'And that's where damselflies come from...'

By Chris Hunt

Years ago, when I was gathering content for a fly fishing guide book about eastern Idaho's small waters, I found myself on a tiny lilypad-esconsed pond at the edge of Yellowstone's Pitchstone Plateau. The little lake, just outside the park in Idaho, was accessible via a 4-by-4 truck, and it was unique for my corner of the Gem State because it was stocked regularly by Idaho Fish and Game with Arctic grayling. 

We have grayling in lakes throughout Idaho, but most of them are in the central part of the state, and most of them are stocked from the air on a somewhat irregular regimen because they're well off the beaten path and require hours--sometimes days--of hiking just to reach them. To my knowledge, this little pond on the edge of the Yellowstone backcountry was the only water in eastern Idaho where grayling could be found. 

So, in the name of research of course, I launched my little float tube early one morning and kicked my way along the lake's lilypads, casting small streamers in hopes of enticing a few fish to hand. And I did, but not grayling. Fish and Game also stocked the small lake with rainbow trout, and some of these fish pushed 18 inches and would almost always find a way to tangle the leader in the lily stalks and break off. But then, as the sun hit the water, a massive host of small, electric-blue damseflies descended on the little lake, and the water's surface began to boil. I watched as 12- to 14-inch grayling launched themselves from the water in hopes of gobbling down one of these beautiful but elusive bugs. 

I frantically searched my fly boxes for anything resembling that brilliant, atomic-blue fly that caused the lake's metalic grayling to lose all sense of self-preservation and erupt from the water like Titan missiles. Nothing. I managed a single grayling that must have been tired of a steady diet of fat little damsels--it hit an Adams.

The next day, I dropped into the local fly shop and asked the proprietor for some damselflies. Alas, he had none. But, he told me, he might have a bit of dubbing that I could use to tie a handful of damselflies. He disappeared into the bowels of the store's back room and came out with a small little package of light blue dubbing. 

"Here you go," he said. "Let me know how it works." 

I went home and spun up a handful of electric-blue damsels. And, yes, the grayling loved them. But the dubbing was in short supply--my local fly shop rarely carried it, and I had to hunt for it whenever I ran out. Turns out, those little blue damsels are staples for backcountry trout in ponds and lakes throughout Yellowstone, and if you don't have them when the bugs are on the water--usually starting the first week of June and lasting into July--you're in for a long day of casting and not much catching.

Fast foward several years to just last week, when I was in Woodland, Wash., visiting with Wayne Richey, the CEO of a small, but potent fly fishing empire that includes the new FlyAssortments.com. This company that sells hand-tied flies directly to consumers over the Internet is one of TU's newest corporate sponsors, and TU members can purchase flies from Wayne at a steep discount, knowing that a portion of each sale goes directly to TU to help us make fishing better all across America. 

Wayne was walking me through the company's warehouse--a fly tyer's wonderland--when he came across a massive box of dubbing. He cracked open the boxtop and there, before my eyes, was a "bump" of electric-blue dubbing that, should it have found its way into my truck, would have kept me and my heirs for generations to come in size 16 parachute damsels. The grayling wouldn't stand a chance. Thanks to Wayne, I now know where to find the dubbing (and I know that it's called Damsel Blue, No. 8575 in the catalog).  

"So this is where damselflies come from," I told him. He smiled and nodded.

But his company is more than just flies and fly-tying supplies. It's an innovative outfit that has pioneered the process for creating materials that are always consistent when it comes to color and quality. The company's flies, crafted by the best tyers in the world in Chang Mai, Thailand, are all tied with proprietary materials exclusive to FlyAssortments.com. And Wayne has compiled a number of fly assortments designed for specific situations--the company has a caddis assortment for dry fly anglers, a steelhead assortment for Northwest speyrodders, a mayfly assortment for backcountry afficianados... the list goes on. 

Thanks to this unique parternship, TU will soon offer various assortments to members and non-members alike who participate in our contests and our conservation work over the course of the next several years. For instance, our citizen-science initiative--TroutBlitz--will be the beneficiary of several assortments that will be awarded to those anglers who help us catalog and map wild and native trout populations all across America. Assortments could be offered for TU photo contests, as membership premiums and for other participatory events, like essay contests and event auctions. The company will also help with our Veterans Services Partnership, something near and dear to Wayne's heart.

"We're very proud to be a part of the TU family," Wayne told me last week. "We want to do our part to protect and restore our trout and salmon resources. We understand that, without cold, clean water and intact habitat, our customers wouldn't have the opportunities they have today to put our flies on the water. We hope they'll help us help TU for years to come."

Chris Hunt is TU's national director of communications. He works from Idaho Falls, Idaho. 



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