Fly Fishing with Lee Powers in Delaware
So Fly: Fooling fish with feather and fur
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As a boy, Lee Powers made his first flies by cutting bristles off a broom and occasionally clipping hair from the family cat. Today, his set-up in the family room of his Wilmington home takes up an entire table. He also owns equipment that goes with him on most fishing trips. Five years ago, in a quid pro quo on the banks of the Madison River in Montana, Powers traded a couple of dozen freshly tied flies for a skinned pheasant that a fellow fisherman had with him. Now, Powers plucks feathers from the bird to fashion some of his flies.
Whether he ties flies or not, every good fly fisherman must have at least a nodding acquaintance with entomology—the study of insects. This knowledge helps the angler “match the hatch”—select a pattern from his fly box that matches the insects present on the water he is fishing and which, hopefully, the fish are feeding on. This is one of the most satisfying aspects of the sport. “It’s like putting a puzzle together,” says O’Neill.
In addition to entomology, the sport requires a basic understanding of several other sciences, according to Dave Panichelle, whom Kahn calls one of the best anglers in the state. Says Panichelle, who has been casting flies for nearly 50 years, “You should know about ichthyology—the study of fish—as well as limnology and hydrology [sciences related to water and its movement and quality].”
Unlike most experts, however, Panichelle doesn’t carry dozens of flies with him on the stream, and he is no longer “a match-the-hatcher.”
“I was, for many years, because all the books told me I should be,” he says. “But for the past 20 years, I’ve limited myself to six flies, and I rarely fish dry flies anymore. My theory is, if you like fishing dry flies, fish dry flies. If you like catching fish, fish a nymph [a wet fly].”
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