The Compleat Gang Blog Series

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Submitter: Byron Johnson

Rod: Sometime in the late 1970s, I stopped to see Glenn Brackett soon after his Winston rod company moved from San Francisco to Twin Bridges, Montana. At the time, I was using a 4 weight fiberglass Fenwick rod and he asked me if I would like to try one of their new IM6 graphite rods, and after trying it, I took home a 8'3" 4 wt. blank. I have been building on Winstons ever since and now have a 7 and a 9 wt Biix for salmon and salt water fish. Just this summer I put together a Biii TH 7 wt spey rod for steelhead. I love everything about the way they feel and cast, and one of my Labrador Retrievers liked the way they feel too. He was at my feet in the boat while I was casting to cruising fish on a marl flat in B.C. and I never even noticed the pile of green graphite accumulating on the bottom of the boat until everything except the cork and reel seat on my backup rod had been reduced to green slivers! I have used blanks in the past from Loomis(GLX), Scott(G3) and various Sage models, but I seem to mostly end up waving the Winston green.

Reel: I have a small collection of Hardy reels for my trout fishing, including the Hardy LRH Lightweight pictured here. It's simple, light and back in the days when I could still hear, I loved the racket it made when a big fish went into the backing. Everyone within 200 yards looked up and knew you had a fish on a Hardy reel. Now in my deafer, less vain days, I am more likely to avoid fishing that close to anyone if possible. Don't get me wrong, I love to see people, but mostly at Blue Ribbon Flies after fishing. For bigger fish like salmon, steelhead, and the various salt water fish where you need a good drag, I mostly use Ross Gunnison reels. They are light, reliable and just recently are back on the market!

Fish: Fish have provided me 60 years of wonderful moments and taught me more about fishing than any book, article, or video ever have. I guess everyone has their favorite fish, I especially like the rainbow. They are widely distributed, are numerous, grow to hogs, rise to dry flies (sometimes) and their awesome runs and jumps are impressive. The brown is my next favorite. When I bring one to hand, I am always amazed how each fish seems to have its own individual personality when it comes to their colors, markings, and even shape.

Water: The water, clean and cool, which is needed to support the biomass so important for the fish to thrive. As for my home water, the Missouri has been my favorite trout stream for over 30 years. Prior to that it would have been a toss up between the Bighorn and the Henry's Fork. I also love to sight fish for big trout on lakes and have many favorite ones stretching from British Columbia in the west, all the way east to Hebgen lake next to the welcoming doors of Blue Ribbon Flies in Montana.

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Tribute to Jim Elkins, submitted by Scott Zieske
Favorite Water: Railroad Ranch

Jim grew up and taught school in the Bay Area, but spent over 40 summers in West Yellowstone.

* An 8 1/2 ft. classic fiberglass rod built by Jim's close friend Ferdinand Claudio of San Francisco.
* A Hardy Lightweight Princess reel with a DT-6-F Cortland 444 line.
* An early Brodin walnut net.
* A wool Donegal Irish fishing hat which was omnipresent in Jim's wardrobe both on and off the stream
* An Orvis mesh vest from the 1980s. One of their very best discontinued designs!

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Make your own submission by emailing a photo of your favorite fishing possessions to thecompleatgang@gmail.com

Submittor: Fred Rickson, Tuscon, AZ
Home Water: Hebgen Lake

I really don't fish any "old" stuff, and even a hundred or so books collected over the years have been given to kid's fly fishing programs.  I do fish with a few 1950 or so Hardy reels, just so my nearby pals know I'm still alive from all the racket those reels make.

This is the only photo I have of my dad. He owned the largest machine/welding shop in Los Angeles in the 1930s-1940s (the Navy sent him to Guam after the war to repair various  bombed-out Pacific ship docks).  He wasn't around much when I was a kid, but this stream, above Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Mts., was where he introduced me to fly fishing, when I was 10, in 1948.  I do remember him and some pals, all dressed like this, planning for a long weekend "road trip" of maybe 50 miles to the San Gabriel Mts.  The photo is hand water-colored from the 1930s, and, from what mom said, was taken by a local photographer, because dad was so damn good on these tiny streams (note the fish slime stain on the creel).

After having fly fished for tarpon through steelhead, I am now settled 20 feet from Hebgen Lake for four months each summer, with a boat, and a long-time wife who out-fishes me all the time.  Not a bad deal at all.

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Name: Kyle Alldredge
Home River: San Gabriel River

1. Patagonia sling pack
2. Hat and sunglasses (I like amber tint, must be polarized)
3. Zelon
4. "The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly" by Howard Back and "The Longest Silence" by Thomas McGuane (I don't live too close to great trout waters so I like to arm chair travel)

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Blue Ribbon Flies Staff: John Juracek

1. A Modern Dry Fly Code by Vincent Marinaro
2. Nymph Fishing for Chalkstream Trout by G.E.M. Skues
3. Death of a River Keeper by Ernest Schwiebert

Indispensable Tackle

When it comes to the rods, reels, lines and the incidental items of fly tackle that are available, I like to think that, if forced to, I could fish just fine with any of it—whether it's from the past or present. It’s not that I don’t have favorite pieces of gear. I do, just like most anglers. But even my most treasured rods and reels I don't consider indispensable. Not in the way that certain books are. After all, there’s a myriad of fly rods out there—just give me one, I’ll get by with it. Same for reels and lines and leaders and flies. But not authors.

Authors are different. They’re unique, not interchangeable at all. At least, not the men that penned the classics. There was but one G.E.M. Skues stalking the chalkstreams of Hampshire. Only one Ernie Schwiebert compiling a countrywide list of insect emergences, among other feats. Only one Vince Marinaro, combining such a keen skill of observation with such graceful writing. I consider the books of these men to be my indispensable items of tackle—things I simply can’t, and won’t, get along without.

As an ongoing source of knowledge, angling books are in decline. I know anglers from several generations now that have never been exposed to the writings of these three authors. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read them yourself, here’s a brief rundown. George Skues was the foremost theoretician flyfishing has ever known. (And by all accounts, a magnificent practitioner, too.) So much of what we do on-stream today we owe to him, especially when it involves fishing nymphs. He wrote numerous books; I’m fond of all of them. If you have to pick just one, try Nymph Fishing for Chalkstream Trout. Vince Marinaro wrote A Modern Dry Fly Code and In the Ring of the Rise. The “Code” is a masterpiece, famous for its trenchant observations on terrestrials, but with much to say about aquatic insects also. Ernie Schwiebert is both an authority and tour de force storyteller, and it’s impossible to overstate his influence on flyfishing from the mid-1950’s through the end of the 20th century. He authored many books, and I enjoy them all. Consider Death of a Riverkeeper and Remembrances of Rivers Past for stories, and Nymphs for technical insight.

If you’re at all curious about how the sport got to where it is today, these three authors will help illuminate the path. I hope you find as much enjoyment in their writings as I have. And I look forward to hearing about your own favorite items of tackle.

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Blue Ribbon Staff: Garrett Perkins

Home River: The Madison

1. R.L. Winston LT Fly Rod 5wt

2. Simms G3 Guide Felt Wading Boots

3. Lamson Litespeed Reel

4. Simms Headwaters Hip Pack

My Winston rod was gifted to me by my father a few days before I left for Montana to work at Blue Ribbon. I wonder about his judgment now, considering the many rods he intrusted me with in my upbringing that I managed to break. I have fished with it from the Owyhee River in Oregon to Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park. This will be my third year fishing the 5wt almost exclusively. It does everything on the Madison that I need it to do and carries some sentimental value as well.

Blog Series: The Compleat Gang

Blue Ribbon Flies staff: Peter Scorzetti

Home River: The Madison in Yellowstone National Park

1. Trout by Ernest Schwiebert
2. Leonard Golden Shadow Fly Rod (F.H.)
3. Hardy L.R.H. Reel
4. Matarelli Whip Finisher
5. Fly Box of Fall Soft Hackles
6. Patagonia River Master II Vest

The Vest

It took me a few years to piece together a set of fishing gear. I started with a rod and reel, then a pair of waders,  a fly tying vise and so on. The vest was the final piece that made me feel like I had the necessary tackle to be a fly fisherman. To me it’s an iconic piece of gear. When I see one I think of  English chalkstreams, Catskill rivers, and the influential anglers that fished them (even if many of those anglers fished before the vest became popular in the 1930s). For decades vests were worn by almost every fly fisherman. Today the number of those who sport them are shrinking. To my peers— anglers in their 20s— a vest is a piece of gear from a different time. In Montana the waist pack is king, many anglers that have fished for over three decades have ditched their vests for these hip worn tackle carriers. Aaron, Bucky, Cam, Garrett and most other fisherman I know all wear a pack. But I’m loyal to my vest. Wearing it seems like an inherent part of fishing for me. Casting a fly without it secured over my shoulders feels strange. I’ve fished from Greece to the Lost Coast of California in my Patagonia River Master II. I hope to be wearing it someday in New Zealand, England and anywhere else that I’m lucky enough to fish in the future. I’ll always wear a vest because I’m used to it, but also because I think fondly of the tradition of our sport, of which I’m pleasantly reminded every time I put my vest on.