Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Interview w Reel Repairman Jerry Heckenlaible

Reel repair specialist Jerry Heckenlaible just completed an interview with me. He was generous with his answers.

1) What was your first time fly fishing like? How old were you?
(Describe the who, what, where, when...)

1. I am not a fly fishing purist. In 64 years of life I have learned to do what works. That could be using a cast-a-bubble with a fly attached with my ultra-light spinning outfit to a cheap 7 foot fiberglass rod that works great for me.

I was born on a ranch 50 miles east of Pierre, SD. The ranch was located on Highway 47 two miles south of Highmore, SD. I was born in 1942 and I was a war baby. That means there was very little money except for the very necessary basics in life. My parents were a hard working couple who knew how to create what they needed. My dad was a hunter and they both loved to fish. We did both for food not for sport. On the ranch I grew up with a single shot .22 rifle in one hand and a fishing pole in the other.

We fished stock dams in the county and always on a Sunday afternoon. My first fishing outfit – six years of age (1948) - was an elm tree branch from a tree in our ranch shelter belt with a length of throw line tied to one end. My weight was a large rusted nut from a discarded bolt in the machine shop. I used a special loop my dad taught me to attach hooks to the throw line. The fish we caught were mostly bullheads in the spring time of the year. When we found a stock dam with pan fish they would not bite on our bullhead rigs. I know now the hooks were to darn big. The fish would nibble on the worm only.

As I sat on the shore of the dam waiting for the pan fish to nibble all the worm off my hook I watched the water and saw some of the fish sucking insects from the top of the water. That gave me an idea. I was already on my way to being an engineer at a very young age! Back at the ranch I found a small fluffy clean chicken feather in the chicken yard. Using some of my mother’s sewing thread I tied the feather to the smallest hook I had. Not knowing so I had created a sinking fly.

I removed the weight and bullhead hooks from the throw line. I had a hard time tying the small hook to the end of the throw line. I managed to get it done. The next time fishing the dam I caught fish when no one else did. My “branch” pole was long enough so I could use the weight of the throw line to get the feathered hook out past the edge of the weeds. The pan fish sucked in the fly and I lifted the tree branch to set the hook and get the fish to shore.

Crude but it worked! My hook was still too big and if the pan fish opened their mouth before I go them to shore I lost the fish. After a few fish were caught my fly was history.

I learned to tie a couple for fishing and I unraveled the throw line so I could tie the hook easier. I also had fish break off because of the smaller line. If I wanted to use different colors I used food coloring from my mother’s kitchen on the feather. The water diluted the color on the feather eventually but it worked. White uncolored chicken feather (white moth) and yellow using food coloring (yellow sally) were my first creations. I did not know the name for what I created until a lot of years later.

It worked to catch a lot of bluegills and crappies. My parents were very surprised and very pleased with the meals of fish. From that I progressed to a cane pole and finally fiberglass fly rods in the 1960s. I also bought a fly tying kit so I could “match the hatch” at stock dams while fishing for pan fish and bass! I have caught yellow perch and walleyes with my tied flies on UL spinning gear.

2) What is your favourite fly fishing reel you've ever used, and why?

2. My first fly fishing reel was a Bronson Royal 360, which I bought in the middle 1960s and I still own it. I have kept it in mint working condition.

3) Have you ever used/heard about Redington reels? If so, what's your
opinion on the company?

3. I am not familiar with Redington reels. They are a Washington state based company if memory serves me right.

4) What's your favourite piece of (fly) fishing equipment (rod, reel,
lure, depth finder/tech...)?

4. My favorite piece of fly fishing gear is my fly tying kit. “Matching the hatch” is a hoot. I enjoy it almost as much as I do creating shot gun loads for my competitive shotgun shooting.

5) What is the most common way you see reels break down?

5. Fishing reels of all types fail from lack of being kept clean and lack of frequent lubrication.

6) Tell us about your best fly fishing experience, and (if you don't
mind), where it took place?

6. Fly fishing the tail water of a large stock dam in the spring for large mouth bass. Fighting a LM bass on fly gear is a memory I will never forget!

7) With all the information available out there on fly fishing, what's
your favourite tip/piece of advice?

7. Life is short! Fish every chance you get!


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