"JACQUES DAUTY!!!" The name of my friend, who recently passed away, echoed off the canyon walls that flank the South Fork of the Boise River in Idaho. Although Erik Moncada and Jacques have never met, Erik proclaimed Jacques’s name with triumph and a strong American accent. The memory of this somewhat surreal scene overseas from my home in France will forever be etched in my mind.
Today is September 17, 2016 and it’s the end of a USA fishing trip that started 2 weeks prior with my friend, Jean Paul, in Great Falls, Montana. On our last day of fishing we are with my American friend, Erik, on his favorite river in Idaho. Apart from the late morning when fish are rising to pink cahills on the surface, this beautiful and hot day is not favorable for dry fly activity. We are now standing in a long stretch of river, the perfect dry fly water, which should be active shortly before nightfall. It was only yesterday when this same stretch of river came to life with caddis everywhere, and rising fish to match the frenzy. Jean-Paul is nymphing the current upstream while I am slightly more downstream, with Erik positioned even further downstream waiting for the big hatch. We spot a rising fish and I suggest to Erik that he try his luck at it, because he is better positioned for the fish. Not seeing any other surface activity, I watch my American friend delicately lay down different models of carefully selected flies without getting any reaction from the targeted fish. Cast after cast with nothing taking his fly makes me think that he will not reach his goal, so I went back in search of a rising fish when Jacques's name sounders. I turn towards Erik and see his rod high and curved, a huge smile illuminating his face. His cry is a tribute but also a coded signal intended for me, and I then know, with certainty, which model of fly is hooked in the mouth of the huge rainbow trout that begins to empty his reel.
Let's take a few steps back in time... September 24, 2015. I arrived at Erik Moncada's house after dark. I had spent ten days alone in the USA, exploring new rivers, preferably far from any trace of civilization, and crossing three northwestern American states along the way. The reunion with Erik was warm. We met briefly one year previous in the fly shop and have kept in touch through email and phone, and the time had finally arrived where we get to fish together. The next day’s departure time was quickly fixed at 5:30 a.m. leaving me with little time left to regain my strength.
Despite the short night, we both woke with enthusiasm, and the 90-minute drive to the river was swallowed by talking exclusively about our common passion of fly fishing. At the river there were hundreds of fish eating from the surface; I had never seen so many fish feeding at one time and place. The sun has yet to crest the canyon wall when the two of us were already into fish. Once the sun peaked over the canyon wall and onto our stretch of river, the feeding frenzy ended. A small percentage of fish signaled us with their presence by a very discreet dimple of a rise only visible to the trained eye. We shared a long, slow-flowing part of the river and each presented to trout on opposite banks. There were probably some Midges on the water along with some Trichos: a very small mayfly that is not found in France, but looks like a fly we have in France called a Caenis that is called the Angler’s Curse due to its small size. On days like this when I don't know which exact fly to use, I turn to a model that Jacques had shared with me when I started fishing in the USA. Jacques’s signature flies still remain in my box today for just such occasions.
The fly I selected was a grey- and red-bodied parachute fly built on a size 20 hook. I started using this fly almost 30 years ago, not knowing what it imitated back then, and still not quite know to this day. Over time it has proven its worth, and I therefore have incredible confidence in this model to seduce difficult fish. Once again it did not fail me, and I landed over ten magnificent brown trout before Erik came to join me. He had also been successful at catching fish, but not at the same rate as I. Now at my side he asked which model of fly I was using. I answered him without thinking too much, "The Magic Fly".
We decided to fish together, taking turns at actively rising fish spotted as we walked upstream. It was Erik's turn when we noticed a small rise tucked behind a large rock against the bank. The head of what seems to be a very big Browny came entirely out of the water in slow motion to swallow very small insects, making its identity known, but this fish ate so subtly, which made it difficult to identify. Erik presented several models of flies without flaw, which were all ignored, and ended up offering me the opportunity to seduce the beauty. My little parachute “Magic Fly” was tied at the tip of my leader and on the first pass the trout grabbed it. Erik now seemed convinced that this fly was indeed a bit "magical" and I entrusted one of my imitations to him to continue the fishing trip. The sun flooded the river with its rays causing temperatures to soar, and we no longer detected any surface activity. This can happen during the hottest part of the day, but Erik managed, to my great surprise, to provoke some attacks during this hot time. A fish exploded on the surface to attack a mouse fly Erik presented towards it along a grassy bank. If I weren’t there to see it myself I would have never believed it.
There was only a half an hour left before nightfall when the fish began to break through the surface again. We were sure that they were feeding on Midges. I quickly hook two pretty trout and again Erik asks me which fly model I was using. My answer was still "the Magic Fly". I also reminded him that he had had one hanging on his vest since that morning. The night has almost fallen, so I decide to leave the river, but Erik tied on the “Magic Fly” despite the darkness that made the task very difficult. He joined me a little later at the car to triumphantly announce the catch of two fish with the fly of the day.
On the way home, Erik asked more about this so called, “Magic Fly”, so I told him about Jacques Dauty who was my best friend, and who guided my first steps in becoming a fly fisherman. I went on to tell him about our many fishing trips to the USA centered around Montana, Yellowstone Park, eastern Idaho, and northern Wyoming. This discussion about Jacques started on that evening, after a long day on the water with little sleep the night before. It seemed the fatigue was causing my English vocabulary to leave my memory that evening, yet the conversation continued for the next four days.
My friendship with Erik was built very quickly because, in addition to our common passion of fly fishing, we shared many personal life values. I was particularly touched by the sensitivity of this young thirty-something-year-old, soon to be a father, who showed patience and serenity that I did not possess at that same age. It was therefore in complete confidence that I continued the story of my friendship with Jacques by telling him of his illness, of his operation, of my promise to spread his ashes in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Park, and of the journey we planned to make if the illness left him a sufficient period of respite. A trip that focused on the rivers of Idaho and for which Jacques had drawn up a long list of waterways that we had never fished before. This trip never took place, but I decided to visit all these rivers with the rod and reel he had ordered for the trip and, of course, with some of his hand-tied flies. That was why I regularly landed or took off from Boise, and why, that one day, with my fly tying friend Christian, we stopped into Erik's fly shop just by chance.
I told Erik how I first became familiar with the "Magic Fly”. It was Jacques himself who tied it up and gave it to me from the start. I used to call the fly the Toulouse Rugby Team because of the red and black colors it had, and I had asked Jacques to tie up a series for me; even back then I had faith in this fly like none other. After Jacques passed away I inherited dozens of his fly boxes in which there were rarely more than two copies of any fly model. The "Magic Fly" however, was neatly placed in a row with several different sizes to select from. I have fished with all of Jacques’s original “Magic Flies” and I lost the last one on my only winter fishing day in a reservoir in southwest France just this year. I don't tie up my own flies anymore, because I was never very good at tying, nor was I motivated enough to get better. With the little spare time that I have I prefer to spend that time on the water fishing. Through Jacques’s passing I met Christian Guimonnet, a passionate entomologist and an exceptional fly tyer who loves wine. We became friends and he became my exclusive supplier of flies in exchange for the best wine in Bordeaux. In the winter months we spend hours designing a new box according to my future destinations, and of course every year I order "Magic Flies" in several sizes. This, of course, is discussed over some fine French wine.
During our stay, Erik asked me a little more everyday, especially about Jacques and the flies he was tying. We both had a hell of a laugh when I was trying to give him the list of materials to make the famous fly. In explaining the details I realized I did not know the English translation for the word “mole” and tried to describe it without success as a small underground mammal. I even tried to rely on some pictorial expressions but "myopic as a mole" becomes "blind as a bat" in Shakespeare's language, so you can imagine the misunderstanding...
Our stay in Boise ended on the South Fork of the Boise River and we were each equipped with a small red and black parachute that hooked the last trout of the day as it was getting dark. It was so dark that we were only casting to the sounds of rising fish, but with every successful gobble, Erik paid homage to Jacques each time a trout was caught with the famous fly. I was particularly touched by his tribute, to the point where I offered this fly to be sold in the fly shop. I provided him the contact information for Christian so that he could get the exact formula for the "Magic Fly" to be tied and sold in a USA fly shop under the name of Jacques. Erik loved the idea and we spent the whole trip back home talking about this project. In the end, the fly would be called " The Magic Fly" for two reasons: the name was catchy, and it was with this name that Erik first discovered it. And to keep Jacques's memory alive, he would tell each buyer the story of this special fly.
As soon as I arrived back to France I send Erik a small parcel of mole hair that he could not find in the USA, but the package never arrived. It was returned back to my place in France before leaving across the Atlantic. My American friend didn't waste any time. As soon as he received an email from Christian, Erik started to play with the first imitations using muskrat instead of mole hair. Finally, and after several tests, Adams gray superfine duding was what did the trick. Now that the flies are tied for the fly shop, Erik uses the mole dubbing, that had finally arrived after several months, when tying for his own personal collection.
I regularly receive messages from Erik telling me about the visits of American anglers from his fly shop who have come to buy Magic Flies, and the success they have with them. They also receive the history of the fly and its creator, Jacques. The fly quickly became a bestseller. When I visited the fly shop in September 2016, the store was out of stock in sizes 20 and 22 and only a few models remained in size 18.
Today I feel a particular pleasure in thinking that in the depths of Idaho, a young American ties up and markets a fly model in an American fly shop in homage to Jacques, and I find this a magnificent way to keep Jacques memory alive...
Fly Tying Recipe :
- TMC hook 2487, size 16 to 24
- Thread : dark red
- Body : mole fur or Adams gray Superfine dubbing
- Wing post : White poly yarn
- Hackle : Chinchila grey
Erik Moncada's Flyshop :
Boise Anglers Fly Shop
7097 W Overland Rd
Boise,ID 83709 USA