Another fly in the box that caught my eye was one of my old favorites, a gopher tail. It was a simple fly with a tail made with gopher tail hair and a chenille body that could be various colors, red, black, brown, white, or yellow. Yellow bodies were my favorite. At the head was another clump of gopher tail hair and that was it.
My friend Doug and I always fished these on the east Fork of the Smith River. On summer days I would walk to his house. He would grab his rod and a box of flies. Off we would go for a day of fishing next to the town.
We always waded wet with black and white sneakers. The first step in the cold mountain water left us breathless. But soon we adjusted, or just got numb.
We gave the gopher tails lots of action by twitching the line or rod. Doug was a great fisherman and could always make the gopher tails sing.
We caught browns, rainbows, brookies, and whitefish on these creations. I have no idea what they imitated but they worked.
On our way home we would stop at the light studded truck stop café for a cold drink. With sneakers squishing water and pungent river mud we would order a tall icy glass of Coke. The first sip tasted like sparkling cold neon from a fifties time machine and we would fly home with Elvis as our wings.
One summer day I got a phone call from a man who owned a large lumber company. He asked if I would guide a friend of his who just came into town and wanted to fish.
So at the age of twelve I met my first client. He drove us to the river close to town. We put our rods together and got the fishing gear ready.
He asked me what flies were working and I gave him a couple of gopher tail yellows. We fished together for awhile and then split up.
Later that evening we met at his car. He was dazed. He had caught three eighteen inch browns on my gopher tails.
A few years ago I was driving to Bozeman and saw a fresh road kill gopher. I put on the brakes and stopped. I grabbed the gopher by the tail and gave it a brisk swing. The gopher body went flying into the bushes leaving the tail in my hand.
I had fly tying material. I had been wondering if the old gopher tail fly would work on the Madison River.
When I arrived home I tied three gopher tail yellows with a gold bead head. I put them in my fly box for my next day of fishing.
A few days later I was standing waist high in one of my favorite runs. The fishing had been great and I thought it might be a good time to try my new gopher tail.
I tied one on my leader and cast upstream and across the water twitching as it drifted. Bam! A huge rainbow flew high into the air, falling back into a watery chrome jukebox when Elvis was the king. My gopher tail from that era still worked.
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Copyright © Bern Sundell 2009. All Rights Reserved.