In Leon Chandlers’ boyhood he fished the same waters that I do today. I imagine him a teen with a fly rod in his hand roll casting a hand-tied callibaetis at dimpling browns. He was most likely fishing a nightcrawler at that age. The reason I fly fish the boyhood home of Leon Chandler is due to geography and proximity. Just coincidental.
But, if not for Leon Chandler I may not fish with a fly rod at all. Leon Chandler was the catalyst of fly fishing and fly fishing products in America. He was a Catskill fly fisherman, Cortland native, and a gentleman who introduced American fly fishing to the modern world in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
If not for Leon I would not have found spools of Cortland Fly Line, Phleuger Reels, tin boxes of Made In China flies, or fiberglass Shakespeare fly rods in my Dad’s workshop when I was a kid. And if I had not found that stuff I would not be standing in a creek today where Leon Chandler once stood 60 years ago.
The term Technical Fly Fishing encompasses much these days. In the Days of Leon it did as well. When I think of Technical Fly Fishing I think of dry flies and three weight line. In late summer the creeks and streams can often be un-fishable due to high water temperatures. This happens almost anywhere trout exist. A spring and summer marked with heavy rain and below average temperatures, however, can set the stage for excellent fly fishing through July and August. When that happens, light fly rods on small trout streams becomes my favorite game.
On summer streams landing native trout with a fly rod can only be done technical. Long handmade leaders with soft tapers and light tippet are carefully tied and greased. Presentation is paramount. The angler approaches the rising trout from many yards downstream. Once in position, the long leader is worked out into the air above the creek, slow and easy, yet precise. The angler must keep the loop of line off the glass surface of the pool, away from the feeding trout, and out of the dense foliage. It is the fly fishing version of the cliche “Threading the needle”.
More than likely the angler will quickly snag on the backcast, pop the little dry off, tie on another and try again. Moving a tight loop, delivering a small fly through 80 feet of brush to rising trout is technical fly fishing. Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.
A super stealth approach, a soft drop, followed by a long drag free drift, then a smashing take! The trout is brought quickly to net and released. All the while your hoping the other trout in the pool still don’t know you are there! This technical game of “Thread The Needle” fly fishing has not changed too much over the decades and It is just as enjoyable (and technical) today as it was 60 years ago…In The Days Of Leon.