"Seek and ye shall find."
At least those would be the operative words here in Missoula when it comes to the business of trying to find out about an obscure fly pattern that may or may not ever have existed.
Take the "buckstahooda," for example. As you may recall, a couple of weeks back I mentioned that friend Mark had asked if I had ever heard about an old trout fly that sounded to me like "buckstahooda" when he said it over the phone.
The question launched an inquiry that lead me to learn that I was really looking for a fly named after one Dietrich Buxtehude who happened to be a composer and organist of some import back in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Other than that, the search didn't produce immediate results. That changed when I put out the call for help in this column.
The floodgates opened.
The first message was from Vic out in Bonner.
"I don't know for sure who first tied the Buxtehude, but I've got a couple of them right here. I'm looking at them right now. They're dandy flies. I've been tying them for years."
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I called him. We talked a while and he speculated some more about who might have been responsible for the fly.
"It could have been Lloyd Oakland, but I think maybe it was Gene Andrie. They were both in the music department at UM," he said.
Then he provided me with detailed instructions on how to tie the Buxtehude.
My pal Mike, the fishing historian, offered up all kinds of information if we could find a time to connect. I had forgotten or neglected to call him in the first place.
But that was just the beginning. One after another, old colleagues from the UM faculty, students and children of students, just plain fishing buddies, and even a few local cranks stepped out from the shadows to share their memories of the Buxtehude and point me in the direction of others who were familiar with it. That list of suggested contacts, by the way, reads like a who's who in the history of music education at UM.
Joe, who wasn't sure whether it was Lloyd Oakland or Eugene Andrie who created the fly, did add considerably to my knowledge of the fly's beginnings.
"The Buxtehude was but one of Gene's (or Lloyd's) original creations. For years I never used anything at Georgetown Lake but Gene's (or Lloyd's) battlin' Buxtehudes and Gene's deadly Damsel Fly, a wet wonder! Now that my memory has been jogged, I can distinctly recall Lloyd singing at the top of his voice from the back of a motorboat on Georgetown Lake, to the tune of the old Pepsi-Cola signature-tune, 'Buxtehude is the fly for me!' as he (Lloyd, not Dietrich) hauled in a prize-league rainbow!"
Bill reported that "music department meetings were likely to include some important discussion of the hatch on Rock Creek. And, yes, the Buxtehude was indeed a part of those conversations."
A correspondent known only as the Kentucky Troubadour added even more, providing a firsthand story about the creation and naming of the fly:
"Eugene Andrie was the orchestra director, Lloyd Oakland was at first the choral director and later the head of the music department, and George Hummel was a piano faculty member. All of us loved to fly fish. Gene was the purist who tied flies the sizes of whatever they were supposed to imitate and was generous with his flies to all of us. Many of them were on 14 and 16 hooks. George used to taunt Gene: 'Little flies, little fish, Gene. Why don't you tie some big ones and catch big ones?' This went on and on, season after season. One day, George, Gene and I went way up Rock Creek to fish. When we got there, Gene told George that he had tied the big fly, and that it was for George. He dragged out the gaudiest-looking thing you could have imagined, with red and yellow calf tail, peacock hurl, gold tinsel, and feathers. We all had a big laugh, and George, being a good sport, said he would try it. He tied it on and waded out to the hole. On the second cast, he hooked a 16-inch rainbow. He netted it, and a few minutes later hooked an even bigger brown. Needless to say, we were very quiet about the fly. George caught two more with that fly, and we ordered Gene to go tie some more.
"Sometime soon after we discovered the fly's value, we talked about naming it. It may have been Lloyd who suggested naming it the Buxtehude, and that is what it became. We even invented a fairy tale about old Dietrich being a fly fisher, and how we had discovered a writing about angling in some of his papers."
Chuck and his son Alan added more, on the musical side, explaining that when out on Georgetown Lake, whenever Lloyd cast the fly in question, it would always be accompanied by a "great outburst of song" and the words, "BUXtehude is the wor-r-r-rld's gr-r-r-reatest lur-r-r-r-re."
Chuck offered to sing it for me. One of these days, I'm going to take him up on it.
Then there was Dick, who confirmed my general assumptions and very clearly credited Eugene Andrie with the creation of the fly. He referred me to Andrie's own written account included in the first edition of Dick Konizeski's "Montanan's Fishing Guide" published back in 1965.
My own cherished copy of that book had been right here on my desk all along. Here's what Andrie had to say: "To imitate the red-side shiner, I created a large streamer fly called the Buxtehude, which provided me with many thrills when I tied into 4- and 5-pound rainbows. The fly was very effective in September after the damsel and caddis fly hatches had tapered off."
And finally, Gil, from up Polson way, wrote with a few finishing and only vaguely related touches. It seems Gil actually spent a night in the German town of Buxtehude many years ago and recalls a local story that somehow tied the name in with a flatulent canine. That story will have to wait.
It was absolutely wonderful to hear from so many of you about this little thing called a Buxtehude fly. It seems to have stirred up fine old memories for some of you out there, memories of a simpler time. I know it has stirred them up for me.
I couldn't help thinking of my father and his cronies out there casting away in hopes of luring a fish to the fly, long before fly fishing was discovered, long before it became an equipment junkie's dream, and long, long before Norman MacLean wrote the book that changed so much. Believe it or not, in those days, fly fishers actually took home a fish to eat once in a while. I smile every time I think of the laughter that must have echoed over the water. And I smile some more when I think of grown men out there on the stream or the lake, singing at the top of their voices.
"BUXtehude is the wor-r-rld's gr-r-r-reatest lur-r-r-re."
Thanks to every one of you who contacted me.
Greg Tollefson is a freelance Missoula writer whose column appears each week in Outdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.