Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XL: Throwing dry flies in winter, a December largemouth tale, and hope floats

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I realize the conventional wisdom is that fish never hit dry flies in cold weather. But is it true? I’d hate to have to wait until springKyle Bash

No, it is not true. But because the prospect of fishing dries in winter (or flies that sit atop the water, causing fish to rise) is such an important question, I am dedicating an entire column to it. This is a column milestone, of sorts, in that it’s the first question for which that has ever happened  (pinch yourself). So apologies are due in advance to all non-fly fishing readers, whom I risk alienating. Though I encourage them to stick around anyway, since studies have shown that 84.7 percent of all life’s questions can be answered by solving fishing riddles. To provide some hardcore specifics, I’m calling in a guest contributor, a very wise man and one of my fishing gurus, Theaux Le Gardeur. Theaux runs the Backwater Angler in Monkton, Maryland, one of the finest fly shops on the East Coast.

Whenever I fish the Gunpowder River, a scenic tailwater that runs just south of the Pennsylvania line, before I even buy junk food or take a squirt (the Gunpowder is a long drive), I wouldn’t think of hitting the river before first going to see Theaux, who holds court from behind the counter at the Backwater, as his Welsh Corgi, Ella, lazes on the floor. A Renaissance Man and a Louisiana boy from Covington, Theaux regales me with good conversation about everything from fishing to politics to music to New Orleans exotica  (his father, Maurice Le Gardeur, recently released an entertaining and beautifully illustrated book, “Carnival in New Orleans, a Fantasy,” which contains everything from Mardi Gras poems to recipes  for Creole File Gumbo). More important, Theaux stocks me up with lots of flies. Not because I need them, necessarily – I don’t even fish half of them. I just like to have them in my vest as a confidence-booster. Fish, like women, smell desperation and do not respond to uncertainty. If you want them to come your way, you have to project self-assuredness. So it’s not always about the fly you fish. Sometimes, it’s about the fly you know you can fish if the fly you’re fishing fails.

Even during lean winter months, when the weather is cold and the fishing is colder, I turn to the Backwater Angler’s website for solace, to watch videos of Theaux’s partner in crime, Jason du Pont (who also ties some of the deadliest shad flies in America) catch fish in all conditions. Warning: if you’re susceptible to fish envy, do not watch this nymphing display.