Header image
Enter a name
Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

Dorsal view of a Amphizoa (Amphizoidae) Beetle Larva from Sears Creek in Washington
This is the first of it's family I've seen, collected from a tiny, fishless stream in the Cascades. The three species of this genus all live in the Northwest and are predators that primarily eat stonefly nymphs Merritt R.W., Cummins, K.W., and Berg, M.B. (2019).
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Softhackle's profile picture
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Softhackle on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 3:42 pm EDT
I have been meaning to set this story down for a long time. Here it is to share, gratefully, for all your support. Thank-you all.

The Thuwunk Rock Pool

My tour of duty in Germany would be up in a month's time, and despite the fact I'd spent two years there, it did not seem like that much time had elapsed. Nevertheless, here I was facing my return to American soil, and being truthful with myself, the only things I would regret leaving were the many good friends I'd made, the very clean countrysides, the good food, and the stream I’d come to know and love over that time period.

The stream was not large, but sufficient enough to harbor native brown trout and stocked rainbows. It had become my home water, and as any fly fisherman knows, I had become attached to this one. I knew the good spots where the trout were ready to accept my offerings. I had explored much of it and had become familiar with it, and despite the fact that I'd been there two years, there were a few spots I had not yet explored.

My friend and fishing companion, Jan Patterson, and I decided we would take one last opportunity before my departure to fish together one last time. It would be a farewell ceremony of sorts to the water and to my good friend.
Jan was a fisherman, but not a fly fisherman when we first met. He was from Mississippi, and he knew how to catch fish on spinning gear and much simpler tackle like a cane pole. With some coaching and instruction from me, Jan quickly picked up the technique of fly casting. In the meanwhile again with my help, an order was placed to Herter's for a rod, reel, line and leaders to outfit my friend.

Over time, Jan developed into a first class fly fisherman that would give anyone a run for their money. His willingness to take what I'd told him to heart made him a tenacious and patient angler. I had observed him many times carefully stalking a good sized rainbow, which could easily be seen in the gin clear water of the stream. He was truly an angler of great ability, and I took pride in having brought him to the art of fly fishing.

On this last day of fishing in Germany for me, we decided on a spot we'd fished before. The soccer field run was a great place, and was often used by local boys to play “Foosball”. It was a crisp, clean day in late August. I took a deep breath. The scent of drying grasses filled the air and suddenly was overtaken by the smell of the water. Late summer flowers were in bloom, and their subtle colors dotted the stream edge.

“I'm going to fish my favorite spot, “ Jan said. “Is that okay with you?”

“ Sure! I'm going to move upstream and see some new water.. I'll meet you back here about eleven.”

“Good. Catch a few!”

“ You too!”

I made my way to the water and had a good look before lining my rod. I saw nothing working or signs of any fish. Making my way through some heavy brush, I came upon a run, and further up, a pool which was lined on either side with rocks of various sizes. To cut down on my silhouette, I got down low and crept up on the tail of the pool. As soon as I got closer, five or six large trout shot to the left and disappeared .
“Damn!” I said to myself.

I moved back downstream a bit and wait to see if the trout moved back into the pool. At this point in my life, I was a smoker, so I lit my pipe and settled back on the bank. How would I present the fly to these fish? What fly would I use? The questions mulled about my brain as I watched the smoke from my corncob waft into the gentle breeze. The sweet earthy smell of the MacBaren's Burley blend mingled with the dry grass scent and complimented each other.

I surmised that the presentation would be similar to that if I was fishing a dry fly, only my selection would be a wet. Even at that point in my fly fishing life, I was an avid wet fly man, finding it unappealing to have to cast upstream and combat the drag. Today, if I had any intention of fishing for these trout, I'd have to use a dry cast, perhaps, from the left side and slightly across. It was not going to be easy.

I was somewhat startled from my calculations by a rather audible “thuwunk”. I could not only hear it, but could feel it in the rocks I was sitting on. I leaned out slightly from my position to scan the pool. There, in the water, gliding toward the right side was one of the trout. It was a good sized native brown, and it took up a feeding position in the glide. I pulled my head back in, quickly.

I calmly puffed on my pipe, and waited. The “thuwunk” repeated after a short interval, and again, I checked the pool. As before, a nice brown glided into the right feeding lane, taking a position with the other trout, but slightly more downstream.

“There must be a wiggly rock that the fish are activating or tipping in the water that is making that sound and transmitting vibrations through the solid stone of stream and bank, “ I thought to myself. I sunk back into my hiding position.

I sat there puffing away and counting “thuwunks” till I counted five, and they stopped. I figured all the trout had now returned to their feeding positions. I would let them remain there another ten minutes or so while I selected a fly to show the fish.

I had been steeped in the Catskill tradition of dry flies from the time I had first started tying, however, my wet fly foundations were cultivated from Bergman's Trout, and Larry Koller's Taking Larger Trout. Both men were regular visitors to the Catskills, but they also enjoyed the wet fly as much as the dry. It was from their writings and wet fly examples that I had formed my ideas and pattern selection of wet flies.

There were myriads of great wet fly patterns whose names still strike a responsive chord to my ears and speak of days gone by, when men ventured into the great north woods to fish for trout. Names like McGinty, Parmachene Belle, Professor, Queen of Waters, Wickham's Fancy, and one of my favorites, The Leadwing Coachman. All have their honored place in fly fishing history, and in my history as well. It was this pattern I selected to make my first presentation.

I wet the fly on my tongue so it would sink as soon as it hit the water. I made the cast, while crouched low, up and slightly across. The light flip of the line brought the fly to a perfect position at the head of the feeding lane, but to my chagrin, the trout actually moved slightly to the right as the the fly glided down their left sides. I repeated the presentation with the same result. I let the fly swim downstream so I could lift it safely from the water.

“What next?” I thought to myself. I sat back on the rocks, contemplating my next move, when the answer hit me in the face. The air that day had been peppered with a scattering of white moths. As I had made my way to the pool, they had been fluttering about, but I'd paid them no mind, until now.

Once more, in the Bergman tradition, I put together what Ray had termed an “odd box”. This is where various odd, little used patterns were stored and carried in the fly vest. If the need arose, one might find an odd pattern to represent something other than a standard, well-known insect. As luck would have it there were two wet flies by the name of White Miller in the hodgepodge of tangled confusion. I extracted them from the mess, placing one in my fleece patch, while the other was tied to the tippet.

Again, I made the cast to the head of the pool, the fly landing in the correct line, but a bit further upstream. This time, I did not wet the fly, but let it float, a few minutes. It gradually took on water, and sank just as it reached the first trout in the run. Not wanting to forfeit the morsel to the other fish there, the fish took it.

My heart leaped, and I stood up, scattering the remaining fish in the pool, but I was connected to a wonderful wild brown, that burrowed deep, and fought valiantly. He could not win, for the sharp # 10 -3906 hook was fast into his jaw. I played him out carefully, lifting this 18” prize from the water. I admired him briefly-his golden butter color; his cranberry red spots. I removed the hook and carefully returned the golden river-god to his life giving water.

Satisfied, I glanced at my watch, it was 10:30, and I happily made my way downstream to meet up with Jan.
I trekked through the grass to the little orange Volkeswagen Beetle and sat on the front bumper. Jan soon emerged from the brush. He looked satisfied as well.

“Well?” I asked.

“ Did fine. I took two nice rainbows just below the little rock falls. You?”

I related my story, and Jan listened with full intensity, shaking his head yes as he pictured it in his mind's eye.
It was done. My tour was officially over. My time fishing in Germany was complete. I withdrew a small flask I occasionally carried with me and offered a sip of Jack Daniels to my friend. He gracefully accepted.

Before I sipped I said “ To good friends, fine fish and the chance to enjoy both!”

Jan said, “Amen.”
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
JOHNW's profile picture
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
JOHNW on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 5:37 pm EDT
Beautiful story!
and I'll second Jan's AMEN!
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
Gutcutter's profile picture

Posts: 470
Gutcutter on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 6:00 pm EDT
Glad to hear from you, Mark. A wonderful account. Any paintings of that place...
Courage and God Bless

All men who fish may in turn be divided into two parts: those who fish for trout and those who don't. Trout fishermen are a race apart: they are a dedicated crew- indolent, improvident, and quietly mad.

-Robert Traver, Trout Madness
Softhackle's profile picture
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Softhackle on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 6:19 pm EDT
I wish I had done more artwork while I was there. It was incredibly beautiful, there. This stream flowed through farmland and rather ancient forest land. When in the wooded section, one would often hear the call of a cuckoo. There was also no mosquitos, but you had to be careful of stinging nettles.

The native browns were gorgeous.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
Oldredbarn's profile picture
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Oldredbarn on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 7:25 pm EDT
Nice Mark! Where were you stationed? I'm pretty sure you have told me this before but I can't recall it. After reading Charlie Ritz and his great stories of fishing in Europe I've always wanted to fish there.

The younger boy/exchange student that lived with my wife and I during the 97/98 school year now lives in eastern Bavaria. This isn't that far away from the Traun.

That was a unique opportunity for you and it's obvious that it has left a lasting impression. After fishing in the evening and I find my way back to the vehicle those cold beers never tasted better sitting on the back of the car in the dark listening to coyotes, whip-poor-wills, owls, or a bobwhite...

Memories, eh!?

Hang in there buddy!

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Entoman's profile picture
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Entoman on Aug 16, 2011August 16th, 2011, 11:52 pm EDT
Wonderful story Mark... Brings me back to my youth when I wore out the pages of Bergman's account of meeting his first "mentor." Remember the angler who gave him the lesson in plying the wet fly successfuly in a "fished out" stream? Your description of the German streamside placed me there with you. Thanks for sharing.

Petri Heil,

"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
Softhackle's profile picture
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Softhackle on Aug 17, 2011August 17th, 2011, 6:11 am EDT
Thanks all, for the positive feedback.

I was stationed in Baumholder, in the south western part of Germany, not far from the Moselle area, where they ferment the most delicious white wines. Talk about delicious. Then of course, their beer is wonderful and fresh because almost every decent sized town has their own brewery. Unlike many American beers, the German stuff is higher in alcohol content and richly full bodied. In the spring, the black beer is tapped, and they will often mix it, half and half with on tap lager.

The food is amazingly fresh and wonderful. Fresh breads, pastries, vegetables and wonderful meats. I love good liverwurst, finding only one, here in the US that even comes close to what I'd get in Germany. Bratwurst and of course schnitzel were good as well.

Then there was the cheeses from all over Europe. The swiss was amazing, and that plus fresh bread and a glass of wine was a very basic, but incredibly satisfying meal. Mozerella, Romano cheeses imported from Italy would knock your socks off. The US gets much more of these products, now, than they did back then.

I found the people outgoing and friendly, the country beautiful, and the fishing leaving nothing to be desired.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
Falsifly's profile picture
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Falsifly on Aug 17, 2011August 17th, 2011, 6:48 am EDT
Thank you Mark, it is a welcome relief from all the technical stuff. I poured a cup of coffee and joined you in reminiscence.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
Oldredbarn's profile picture
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Oldredbarn on Aug 17, 2011August 17th, 2011, 7:23 am EDT

In 1987 Lisa and I landed in Frankfurt and spent the month of August rambling around the country. We had a rental car for the first ten days and a rail pass for the rest of the month...Near the end of our stay we made it back to Frankfurt and made day trips from there...We floated the Rhine from Mainz to Cologne and then took the train back to Frankfurt that evening and we took the train to Trier.

On this trip to Trier we probably came the closest to Baumholder. There is a Roman ruin there called the Porta Nigra and we visited the house where Karl Marx was born and lived as a child.

The area was lush and green and it was getting pretty close to the time when they harvested the grapes...

I'm a big time Pilsner fan and I loved the idea of all those mini brew houses in each town...My second night in Germany we were in Heidelberg and were going to be there for a few days and I had parked the car...We went out and I was just raving about the beer and was unaware of the alcohol level...I learned my lesson very quickly...I remember talking to a couple English girls in a bar, Lisa said I was doing Pete Townsend impersonations complete with the arm swinging mock guitar playing, she had to help me back to our room, I was singing all the way, and woke up next day and hardly remembered any of it...:)

Heidelberg was where I finally got over the jet lag and started to settle in. My use of the language felt more comfortable, and we got our bearings. I drove, by accident, on a Fussgangerzone (for pedestrians only) and lived to tell about it...I saw a sign at a parking lot that said "Frei" which I interpreted as meaning that it was "free" only to find out the word can also mean "available" (spaces available)...Oops! Crazy Americans! The parking lot attendant had to chase my car a ways down the road to explain my mistake to me...I'm just glad he didn't involve the cops!

On the google map it appears that there is a large empty, forested area near Baumholder...Was that where you fished or was that part of the military complex? It sounds to me like you made the best of your opportunity there and sampled the local fare. In Nuremberg I met a couple of US GI's there that weren't all that happy to be away from home and were negative about the whole thing...You had an experience and they did not.

I just realized that there is no fishing in this post and I should of PMed it, but hey...

I think that those of us that read your rememberence all could imagine ourselves sitting on the bank over there after a day of fishing with you, chewing on some local German sausage or cheese, and washing it all down with a stream chilled Pils...

Good stuff mister!


Koln(umlaut over the "o") is German for Cologne...Like Trier it was a Roman outpost...Actually the perimeter in northern Germany of the Roman Empire...The name of the town actually means "colony". Though it is famous for Kolner Wasser...

Also, I did finally sober up long enough to purpose to my future wife in the Black Forest town of Titisee...I don't want you boys reading too much in to the name of that town ;) but they do make jokes about it there and I sent a wondefully funny postcard back to the boys in the driver's room of the Detroit Free Press back in Detroit from there...Just for the record "See" is German for sea or lake and there was a beautiful one there which served nicely as a romantic backdrop and helped this hapless kid from the Motorcity convince my sweetheart that maybe I wasn't all that bad...:)
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Softhackle's profile picture
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Softhackle on Aug 17, 2011August 17th, 2011, 8:10 am EDT
It's all what you make of it. I was lucky. I could have easily ended up in a firefight in Nam. My wife joined me in Germany. We were newlyweds, only just married in August. My wife joined me in December, just before Christmas. We lived in a two room apartment, sharing the upstairs bath with our German landlords, who we got to know very well and shared a lot of time with. Every night the landlady joined us for coffee and some sort of cake or pie.

I was determined to live a somewhat normal life, even though I was subject to my duties at any time of the day or night. We went to the movies a lot, went bowling, and enjoyed playing cards. I had my rods, reels, and tackle as well as my fly tying stuff sent to me from home. We made military friends as well. My fishing companion, Jan, was one. He too, was married, and we spent time with them.

The stream was controlled by the American rod and gun club in Baumholder. Besides the fishing license, one needed a day permit to fish the water. This was purchased at the club for a very modest amount. The stream was stocked with rainbows of decent size, but the browns were all native. I don't recall which direction we traveled to get to the water.

I was impressed by how clean everything was. There was no litter about and the forest-meister was always around making sure things were as they should be.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html

Quick Reply

Related Discussions

Last Reply
Oct 31, 2015
by Martinlf
Apr 12, 2012
by Entoman
Mar 24, 2008
by Wbranch
Troutnut.com is copyright © 2004-2023 (email Jason). privacy policy