Wheatley Fly Box - Don Bastian tied - nymphs on flat foam. Left to right: Zebra Midge, Disco Midge (lower left), and five rows of my favorite, Flashback Pheasant Tail (using pearlescent Krystalflash for the wingcase), a row of Hare E. Roosters (an original pattern), and two rows of Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear Nymphs. The first row has shiny black wingcases made of black scud back, the row on the right has wingcases made of black Antron yarn.
These flies and the Wheatley Box they are displayed in were a graduation gift to my niece Emily Bastian, of New Gloucester, Maine. She had graduated from University of New Hampshire in 2007 but I had not yet given her a gift, though back in about 2006 when I spied these Wheatley Fly Boxes on sale in a mail-order catalog (they were the ones with the ceramic oval inset and painting of a brook trout on the front – beautiful), I couldn’t pass them up. Especially considering the $95 retail cost and for the close-out price of about $35 each, so I bought the last two the company had left. Even at the time I was thinking that I would fill it with flies for Emily’s graduation. Man that girl loves to fly fish. And she’s good at it.
In March, 2010, while visiting my brother’s family during my visit to Maine since I was participating in the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo at their Flagship Store in Freeport, I prepared this box for Emily. She was still on the payroll at Bean’s, and she rode with me to the store on Saturday. I had brought along six 24-compartment storage boxes filled with flies that I had tied. This was significant too, timing being of the essence because Emily was planning a three-month trip out West, having accepted a summer internship with the National Park Service. That evening, I arrived back at the house with my brother, Larry, before Emily was finished with her shift, and loaded up this box.
Saturday evening after the first day of the Expo, Emily was finishing the dishes and I got the box out. My brother and his wife looked it over; (knowing the plan, making a few comments), there were, I think 19 dozen flies in it; then nymphs you see here, plus the compartments were filled with drys – PMD’s, BWO’s, Baetis Spinners, Griffith’s Gnats, etc., mostly small stuff, sized according to the Spartan limitations of the compartments.
As my niece admired the flies, so many, opening the compartments, examining the drys, poring over the nymphs, Emily observed, “Boy uncle Donnie, you have been really busy. There’s a lot of flies here…how long did it take you to tie them all?”
“Oh, I worked on them off and on for a couple months,” I replied with feigned nonchalance. Which was essentially true, I had tied about 275 dozen flies from August to October of 2009, as I mentioned the compartment boxes in the paragraph above. She was still looking them over when I said, “It’s your graduation present!”
Her jaw dropped and she nearly fell over, and I believe she would have had she not given me a great big bear hug. And that’s saying something; Emily is a first-degree karate black belt. This was a very moving, rewarding few moments of life, for me, for Emily, and for her mom and dad.
Emily had great success during what turned into a three-and-a-half month western fishing trip. (See also the post of the Neverwas wet fly with a head-on image taken by Emily, of a Mackinaw trout she caught, along with her written summary of the photo).
Another aspect of this that I knew ahead of time, was that on the way to the Expo Saturday morning, Emily was riding in the car with me, telling me how busy she had been, how many flies she had tied, but between working, getting ready for her trip, doing this, doing that, she was running out of time and thought she was probably going to have to have me tie some flies for her, and she was in the “process of taking inventory to see what I need.” I almost bit my tongue, I was so excited and filled with anticipation for what I was about to do.
In the end this gift was about family and the nurture of the relationships that sustain and strengthen those familial bonds.
Hopefully, Emily will never drop this fly box into a river; she’s been known to do that a time or two.