Photo by by Rachel Cudmore

Photo by by Rachel Cudmore

Author David James Duncan lives with his family in western Montana, where he is working on a novel that combines his loves for Asian wisdom traditions and the land and people of the
American West.
An Atlantic Salmon Fly in Response to a Marin County “Fishing” Movie

An Atlantic Salmon Fly in Response to a Marin County “Fishing” Movie

In 2009 a film got loose with the title of my first novel attached to it, and I was not happy about it. To distinguish the film from my novel, The River Why, I called the movie The Marin County River Why (henceforth, MCRW). The MCRW was made by filmmakers I had battled in court for years. The case was settled in 2008. My name was removed from the project, and I was awarded a settlement, but I was unable to stop the release of the film. 

When The MCRW came out I chose to ignore it and, hopefully, soon forget it. Unfortunately, strangers on the street would occasionally shout movie reviews at me, such as: “DUNCAN! I WANT THREE RUINED HOURS OF MY LIFE BACK!” 

Those strangers convinced me that potential readers, the fly fishing public, and the twenty-some-year old author I was when I finished that novel deserve a consumer warning that the film is in no way mine -- and that’s when the spirit of my novel’s young protagonist, Gus Orviston, attacked and forced me to design an Atlantic Salmon fly fraught with warning signals. Gus and I then hired George Kesel, a fly tying maestro whose motto is, If You Fish It, I Can Tie It.  Though the only fish likely to rise to this fly is the mechanical rubber salmon I’ve been told “Marin County Gus” “hooks” and “fights” at the MCRW climax, that is our fly’s whole point. Allow me to point a few salient features:

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• A traditional Atlantic Salmon fly travels through the river headfirst. The MCRW Fly travels backwards, with its head attached to its rear end (and what restraint on my part! I forbade Gus to add “like the filmmakers.”)

• Most Atlantic salmon flies are built of light-weight materials that land lightly on the water so as not to spook their wary quarry. The MCRW Fly lands Hollywood style, with the most ostentatious, wild salmon-terrifying splash possible. 

• Classic Atlantic Salmon flies feature wings that sweep downward, resulting in a silhouette that, at least impressionistically, imitates a small fish. The wing of The MCRW Fly sweeps upward in imitation of the hair of Conan O’Brien, not to flaunt some kind of random wit, but because it is a scientific fact that Conan O’Brien’s entire head, used as a fly, and this fly, are equally likely to deceive a wild Atlantic salmon. 

• The wing is made of what George Kesel called “pallid blue, martini olive, magenta, florescent pink, gold, claret, and crimson goose feather to denote aesthetic and piscatorial chaos.” On the body of the fly we inflicted gold ostrich herl, embossed copper tinsel, synthetic salmon yarn (double entendre and emphasis mine) and, in honor of the filmmakers’ braggadocio about The MCRW being a “green film,” some green yarn and purple floss, the latter because their braggadocio struck Gus and me as being what Mark Twain might call “a lot of purple floss”). 

• The MCRW Fly is trolling a red and white lure known as a Daredevil® because, in the world of classic tying, attaching a lure to a fly’s rear end is about as kosher as it would be for a Baptist minister to do the same to his own rear end during Sunday Service, or, in the world of fly fishing tales, forcing a fly fisher of Gus’s abilities (so I’ve been told) to feign a filmic climax by hooking a mechanized chunk of salmon-shaped rubber, jumping into a drought-shriveled river though both banks are bone dry and wide as a Marin County freeway, and chasing the poor rubber fish until, I suppose, the machinery inside it broke like my heart at the thought of the lived, baptismal, salmon-worshipping, predator/prey paradigm-shattering climax I set to words in the novel. But I do thank the filmmakers for giving Tamanawis County Gus the idea of copyrighting a line of prophylactics (a.k.a. rubbers) colored like the five species of Pacific salmon. Gus is sitting pretty now, financially, and even though pregnancy is not an issue, the crimson and green Sockeye Rubber is getting heavy use by Gus and Eddy for having reignited their sex life deep into their sixties.

The reason I have not published this fly until now is, it’s just such a weird fucking idea, “publishing a fly.” Even so, it is never too late to notify the public that the sole connection of The Marin County River Why to my novel The River Why is this preposterous Atlantic Salmon fly.

I wish, in closing, to thank the filmmakers for being so kind as to make a movie that seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, enabling my little novel and its characters and its nonmechanical salmon to live on unscathed.

Gus & Pika Strike Again

Gus & Pika Strike Again

Errn!Errn!Errn!

Errn!Errn!Errn!