Monday, July 1, 2013

The Royal Coachman

In the annals of fly-fishing, there are famous lures--or, as they are called "flies"--which have become established in the lore of the sport, either because of their great effectiveness, or in consequence of their ornate visual appeal. Large, traditional "Salmon Flies"--or flies tied to present to migrating or spawning salmon--are probably the most popular artistically. 

With contemporary fly-fishing imitations--particularly those used in dry (rather than wet) fishing--smaller sized hook dressings are preferred, except in the case of uncommonly large naturals--such as large damsel-flies or stoneflies. Certain classic fly patterns can be tied in several different sizes. 

Early in the history of fly-fishing, the Royal Coachman was invented. Back in the day, fishermen tended not to be empirical in their pursuit of wild fish. Rather than studying the natural diet of fish, those pioneers simply tied on different combinations of dressing--thread, feathers, hair, etc.--and tried them out on the fish. Some worked, others didn't.  No one seemed to recognize in those days why one design might work, while another didn't. 

Fish are wild. They succeed, and survive, and thrive, on instinct, and to a lesser degree, on experience. Throwing out a gaudy artificial at a wild trout might evoke different responses. It might mistake the fly for a familiar food, or simply be intrigued by it. Or it might simply ignore it as an unfamiliar freak. 

Despite the lack of a target natural, the Royal Coachman--shown in the photograph above--has been a popular fly for generations. It continues to work in some situations, though it clearly doesn't imitate any entomological object in nature. I suppose it might be like mistaking a floridly dressed prostitute for a shyly attired ingenue. Wild creatures can be unpredictable; it may be one aspect of their survival mechanisms. 

In any event, it is now officially fishing season, and like all fly-fishermen, I'm beginning to think about it. I'm not a diehard, but I am tickled by the bug. Since I can't get away right now, all I can do is speculate or dream about fishing.

And nothing is better suited to meditative ease, than a nicely made cocktail. Here's one I've decided to call the Royal Coachman, partly because of its bright, gay color, partly in homage to one of the most familiar fly patterns in history, and partly because the cocktail mix is so seductively sweet.

Combined, as always, by proportion (this would make two drinks). Shaken vigorously and served up. 

2 1/2 parts gin
1 parts Violette
1 part St. Germaine    
1 part Parfait d'Amour
1 part dry vermouth 
1 1/2 parts lemon juice

Taste is difficult to codify in words. The Violette and St. Germaine are happy bedfellows. The orange of the Parfait goes well with the lemon. The vermouth is like a platform for the Violette and St. Germaine. The gin is the "goods" and plays but a small, but vital, part in the composition.

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