When we were developing the idea for the O'Dell, I was sitting in Duke Beardsley's studio talking about what we both love about fly fishing. Over and over we came back to the idea that rugged and remote places with good company mattered most. To this day one of my favorite fishing memories is an afternoon spent in Kelly, WY on the Gros Ventre River with Jimbo Rooks. We had one rod, one fly and a couple of beers. We spent the late summer afternoon taking turns casting just below a gravel bar and watching 8"-10" fish lose their minds over a #14 purple Bugmeister. It wasn't about the number or size of the fish, but instead it was good company in the shadow of the Tetons without any other cares in the world.
To honor this, TMR is sending The O'Dell - along with a journal - on the road to capture the stories, thoughts, images and memories about what makes fishing special. We will update this blog with those entries as we receive them. To kick us off, Gerri shared a story from Tom about fishing O'Dell Creek, along with a note of her own.
There are only a few of the O'Dells available, so click here to learn more about getting one for yourself.
O'Dell Creek & Mr. Royal Wulff by Tom Morgan
There are thousands of fly patterns, but in my book only one is the greatest. That's Mr. Royal Wulff. Give me them in sizes #10 through #18's and I could catch trout anywhere around the world. Certainly at different times other patterns will work better, but from my experience and that of many others, from small and big streams to lakes and ponds under bright or overcast conditions they always work.
My best dry fly day ever was on my favorite stream, upper O'Dell Creek. I grew up with O'Dell in my back yard, so it was an old friend and the best fly fishing teacher I could have had. Upper O'Dell is a crystal clear, medium sized spring creek; amazingly it has no brush along its banks. Another Oddity is that there were no rainbows, only browns. Without cover, there must have been a lot of predation of small fish because you rarely saw one under 14 inches. It was during the early 1980's and my fishing prowess was at its peak. Herb Wellington owned the middle section of upper O'Dell and would only let a few friends fish there, and, happily, I was one of them.
I arrived around eight o'clock in the morning with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a can of pop as my only companions. It was one of those magical Montana summer days without a cloud or a puff of wind all day. I'm not sure why, but I decided to count the fish and write down their sizes on a 3x5 card. I was fishing my Tom Morgan Favorite 8-foot 4-weight Winston graphite rod, my normal 16- t0 18- foot 5X leader, and, of course, a #16 Royal Wulff.
The stream's character is gentle pools with small riffles in between except for a couple of small ponds. In my mind, the perfect dry fly stream. Herb's property has two miles of stream in two branches, so there's plenty of water. I started at the bottom below where the two streams come together just before leaving his property and worked up my favorite east branch first.
There was a steady hatch of PMD's along with an occasional green drake and the browns were on the take. I carefully worked up the stream spending most of my fishing on my knees to keep a low profile and to get close to the fish. The wary browns in O'Dell had taught me the importance of not being seen, and my timing of the rises and accuracy was much better if I were close to the feeding fish. In addition, if you start close to a hooked fish, your control to keep them away from others or out of weeds is much better. My goal was to catch as many big fish as I could, so I always chose the biggest one if there were several feeding together because the group might be spooked when one was hooked.
At five o'clock, I tallied up my count and even I was surprised. Forty-eight beautiful browns! I thought 50 sounded better, so I quickly caught two more and headed for home. The card has been long lost, but, as I remember, there were around 10 fish from 20-22 inches with a smattering in the 14- to 15- inch range, but most were 16 to 20 inches. A great tribute to O'Dell and Mr. Royal Wulff!
A Memory from Gerri
"As I reflect on the 24 years that Tom and I were together, I see the many things he taught me. He taught me about perfection, stubborn persistence, kindness and acceptance. The one thing I value most is that Tom showed me every day we were together - which was most of the time - how to live with grace. Tom was the best and brightest man I have ever known. I was blessed."