The Gilley – 30 years later

The Gilley-2It’s hard to believe that time has flown so fast!

When Alf Davy asked us to write some chapters for the book he was proposing, it was a hard sell for him. We had to get the facts straight first – the who, where, what, when and why.  Then he started talking about some of the other authors – Brian Chan was doing a chapter and Peter Caverhill was doing a chapter…..he soon convinced us and really, what did we have to lose?

The publication year was 1985 and this year marks the 30 year anniversary.
At the recent BCFFF AGM in Courtenay, BC, the theme was the 30 year anniversary of ‘The Gilly’. They invited the original authors to speak at the dinner. I was joined by Ralph Shaw and Peter Caverhill, two of the Gilley authors who also spoke  at the dinner.

What follows is my talk:

Think back to 1985 – and remember where you got your flyfishing info 30 years ago. It was from books, magazines (Flyfisherman, BC Outdoors to name a few), your local flyfishing store, VHS tapes and clubs. Clubs were essential as they were a place to learn, meet other fishermen to go fishing with and a place to socialize.

Now contrast that to 2015. In 1985, there were no computers, no email, no internet, no Google, no Youtube and no smart phones. An amazing change!

The Gilly has been a success – it hit the right spot at the right time. There weren’t any BC books by BC authors and this provided local info for local anglers.

Also remember that this book was assembled the hard way with handwritten text, use of a typewriter, editing and retyping and publishing the old-fashioned way.  A time-consuming project to say the least.

My husband, Mike Maxwell, and I contributed two chapters.  I did the chapter Flycasting – Getting the Fly Out and Mike wrote Steelhead on the Dry Fly.

To prepare for this speech, I reread the chapter on flycasting. I was amazed at how basic it was, so it is not an understatement to say that flycasting and flycasting instruction has come a long way since then. Remember that I have spent most of my adult life teaching flycasting and flyfishing as well as guiding for steelhead.

When the movie, ‘A River Runs Through It’ hit the big screen in 1992, it created a lot of interest in flyfishing. This created a need for better flycasting instructors and with that came a better understanding of the fundamentals of flycasting, a bigger group of instructors and continued learning by those instructors of how to instruct flycasting. The result was better anglers and better instructors. It also created a bigger market for better equipment: rods, reels, lines, waders, clothing, etc. and more choice in that equipment.

When I started flyfishing, there wasn’t a lot of choice. My first waders were men’s boot foot waders that must have weighed 10 pounds. So that movie has had an enormous impact on the growth of flyfishing.

Mike wrote the chapter on fishing for steelhead with the dry fly. In fact, we built a guiding business based on dry fly steelhead fishing on the Bulkley River. I have been guiding and fishing on the Bulkley for over 30 years now and things have changed there as well.

When the Gilly was written, it was relatively easy to fish for steelhead with a dry fly. Over the years, it has become more difficult to fish a dry fly due to increased angling pressure on the entire Skeena River system. The steelhead are being fished over all the way up the system. It is an immensely popular and accessible river system and is a magnet for international anglers.  There aren’t any secrets on the Bulkey River or the other rivers of the Skeena River system.

Anglers still want to fish with the dry fly and many are successful. However in order to be successful, you have to persist with the dry and most anglers will switch to a wet. If you want to be successful with the dry fly, you have to really control the line and fly and this requires practice. You also have to have a game plan on covering the water effectively.  Don’t expect to start the first day of your trip without some prep time.

The dry fly is an imitation of an adult stonefly.  We didn’t originate the first Bulkley Mouse – that was done by Jimmy Wright. It consisted of a hook, some sewing thread ( I remember pink and purple) and some deer hair – Jimmy was living on a budget – so that is how the Bulkley Mouse was born. Mike’s version is called the Telkwa Stone – the dry fly version and the Telkwa Nymph – a wet nymph.

When the Gilly was published in 1985, the use of 2H rods was almost non-existent. When Mike and I used to fish together, he used a 2H and I used a single-handed rod. Mike was always promoting 2H rods, so dry fly steelheading and 2H are linked to me.

While there isn’t a chapter in the book on double-handed rods, Mike was busy promoting them but it was still early days for 2H rods and their use.  Today the use of 2H rods is immense. Mike would have been amazed and proud to see the fruits of his labour. Over 95% of the steelhead anglers that I see use 2H rods. The selection and diversity of 2H rods today as well as the choice in reels and lines is mind boggling.

So to sum up, all of the authors who contributed to the Gilly were proud to do so. The success of the book is amazing. It sold more than 50,000 copies in eleven printings before going out of print in 2006. Proceeds were allocated to the BCFFF Conservation Fund which has generated more than $150,000 of accumulated interest for projects. Well done!

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