I made my first trip to our camp at Camp Phoenix on Memorial Day weekend of 1991. George came for his first weekend the following week. That gave me one week’s head start in discovering what fly might work on the lake at that time.
George spent much time before his trip collecting what seemed to be every trout fly commercially available in the State of Maine. He reported having shopped at the Kittery Trading Post, LL Bean, the Maine Guide Fly Shop, Van Raymond Outfitters, and the North Woods Store, just to name a few. He accumulated a vast store of flies but also a much thinner wallet by several hundred dollars.
Meantime, on my first trip I had the opportunity to meet and gather information from a camp neighbor, Maurice Thibault. Maurice was often referred to as Mo, and frequently as “the keeper of all knowledge.” He presented me with an exceeding simple, but commercially unavailable streamer pattern. Mo instructed me to fish it on a sinking line, count it down to the bottom, and retrieve it as fast as I could strip. I did until I’d caught and released so many trout it made my arms ache.
I went back to my fly vise and tied quite a collection of these things. When George showed up for the first time the next week, he asked what fly I was using and I showed him. He asked for one to try, only because none of the flies of the several hundred (thousand?) he’d purchased was like it. I gave him one to use that evening.
He beat me back to camp. As I arrived, he jumped into the bow of my boat before it ever reached shore. He jumped over all the fixed thwarts between us. These thwarts were all just the right height to cause great pain on the shin if one miscalculated how high to jump; and he missed a few. Once he reached me, he pulled out his wallet and found only a single, lonely $10 bill. I assume he’d spent the rest on the great storehouse of flies he’d purchased in his tour of fly shops. He handed me the bill and indicated he wanted as many flies as that $10 would buy.
This was too much to let go. So, back at camp, I got out a baggie and stuffed it with a bare hook, a strand of body material, a wing feather, some fly tying thread, and a penny’s change. I still remember the look on his face when I presented it. I subsequently relented and presented him with several fully tied flies after getting the reaction I expected.
But still, those flies also ended up worn out or lost on the bottom. George came back wanting to buy more. That would have been too simple, so instead I set up a trivia game. For each correct answer, George would get a fly. Once he got it, he’d fish it until he lost it or it fell apart, at which point he’d come back and get a question. I began with the subject of Bob Denver’s (Gilligan in Gilligan’s Island) simply because it was the first thing that came into my head. As time went on, it expanded into other realms of 1960’s and ‘70’s trivia. It became patently obvious immediately George was distinctly unskilled in trivia. After each question, George would make the rounds of everybody at camp trying to obtain the answer to the question at hand, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him go from camp to camp trying. Eventually, most of the answers came from George’s wife, Linda.
Some of the questions I presented, which I still remember, are:
- What was the show Bob Denver acted in before his role in Gilligan’s Island? (Answer: Dobie Gillis)
- What was the name of the character Bob Denver played in Dobie Gillis? (Answer: Maynard G. Krebs)
- What four letter word invariably caused Maynard to go crazy and into convulsions? (Answer: work)
- What work of art was always featured in the opening of Dobie Gillis? (Answer: The Thinker)
- What was the name of Roy Roger’s cook? (Answer: Gabby Hayes)
- What was the name of Gabby Hayes’ mode of transportation? (Answer: Nellie Belle)
- What was the name of Sky King’s plane? (Answer: Songbird)
George unfortunately lost patience with the game in short order. Instead, He bought his son Josh a fly tying kit for Christmas.
Additional info from George
I actually had been fishing Sourdnahunk for some time, catching very few fish, when Jim relented and gave me that first fly. He told me to go across the lake to a specific spot, let the fly sink to the bottom, and retrieve it quickly.
That evening I caught 28 trout on Jim’s fly, using his method. And I’ve never looked back. Jim’s fly is still a favorite, and yes, I’ve now got my son Josh tying them! Thank you Jim!
PHOTO: My Dad, Ezra Smith, with a few Sourdnahunk Lake trout.