DF52 (2010) – Week 39 Re-Post

I know that I’m late with last weekend’s DF&F 52 image. I will get it done, hopefully before week 40 is here. In the meantime, here is a re-post of the DF52 (2010) week 39 project. This one meant a lot to both Kelley and me and the rock sits on our fireplace mantel.


Drawing Flies 52 Bunyan Bug. Where do I even start with this fly? For me, it has so much meaning in my fly-fishing life.

Notes: This is decidedly non-traditional, thanks to my wife, Kel. We were fishing on a stream near Missoula (the River Runs Through It town), and she spotted this pale, flat rock along with a little dark-orange stone that happened to be soft enough to use as chalk. Well, it took her about two seconds to put the two together and hand me my palette. And since the Bunyan Bug was on tap, I could think of no better way to draw it (and with materials from no better place).

I used the “chalk” stone to get the basic shapes and blocking of color in place, and then went after the rest with a #2 pencil and a bit of pastel pencil. The fly practically drew itself as I listened to Mark Isham’s beautiful River Runs score through my headphones. I have to say that Mark’s score and this drawing really brought back a flood of memories.

I am tied to that summer in Montana 19 years ago and I cannot help but be drawn back to all of those River Runs days. I would not trade that time for any other, and being able to contribute something to the telling of Norman’s beautiful, bittersweet family story was an experience that I will always keep close to me.

Tech info: Rock “chalk,” pencil and pastel on rock.

Jeff’s Bunyan Bug is here. Very nice, Jeff. I think that you really captured the sense of the gleaming, painted body and the blocky angles that make the BB such a funky, cool fly. I may have to buy that one from you if it’s not already gone.

Update: As requested [per the 2010 post], here’s an actual Bunyan Bug drawing. This is one of the illustrations from the book, Fishing the Film.

Update 2: I also promised some more about the fly and the film. Actually, an informative narrative on the fly (and its history) can be found here. From my own perspective, the fly had long seemed a relic of a former era–a time when big Montana fish in big Montana rivers ate big Montana flies without a care. That all changed when I worked on “the movie” all those years ago. At that point, the fly became much more of a symbol of the fishing aspects of the story, and it also felt more like a real, everyday type of pattern. Indeed, on the set, it was an everyday type of pattern, and of course, a number of us on the “fish crew” had to catch a few Gallatin river ‘bows on one, as well.

Of course, once I got more into the history of the fly, I realized that it was much more than just a big salmonfly pattern. Depending on size and color, the fly can imitate a host of similar insects, including other stoneflies, big drakes, grasshoppers and caddis. A good family friend, John Beth, ties a flo. orange Bunyan Bug for coho salmon and catches a few nice fish every year on top.

From a purely “movie” standpoint, the key Bunyan Bug scene is, of course, where Norman outfishes Paul—a rare occasion—and the Bunyan Bug is the “match the hatch” fly of the day. The fish weren’t actually caught in the river, and the rigging to make the “catches” look real was somewhat involved, but it’s not a leap to see the BB doing its duty on that same stretch 70 years ago.


  1. Gary Eaton says:

    Heartwarming and rich! With your daughter due soon, I think you could dream about taking her there to catch something with a Bunyan Bug. -Thanks!

    • JB says:

      Gary—Thanks for the kind words. I do dream about taking my daughter to the very pool where Kelley found the rocks. Perhaps she will also have a chance to meet one of the offspring of the fish we found that day back in 2010.

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