I like three.
Three types. Three colors or three sizes. That provides enough variety I feel like I can handle whatever situation I might encounter. But my rule of three tends to be when I have figured something out. The less I know, the more I wanted to be prepared, but the more overwhelmed I become.
In this case, I have 16. Some with two colors, but most with one, so the numbers are off. It’s not that I am obsessive or meticulous, but those neat, tidy multiples of three tend to be the aim and reflect my level of confidence.
Many anglers knew exactly what I meant by the ninth word of this column — how to prepare for a fishing trip — and also understand what happens when heading to new water when the internet becomes an inadequate replacement for wading-boots-on-ground experience.
From my five fly boxes I started to pick out salmon and steelhead flies that look like they would be effective on the trip to the Kenai Peninsula with my wife for our honeymoon. I had a few flies in mostly pink and felt woefully under-armed. I was starting to compile a wish list to order from the fly shop in Juneau, when a package arrived shortly after a text message from a friend saying I should open the gift upon arrival. Being that I am typically not good with patience or self-control, I happily complied and found eight fly patterns with between two and four color schemes, totaling 24 total flies, in a brand new fly box. Under that box was another with 24 more.
Two boxes, 48 flies, which added to my previously assembled arsenal, brought me to 73 total flies in four boxes that will make the trip.
I have flies with barbell eyes, jig heads, cone heads, bead heads and no heads. I have flies with stinger hooks that trail and long-shanked salmon hooks that don’t. I have red, pink, salmon, fuchsia, cerise, purple, orange, flesh, green, olive, chartreuse, white and black flies made of feathers, chenille, hackle, marabou, flashabou and silicone.
So, it sure won’t be that I don’t have the correct fly when my wife and I wader-up and lob casts toward king salmon in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The problem still is that how a fly is fished, is often more important than what fly is fished. I could give each fly 10 casts and not get so much as a hit if I am not making the right cast at the right depth in the right water. Though there will be plenty of fish around and I probably have the right fly and the right color combination, this alone has never been enough to guarantee a fish.
In fact, my over-preparedness might even be a detriment. Not that I am ungrateful my buddy, Abe, and his wife, Julie, provided Abby and me with the gift of choice. It’s that I now have even more of an opportunity to second-guess myself.
How long should I stick with a fly before I switch? If I do decide to switch, will it be the fly or the color? I have been fly fishing for well over a decade and what I have learned is that that question will remain ever-present.
So the goal will be what it always is whenever I set foot into new water – land just one good fish. There will be inevitable moments of frustration I am sure, but predictability rarely coincides with those truly special moments.
• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska, is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.