If there was a way to make my name any better, all you would need to do is add bacon to it. Last year a fly fisherman from southeast France walked into the fly shop at the end of his yearly visit to the northwest United States, solely to fly fish, and during our fantastic conversation I discovered his name was Eric Bacon. Eric’s friend, Christian Guimonnet, was also there, offering up some of his personally tied flies that were and still are the nicest looking flies I have ever seen. I accepted as many flies as Christian was willing to offer, and gave them some of my favorite flies in exchange. They both had a flight back home to catch, but before they left I offered them a place to stay the next time they came back into the United States to fly fish.
Well one year later, after a long day of traveling and fly fishing, a muddied up jeep pulled into my driveway. A smile grew on my face when I recognized Eric Bacon behind the bug-covered windshield, and he was also smiling like he had just won the lottery.
“Erik Moncada!” He yelled in his French accent.
“Eric Bacon!” I replied, and greeted him like we had been friends our whole lives.
“Where would you like to fish tomorrow?” Eric asked as he brought in his suitcase.
“Hmm, let me think.” I said, and then mentioned his favorite river to fish when he comes to Boise.
“I was hoping you were going to say that.” Eric said with a large smile.
“What time do you want to get going?” I asked.
“Umm, what time is good for you?” Eric asked to be polite, but I knew better; if you looked up fly fishing in the dictionary you would find Eric Bacon’s name, and if I had traveled overseas to get to a fishing destination I wouldn’t want to waste any time.
“Let’s wake up at 5:00 a.m., leave by 5:30 a.m. and fish until we can’t see anymore.” I said quickly and confidently.
Eric just smiled…“I was also hoping you would say that!”
My alarm did not go off at 5:00 a.m, because it didn’t need to. I was already up and had silenced the alarm before it had a chance to chirp, and Eric was not far behind. We had packed his car with our gear the night before, so in the morning we were quick to get going.
The sun hadn’t even began to think of rising as we started our drive to the river. In the dark we were stopped at a stop sign waiting for a pair of headlights to pass, or so I thought. Eric stepped on the gas to pull out in front of the approaching headlights that were too close for comfort.
“Whoa, do you see that car?!” I yelled, as the breaklight of the car behinds us lit up.
“Oh, yes. It’s okay…” Eric said with no worry in his voice, “… I’m French.”
We sped away untouched, and I started laughing.
“Was that too close for you?” Eric asked.
“I would have waited for the car to pass.” I said, still smiling about his comment.
“Well if you do not like that, then NEVER drive with an Italian.” This made us both laugh, but Eric was not finished. “My girlfriend back in France, she is Italian.”
“Oh no!” I said, still laughing.
“But…” Eric spoke up louder “…but she knows I am kidding.”
“I’m sure.” I said back.
By the time we had reached the river we could see fish rising, and Eric’s face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.
“This is my river!” Eric said happily, and we quickly geared up and headed down to the water.
We saw fish rising before he had gotten to the water, but it was nothing compared to what came next. Tricos, and they were everywhere! The fish were rising all around, and the slurping sound of the high concentration of feeding fish sounded like a dog lapping up water in 7.1 surround sound.
“I have never, in my life, heard this many fish rising at the same time.” Eric said to me as he stood there in awe, but that only lasted for a second. The trico hatch was anticipated; Eric was ready with one of his favorite tricos, and he locked on to a rising fish just upstream.
The key to fully taking advantage of a blanket hatch is being patient enough to select one fish out of the fifty rising in front of you, key into its timing, and presenting a fly to that specific fish’s feeding lane. That was exactly what Eric did, and the fish didn’t even expect the fly to be connected to Eric’s line.
“There!” Eric yelled as he set the hook, and the fish bolted into action.
Eric was fishing with a 10 foot 3-4 weight Fishbone fly rod from Belgium, and the fish was bending every inch of it. Eric placed his palm on the reel to keep it from back-spooling on him as the fish bolted across the river.
“This is a nice fish.” He said, as he started to quickly reel in his fly line to keep the tension tight. I started to make my way over to him, and when I got close Eric had tired the fish and was just about to net it.
“This is the first picture of my trip that has me holding a fish.” Eric said, “All the rest of them are just pictures of fish.”
“Today we will get plenty of picture of you holding fish.” I said happily, and took a quick shot of Eric before he sent the fish on its way.
With the fish still rising to tricos, there was no time to waste. Selecting a single fish to cast to with every fish rising was a great problem to have, and by the looks if it, Eric was enjoying the opportunities. Fish after fish were being caught, and we wasted little time taking pictures of each one. I did find time to stop fishing and capture some video of Eric catching fish, in between catching and releasing my own fish.
The fish were porposing like dolphins in front of a boat, doing their best to eat every trico floating downstream. When we had caught the five to eight fish rising within casting distance, we moved up or out into the river to pick off the next bunch of rising fish. It was like we could do nothing wrong…that was, until the sun hit the water.
The once turbulent water created by rising trout was now a silent, placid flow of lifeless water flowing downstream.
“That is amazing, there is nothing now.” Eric said, as he looked over the water for a rising fish.
For a moment both Eric and I were staring forward at a blank canvas until a small lap of disturbed water jolted our vision upstream. It was the unmistakable sound of a rising fish, and we could see the ring it had left behind.
“They are all rising right near the bank.” Eric said, pointing upstream, past the original fish we had just seen rise. Sure enough, there were five or more fish rising just upstream, and right next to the bank.
“You go ahead.” Eric said, and went to step out of my way.
“I can fish here anytime, you go ahead.” I said quickly.
“You do not need to tell me twice!” Eric said with a smile, and pitched his fly out in the fish’s feeding lane. We could easily see Eric’s fly as it floated ever so delicately on the water, and the fish came up to eat it like clockwork.
“ERIC BACON!” I yelled in triumph.
Eric just laughed at my excitement as he fought the fish until it was tired enough to slip into his net.
“What fly is this?” I asked, remembering that Eric had changed his fly just before he made the cast.
“This is my magic fly! We call the Jacques Dauty fly because my friend, Jacques, liked to use it when he came to America to fly fish. Jacques is dead now, but I like to think he is with me when I tie on this fly. He loved this river, and so I know he would want me to catch a fish for him. It is also the fly that I use when I am not sure what the fish are eating. That is why I call it the magic fly.”
“Jacques Dauty’s magic fly…” I said, as Eric took it out of the fish’s mouth. “That is very nice of you to honor and remember your friend. Is this fish for him?”
“Yes, it is a very nice fish.” Eric said, as we both admired his fish still in his net before letting it go.
With another fish rising just upstream, Eric gestured for me to take a shot at catching it. I got into position and made a few casts with no luck. My fly was landing perfectly on the water, but the seams in the water were moving at different rates, causing my fly to get swept away. I adjusted my cast and made a few more attempts with the fish still not interested.
“You go ahead and try the magic fly.” I said, reeling in my line.
“Okay, but just a second.” Eric said, and clipped off his magic fly to readjust his leader before making his cast.
“This trout is in a spot that requires lots of small tippet…” Eric explained, “… so in order to get the right presentation, for me, I need to make a small adjustment to make it perfect.”
The magic fly was the final touch to Eric’s leader, and he got into position to make his first attempt. Eric casted and his fly landed in the feeding lane of the trout, and so did a large pile of his small 6X tippet. I would have never presented my fly directly over the head of the feeding fish, because that is a good way to spook the fish.
“No way!” I whispered, as the magic fly drifted down in front of the fish and it ate it. Eric quickly set the hook, and I stood there stunned.
“I thought the fish would spook after that tippet fell over its head.” I said.
“Well, that is why I changed it before I casted, remember? This fish was in a very difficult spot, because of all the shifting currents around it. So in order to get the perfect presentation I had to make my leader much longer with very small tippet so that I could cast over its head without spooking it. And with the longer, smaller tippet my fly would not be so easily swept away by the current.”
“Interesting, I was just manipulating my casting in order to get a good presentation on that fish, but it wasn’t working.” I said.
“Yes, but I am not a very good caster, so I have to do it this way.”
“Well it worked better than my casting.” I said, as Eric brought out his net to land the fish.
After another hero shot for Eric he sent the fish on its way, and it was my turn again. A fish rose more in the center of the river, and although we could still see rising fish near the bank, it was worth pitching a fly over to see if it would eat.
“Would you like to try my fly rod?” Eric asked.
“Sure!” I said, and Eric started manipulating the leader for this specific scenario.
This fish I was about to throw to was not rising steadily; it was coming to the surface sporadically, which meant it was not keyed onto midges. Normally I would tie on a pico spider for this kind of activity, but Eric had something else in mind.
“This is one of my favorite flies that was tied by Christian.” Eric said, taking out a green fly with a small red florescent parachute on top.
“I remember seeing this fly. Christian gave me a few when I met him last year, but it looked too good to fish.” I said.
“You have to fish it, it is a great caddis fly. Christian made this fly perfect, and I use it a lot because I can see the small red top; He said I use this fly more than anyone he knows so he named it after me… it is called the Green Bacon Caddis.” Eric told me with a smile.
“Well now I haveto fish it!” I said, and Eric handed me his fly rod.
The French Fishbone fly rod felt like what our American hybrid fly rods were striving for: the long, light-weight rod that can perform both delicate dry fly fishing along with tight-line nymphing with a simple change of leaders. In Eric’s case, he had fashioned himself a leader that required a simple tippet change to switch from nymphing to dry fly fishing in seconds, and you better believe I would get the formula from him before he headed back to France.
It took me a few false casts to get the feel for the fly rod paired with the fifteen-foot leader, but I got it. The fish had rose once more, so I knew right where I needed to place the fly.
“The Green Bacon Caddis is the type of fly that if a fish wants it, the fish will eat it on the first cast.” Eric said as I laid out the fly.
That means it’s a good searcher fly, or a fly to use when nothing is working or you don’t know what is working.”
“Damn…” I said, as my fly missed its mark. The fly was almost a foot too far downstream from the sweet spot. From my past experience, even if you are off the mark, leave the fly on the water because you never know what the fish will do. Out of the depth, both Eric and I watched the fish not only rise, but turn and charge downstream at the Green Bacon Caddis. SMACK!
“YES! The Green Bacon Caddis!” Eric yelled with his hands in the air, and I had set the hook.
“The fish went completely out of its way to eat your fly!” I said, as the fish thrashed to escape.
“It must like French food!” Eric said with a smile.
“It must.” I said back, and netted the fish to end the fight.
The fish bolted away quickly, and Eric and I took turns picking off fish until there were no more rising. The last fish in that spot was caught with Jacque’s Magic Fly, proving once again that it is a fly worth having. Eric also wanted a hero shot with a fish and his new Fishbone fly rod.
The river was dead. Not only could we not find a rising fish, but 70% of the anglers had left for the day, leaving a large portion of the river available to us. We chose a spot that had been good in the past, but was not paying off today.
“What is that fly you are tying on?” Eric asked, with a hint of wonder in his voice.
“This is a mouse.” I said, as I synched down the knot.
“The fish here eat mice?” He asked, “This I have to see…”
I sent my mouse pattern to the other side of the bank, and started working it back towards me. I quickly explained the theory of mouse fishing, when… Ka-Boom! A fish slammed my mouse, but there was no connection.
“Oh my goodness!” Eric yelled.
“I missed him!” I yelled back, but kept on fishing.
Another explosive take with no connection had me a little discouraged, because I wanted to get a picture with the fly in a fish’s mouth for Eric. Mousing was not happening for me, but it made Eric a believer in using a mouse to fly fish with.
“Never, will you ever find a mouse to fly fish with in France. Nobody will believe that the fish will actually take them.” He said.
“Well, it didn’t work so well for me today, but you can see why I tie a mouse on every once in a while. The takes are so explosive.”
“Yes, I see that now…” Eric said with a smile, and started fishing a small run that looked promising but came up empty handed.
It wasn’t until late in the evening when we started seeing fish rising again. There was a nice baetis hatch popping off, so together Eric and I were switching our patterns to determine exactly what the fish were eating. We each caught a fish or two, but all on flies that only worked once… meaning we hadn’t solved the puzzle of the hatch. Eric hooked into a fish, and after he let it go, he hooked into another one almost immediately.
“Are you still using a midge?” I asked as Eric brought in his fish.
“No, I am using the Magic Fly!”
“Of course you are!” I said happily, and remember I had one attached to the dry patch on my vest.
I clipped my fly off my line, and held up the Magic Fly to thread the tippet through the eye. The sun had dipped behind the canyon wall a while ago, and it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to see the small eye of the hook to tie it on. After an attempt or two, I finally got the fly tied on and casted out to the nearest rising fish.
Eric had already started heading to the car when I had hooked into my last fish of the day. It was hard to find the hook to take the fly out of the fish’s mouth, but I eventually unhooked the fish and slipped it out of my net.
“Sorry, but I had to catch one more fish before I left the river.” I told Eric who was almost done gearing down.
“I understand…” He said quickly, “I do that all the time. You could have stayed on the river longer if you wanted to.”
“I just needed to catch one more fish.” I said, and unclipped the Magic fly and handed it to Eric.
“Oh yes, thank you.” He said, taking his fly and securely fitting it into his fly box.
“I will be sure to leave you some Magic flies before I leave for France, but this fly…” He pointed to the one I had just taken off my fly line ”…was tied by Jacques himself before he died.”
The thought of losing the fly suddenly overwhelmed me, because I was fishing in the dark with a knot I hoped was tied correctly… If I had lost this particular fly I would have felt like crap, but lucky for me Eric had it back in his fly box.
“That’s nice.” I said, relieved I hadn’t lost the fly.
“So what are you going to fish tomorrow?” I asked, after our gear was packed up and we were heading out of the canyon.
Eric just looked over and smiled at me…“I think I will come back to hit the tricos again.”
“Sounds like a plan. I work tomorrow, but will be off for the next two days after that to fish the South Fork with you.” I said.
“That sounds good. Today was a good day, and I truly enjoy fly fishing with you.” Eric said.
“I enjoyed fly fishing with you too, and you taught me to look at dry fly fishing in a whole new way… It’s very good stuff.” I said in return, and we drove home so Eric could get to bed and do it all over again tomorrow.