Early Years in an Angling Paradise
Sportfishing came to the region we will call "Trout Country" during the nineteenth century as privileged persons sought untainted waters from which to enjoy salmonid populations. Many of the sport fishers, and therefore fly fishers, were from the old world. Little record on sport-fishing in western America was kept through the nineteenth century, but anglers such as William Drummond Stewart and Sir Rose Lambart Price, sport-seeking British noblemen, related to European civilization the wonders of western trout populations. One of the first accounts of an American fly fishing western waters comes from diaries relating the mid-nineteenth century trials of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) traversing the spine of the continent. Most likely it was along the Bear or the Green river drainages in southwestern Wyoming that Wilford Woodruff is said, through Ralph Moon's research, to have written:
"I threw my fly into the water and it being the first time that I ever tried the artificial fly in America or saw it tried, I watched it float upon the water with as much interest as Franklin did his kite ... and as he received great joy when he saw the electricity descend on his kite string, so I was highly gratified when I saw the nimble trout dart at my fly hook and run away with the line."
Woodruff, an avid fisherman from Connecticut, brought his fly fishing interest to North America after acquiring it while performing missionary work in England. Later, he apparently enjoyed occasional fly fishing in Utah's Salt Lake Valley. But the hardships encountered during establishment of a Mormon pioneer society gave him little time to create flies, let alone enjoy extensive fly fishing.
By the 1860s, fly fishing came to Montana and Wyoming mainly from the backs of cavalry mounts as explorers, the US Army and those they escorted probed the Missouri River drainage. George Grant, in Grant's Riffle, offers glimpses of the writer Tamarack who tied red flannel on a hook and caught trout with a willow shaft while traveling from Utah to Montana in 1877. Later in the Missoula area, Grant writes, Tamarack tied yellow silk and goose feathers onto hooks to catch trout. But exactly when fly fishing came to Trout Country is obscure. In any case, nineteenth century fly fishers visiting Idaho, Montana and Wyoming waters mostly relied on patterns created for eastern and English waters. Accounts of some used are given in Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Grant also relates that Tamarack eventually relied on flies created for eastern waters. But who developed the first fly patterns specifically for the region and when this was done could remain forever unknown.
Trout Country has a sparse population, but an unusual number of accomplished fly tyers. Some have international acclaim, while others remain obscure. Accounts follow of some tiers from the past that are important in the TroutCountry fly tying heritage. Each has made contributions in promoting the art through such as publishing, retailing, tying technique, or education.
Mary and Don Martinez
A few Patterns