By Norvise Ambassador Shannon Messer
Nose down, tails up searching for fiddler Crabs, Shrimp, Mullet, and Menhaden Shad, Redfish move amongst the marsh grass revealing their location to a keen eye of a captain atop the poling platform. The order is given, "30 feet nine o’clock now, strip, strip, strip", bang fish on! The Scott Tidal 7wt is bent, feeling every burst of strength the angry red exhibits as it comprehends what has just happened. Just as quickly as the battle starts it ends with the redfish coming unbuttoned without warning. Just like that the battle is over. I take a moment to replay the memory tattooed in my brain, dissecting each move. What seemed like hours was only a nanosecond in the battle between fly fisherman and redfish. Redfish won.
Let’s take the time to set the stage, and explain how a mountain Trout fly fisherman ends up on the bow of a skiff in the low country of Charleston, South Carolina. I give credit to my wife of twenty years as she threw out the idea of fishing on our twentieth wedding anniversary. Like many of us, we were looking to travel and explore to celebrate our accomplishment, or let's call it like it is— Tanya putting up with me for all these years. I jumped at the opportunity and we selected historic Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston was an easy choice for us. We love visiting the area, the food is great, you are surrounded by history, and the weather can be amazing! Every time we visit, somehow, we discover something new. This trip we found Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar in lovely Mount Pleasant, SC. While waiting on ice cream we couldn’t help but notice they have a fried bologna sandwich on the menu. If that doesn’t make it a first class food joint your expectations are too high.
I was excited and a bit apprehensive after we booked our excursion. I did not want to look like I had no clue on how to cast to saltwater fish. The double haul is a cast that we very rarely, if ever, use in the North Carolina mountains. I am a stealthy predator, roll casting in tight quarters to almost invisible trout, which is a far cry from a seventy or even sixty foot cast on the money for a saltwater species. I practiced as perfectly as I could until I felt confident in my abilities to present the fly as instructed by the captain.
The morning was picture perfect, mirror smooth water and chamber of commerce temperatures greeted us as we departed on our adventure. I must have felt like a fresh major league call up to the show stepping into the batter’s box for the first time. Just my luck it would be MLB Hall of Fame Greg Maddox on the mound that day.
The casting turned out to be the least of my struggles. It was the spotting of the fish that kicked my butt! Regardless of what lens I had in my Smith Optics, I struggled spotting moving redfish as they revealed themselves to us. I was able to spot a few tails, but that was it. Don’t ask me if I saw the mullet because it was a big fat no! I now felt like many of the guests that I guide in the mountains at that point. They tell me they struggle seeing what I see, and now I was experiencing what they feel and it was frustrating. Spotting reds was the biggest challenge for me and I was frustrated, disappointed, and helpless at that point. Tanya knew it, and she was supportive as I pressed on.
If you are someone like me who has never tried sight fishing for a new species you should do it. Don’t be afraid of failure, and accept the challenge head on. I am motivated more than ever to seal the deal the next time out on the skiff! I continue to practice, and I look forward to the next opportunity in the near future.
I have had the opportunity to fish in many different places the past three years, and for that I am thankful. I have faced many challenges along the way, but in the end it has made me a better fly fisherman and guide. You will see me on the bow of a skiff again, but this time holding a redfish. Who knows? It just might be the skiff that the @georgia_drifter owns. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Shannon
By Braden Miller
Thursday, after 8 days in Emerald Isle Albie fishing, spending time on the beach with my family, wearing board shorts and flip flops we made the four hour drive home to meet Tim at my house. Mom and I were home for a hour and a half, just enough time to unpack the trucks, switch some clothes into another bag and we got back in the truck to head to Sylva, NC for the Tuckaseegee Fly Shop’s Norvise Demo Day at their Sylva location. Our 6 hour drive ended up being close to 8 hours due to accidents and all lanes closed for a bit. Friday morning we woke up to temps in the 40’s so we traded our board shorts and flip flops for jeans, sweatshirts and shoes! Mom, Tim and I got some breakfast before we headed to the shop to set up our vises for Demo Day on Saturday before we heading to the river with Shannon “Big Mess” Messer (I loved how he answered the phone Tuck Fly Shop, Big Mess speaking can I help you?). We all got our waders on (even Mom) and headed out to do some Euro Nymphing, which I had not done before.
Tim and I both were using the Temple Fork Outfitters Drift Rod. After a quick Euro Nymphing lesson and some tips from our amazing guide, Big Mess, Tim quickly caught his first wild rainbow of the day and I wasn’t far behind him. After fighting Albies in the Atlantic Ocean for a week, I set the hook rather strongly and launched two poor little rainbows right out of the water. Luckily for both the fish and myself they stayed on the hook and landed back in the water. We fished several sections of the river and probably caught 25 or so wild rainbows and Tim landed one wild brown.
We caught a bunch of beautiful small rainbows, a handful of decent sized rainbows and I caught a rather chunky fellow. Shannon recommended we have dinner at really good BBQ restaurant called Haystack Smokehouse. Man was that some good food; from the Brunswick Stew, to the pulled pork, brisket, andouille sausage and especially the Banana Pudding. I can personally say we will never go to Sylva and not eat at the Haystack Smokehouse (man now, I wish I could eat dinner there tonight). It was an early night for the three of us so we could be ready for Demo Day Saturday.
Brr, Saturday morning was even colder than Friday! This was the first morning this year I have seen frost on our truck. We arrived at the shop around 7:45 to make sure we were ready when the store opened and so Tim could record his episode for the shop’s *podcast called, Tuck Cast, With A Splash of Bourbon, with Shannon “Big Mess” Messer, Bobby the Bearded Wonder and Coach Dale Diesel Collins. Tim and the guys talked about the story/history of Norvise and what makes it so unique. They dove into Tim's relationship with the late Norm Norlander and what it takes to produce the Norvise Fly Tying System. Saturday was Big Mess’s 50th birthday and Tim’s 49th birthday.
Once the shop opened there was a steady flow of customers throughout the day. We meet some current Norvise owners that came to visit for Demo Day. Some upgraded their vise or added a new Auto Bobbin or two to their collection. There were some who came to the shop to check out exactly what the Norvise was capable of and some came with intentions of joining the many other Norvise tiers. Tim gave his normal show demo for a group of people, he challenged several to take his bet could he tie a wooly bugger in under 60 seconds? If you have never seen him in person at a show, Tim bets someone that if he can tie a wooly bugger in under 60 seconds then they have to purchase a full set up and if he fails, he will give them a full set up. I have been going to shows with Tim for two and a half years now and I have never seen him lose… not too many people ever take the bet. I spent my day tying game changers and a baitfish or two. Every time I finished tying a new game changer, someone would buy it from me. I know selling flies is what a tier strives for, but for those of you who know me, whenever I tie a new fly, especially a game changer, I form this sort of attachment to each one of them. I am very thankful to those who loved the flies I tied Saturday so much, they wanted to fish with them. I look forward to seeing what they catch.
Mom, Tim and I all had a wonderful day at Tuckaseegee Fly Shop for their Norvise Demo Day. We look forward to returning to Sylva soon to visit the shop again, see all they guys and Norvise fans, and of course to do some more fishing in the trout capital of North Carolina. Thank you to everyone who came out to the Norvise Demo Day to see Mr. Tim and I, and for checking out what makes the Norvise the most innovative fly tying system on the market today. If you are ever in Sylva or Bryson City, North Carolina you have to remember to stop in one of Tuckaseegee Fly Shop and say hello. Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim
By Norvise ambassador Shannon Messer.
As I sit here sipping bourbon gifted to me by a former client that I now consider a good friend, Brandon, from Kentucky, I ponder how people felt the first time they sat at a tying vise. The pressure to tie a beautiful fly was intense and a bit overwhelming for most of us. While teaching fly tying I have a phrase that I use and certainly believe in. “Ugly Flies Catch Fish.”
This is a statement I started making years ago to people getting into the tying game, something to set them at ease so they could make it thru a fly pattern. Do you remember when you started tying flies, and how you tried so hard for the perfect fly every time? Let’s face the facts. At first, we all lack the skill-sets that lead to perfectly tied flies. This statement, in my opinion, was more fact, but it was an attempt to build confidence in a new fly tyer.
Over the years of wading many of the best and most technical trout streams in the United States I have learned many things, some on my own, but most from legends in our area. You quickly learn to pay attention to your surroundings as they will reveal a road map to success if you are willing to accept it. This road map can come from Mother Nature or from an old timer that at one time had the pressure of catching trout to provide food for the family at home.
I recall many late evenings while fishing with Jerry and Scottie on Straight Fork witnessing great hatches causing my blood to pump at a frantic pace, as trout were eager to take a perfectly drifted fly. The problem for myself, and even Scottie, then was that we were catching trout, but we were not catching the quality of trout that Jerry consistently did. Picture the scene from A River Runs Thru it, the father sitting on the hillside reading while letting the boys learn valuable lessons from Mother Nature. That was how we felt, but Jerry was showing no mercy. Every time he would have his five fish limit of the nicest Smoky Mountain Trout you would ever lay your eyes on! I made a pledge to myself that I was going to crack the code, but later I found out that I could not see the forest for the trees.
Let’s backtrack a bit to the time that I started tying flies on a Thompson AA Vise under the watchful eyes of Roger Lowe, Alvin Gilliland, and Charles “Charlie Bear” Messer. I always strived to tie the neatest fly I possibly could. Now, remember, hackle feathers were not the quality that we have today, thus adding to the challenge of tying the perfect fly that any fly angler would love to have in his or her fly box. I would go as far as keeping a sharp razor blade on hand to cut all the materials off the Mustad 94840 hook that most of us tied on back then. I was doing my best to impress people that eventually were honored and recognized by the Fly Fishing Museum in Bryson City, NC. I later learned that instead of impressing people I needed to be impressing the trout.
A few of our common patterns we use include the Charlie Whopper, Yellow Palmer, and the Female Adams. The Charlie Whopper is one of several family patterns that the Messer’s are known for, but that will have to wait for another time. The Yellow Palmer is a fly that you can fool trout on all summer long, regardless of the watershed fished, thus making it a very popular fly to use.
As we were sitting around the camp organizing fly boxes and preparing leaders it hit me! Jerry always wanted the ugliest Yellow Palmers that I often removed from my fly box! It eventually got to the point where Jerry would select the hackle feathers for the Yellow Palmers that I tied for him. Of course, that was after I found out what he was doing with all the worn out, ugly flies that Scottie and I would discard at the camp table.
I made it a point to sit back and observe what Jerry was doing that one evening trip, praying I possibly could become half the fly fisherman he was. After watching Jerry take a couple of nice brown trout, I made my way to him, and point blank asked what he was doing that I wasn’t? He took the time to educate me on how he fished the ugliest, worn out dry flies that most people would discard for junk. Jerry would dress the fly prior to hitting the water, but that was usually the only time, since he understood that the trout would key in on an injured, large meal. By using over-sized hackle, sparsely wrapped flies he was in essence fishing with a cripple, emerger, or a spent fly, all in one.
Jerry revealed to me his secret box. It was tucked away in the front left pocket of his Army issued, battered and beaten, camouflage jacket he brought home from the jungle of Vietnam. That box revealed the rattiest flies you would ever see! Within the box rested tired flies with bits of hackle unraveling from many hook shanks, exposing years of use and abuse from hungry trout, revealing a great story and a priceless lesson that day. Ugly flies catch fish!
That evening on the water is tattooed on my brain and certainly influences the way I tie my personal flies…big, and a bit ugly. I went on to even tying Jerry’s Big Ugly, and tried selling in the shop. However, no takers with the exception of one smart guide, who still contacts me for them for his guiding business. I strive to tie perfectly tied flies for retail in the shop, and I will always challenge others to do the same. However, in the meantime, if you can get the tippet thru the eye of the hook then it just may fool the largest fish you have ever taken.
My advice to anyone starting on the wonderful journey of fly tying is to never be quick to let outside influences negatively affect you and your ties. I find myself often using the Bob Ross theory during my tying videos. It is your fly, so tie it the way you want it! Use oversized hackle, use larger wings, change the recipe to meet your needs, and don’t ever feel bad about it! The more you tie, the better you will get, but most importantly strive to tie a quality fly that will last. One last thought…pretty flies catch anglers, but ugly flies catch fish!
Great post Shannon, thank you for sharing this. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim