Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In June the fly fishing community lost an icon. Dean Darling’s contributions to NAFF and Sowbug were stellar. His down-to-earth personality and wry sense of humor blessed everyone he met. Dean’s Little Rules for Life might be summed up this way: Keep your loops tight. Always put your boots on wet. And never wear a belt with your Levi’s.

Make Mine Brown Darling
On December 26, 2005, Dean Darling didn’t think of shopping any after Christmas sales. White River conditions were just right: water low for wading and temps in the 40’s. Dean and his buddy Bob Chapman decided to go fly-fishing. Partly cloudy skies didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. They drove to the upper part of the White River downstream from Bull Shoals Dam where they strapped on waders, vests, and equipment and waded across the gravel bed. Darling’s fly rod was a Sage nine foot five weight piece of fish-catching engineering accompanied with a Hardy reel and 4 X tippet. For most of the morning, catches were light. In fact, only two small Rainbows summarized time spent for the two men. Up until about noon they had few braggin’ rights. Deciding to change his luck, Dean tied on a Ginger Prince Nymph and made what became the cast of a lifetime. The savvy fly fisher observed a fish swirl and turn on the bait. A large spawned-out female German Brown trout accepted the princely challenge, clamped the fly in her mouth and attempted escape to deeper waters. At first, Darling couldn’t tell how big the fish was until she ran upstream. After feeling a couple of powerful surges, the trout-conqueror knew without a doubt he held a trophy at the end of his rod. For ten minutes Dean battled Queen Brown, keeping up the pressure until he could lead her to the shallows and horse her in. By now Bob heard his shouts, ran as fast as waders would allow and assisted Darling with the landing. “It was the biggest fish of my life,” said the wide-eyed fisherman. The German Brown measured thirty-one inches in length with a sixteen-inch girth, and by best estimate weighed sixteen to eighteen pounds. After completing measurements and assuring himself he’d captured quality pictures of the amazing female, Darling freed the fish. When asked what part of the event affected him physically, he responded, “I didn’t realize how big she was until I let her go. When I watched her swim away, that was my heart-pounding moment!" Dean believes in the protection of the fishery and fly club conservation goals. Like most ethical fly fishers everywhere, an additional thrill comes with the knowledge that some other person will receive an opportunity with this fish. Although the two men brought cameras, the best photo came from a resident near the river. Not only did he bring a digital camera to record the event, but his entire family arrived to watch and applaud the efforts of Dean and Chapman in landing and saving the prize. The good neighbor even took the time to E-mail the picture to Darling. The casting duo spent the remainder of the day escorted by only five other small Rainbows at the end of their rods. When Dean complained of their low numbers, Bob impolitely told him, “You got your fish; go sit on the bank!” After a month of tall tales and pictures, Dean’s wife asked how much longer she’d have to listen to these stories. Dean’s reply didn’t make for marital bliss when he told her, “Honey that’s not the bad news. The bad news is I’m gonna take these pictures and make wallpaper from them and decorate, so everywhere you look, you’ll see me and this big fish smiling down on you.” As for next year’s after holiday sales, Dean will probably skip them again. But you can bet your lucky fishing hat he’ll be dreaming of a Brown Christmas and looking for more wall paper paste.

God Bless you Dean Darling. As you fish the heavenly rivers, may you find slow currents, light breezes and a big Brown lurking in every riffle.

No comments:

Post a Comment