A True Story by Jack Gartside
A funny thing happened to me in October while doing a program for the Wilderness Flyfishers in Los Angeles. After presenting my program A Boston Cabbie Looks at Western Fishing I retired to a corner table to demonstrate some fly tying techniques and chat with the members.
There was an enthusiastic crowd gathered around to watch me and I obliged them by answering their questions and tying up some of their requests. They obliged me by buying me a gin and tonic whenever I was running low and showing a satisfying interest in some of my books and flies and other stuff that I had displayed. A nice tradeoff and everybody was happy.
Well, to make a short story longer, I tied up one of my CPF No-Hackle caddises and, when finished, put it into a glass of water to demonstrate some of the unusual properties of the feather used to tie this fly. All well and good to this point. I went back to the vise and began to tie another fly.
Now, if you've ever watched me demonstrate tying, you'll know that the tying is often interrupted by questions and answers and general banter and that my attention is often scattered, doing this and doing that and all at the same time. And I was also getting mighty thirsty, having talked almost non-stop throughout the night. I had run out of gin and tonic was waiting for someone to bring me some, actually and without thinking (or even looking) reached for the glass of water to my right and took a quick slug. Oops!
You guessed it. It was the glass with the fly in it, tied on a #14 dry fly hook. And it went right down my throat with the water and lodged itself somewhere below my Adam's apple. "Damn" I said, as calmly as I could, "I've just swallowed the fly." And I could now feel its point digging into the lining of my throat. What to do? Should I drink some more water and hope that it would eventually pass through my system? Should I try to cough it up (and perhaps force the hook point deeper into the lining? I decided to try to cough it up and take my chances. Six or seven coughs later, though, it was still there, wouldn't move.
The crowd in front of me was getting nervous. And so was I. A #14 hook isn't all that large but it's big enough to make you uneasy about having it somewhere inside you and perhaps getting into some mischief somewhere.
Maybe vomiting would work, I thought. And that would have been my next move but just before I tried that I was able to suck in an enormous amount of air and induce a really violent, gut-wrenching cough and -- miracle of miracles -- the fly popped out onto the table and lay there flat, all wet and matted and looking much as it might after a few trout have chomped on it. I just stared at it for a few moments in disbelief, took a quick slug of the gin and tonic somebody was handing me, and thanked my lucky stars that the fly was now on the table and not still down my throat.
The crowd gathered around the table soon began to breathe normally again and to even laugh about it. A young lady (probably an undercover agent for PETA) said, "Now you know what a trout feels like when it's hooked." Someone else, having heard what had happened, came over to the table from another part of the room and asked me if I could repeat the "trick."
Myself, I really didn't think it was particularly funny and certainly no "trick" but felt rather that I had narrowly escaped what could have become a somewhat complicated matter. But a few gin and tonics later I, too, began to see some humor in the situation, went back to tying flies, and finished the night in fine fashion. I even donated the coughed-up fly to the club's upcoming auction. All's well that end's well, I say. And so to bed.
The moral of this story? Never drink water when you're tying flies. Stick with gin and tonic. Bombay, preferably.