Outdoor Corner: Flying High

Lyle Johnson
Plaquemine Post South

Where might you hear the words saddle hackle, fibbets, cone heads and dubbings? You might just hear them in the Gonzales Branch of Ascension Parish Library as Darrell Crawford prepares to get one of his fly-tying classes underway.

The Gonzales resident will unpack all manner of stuff: cork, feathers, dyed bucktail of all colors, thread glue and some things I don't recognize. The class will arrive, and the range of expertise will be from seasoned veterans to novices and all points in between.

On January 11 there will be a great opportunity to take part in a fly-tying demonstration and class at the Gonzales Library on 708 South Irma Boulevard. Local fly-tying legend and avid fly fisherman, Darrel Crawford, along with a group of fellow fly-tiers will treat anyone interested in the art of fly-tying.

The lesson/demo will start at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon. One could learn to make basic bream, bass and saltwater flies and sac-a-lait jigs. There is no fee for this event, but you must bring your own materials.

Even if you've never tried to tie a fly or just would like to see if you would be interested, this is a very good way to spend a morning. These folks love to pass their skills along to all interested parties and you'll have a good time participating or just watching.

Crawford comes to class with the poppers already made up with a pre-shaped cork and hook glued in and sized according to the cork he chooses. This is determined by the size fish he's planning to catch. The heads get painted beforehand, and the colors chosen usually match the hatch--the insects, minnows, and even small frogs that might fool the fish.

Next comes the actual tying. A base thread will be glued on with the hook. Next comes the floss, which looks like thread. The skirt will usually be made of saddle hackle (feather from a chicken's back), comes next. Then feathers or hair will be tied on to make the finished product.

Crawford's saga began when he was 13 years old, commissioned by his grandfather, Ralph Quave to paddle him around as he caught many bream with his fly rod and favorite popping bug. It was a fly, painted white and black with white rubber legs. The paint used back then was very hard so the bait had lasted over two years and caught hundreds of bream.

Crawford's grandfather used the excuse that he'd gotten tired and handed the fly rod to Darrell and said, "Give it a try, son."

After a couple of hours casting into tree limbs, tree trunks, stumps, and even catching a few fish, the favorite bait was decimated from the abuse. Grandpa never said anything but Crawford felt really bad. The venerable bait was gone, never to be used again.

Like any grandson worth his sale, young Crawford knew the bait had to be replaced. Having no money of his own, he found an old broom stick and carved a head, installed a hook, and tied on some stuff along with rubber legs and finished it off with some white paint.

Darrell was really proud of his creation but his grandpa just chuckled, "Son, you'll never catch a fish with that!" The next trip the pair went on, Crawford got his chance. After casting for a while with no action a few of the bream struck the bait and eventually the first fish was caught on the homemade fly.

After landing several more fish, Grandpa took over to see if the bait was a fluke. He added a few more fish to the bait's tally and a fly-tying phenom was born. Crawford went home and carved up that broom stick to make more popping bugs until he discovered he could buy fly-tying materials from a catalog.

Crawford's children were home-schooled and were looking for some extracurricular instruction time of some sort. He came up with the idea of tying flies, and the group's other parents loved the idea. So, in the early 90's Crawford's teaching the art of tying flies was birthed.

His hobby started 54 years ago, and Darrell Crawford has taught many a fly-fishing angler how to tie a fly. This year Crawford has decided to hang the teaching hat up so there will only be three opportunities to experience the art of his craftsmanship.

On January 11, February 15, and March 14, Crawford will be at the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Even if you don't plan to ever tie a fly, a trip to one of the classes will be worth your while. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel, Quail & Rabbit Season: Through-Feb. 29, open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 8 and possession limit 24.

Duck Seasons: Through Jan. 26, East Waterfowl Zone. Dec. 21-Jan. 19, Coastal Waterfowl Zone. 21-Jan. 26, West Waterfowl Zone.

Open Recreational Offshore Fishing Seasons: Red snapper weekends only, including Monday, Nov.11 (Veterans Day) until further notice; and, all groupers except closed for the take of goliath & Nassau groupers in state/federal waters.

Fly-Tying Demonstration: Jan 11 @ Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.; Darrell Crawford instructor bring your own materials.

Fishing for Tucker Bass Classic: Feb 1 held out of Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Entry fee $100 per two angler team. $2000 first place payout based on 100 boats. All info on www.fishingfortucker.com or call Ryan Lavigne @ 225-921-9332.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net