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Welcome to the third interview with the author/contributors of the soon-to-be-released anthology, The Water Holds No Scars: Fly Fishing Stories of Rivers & Rejuvenation, published by Tulip Tree Publishing, LLC.
Today’s author/interview is with Milt Mays. I met Milt at his book signing/release of Dan’s War, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We have yet to fish together, but I know I’d learn much from him, if given the chance. You can learn more about Milt at his website HERE.
Milt’s essay in the anthology is titled The Drive-In Hole.
1) Tell us about you first fly fishing rod and where you used it.
I fly fished as a kid using a spinning rod and a bubble bobber on mountain lakes with my dad. He was nearly blind, so he had to use feel and bait. I graduated to using a spinning rod with a dry fly at the end of mono on a small stream that fed the lake and had a ball. My first real fly rod was in Scotland, a rod I bought from the local Scottish sports store in a small town of Montrose, when I was stationed in Edzel, Scotland in the Navy in 1990. I wanted to go for salmon, so it was probably about an eight weight, though I’m not sure if it even had any “weight” classification. The rod was not good—heavy, noodly, had small guides—the salesman probably got me the best one I was willing to pay for with my “thrifty” attitude. After trying it for a few months I got a carbon fiber rod from Cabelas shipped to me and did better. Actually hooked a salmon on the Thurso River, a beat that Lord Thurso had given to the town for leasing to locals at eight pounds a day. It was a beautiful day, and if I hadn’t got distracted by kids playing on the side of the river, I might have actually landed the fish. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!
2. You get the chance to write (but no fishing!) near a stream or pond. Your choice: Write with uninterrupted silence wondering if there are fish nearby, or; Write with fish constantly rising, slurping, and popping the surface the entire time. Which do you choose and why?
If I got a chance to write, and not fish near a stream or pond? First I’d have to be in a wheelchair with two broken arms, so writing would be hard. But, if I could dictate on a tape recorder, I would prefer to be beside one with rising fish, writing about imaginary casts and hookups.
3. Do you have a favorite fly and/or a favorite writing pen (or place to write)? Tell us about it/them.
My favorite fly is probably a nymph I designed called the Orange Crush: a rendition of golden stone fly nymphs that populated the Big Thompson River, at least before the last flood. I won a fly tying contest with it, and probably started my way to becoming a guide on the Big Thompson River in 2006. My favorite place to write is my study—a place filled with books and a fly tying bench, family pictures, patient gifts, and Navy mementos. I started out writing using a good old black government ballpoint, click pen. Now I use a keyboard. Thank God my mother made me take typing the summer before high school.
4. Every fly fisherman/woman has a favorite fishing story (other than the one in the book.) Tell us yours (succinctly as possible.)
My favorite fly fishing story? There are a few, but one favorite is when I caught my first tarpon on a fly a few years after I retired from the Navy. A group of guys invited me to their annual trip to Carrabelle, Fl., just a three hour drive from where I lived in Gulf Breeze. I’d had a flats boat for a year and had been pounding the local waters for about eight years and thought I was ready. I learned all the special knots connecting leader to class tippet to bite tippet, tied up a bunch of flies on Owner hooks, made my own tarpon tippet stretcher, and got what I thought was a “pretty good” twelve-weight rod and reel with a “pretty good” drag, tied on 400 yards of backing. After work on Friday we drove up to the motel and had a great shrimp boil and too much beer. The guy who was to fish with me was in his seventies, and stated he didn’t want to fish for tarpon—“too big”—only be there for the adventure. I wanted him to fish, but was glad for his help. Once a tarpon is hooked you need a guy to unclip the anchor that has a buoy on the clip, start the motor and go after the tarpon, since four hundred yards of backing wasn’t enough. Once you hook a tarpon, it’s like a fire on a carrier: you have enough to do just fighting the fish. I slept little, got up at 4 AM to be at the boat dock by 5AM, to be first to “the spot.” But, I was last. And then there’s the rest of the story…Later.
5. Let’s test your writing skills. Write a standard haiku about fly fishing.
Fall fishing pulls me
toward the first light of love
and into winter.
I do love fishing
not like love of wife or kids
but we all know it.
6. Your final choice: You get to fish one place whenever you want, but only that place for the rest of your fishing days. Friends/family can come to fish with you, but you cannot fish anywhere else. Where do you fish and why?
Where would I want to fish the rest of my life, with friends and family? Right here. My family and I love it here, and I have great fishing friends. Though the fish aren’t as exciting as salt water, hurricanes, heat and humidity kill that deal. Been there, done that, got several tee shirts, and nobody wants to go back except for visits. There is nothing like Rocky Mountain National Park for beauty, nature, and so many ways to peace. In this world of craziness, we all need lots of ways to get to peace. At least I do. Fly fishing a mountain stream with a one weight and a dry fly does it for me, every darn time.
Thanks, Milt for being here today and we look forward to reading your essay The Drive-In Hole along with the other great submissions soon.
Mondays’s interview, 11/23/15 is with Colorado native and fly fishing guide Ken McCoy. Be sure to visit and comment, which gets you another entry for the book giveaway.