Dan Fallon Fly Fishing Article Column 11 2012
Fly Fishing With Teddy
Rough Rider Fly Fishing Dream
As can often happen to restless day dreaming fly fishing writers when main stream, river trout season grinds to a halt, dreams can become more real if the dreamer spends time studying history and biographies carefully...
"At last awake from life, that insane
dream we take for waking now"
Robert Browning 1812-1889
July 1st 1898 near Santiago Cuba was a bright hot summer morning when Teddy Roosevelt and his famed " Rough Riders " had finally settled into a strong riding cadence with more then five miles to go before fording a stream and beginning the fight to take "Kettle Hill" Through history men who carry weapons often speak of the waiting or the last few miles before chaos takes over and the boredom or the anxiety explodes into conflict of the worst kind!
Teddy Roosevelt a man shorter in physical stature then most of his cowboy, policemen, hunter, outdoors men Rough Riders loved the outdoors and wrote about many of his adventures hunting and fishing, asked the Sargent Major to, "Tell the young Corporal long - shooting riflemen from San Francisco Corporal O'Fallon to ride the point with him"
"How the hell were you raised in a city like Frisco to shoot better then most old salts I know Corporal?"
"Grandfathers, uncles, older brothers all cowboys, hunter gathering plainsmen or high sea's ship roaming sharp shooters sir. Before I was seven years my dad would take five rifles apart throw the parts in a black closet and tell me, when you have those rifles put back together in the dark of course-dinner will be waiting for you, by the time I was nine I could hit running quail at fifty yards with a BB gun."
"Look at that water coming up O'Fallon- I know you brought two of your handmade Bamboo rods, lets work that water and let the horses catch their wind. Sargent Major forty five minute rest and quiet while O'Fallon and I work this water that may be booby trapped!"
Then entire battle ready horse and foot soldier mounted brigade stopped in the humid Cuban summer to watch from afar their organizer and General that would lead them successfully to take Kettle Hill, then take them across a valley to help take San Juan Bridge, the whole company was sighted for bravery including T.R.
"I already strung up this six foot Bamboo I made this spring and you can use this other Bamboo my great uncle used with Chief Sitting Bull- if we stop and take an hour sir-we can get into those rising trout or whatever fish working that surface slime. I just made this green slick silk braided line sir, think you might like these seven foot five weight rods- looks like those are Big Brown Trout ready to hit anything buggy!."
Teddy and Corporal O'Fallon sit and begin tying on # 16 Hairs Ear's and a perfect Black Ant with red abdomen, O'Fallon finishes off dressing each fly as Teddy flexes the Bamboo, "O"Fallon, First Sargent tells me you have men more famous then I in your family history?"
"Well sir not exactly sure about that, my great Grandfather served with General Custer and threw flies with him on several occasions- he did not go down in the Bighorn Battle was captured and later married one of the Chiefs daughters and began selling hand tied flies from famous Indian Chiefs like Sitting Bull and Grey Wolf and Geronimo. He ended up owning about half of the property called Oklahoma these days."
"I had a great uncle that was at the Alamo and had guided many of the great Mexican generals before the siege and slaughter - he did go down with the troops. Then we had another uncle who had a fly shop in Tombstone where Wyatt Earp and his brothers ruled, he was at the O.K. Corral shoot out and later opened the only full service guide operation near Boot Hill. He maintained the Earp Brothers especially Virgil could throw pretty wide loops and wasn't much for chit-chat as he was famous for knocking people over the head with his six shooter."
"Oh almost forgot about the O'Fallon that rode and fished with General George Washington, some guy named Fletcher Quill wrote a story about their exploits as I recall."
Teddy threw nice long easy loops and was soon hooked up to a 15 inch Brown while his war horse jumped around kicking up dust and making loud snorting noises, "Ok boys lets mount up, I can feel those Cuban's breathing from here!" You smoke cigars O'Fallon?" "No sir, only vice is chasing fish with these bugs I love to tie and maybe shoot a taste when it serves my country sir."
"General I hear your probably going to be President one day- wonder if we might still work a little fly water when that happens?"
"Tell you what O'Fallon, I'm going to make sure that Yosemite Valley of yours is made into a National Park and make dam sure some fool future President does not go drilling for oil where you and I fool trout young man- one more thing if you keep dropping Cubans at 900 yards- I'm going give you so many metals you'll never get out on a stream again. One more thing Irishmen never try to measure a man's soul, heart by how tall he is. San Francisco Cowboy"s never heard of such a thing?"
"Somebody had to keep all those four legged cheeseburgers well fed and watered till they got turned into dinners General."
"Son, I remember finally getting the time to go out West and get my buffalo head- hell it took me ten days, those herds were all but gone by the time I got a shot, had to be 600 yards down hill with a slight right to left windage, hell of a shot with an old Spencer rolling block!"
"O'Fallon, that San Francisco of your's is about as wild as any Injuns I ever came across, why every cut throat, pick pocket, actor, poet, gambler, horse trader, crimp or sailor, dreamer, palm reader, Emperor Norton, Isadora Duncan, Lotte Crabtree, that old terror of Tombstone Wyatt Earp still jerking that six gun on into his late 40s, and woman of ill repute all seem to end up there is the great mystery of American life."
"Hell the wild old west, that's history finished now- San Francisco California that end of the American funnel, end of the west, a place where last dreams play out like the vanished buffalo herds melting into an endless burning red setting western sun that never dies."
"One more thing Sargent O'Fallon, thats right Sargent, listen always speak softly and carry a Bamboo stick. Kid like you is going to need every equalizer he can get Mr. Fly Fishermen."
George Washington Dry Fly Master
One of my more infamous ancestors Phineous James O’Fallon was given the honor of being the father of our countries Quarter Master during the French and Indian war in the 1700s.
After Edward Braddock was killed on the field of honor and George Washington was named Commander of all the Virginia forces, many days and nights were spent moving from one rural farm position to another.
According to the letters and journals that survived until 1900 when my Grandfather was born, the General was already known as a consummate outdoors men and avid fly fishermen.
On one particular chilly fall morning according to my Grand Dad, the men were about to cross a stream on property in eastern Ohio when General Washington stopped the march and summoned my fly fisher ancestor P.J. O’Fallon to assemble his favorite **Manzanita 5 weight and tie on a #22 Mosquito the General tied the night before out of found Bald Eagle feathers.
"P.J. lets see if we can take a few of these fine rising trout before we stop for lunch, I want you to head down stream and splash around a bit and drive the fish up here for your Commander."
"Yes sir, If I might make a small suggestion sir, that straight red manzanita can land anything this little ole stream can muster!". Maybe let the fly dead drift with the current and I’ll try and scare em up to you sir." *My understanding is old George caught the fly fishing bug from a visiting nephew of P.J. O’Fallon’s, Tom Fallon whose great grand son my great uncle Tom Fallon Adventurer is honored with a life size statue in San Jose California?
The rest of the men pulled out their tobacco fixings and rolled or chewed while the father of our country played and landed five 15 inch or better trout that morning, according to my Grand Dad a fiddle player broke into *** "Old Sue Zanna Don’t You Cry For Me" and a gallon jug of rare Irish whiskey made the rounds... Of course Grand Dad was known to stretch the truth a taste when he had a taste or two!
Written by Dan Fallon © 2012
*** When exactly was that song written? Any body know? Before 1800s?
** Only guessing on the type of fly rod, could have been solid Bamboo I presume?
* San Jose California statue quite controversial as the adventurer was adventurous and said to be a distant relative of the Fallon Clan? Locals try and vote to have statue removed every so often, of course I’m quite proud of the old boy!
(Casual reading public beware this historically suspect anecdote is the first in likely a long series of historical illusions de grandeur...)