I’ve been sitting on this post for some time. But before I post a video about tying a certain fly with a unique special material, I figured it was time to share this.
The day after Labor Day 2013, my family said goodbye to our wonderful golden retriever, Ruby. Her departure wasn’t entirely unexpected, but her shift from “okay” to “gone” was.
The departure of a pet might not seem appropriate material for a fly-fishing blog but Ruby herself was at least a bit of a fish dog. When she was just a puppy, I remember taking her to Mormon Coulee Creek in La Crosse to acquaint her with the water. We took her to the edge of the creek where she dipped her paws, jumped in and out of the creek, and then finally made a clumsy tumble from the bank into the water and came out looking something like a wet chinese dragon.
Ruby’s first two years of life were also the two years that my wife and I lived in Coon Valley, WI. We were about a city block away from Coon Creek and regularly took Ruby for walks down by the creek. It was a wonderful small community where we could walk her through the park without a leash. She’d run ahead of us and then come back when called.
Ruby also spent a fair amount of time with me when I would go fishing. She maybe wasn’t the best fish dog ever. Instead of waiting patiently, she’d tear around the shoreline, and I’d scold her to get behind me. She’d then jump into the creek and, if the spot was deep enough, lap-swim small circles behind me. I’d yell in disgust as she would make a snack (yuck) out of cowpies in the fields that we’d walk through. The saying “happy as a pig in shit” seemed quite appropriate at those times.
She was more interested in the fly line than the fish. When I would practice casting somewhere, she would attack the line as it hit the ground, and then look with puzzlement at the ground when suddenly it would disappear as I began to cast.
Our move to South East Wisconsin, unfortunately, basically put a kaibosh on her accompanying me on my fishing trips. Though there’s plenty of river access, there’s certainly not as much public or easement-type land, and I didn’t feel comfortable having her in the river with me in the more urban setting that a lot of the river exists in.
But, Ruby always accompanied me and Josh to our trips up to the U.P. of Michigan, and was never happier than when she was in the great outdoors.
An assist from beyond
Though Ruby wasn’t the best fish dog, necessarily, she had (unbeknownst to her) helped me catch dozens of trout over the years. I once saw a goofy cartoon with a fly fisherman following his dog with a scissors, attempting to harvest some tying materials.
Apparently I took that as a challenge, because once when brushing Ruby, I pondered whether her fur would make decent dubbing. It probably wasn’t the best material to use, but her light, golden fur did have the perfect tint to mimic the freshwater shrimp (scuds) found in many of the S/W Wisconsin creeks. The “Golden Scud” has been a dynamite pattern for me, especially during warm summer days or right after a rain. I’ll be posting a video for how to tie it in the next couple of days.
Ruby had already passed away by the time I went on my trip to La Crosse for the Reel Recovery retreat. When I was with my second fishing buddy, we hit the spot on Mormon Coulee Creek where I had taken her to swim when she was just a small pup. My fishing buddy had tried to cast a fly rod before, but was far from experienced and had never fly fished for trout. I tied on a Golden Scud and he began to cast. The fly hit the water and began its drift. After a couple feet, the indicator darted under the water and my rookie fishing buddy set the hook. He landed a trout on his VERY FIRST CAST. I’m sure Ruby was there to help us that day.
Thank you Ruby. We love you and will miss you.