Joe Cordeiro. I first met him 16 or 17 years ago. I was a newcomer to the world of fly fishing and was stumbling around the aisles of The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA captivated by the rows of fly rods and shiny reels and mesmerized by the images of anglers in far-away places holding fish I had never seen before. With little knowledge of basically anything to do with fly fishing I kept to myself and moved quickly to avoid any conversation that might reveal my ignorance. I loaded my backpack with catalogs, magazines, brochures, pamphlets, business cards…the beginning of my library to educate myself about this new addiction.
Eventually I made my way to the rows of fly tiers. This was before I had any thought of tying flies, much less becoming a commercial tier. I walked down an aisle and watched trout flies being tied, deceivers and bonefish flies being twisted and then I saw this guy with a dozen people crowded around his table whipping around all kinds of crazy looking feathers and tying them on a hook. I had never seen anything like these flies. I must have stood there for thirty minutes watching him, taking a step closer to the table every time someone moved along. Eventually I was standing right there in front of him. As he finished a fly he looked up at me and started asking me where I fished and what I fished for. It turned out he was also from the south shore and he talked to me about places to try, when to go and what to throw for flies. I asked him questions about the flies he was tying, materials and where to take tying lessons. At the end of this first meeting he asked me my name and shook my hand. I learned later that Joe is known as "the guy" when it comes to the flat wing style of fly tying. The next year at the show I walked up to his table and the first thing he said was, “Hey Mike, how was your season?”
We’ve been friends ever since.
Over the years as I became more involved with fly tying we would run into each other at shows and events and talk about flies, fishing and the politics of both. At the end of each meeting we talked about life and our kids and for the last decade we’ve talked about fishing together but have never actually done it. We had the same conversation at the last show we did this spring but this year it was more serious because he recently moved across the river from where I live. We agreed there were no excuses.
So today I had the opportunity and privilege of fishing with one of my fly tying mentors, a true master of the flat-wing style and one of my great friends. I’ve been fishing for the last couple of weeks and have been on the stripes a fair amount. The hot color has been orange. We agreed to meet at a spot and fish the outgoing tide over some mud. When I parked the Jeep the thermometer said forty-seven degrees and the wind was howling. I had hoped for no wind so there would be the chance to sight-cast as the fish moved over the flat. That clearly was not going to happen so we made a plan and stepped into the water. It was brisk to say the least. And with gusts up to about twenty knots in our face casting was a challenge. I was starting to feel that black and white varmint creeping up on us. I was getting nervous because I was fishing with one of my idols, someone I have learned so much from about building flies and fishing them. And I had told him that we would find fish and that they would eat orange flies.
I moved us with the tide and we threw our orange flies as best we could into the wind and we waited for the fish. About the time my body started shivering to maintain ninety-eight degrees they showed up.
I tapped the first one.
Joe found some love on a sweet long cast that the wind shortened to thirty feet.
For just shy of an hour we had fish.
And they ate orange flies.
The fish moved on, the wind picked up and we walked back to the vehicles. As is the custom, we spent the last twenty minutes talking about restaurants, jobs and kids.
Until next time, old friend.
North River, MA
23 May 2015