Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Trip Prep - Bennett Spring, May 2015

A few weekends back, I was out at the Schlafly Tap Room with some friends, and my buddy Patrick mentioned that in May, he and his family would be heading down to Bennett Spring for a weekend. I hadn't been to Bennett in over a year, and at that point in the night, I already had downed a few Summer Lagers, so I quite rudely invited myself on the trip. Pat was polite enough to accept my offer, especially after texting him constantly in the following weeks to make sure it was cool with his parents.

Pat comes from big fishing family. Pat's dad, Kevin, has been fishing as far back as I can remember. Pat himself landed, and had mounted, a fairly huge rainbow trout back in college, and proudly had it displayed in our dorm room. I have vague memories from childhood of walking the path around Maramec Spring with Pat and his family, and for the longest time didn't put it together that we were there so Kevin could fish. I've only been fly-fishing for a few years, and somehow have never gone fishing with Pat, so I'm very excited about this trip.

The Plan

Pat and his family are heading down to Bennett Friday during the day, and I won't be able to join them until Saturday morning. I plan on waking up early enough to leave my house at 4:00 a.m., and hightail it down to Lebanon. Google says it's two and a half hours away, so barring any freak early early morning traffic, I should make it to the park around opening bell at 6:30 a.m., hopefully earlier. It's going to take a full thermos of coffee and expert bladder control on the drive down there, but I'll manage.

I'm heading there on May 16, and am writing this post on May 6. That gives me ten solid days to tie flies, clean gear, monitor the weather, and dick around at fly shops getting the latest tips. Mike Swederska posted that he had a lot of luck last week at Bennett using a Root Beer Dry Emerger pattern. He was nice enough to post a recipe and directions as well. After a quick, and surprisingly cheap, stop at Tom Hargrove's fly shop, I was able to tie a few of these last night.

The Root Beer Emerger
Root Beer Dry Emerger
These are size #18, and are the smallest flies I've tied yet. Whereas small flies do take a steady hand and some patience, they use way less materials than larger flies. I've tied about a baker's dozen of these flies already. As with most of my flies, I tend to crowd the eye, and often when I get to the stream, can't even string them up. I've learned my lesson enough times in the wild, to where with these, I've tested and ensured that I can string each one with a 6x tippet.

The fly's body is primarily thread (size 8/0 rust brown) with a fine copper ribbing. The tail and the wing are both formed from Root Beer Krystal Flash. This stuff was pretty easy to use and reminded me of what cheerleaders' pom-poms are made out of. It also has a hackle collar, that initially gave me some trouble crowding the eye, but I eventually got the hang of it. Mike said he had a lot of luck with it later in the day when he would start seeing rings on the water. I'm hoping this fly works as well for me as it did for Mike; however, I've seen Mike tie and I'm sure his are tied a lot better. One thing I still don't understand is why this fly isn't called a Root Beer Float. Seems like a missed opportunity.

In addition to these emergers, I tied some more size #14 Royal Wulffs, only this time I was using moose body fur for the tail, rather than pheasant tail. Maybe the trip to the fly shop wasn't as cheap as I initially remembered. For whatever reason, tying these Wulffs seemed a great deal more difficult this time around. The thread kept slipping away from me, and would loosen all of the materials. It was taking me close to thirty minutes to tie a single fly. I must be out of practice.

The Royal Wulff
The Royal Wulff, with moose body fur tail.

I still have over a week before this trip, so I should have time to tie some more flies before then. I want to restock my Pheasant Tail Nymph supply, and some more of these Royal Wulffs, if I don't get frustrated and rage-quit tying them. Additionally, I've heard good things about Teeny Nymphs. I know I've tied one in the past, but I think I want to give it another crack.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to Bertaralli Cutlery. They're located on the Hill in St. Louis, right near my house, and I was able to run by there on my lunch hour today to get my tying scissors sharpened. They did a great job and it was cheap too. It's nice to know I have a good sharpening place right around the corner. It would be very optimistic of me to take my filleting knife there before the Bennett trip. If I do that, I'll probably just jinx myself.

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