Came a Trout Bum

Who is Bob Sheedy? 

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Way way back in 1996, when Mac Warner asked me to join his school as a fly-fishing instructor and write up something to qualify myself to those whom I would teach, I was a bit at a loss on what to inscribe about myself.

"Write about your early days till now," he suggested.

Now I can't remember that far back, when I caught my first fish. Mother says I was 5 but I can't remember ever being 5 either for that matter. Up until talking things over with mom, I was always under the impression I was like my float tube.

It and I just always 'was'.

In the spring, just after ice out in June 1996, I was about to launch my tube for the first run at Tokaryk's Lake.  A couple of young lads arrived and began getting their tubes , waders and gear together so I stopped to look it over -- all nice and new and shiny -- stuff to truly cause envy. They looked at my ancient and scuffed Wardell's and my tube, faded by years in the elements.

 "You shouldn't leave your tube out in the sun", one of them suggested, viewing my broken-down equipment rather askance. "It fades and the fabric breaks down you know?".

Can't argue that. I've been telling Mac for years that I need a new pair of waders and I even bought new ones from him -- which I keep in a closet. I keep them for Sunday go-to-meeting occasions, but I like to wear these ones, so I can complain to everyone I meet that Mac won't give me warranty and they were, in 2005, only 19 years old. . . . . .

"Well, I store them in the garage with the float tube", I qualified, but my protest appeared even more faded so the disbelief remained on both faces. I launched and took my poverty out on 8 or ten Browns. After a while the young guys came by, having been to then,  unsuccessful, and I showed them what to use and where and how to use it . Shortly thereafter I heard the occasional triumphal roars usually associated with neophytes.
Two weeks later, at a local Fly Fishing School, one of the guys showed up as a student. We were standing around waiting for the instructors to arrive, speculating on what sort of unlearned SOBs they might be when he learned from others present that I had did a lot of fishing out in the sun -- just before he also found out I would be his SOB for the day . . . . . .

2017 marked my 64th year on the water for which I have a memory. Since then I've either taught dozens of people to fly fish or had an influence on their technique. I've developed effective lake and stream fly patterns which remained largely nameless until 2003-4 when I finally committed  my  miscreant piscatorial neuron attacks to graphics and prose in two volumes. Bob Sheedy's Lake Fly Fishing Strategies is an in-depth instructional which had to be quickly followed by Bob Sheedy's Top Fifty Stillwater Fly Patterns when loud cries of "foul" arose until the fly patterns mentioned in the instructional took on life in a pattern book. 

I have learned a little, when you consider what there is yet to learn in the Trout's World.

Lately I've  taken more to sharing it more with others, by passing it to the next generation by prose, pix and video. That way you can cash in on my experience and shorten your learning curve.


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A Brief Bio

Bob Sheedy writes " I was born near the Town of New Liskeard, Ontario in the Spring of 1946, the second son of Irish parents, one side from Armagh, Northern Ireland and the other from County Clare, so we could keep all wars in the family -- and so we did. We did agree on one thing though and from the earliest of days.

Fishing!

It is said that my family was originally transported for poaching the laird's trout and salmon.

Well, I guess!  What's your point?

Why do you think that there are so many Sheedys in Australia too? They didn't even have to pay their fare to either destination.

My folks probably trolled off the back of the Coffin ship that originally dumped them in "Lower Canada".

 I'd like to say that they fly cast to pass the time on the way over, but I know that's unlikely on a square-rigged sailing vessel so I won't touch that one. In any case, I'm certain that my ability to spend spring days along the shores of various nearby water flows and reservoirs stemmed from the classical Irish work ethic -- or rather lack of it.

I always had a problem convincing first teachers/principals and then employers that a day stolen to the water is an absolute necessity in the development and mental health of a young man between the ages of 8 to 95. I was not always entirely successful. Consequently the need to change careers rose often and not always of my own planning. Besides having a "Masters degree" in fly fishing, I have been a forest ranger, bush pilot, land surveyor, prospector, geophysicist, among other things to keep close to the forests, rivers and lakes. At one point in my life I specialized in ammonia absorption refrigeration which got me free transport to the realm of arctic char, until modern diesel power plants rendered me redundant. I am now forced to live on Manitoba’s flatland lakes and reservoirs where water fertility makes ten lb. trout commonplace and fly fishers rarer than truth.

Life was not, however, always this bad.

When I was 5 years old my family bought a farm 9 miles from town where we grew up. Life was idyllic back then, compared to today's standards. Greatest of all was the 'crick' that flowed through the property right behind the barn. It was a wonderful place filled with cow trails, magnificent creatures and best of all "speckled" trout.

 These fish were not big. I remember my mother's major coup of sniggling a 9.5 incher on spring evening and the admiration my younger brother had for her exploits as she launched it far back into the jackpines. We had great success using small earthworms and whiled away hours in my boyhood discovering undercut banks, logs and tangles where you could lose your tackle "without you even hardly half try".

Hooks were always at a premium so one had to be careful. In those days they came as an Mustad assortment in a sliding covered tin box. My dad and older brother usually got the best sizes for bait and my younger brother, even then a fisherman of some note, and I ended up with the odd ball sizes that no one else wanted.


One day my younger brother, Wayne, tied a couple of feathers on a oversized hook and lowered them into the creek under his favorite overhanging bank. No, he didn't catch anything, because the wing primary feathers were longer than the trout he was after, but he did manage to notify me that such a thing as fly fishing existed. I think I was seven that year. When I told Dad what he had done, verbally doubting what Wayne was doing, Dad told me that there was indeed such a thing as fly fishing and that my Mother's brother, uncle Ross, was VERY good at it.
So we continued experimenting, largely guided through articles in my older brother's American glossy magazines.

Came a time when we were visiting this nebulous Uncle who lived in North Bay, Ontario. During the visit some of the older folks vanished for a few hours and when they returned they had a basket of "Speckles" varying in length from 5 to 10 inches. Limits being what they were in those days, we all snipped heads and gutted fish and I think that's the only time in those early days that I ever had enough trout to eat at one time.
This was before TV and the Internet and Play Station  so we gathered around and listened to the men talk, which was what youth did in those days. The story came out over many an ale how Uncle Ross had nailed most of them by floating a "bug" over the water. Now, I knew that when you want to catch a trout you used a worm and so I thought did everyone else. I believe I even  said so. Uncle Ross went away and when returned he had a metal fold out box and in it were some of the most beautiful little things I had ever hope to see -- tiny colorful and delicate looking flies, some so small that I couldn't believe it. Immediately, I thought of all the rejected hooks we had stockpiled because all they ever caught were %7#7* shiners that also shared the stained waters of the Hudson Creek.


My uncle got out his vise and gave us a tying demonstration. I never knew that things could be so complicated as he talked about the flies and how they were fished. Most of the others gravitated off to Hockey Night in Canada and other things but I stayed on and listened and then he took a very small hook and wrapped a piece of string around it and showed it to me. He said that it would be just the thing to catch the brookies in the Hudson. I think he gave it to me but I don't remember ever fishing with it. Later, I undertook to tie my own and the "String Thing" remains a valid pattern found in several more ancient volumes.


Living on a farm and since my mother had numerous and multicolored Bantam roosters I had a never ending source of neck and saddle hackle, IF I could catch them. The things flew like crows and after you got them once they were worse than a eight-year-old, hook-jawed Brown. The old stick and sting on a box worked once and then lurking around in the cow stalls with sudden pouncing techniques proved only partially successful. Stealth was very important both to avoid letting my mother and brothers discover what I was up to and to catch the tiny nimble little roosters. A trip to the barn one night got me several nice neck strippings and a good hiding from my mother when barren necks may have tipped her off. I lost most of my hard-won and ill-gotten loot. After that the roosters never roosted in the barn and even following them around at sundown to locate their latest hideout proved futile. They never roosted till after dark and my mother insisted that a young mischievous boy should be in bed before then.

Curse those late summer sunsets.

I did get enough feathers to get started but I had by no means mastered the art of tying and more often than not the "fly" floated off down the stream in a perfectly true drag free float ... but with the hook still tightly knotted to my 18 lb. Dacron. I had no concept of the delivery of a fly so I got rather discouraged until I remembered the string on a hook. A carefully planned and brilliantly executed a maneuver to abscond with one of mom's spools of thread and I was in business. I'd like to say that it was a pretty fly with a perfectly tied off head but I had no head cement or shellac so it probably wasn't. It must have been segmented well enough though because the fourth or fifth time I floated it under my favorite dogwood hangover a little Brookie pounced on it and I became a real live gee-enn-u-wine fly fisherman.

Roll over, Halford

Came the day my Uncle Ross arrived to fish the "mighty" Hudson one Saturday AM. He never caught anything, because he was fishing dry and the Hudson Brookies rarely rose, but I did see a fly rod and learned that you cast the line and not the fly. I made a mental note to drop the 9/16 " rusty nut from my presentation.

After a fairly good display of temper, which I found often accompanies intensely creative people (and the Irish) who find their expression through fly fishing, golf  and unprintable expletives, the company of fishers gave up with me and my brother still trying to give Uncle Ross a worm. Such were those heady days.

Later, on the lawn, he initiated me in the actual art of handling a fly rod. I was even allowed to flick the line out a couple of times and we built our own fly rods, sans reel, sans guides but quite castable for the distances required when the fly was attached to a horse hair also purloined from the tails of my Uncle Ora's team. On the summer that I turned 12 Uncle Ross reappeared and left me standing open-mouthed with a split bamboo fly rod, 3 lines, dressing and a handful of flies and some actual gut leaders. He spent the afternoon with me on the lawn and later on open stretch of the Hudson. I learned more about casting that one afternoon than I will ever watching the now-a-days famous videos from even more famous fly fishermen.

As a bonus I learned some nifty and useful new swearwords too.

I was in business, especially with the advent of monofilament about that time.

It was a heady summer. Armed with my trusty bamboo I caught trout, tied flies ( having surreptitiously pressed my fathers newly acquired Vice Grips into service as a vice). I caught bass and trout and  a good reprimand for forgetting to return the vice-grips to where dad had "left" them.

Nonetheless I learned to fling the line out a goodly distance and was completely ruined from ever amounting to anything forever after.

After 60-plus years on the water,  I am more known for falling asleep in my float tube while tubing lakes for browns, when they're available and Rainbows when they are not, 'muckfestering' along shorelines, flipping stones, examining spider webs, examining bugs and doing other mystifying research. My sanity is often called into question by those who think you catch fish in the water.

Years ago when my family moved to Manitoba I resisted mentally but relented when I saw that Montana was right nearby with its famous rivers and lakes. I could always slip down there and do some "real" fly fishing.
I got as far as the border where I discovered Lake William with its Browns and made some trips to Duck Mountains to fish for a variety of Salmonids. On the way, I ran into what we now call the Parkland here in Western Manitoba. Any fly fisherman who has fished them knows why I'm totally unknown on the Montana scene.

Only the cormorants spend more time on them.

I MAY make it to Montana (again) one of these days, but first I have a few more Shamus that don't have my hook print in their jaw.

However, I'm working on it!

 

 

 

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