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Welcome to the fourth 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. Discounted pre-release information is posted below.
Today’s author is Ken McCoy, a native Coloradoan and part-time fly fishing guide based out of Estes Park, CO. When not writing, guiding, or fly fishing McCoy chases bytes and bits in the IT world.
You can connect with Ken at his website HERE.
Ken’s essay in the anthology is titled With A Perfect Drift
1) Tell us about you first fly fishing rod and where you used it.
Growing up my grandparents lived, and actually still do, near a park in Greeley, CO. The park has a small lake, more of a pond really, that the city stocks with warm water fish. We were visiting one summer day and out of nowhere, my dad decided it was time for me to learn how to fly cast. Knowing myself, I’m sure I had been pestering him about it for months but that detail has been mysteriously purged from my memory. He reached in and pushed the seat forward in his old Ford pickup. To my surprise, he pulled out the copper brown square rod tube that I knew contained his beloved Cortland 444. My heart raced. I wasn’t even allowed to take this thing out of the tube, much less string it up and cast it. As we walked across the street to the park, adrenaline coursed through my body with anticipation. Dad, with all the patience he could muster, walked me through simple pick-ups and lay-downs, using the water in front to load my rod. It wasn’t very pretty.
“Don’t use too much wrist.”
“Keep your elbow tight.”
“Smooth cast, abrupt stop.”
When he finally let me fling it out there, the line landed in a somewhat straight lined with the Adams floating neatly on the water. I was tickled. And then, to both of our surprise, a fish rose and took the fly. I was hysterical. My dad couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure if he was pissed or just dumbstruck at the thought of catching a fish on my first cast ever. It was a perch, or a blue gill or some other flat warm water fish with pokey top fins. Whatever it was, it was tiny and I couldn’t have been prouder.
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?
I’ve tried this before and it never works. I don’t have the will power to sit beside a body of water that is known to hold fish without digging out my rod. Uninterrupted silence on the water only means I should be fishing subsurface; maybe even strip a steamer through the water around some sunken structure. Activity on the surface is an obvious sign that a hatch is on or, at the very least, an emerger stuck in the film would produce a fish or two. Fact is, I’m a sucker for water and if I have to choose between writing and fishing…where’s my rod?
3. Do you have a favorite fly and/or a favorite writing pen (or place to write)? Tell us about it/them.
My new favorite fly is Mayer’s Mini Leech. Just recently I fished within city limits for my first “ubran” fishing trip. The destination was the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins. The week before I had been at a fly fishing show where I got to talking with fly tying master, Rick Takahashi. Rick told me about a spot in town that he loves to fish. At the same show, I sat in on a presentation by Landon Mayer. One of his talking points was his mini leech pattern. Before heading out to fish, I tied a couple of the leeches and figured it would be fun to give them a try. It crushed! The pattern is only about an inch and a half in total length so it obviously imitates a much smaller leech. I dead drifted it and got strikes. I used the strip and give techniques and got strikes. I even stripped it upstream like you might fish a sculpin pattern and still got strikes. Here’s to it producing the same results between now and runoff.
4. Every fly fisherman/woman has a favorite fishing story (other than the one in the book.) Tell us yours (succinctly as possible.)
One of my favorite stories to tell, even though I’ve never written it down, is about the 87-year-old man from Chicago, named Henry that I guided last year. He and his wife take their grandson on a trip of his choice every summer. This year the grandson had decided on Estes Park so that he could do some fly fishing and experience the grandeur that only Rocky Mountain National Park can offer. Plans were made, a cabin was rented, and everything was in place for a memorable vacation. Just weeks before their departure, Henry’s wife died unexpectedly. Although extremely difficult I’m sure, the decision was made to continue with the trip, assuming that’s what his wife would have wanted for their grandson. I met them both at the shop that morning and we departed. It appeared Henry must have suffered a stroke in years past as the range of motion on his left side was limited. As such, I opted for some easily accessible water. I had fished the same spot the day before and knew it was fishing great. The grandson had been fly fishing before so he didn’t require much instruction. Henry, on the other hand, had never picked up a fishing rod; bait casting or fly. After ample time on shore going through my normal instructional routine, we slowly waded out to a nice sandbar that I thought would be beneficial for him. Of course, the first few casts were a little clunky which we cleaned up with some reinforcement of the skills we had previously discussed. And then WHAM! Fish on! As I began my wade downstream with my net, I looked back to see a man glowing with pride and overcome by joy. Henry was beaming. With rod bent and line tight, there stood a man not stricken by a debilitating medical condition or filled with grief over the loss of a loved one. The only thing standing there in knee deep water was a fisherman. I’ll never forget Henry and hope he enjoys many more summer trips with his grandson by his side and his wife in his heart.
5. Let’s test your writing skills. Write a standard haiku about fly fishing.
Fish rises, he’s mine
Gold back, black spots, big ol’ brown
Dead drift, hook set, net
Matt’s Nymph Rig
Prince Nymph and split shot
Hot Head Soft Hackle Sow Bug
My Recipe for Happiness
Tight lines and good reads
This is all I can ask for
To give my soul peace
Frozen fingers ache
Snow falls gently to the stream
Yet ‘bows still sip bugs
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?
This is definitely the hardest question in the lot. There are so many places that I love and ever more that I have yet to visit. One of my favorite experiences was fishing for Bones near the Barrier Reef in Belize just south of Placencia. The weather is perfect, English is the primary language, the currency exchange is simple, the food was delicious and the fishing is remarkable; it’s paradise. I asked my wife to marry me there amongst the Mayan ruins. She said yes. I’d go back there in a nanosecond.
Thanks, Ken for being here today and we look forward to reading your essay With A Perfect Drift along with the other great submissions soon.
Tuesdays’s interview, 11/24/15 is with former Coast Guard Captain Thomas Conlan. Tom holds MFA and MS degrees and is an established writer with several published articles. Be sure to visit and comment, which gets you another entry for the book giveaway.
Pre-Release sale is on now. Until December 1, 2015 you can order The Water Holds No Scars: Fly Fishing Stories of Rivers & Rejuvenation for $17.95 + $4.00 shipping. That’s a savings of $7.00 off the cover price. This offer is only valid through Tulip Tree Publishing HERE.