Trophy Flies

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

As fishermen, and fisherwomen, we all know the urge to get that all-too-coveted photo of our latest and greatest catch. The “Grip n’ Grin.” The “Klewein.” The “Lip Grip.”  The “Lap Dance.”

Call it what you want, it’s not always possible. Whether it was because the fish wasn’t cooperative, you had too much Gink all over your hands, you left your camera at home, or you just wanted to release the fish as quickly as possible and skipped the photo-op altogether.

Sure, you’ll have the memory of that catch, or that epic day on the water, but sometimes the imagery gets lost. What I’ve been doing recently has been a great, and fun, way to remember my most memorable, and greatest, days on the water.

I don’t have a photo of every great fish, or a video documentary of every awesome day on the water. Documenting can take a lot of effort, time, and money. Things most of us would rather invest in the fishing. Instead, I’ve been saving the flies from those great catches, or those awesome days on the water. It’s just another way to glorify a great memory, and enjoy that feeling again.

Over the past few years I’ve collected flies from the most notable events in my fly fishing career. Their hook-points are buried in the shade of a lamp, made for me by my mother, which sits on my fly tying desk. It’s made from an old Knob Creek bourbon bottle. I’m a big fan. It honors milestones such as my first trout over twenty inches, the first trout I caught on a fly that I tied, and my first trophy brown trout.

image1Not only do I keep flies from single catches, but also from days and trips that are just unforgettable. There’s a fly from a day where the streamer bite was just wicked. A dry fly that took a week’s worth of abuse in Patagonia, catching who knows how many trout. The topwater fly that roasted the bass three summers ago. The single fly used on a day of perfect weather and countless bonefish to hand.

There are several more flies stuck into the burlap-lined sides of that lampshade, and I can tell you about each and every one of them, and why they have been retired. It’s become a great way for me to remember some of my good ‘ol days. They’re always in plain view, not hidden in some box shoved in the corner of a shelf. I love it when others ask about them. I love even more how all I have to do to put a smile on my face is look up from my vise every now and then, catch a glimpse of one of those flies, and I’m immediately taken back to that special time on the water.

Next time you catch that trophy bass, fish the most epic mayfly hatch ever, or spend a memorable weekend fishing with family or friends, try saving some of the flies. Aside from stories and photos, it’s a great way to memorialize the good times that you’ve had on the water.


Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “Trophy Flies

  1. I do the same thing. The roof of my car is the home for the retired flies. Same criteria that you have, Justin. First fish over 20, first fly tied by me, sex dungeon that I stuck in the a$$, etc. Always fun having them on hand on trips to the river. Brings back the memories and gets everyone excited for the day.

  2. Flies definitely do a good job of containing each story. I have several lying around that deserve a display of sorts. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were times spent listening to my great-uncle tell fish tales. Hopefully I’ll be able to pass along some epic memories after I’m old and grey, a stash of flies will definitely help out in that regard! Not to mention the constant reminder that Earth isn’t such a bad planet to live on, so long as some clean and fishy water remains! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I have done the same my first sea trout , double brownie etc and I have a fly box of all the flies that I have been given as well all the flies I have found in fish I have caught , in the water ( off the bottom and in snags ) and on the bank . . . . . some are unique patterns that local anglers have tied . . . and we all know that ” local knowledge is king ” . . . . . . 🙂

  4. Pingback: Tippets: Trophy Flies, Seven Essential Knots | MidCurrent

  5. I had an idea years ago at a hunting and fishing cabin to place a bottle of Jack Daniels ( I grew up in Lynchburg) and a shot glass on a shelf. When someone staying at the cabin shot a good whitetail buck or caught a trophy bass they would take a photo for the wall and take a shot a “trophy shot” it never happened because we drank the Jack and just never got the shelf. I think I might utilize the “trophy shot” idea when I move back to Alaska to guide on the Kenai.

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