tomatoes, largest tomatoes, had the best bird dog, you name it.  And, of course, the best fisherman.  Most of we “B” men were smart enough to stay clear of this game and just enjoyed the show.

Well, as luck would have it I became half of the crew of “A” man, William A. Miller, one of the best, who was no shrinking violet and could well hold his own in this battle of egos.

Working with Bill was an education in many ways, and the saying, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” became a truth to me.  He always seemed to get in the last word and usually it was a good one.  Once when confronted with the fact that we had made a mistake on one of three jigs, Bill’s reply was, ”Hell that’s two out of three, that’s 66 percent, Ted Williams on his best day didn’t bat 600.” The foreman just shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Bill had grown up in a small town in central Pennsylvania.  Sandy Ridge , I think.  If you look real close you can find it on the AAA road map. Population?  Over a period of time, fishing with him, I began to realize that the residents at that time might have had a slight disagreement with the state as to who really owned the fish and game there. Bill still seemed to be a bit unsure about that himself.

He was a oner. How many guys could call their wife Maude and get away with it?  She called him Fud.  How many guys bit most of the hackle off of a new fly before they tied it on?  How many guys knew how to catch trout with their hands?  The art of tickling trout is discussed in Edward Ringwood Hewitt’s book, “A Trout and Salmon Fisherman for 75 Years”, but I’m sure Bill didn’t learn how to do it there.  

Sometimes when I look at all the stuff I carry on the stream, I think back to Bill. He had an old nine foot, three piece, cane rod, a Pflueger casting reel, level E Line, hunting cap with ear flaps inside, small game coat with game pocket, hip boots and a big old fish basket.  Two fly patterns, snelled gray hackle peacock and gray hackle yellow.  Two sizes 12 and 16 with about a four inch stiff snell, so the dropper didn't tangle.  He carried them in his cap under the ear flaps.  No fly boxes.  For the way he fished that was all he needed.  Simplicity.

My schooling in the art of fooling trout on a fly began with Miller as my professor and Little Sandy Creek as the classroom.  Little Sandy was a lovely little Pennsylvania crick (seems like Bill called them cricks) that crossed Pennsylvania Route 62 at the town of Polk.  It was a great classroom.  It was pretty small for a Pennsylvania crick. Polk was pretty small for a town. When we crested the grade that led down to Polk, Bill would always say, “Polk is at the bottom of this hill, Jenks.  Don’t blink your eyes or you’ll miss it.”  We usually fished it up stream from the highway where it flowed through the grounds of a state institution of some sort.  A club in Franklin had adopted it and put in some improvements and I suppose made sure it was well stocked.  As I remember there were special rules in effect, maybe flies only.

Anyway, when God made Little Sandy he must have had Miller in mind.  It was his kind of water.  Long rod, 5 ft leader, dropper and tail fly and of course a big fish basket.  Got as close to the fish as he could.  Always bent over or on his knees, keeping as low as possible.  I’m sure he had never read about the fish’s window and how light rays bend as they pass from air to water, but he sure knew about staying low.

He knew where they were and teased them out.  Short line, rod held high, dropper dapping on top, tail fly just below the surface. He knew where the tail fly was because he could see the dropper.  With this situation he had superb control.   Sometimes it was in a spot against the bank where the drift was only two or three few feet long. He just kept popping it in there.  When they took it, they were in such a hurry to get back down they often hooked themselves.  With such a heavy terminal tackle, Bill did not seem to enjoy the uneven contest called “playing a fish”.  Unless it was a pretty large one, he just pulled ‘em on out and put ‘em in the basket.  If he was getting near his limit he would ask, "Hey Jenks, how about carrying a couple of these for me?”   If catch and release was around at that time, we were not aware of it.  

Well, after watching Bill for a few trips I began to get a few myself. He then began chastising me for “catching his pets”, which he referred to as “Little Beady Eyed Bastards”.  Of course, he was kidding.  After all, it was he that had shown me where they hung out.

Yep!  I learned a lot from Miller. One thing was a fun way to catch trout.  But, some other things too. Like how to handle work place bosses, and fellow workers, who try to get into your head and under your skin.

I now know that, although Bill was tops on his kind of water, he would have had a tough time on many other waters. Over time I began to notice that he ignored certain places. Once, when I pointed out a nice trout lying in pool with a glass like surface, he grunted, “Ya can’t catch them, Jenks,” and continued up stream.   But, on something like most of Little Sandy, I’d have to put my money on Ole Fud.

Of course all this took place many years ago. Bill checked out quite a few years back.  Lots of times when I remember him I think, Boy! I’d give a couple hundred bucks to be able to spend a few hours with Miller.  

But alas, that’s one of those things that money can’t buy.

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When I came to Denver, from Ohio in 1957, I went to work for the Martin Company who was making the Titan missile.   So most of my fishing friends were guys I met on the job.  Maybe the first was a younger Colorado native named Dean. He was a friendly easy going fellow and we quickly became good friends.

Dean’s folks had owned a cabin near the ghost town of Nighthawk, on the south fork of the South Platte River for a long time.   He had spent his summers up there during his school years, and had learned the river and surrounding area quite well. His dad and uncle had fished the river before him.  So they also knew the river quite well.  They were very highly skilled bait fisherman.

The river was a splendid trout stream and was open to the public for most of its length.  The very old Cooks sporting goods catalogs that contained stories of fishermen coming from great distances to fish this wonderful stream.  They could take the train in Denver that followed the old stage coach trail to Leadville, and get off where the North Fork came in at South Platte . There were photos of huge numbers of dead trout strung up. The men were dressed like the ones in the old Teddy Roosevelt photos, with high laced boots, jodphurs, and campaign hats. Must not have been any limit at that time.

Deans  outfit was a long glass fly rod, a closed face spinning reel called Fre Line, monofilament spinning line, split shot, and a size 12 or 14 salmon egg hook.  The preferred bait was a Crane fly larva that they called a rock worm.  At that time it was quite plentiful in the river, and could easily be collected from under the rocks for most of the summer.   Later in the year they disappeared when they went into the pupae stage and were not available.

The Fre Line reel was a closed face spinning reel made by Wright McGill.  It looked like a small red metal cereal bowl with a hole in the center of the bottom for the line to come through. The top was a plate holding the winding handle.  It worked well, and I still have mine.

The Rock Worms were odd looking things, looking like a fat grub, gray or dark green, they had a smooth skin, and kind of a tuft at one end. You had to run the hook through the tuft. If you hooked it any place else all the insides oozed out, and you were left with an empty skin. Somewhat like an empty balloon.

Late in the summer, when the Rock Worms disappeared, he switched to grasshoppers.  Not just any grasshopper, only the brown and yellow ones, and then only a certain size. About a size 14 3X long.  Personally I found it much harder to catch the dam hoppers than the fish.  Especially after the day warmed up.  Grasshoppers should be caught in the morning when they are still cool.   After the hoppers were gone it was salmon eggs until next year, when the rock worms were available again.  This was in the days when we still had a fishing season in Colorado.

I fished with Dean often in the next ten years and he was the one that first took me into Cheeseman Canyon.  Probably in 1958.      

I remember it quite well as we went in very early.  There was no moon. It was pitch dark. He went first with the flashlight. The canyon wall was really steep and Gill trail was pretty narrow in spots. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally reached the bottom and the riverbank.

I believe the reason he wanted to go so early, was that he was headed quite a ways up stream to get away from other fisherman. Also wanted to get there before the sun came over the canyon walls and hit the river.

I learned later on that it was a different river after the sun was on the water.  Many times when the sun moved up, the shadow of the canyon wall moved across the stream and the rings of the rises followed.            

As we made our way upstream Dean would shine the light in the water along the edge revealing large trout slowly moving out to the middle.  I suppose this was his way of proving to me that they were in there. It did, indeed, do that.

I spent more time watching than I did fishing that day, and it was time well spent.   The river was one beautiful series of pools and riffles, split often by huge reddish rocks that created deep blue holes beneath them.  Perfect places for those big ones we saw leaving the shallows in the morning.  

Really just being there on a nice day was enough; any success fishing was just a bonus.  Dean hooked fish, landed some, and lost some. I really don’t remember if I got any or not. It was not important.  I now knew about Cheeseman Canyon and I was very impressed with it and the water that ran through it. 

Later on a Sunday that I had gone into the canyon alone.  I was working on a nice fish I could see him well, he was actively feeding, moving from side to side, white mouth opening, but he sure wasn’t interested in what I was trying to feed him. Being that this is a game I loved to play. I stuck with him for a long time.  I had not spooked him.                                                                                        

Suddenly I sensed that I was not alone. That someone was behind me watching this little drama. When I turned, there was Dean grinning and enjoying my unsuccessful efforts.  Well I kept changing nymphs and by golly he finally took.   When I finally got the fish in hand, and removed the fly from his upper, jaw, close to his nose. I felt pretty good.   My nymphing buddies Smitty and Bob and I had our own system of grading our performance.  If the hook was in the upper jaw it was an A, If it was close to the nose, an A plus.  If it was in the lower jaw less than half way back you got a B.  If it was over half way back in the lower jaw you were asleep, a C.  In a fin or the belly, you had snagged him.  Pure luck.                                                                                      

That fish taught me a lesson that I had to learn over and over again. There are times in the canyon that you just can’t go too small.  He had made me go to a size 20 sparsely tied nymph. Just some black thread on a hook.

My friend seemed impressed. He asked, “Charlie, have you got any more of them things?” I gave him a few.  He thanked me, and went on up the river.  This was before bait was banned in the canyon.

The next morning, Monday, when I came into work he met me with a big grin and said “Hey Charlie, those things are better’n bait, aren’t they?”    He had made the change from bait to artificial nymphs without changing anything but what was on the end of his leader.   

Years later when bait was banned in the canyon, I was glad that I had helped him find a way to still fish his favorite waters and be legal.                        

Another episode that is still in my memory took place on the Gunnison at a place called Coopers Resort, a few miles west of town. At that time is was not much as resorts go, just a big meadow between the ranch house and the river where you could camp for a couple of bucks.  Just our speed.

Moving up stream I had come upon Dean fishing a nice run, and had stopped to watch him.  Maybe learn something.  He soon hooked a fish and moved down stream quite a ways to land it. While he was gone I moved into his spot and did my best to do exactly as he had done.  I was rigged up the same as him, had the same bait, as far as I could tell getting the same drift in the same lane. When he came back he okayed my intrusion into his spot, so I continued until I gave up and stepped back to watch again.  Well you know what happened, in a short time he was into another fish.  So when he went down stream again, I moved up and tried again. Same result. He then traded rigs with me, no difference.  Well I says, “To hell with it” and starts up stream. When I paused and looked back, he was into another fish.  No contest.   Dean three, Charlie zero.  I had stopped to learn something, and I sure did.                                                                              

Well!  In 1967 I left the Martin Co.  It seems like ten years was the magic number for me to work one place. They didn’t seem to notice and managed to stay in business somehow, and I was happy to move on.

I never saw Dean after that but I remember him well.  Good guy

For some thirty-five years I climbed in and out of that canyon.  At least a hundred times, maybe two hundred, I don’t know. I didn’t keep count.  If you went straight in or out near the Wigwam Club fence it was a darn good work out.  I recall, when getting to the top, puffing, taking a little break, and muttering to myself. “Well, Charlie, I don’t know about your brain, but your heart’s evidently okay.” 

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One summer about ten years ago we held our Saratoga Rod Builders get together in Livingston Mont. Our hosts were a prominent rancher named Ted Watson, and a well known likeable rod dealer named Joe Garman.  They set up a wonderful agenda for us, and I will write about that some time in the future.

That year every thing but the spring creeks were high and muddy.  The spring creeks were all booked solid and the Yellowstone was a torrent.  So the only thing we had to fish was the pond in front of Ted’s house. The pond was a fine trout fishery, and no one could complain about that. Ted who was a great host was evidently pretty important around the state had gone out of his way to arrange for four of our group to spend a day on a spring creek.  Only thing was Red Rock Creek was located in southwest Montana south of Dillon about 200 miles from Livingston.

Well, along with my very good friends, rod builders Dave Shadrick and Jon Parker from Saratoga, plus my buddy, Dez, I was selected to take advantage of this opportunity?   We were all under the assumption that we were going to a spring creek that had escaped the bad conditions around Livingston. .So we set off in high spirits with visions of some fine fishing, probably dry flies, and big finicky fish, something like Armstrong's or Depew's.

Not to be.  Upon arriving at the ranch, we found Red Rock Creek running bank full and the color of milk chocolate. Complete with an unbelievable mosquito population.  Well Dave and Jon wisely adapted to the situation.  Putting on some weighted steamers they did well.   Dave caught a hog. I don’t remember how big, but big.  But then Dave had a habit of doing that.

Dez and I were too stubborn to follow their lead so we ended up laying in the grass on our backs with our hats over our faces, defense against the dam mosquitoes, bitching about the whole deal.  All of a sudden Dez sets up and sez excitedly, “Chuck I heard one pop”  Dez could do that.  He could hear them rise.  So all of a sudden we have forgotten about the mosquitoes and are looking for the risers.

Now we had been laying on the upstream side of a ranch road that crossed the creek and on the left side of a bridge, looking up stream.   The creek came downstream a little to the left of the bridge and made a last minute turn to the right to go under it.  A fence ran along the road between it and the creek. It ran up to and fastened to the bridge abutment.                        

Now the rises that Dez had heard turned out to be a pod of fish about 30 feet up stream and along the left side of the creek.    An ideal position for us to cast.

Dez sez, “You go. Go ahead, Chuck .  You try em first.”  So I gets up against the fence and goes to work. After a few casts one takes and I immediately put a little downstream pressure on him to get him to go up stream so he has to fight the current. This works for a short while till he gets wise and shoots down stream passed me and under the bridge. Well he is a good fish and is now resting in the back water below the bridge’. The game has changed.  He just took the lead, and I’m suddenly on the wrong end of the score.   He’s got me.  My rod is back against the concrete bridge abutment .with only about two feet of the tip sticking out, and taking all the pressure.  Rods are not made to be used (or abused that way). I just don’t dare to try to pull him back up stream.   

So we just stand there until he finally gets rid of the hook that I had pinched the barb down on.   So I tips my cap to him and sez, “Nice going.   Me thinks that you’ve been down this road before.”  Anyway now it’s Dez’s turn and as he gets ready and bellies up to the fence. I tell him to hold off  for a minute while I gather about four nice sized red rocks.  Then take up a position on the downstream side of the bridge, right above the back water where the first fish had taken refuge.

I yells, “OK, Dez  If one comes down under the bridge, you let me know”. “Okay,  Chuck”. 

Well Ole Dez is a good caster and it is not long until he has one on. This fish pulls the same routine as the one I lost. Going upstream for a while.   Then Dez yells, “Here he comes, Chuck”.  “Okay, Dez”   I wait a couple of seconds, and then  Ka Chunk, a big rock right down where I think he is.  “He’s commin’ back up Chuck”   “OK, Dez.  Pretty soon.” “He’s commin’ back down, Chuck”.  “Okay, Dez”.  Again,  KaChunk.    “He’s commin’ back up, Chuck”.   “Okay, Dez”.   Well we go through this routine one more time before the fish decides he would rather fight the current upstream than the rock shower downstream.    Which is just as well because I’m almost out of rocks.

So I am standing on the bridge, and it looks like homo sapiens is back in command of the situation again.

I’m still up on the bridge watching my buddy from behind and he seems to have the situation well under control.

The fish is about ready to surrender.  But wait a minute.  All of a sudden I see that Dez had forgotten to put his wader shoulder straps over his shoulders when he got up to fish.  Said waders now had slid down around his knees. His rod is in his right hand and his left is now employed holding up his waders.   So help me this next thing is the truth.   His reel comes out of the reel seat and he now has to use his left hand to hold his reel.  Waders now go down to the ankles.  Not the best of conditions.

The fish is on the other side of the fence about three feet away.  He has given up. I wake up and hurry down from my observation post on the bridge,   “Want me to net him, Dez”?    “Hell yes Chuck, do somethin’.”    So I grab his net and start to slide under the fence feet first to net the fish.  The bank is kind of steep and the grass is slippery.   I slide down the bank, feet first, into the fish,  and he promptly  exits the scene. Well that put an end to that little fiasco.

Needless to say, Red Rock Creek was surely not much of a fishing success for Dez and I and not much of an ego trip.    The above episode was the extent of our contact with any trout.

However the night in the fishing shack kitchen with my pal, Jon Parker, is a priceless memory. Dave and Dez had gone to bed early.  Jon and I had stayed up with another two companions. His was a bottle with a label that read Black Velvet  and  I had one of  Dave’s  bottles of  Scotch , called Pigs Nose. We discussed rod tapers, rod building methods, planing versus milling, building spiral staircases, corn flakes, potato chips, and many more important subjects well into the wee hours.

In the morning I remember Jon looking at his half empty bottle and trying to figure out who had drank up so much of his Black Velvet.    I told him I didn’t think that was too much of a mystery.

The next day after, giving the gal at the ranch house $140.00 apiece and her giving us each a Red Rock Creek cap, I must admit that I wasn’t too sure  that the whole thing turned out to be a plus.  But now I realize that great memories at seventy bucks a piece are a hell of a bargain.  Besides,  how many guys that you know  have a  RED ROCK CREEK cap?

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