I found this guy nestling in the corner of one of my fly boxes today. It has lived there for a couple of seasons now after catching a few grilse and receiving some significant battle scars. It’s hard to see from the photo but the rib is very loose. I don’t mind the roughened up body of the missing hackle fibres, they actually add something to the fly making it more lifelike in my opinion. But the loose rib is another matter and I suspect it will break after a short period of use if it was tied on a cast again. So instead it has been retired or maybe that should be semi-retired as it was still in the box. A wounded soldier who is not fit for the front line any more but likes to remain in the company of fellow warriors.
So what are we fly fishers supposed to do with the likes of this Pennel? I can’t bring myself to simply discard it. Chucking a fly which brought success seems to be mean spirited, a faithless act of wanton begrudgery. I know that on one level this is just a hook with some bits of feather and hair tied on to it but I can still see in my mind’s eye this fly in the scissors of a fresh grilse, hear the stream gurgling as I unhooked her and feel the twist of her tail as she lunged off back into the pool. No, there must be a better ending for such a fly.
I am thinking about framing some of these old flies. They would look nice set up in a small frame with a note of where and when they provided me with sport. With the new season just under way it will be months before I get around to it but idea is appealing. I will hang on to any of those flies who score heavily or outwit a particularly good fish and set them up next winter. For now, I will go and make up a few more Pennels with red tails. After all there is a space in the box now.