Olive Goes for a Wild Ride

Books are in my blood

I’ve been on a bit of a history kick lately as I’ve poured over old family photos from generations ago.  A few months ago I wrote about my great, great grandfather Paul Edward Werner, who founded what was at the time the largest publishing company in the world (before he lost everything and left future generations of Werners to find their own way in life). My great grandfather, Edward Paul Werner, grew up to run the family business in Akron, Ohio, and after the collapse of the Werner Printing and Lithograph empire, Ed Werner (“Pop” as he was known to family) continued to work in the printing industry.

Edward P. Werner

The collection of old family photos also included some newspaper clippings, one of which in particular I found very interesting. The article below is from the Beacon Journal, dated June 14. 1959. It announced that “Pop” was being honored as “Mr. Printer” by the Akron Club of Printing House Craftsmen. At the time my great grandfather was 83 years old and had been retired from the printing business since 1941.  He lived to the ripe old age of 96 and enjoyed a life of excellent health, right up until the end when he died peacefully in his sleep.  I had the pleasure of meeting Pop in 1967. I was a wee lad of 4-1/2 years when our family took a trip to Akron, and I remember him being a kind, fun man who was full of vitality. Of course, he was only 91 at the time so it only stands to reason!

The article points out that the Werner Printing and Lithograph Company printed state law books, catalogues and did some commercial printing.  I know for a fact that the company also printed a set of leather-bound encyclopedias because I have a few volumes, sitting in a box somewhere, slowly decaying (the price to restore them was cost-prohibitive the last time I checked). The article also mentions that in 1900:

Arthur J. Saalfield came to Akron and became manager of the company’s trade book department. Eight years later, Saalfield bought the department and moved it into a plant in South Akron, where it grew over the years into the Saalfield Publishing Company, the largest publisher of children’s books in the world.

So it would seem that the book business is in my blood. I can only hope that in another 100 years people will remember Olive the Woolly Bugger. And I’ve heard it said that an artist is never famous until after their death. Well, I hope I live as long as my great grandfather, which means I won’t be famous for another 47 years.

 

Getting to know: Clark, the Steelhead Fry

Steelhead fry

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with characters from the Olive books. If you’re already familiar with the books, you’ll know these “folks” being interviewed. If you’ve not yet seen the books, these interviews will give you some insight into the colorful cast of characters who help to make Olive’s adventures so engaging and fun.

Read the first interview here, the second interview here, the third interview here, and the fourth interview here.

Today, Olive talks with a very good friend whom she met when she went for a wild adventure in book #3, Olive Goes for a Wild Ride. This friend isn’t a fly, but rather he’s a fish. Welcome, Clark the small fry.

Olive: Hey Clark! I hardly recognized you!

Clark: Hi Olive!  Yeah, I’ve been eating a lot and growing quite a bit since our wild adventure.  I gotta get bigger and stronger so I can swim out to sea!

Olive: I want to talk about that, but first let’s go back to when we met. Who knows what might have happened to me if you hadn’t gotten me untangled! I’ll never forget that day.

Clark: Me neither.  But I didn’t just help you…you helped me in so many ways. I didn’t know much about anything when I was small. Heck I didn’t even know what you were. I thought you were some sort of fish!

Olive: Well, you weren’t very big and hadn’t learned many things yet. But together we went on a great adventure and we both learned a lot.

Clark: You were an awesome teacher, Olive.

Olive: I don’t know about that, but I had an awesome teacher myself–Mr. Muddler Minnow!

Clark: Everyone has to have a great teacher–it’s the only way we can learn new things!

Olive: So, Clark, you’re a steelhead fry, right?

Clark: Actually, I’m a steelhead smolt, now. I used to be a fry.

Olive: What’s the difference, for those of us who don’t know?  And also, what is a steelhead?

Clark: Well, a steelhead is a rainbow trout. We hatch from eggs in rivers, but the difference is that rainbows remain in the rivers for their entire life, living the life of a trout.  Steelhead are anadromous.

Olive: Anadromous means that you swim out to sea, right?

Clark: Exactly. Remember Sockeyed Jack, the Pacific Salmon?  He taught us about that. After we swim out to see we spend a few years getting really big and and strong. Then we return to the river where we were born to spawn. So, that’s the difference between regular rainbow trout and steelhead, even though we’re really the same species of fish.

Olive: That is so amazing.  How do you know if you’re a rainbow trout or a steelhead? I mean since it’s the same species?

Clark: I really don’t know.  I just know!

Olive: So, you mentioned that you’re no longer a fry. Now you’re a smolt?

Clark: Yep. When we first met I was really little. Now I’m quite a bit bigger, and I’m almost ready to head out to sea. But I’m nowhere near being as big as I’m gonna get! Man, the ocean is gonna be like a smorgasboard of food!

Olive: Are you excited for that?

Clark: Totally!  I mean, living in the Big Stream is cool- it’s an awesome place, and there are lots of bugs to eat and stuff. But out in the ocean there’s a lot more food. I can’t wait. I’m always hungry!

Olive: Oh, I remember.  You were always munching on bugs.

Clark: You really should try a grasshopper sometime. They taste like chicken!

Olive: (laughs) You’re so funny, Clark. So will you promise to come back to The Big Stream someday?

Clark: You betcha!  We never did get to go fishing, so when I come back maybe we can do that!

Olive: You can count on it!

Clark: 1..2..3..4..

Olive: Um, Clark, what are you doing?

Clark: Counting on it!  (laughs)

Olive: I’ve sure missed your sense of humor.  I can’t wait until you come back from your adventure at sea. OK, I know you’re getting ready to go, so let me ask one more quick question before you head out to the ocean. If you were in a movie and you could choose a famous actor to lend their voice talent to the role of Clark the Steelhead Fry, who would you choose?

Clark: I think my first choice would be Henry Winkler. He seems like a really nice guy, and I know he really likes fly fishing. In fact, he recently wrote a book titled, I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the Water and he’s also the author of children’s books. So yeah, definitely Henry Winkler. But if he’s too busy, then maybe Dana Carvey, ’cause I’ve heard he likes to fly fish, too.

Henry Winkler

Fly fishing rods for kids

Let me start by saying that I’m no expert teaching kids to cast a fly line. I’m always amazed that some folks seem to think that just because I’m an author of fly fishing books for kids that I know a thing or two about teaching kids how to fly fish. Remember the old adage: If you can’t do something, write about it. Or something like that ;).

That being said I wish some of the current kids’ fly rods were available when I started my own son out on his journey into fly fishing. He began by using a 9 foot 5wt graphite rod that had been relegated to backup status in my quiver rods. I was a bit hesitant to have him use this rod partially because it might’ve been a bit long for him to handle at first. But I’ll be honest:  my real hesitation lie in the fact that I was worried he’d break or otherwise trash my equipment! Fortunately my son has always had a knack for anything involving movements of the arm that resemble a throwing type motion (rocks, baseballs, etc).  He was always pretty coordinated as a youngster, and the basics of fly casting came fairly easily to him and my gear suffered no serious damage. He was 11 years old when he first went fly fishing with me, and while he could have done so earlier, I felt this was a perfect time to introduce him to the sport.  Maybe it was the perfect time for me to introduce him to the sport. He already liked fishing (catching, that is), and I felt that he had the patience to deal with the inevitable pitfalls of fly casting: line tangles.

Today’s kids have a selection of quality offerings specifically geared toward the younger angler. Something shorter than the “standard” 9 footer can make a rod more manageable in the hands of a child, and a medium action blank ensures that young casters can feel the rod loading (that is if you can get them to slow down and “feel” the rod!).  At first, my son just started to wave the stick back and forth without regard for what the rod tip, and subsequently the line, was doing. This is probably something most youngsters will do at first, but giving them a good piece of hardware that isn’t a broomstick will greatly improve their casting once they get the hang of it. If you have kids you know that they like having their own stuff, so if a fly rod to call their own makes them more excited to get out there and use it, I’d say that’s a good thing.

I’ve assembled information about several good bets for the budding young fly anglers in your lives. These are not fly rod reviews, as I have not tested any of these products. The point here is to offer a few good options for you parents to consider, and I recommend you visit your local fly shop to check out their selection of kid’s rods first. Please note than any information included here about these rods/outfits comes directly from the manufacturer’s/retailer’s websites and do not reflect the opinion of this reporter.

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REDINGTON offers two different outfits geared toward young anglers. The Minnow is targeted at kids ages 6-12, while the Crosswater Youth is aimed at pre-teen/teen anglers.

REDINGTON MINNOW OUTFIT:

Length: 8′
Line weight : 5/6
Number of sections: 2
Includes Reel:  Yes
MSRP: $99

The Minnow outfit was precisely designed and tuned to meet the needs of a younger, beginner angler. The goal is for these kids to have fun and success when fly fishing so they want to continue with the sport. The packaging design is kid and parent friendly with additional tips, techniques and games for kids to get started fly fishing.

MINNOW FEATURES:

• Updated cosmetics
• Alignment dots
• Targeted for ages 6-12
• Easy casting 2-pc 8’ 5/6 wt. graphite rod
• Tough and unfussy Crosswater reel
• Quality RIO backing, WF fly line, and knotless leader pre-spooled onto the reel
• Includes fun casting games and cut out targets in the box design
• Red rod sock included
• Each Minnow outfit includes a coupon for ordering Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride at 50% off retail (that’s only $6.47 each)!

REDINGTON CROSSWATER YOUTH OUTFIT:

Length: 8′ 6″
Line weight : 5/6
Number of sections: 4
Includes Reel:  Yes
MSRP: $139.95

Similar to the Minnow, the Crosswater Youth Outfit was designed and tuned to meet the needs of a younger, beginner angler. However, this outfit is a little larger in size for the pre-teen/teen angler. The packaging and rod/reel case was designed to attract the teenage angler. The entire package is a legit fly angling package to a teen, but looks cool and “not like dad’s.”

CROSSWATER YOUTH FEATURES:

• Medium-fast Action
• Attractive trim details and cosmetics on outfit and packaging for younger demographic
• Alignment dots
• Versatile 4-pc 8’6” 5/6 wt. graphite rod
• Durable Crosswater reel
• Backing, RIO Mainstream WF fly line, and knotless leader pre-spooled
• Rod/Reel Case included

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ECHO GECKO

Length: 7’9″
Line weight : 4/5
Number of sections: 3
Includes Reel: No
MSRP: $99

Echo Gecko Fly Rod helps to make fly fishing easy for kids was Tim Rajeff’s goal. The Echo Gecko rods have a special diameter handle and a small 2″ long fighting butt that allows the smallest anglers to use two hands to cast. A bright yellow blank and a fun colored handle make these rods as much fun to look at as they are to cast. No longer do children have to learn to fly fish with a rod that is too long or too stiff or use a rod with a handle designed for adult hands. The rod is a great length for trout, pan fish, and bass. The rod can handle a short belly WF5 or a standard WF4 line. A great fly rod for children and kids just beginning.

GECKO FEATURES:

• Three piece travel design
• Alignment dots for quick assembly
• Wild colored EVA extra small diameter full wells handle w/small 2″ long fighting butt
• Fuji style fast-tighten reel seat
• Bright yellow gloss blank with orange thread wraps
• Hard chrome snake guides
• Rod sock and sturdy rod case
• Super durable rod design

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ROSS JOURNEY

Length: 7’6″
Line weight : 4
Number of sections: 4
Includes Reel: No
MSRP: $119

The Journey® youth series fly rod is the only fly rod designed for youth anglers, by youth anglers. Instead of taking an adult sized rod and trying to fit it into a youth sized package, we took everything we’ve learned from fishing with our own children and designed the Journey series from the ground up; arriving at what is arguably the finest youth fly rod ever built! The rod is a 4wt. design so it can be fished on most types of water, but the length is only 7’6″ so it is easy for a youth angler to control. In addition, the premium grade cork handle is crafted to perfectly fit a child’s hand and allow for comfortable casting without fatigue. This 4-piece rod series helps families to introduce their children to the sport of fly fishing with the right sized equipment, and without breaking the bank. The Journey series proprietary R-1 graphite design is a medium-fast action taper that is perfect for any casting style, and forgiving for those anglers just starting out. These are smooth casting rods that are sensitive, precise and effortless to cast; making it easier for youth anglers to learn the sport of fly fishing.

JOURNEY FEATURES:

• Ross proprietary R-1 graphite design
• Medium-fast action rod taper, perfect for youth anglers
• 4-piece design – great for travel!
• Smooth casting, sensitive and precise
• Titanium oxide, super strong guides
• Rod piece alignment dots
• Anodized aluminum reel seat
• Youth sized half wells handle
• Cordura rod case
• Available in blue, pink
• Lifetime Warranty

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ORVIS STREAMLINE KID’S FLY FISHING OUTFIT

Length: 7’9″
Line weight : 5
Number of sections: 4
Includes Reel: Yes
MSRP: $198 (on sale at the time of this writing for $159)

A fly rod and reel combo specifically designed for the junior angler. 7′ 9″ Mid-Flex rod is the perfect length and weight for smaller frames. Rod features smaller and shorter grip tailored for smaller hands. Clearwater® III Reel. 150 yards of 30 Dacron® backing. WF5 chartreuse floating line and a 9′ 2X leader. Just add a fly to this kids rod and reel combo. Ages 13 and older.

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LELAND SONOMA EMERGER PACKAGE

Length: 7’9″
Line weight : 4
Number of sections: 4
Includes Reel: Yes
MSRP: $199

Offered in blue and pink. This outfit will have your little one throwing darts and dreaming of fly fishing adventures! Trust us, you’ve never seen a youth rod and reel like this.

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L.L. BEAN ANGLER FLY ROD OUTFIT

Length: 7′, 8′, 8’6″, 9′
Line weight : 5 and 6
Number of sections: 2
Includes Reel: Yes
MSRP: $80

At L.L. Bean, we’ve always been committed to introducing newcomers to the sport of fly fishing – in the easiest and most affordable way possible. Our Angler Fly Rod Outfit comes loaded with backing, a floating line and a leader – just tie on a fly, and in minutes you’re ready to fish. We worked closely with both beginning fly casters and our Fly-Fishing School instructors to develop a smooth medium-action rod that makes it easy for anyone to learn the graceful art of fly casting. A quality composite reel with a click and pawl drag and high-quality graphite ensure that you, your kids and your grandkids can learn from the same outfit. Includes handy rod carrying tube for storage and transport. Imported.

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SCIENTIFIC ANGLERS TROUT FLY FISHING STARTER KIT

Length: No information available
Line weight : 5/6
Number of sections: 4
Includes Reel: Yes
MSRP: $95

This Trout Fly Fishing Outfit includes a high quality 4-piece 5/6 weight graphite rod for smooth and easy casting. Preloaded disc drag reel ready to fish with the specific line and flies designed to work well for panfish.  Also includes a special 2 in 1 DVD with “Fly Fishing Made Easy” and “Panfish and Bass with Larry Dahlberg.”

Included in this kit:

• 4-piece, 5/6 weight graphite rod
• Lightweight for smooth and easy casting
• Pre-Loaded Scientific Anglers Concept 2 Fly Reel Loaded with backing, Scientific Anglers fly line and leader, and is ready to use
• Fly Box with Flies
• 2-in-1 Instructional DVD (the contents of both of the DVD titles below are included on a single special-issue DVD)

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Based on these offerings from reputable manufacturers, young anglers don’t have to fish with junk equipment that’s little more than a colorful toy, and parents don’t have to break the bank to get quality gear for their kids.  Kids are the future of the sport, so get them away from their video games, get them a rod they’ll be thrilled to call their own, tie on a woolly bugger, and take ’em fishing! You’ll be glad you did, and so will they.

Check out the comprehensive listing of kids fly fishing gear at Take Kids Fly Fishing. In addition to rods and reel outfits, the site lists waders and boots, vests, hats and clothing, books and DVDs as well as fly fishing camps and clinics for kids and kid-friendly fly fishing guides. It’s a tremendous resource!

Olive is about more than just fly fishing.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Now there’s an expression we’ve all heard before, and we all know that it has a dual meaning that goes beyond the literal translation. In the case of a certain series of childrens fly fishing books, the average person may not need to look beyond the cover to find the books worthy of purchase for the kids in their lives.  Afterall, if you like fly fishing, you likely want to share that passion with your children. But what if you’re a discerning parent looking for more than just a book about fly fishing – a book with some substance?  Or perhaps you’re not an angler yourself and the thought of a book about fly fishing has no interest to you and therefore no interest to your child? You really can’t know what truly lies beneath the surface without having read the book.

A childrens book has to be about something – there has to be some substance/message or no publisher worth their salt would choose to acquire the title.  So what is Olive all about?  Simply looking at the titles of the books, that answer may seem obvious: they’re books about fly fishing, right? True, and if that weren’t obvious then I would have failed miserably! Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride are books clearly having something to do with fly fishing.  But open the cover and read the stories within and you’ll find that just as there’s more to fishing than catching fish, there’s more to Olive than just fly fishing.

In Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, our central character goes off to Camp Tightloops to learn to become a fishing fly.  There she learns the basics of fly casting and presentation and the need for barbless hooks. She also learns basic fly fishing terminology and how different flies are used in different situations. Pretty straightforward fly fishing stuff.  But she also learns about perseverance and unfortunately what it’s like to be an outcast: life lessons that go beyond the river bank or lake shore.

Through her adventure in the next book, Olive and The Big Stream, Olive puts what she has learned to the test and goes fishing for the very first time.  She obviously learns of the importance of catch and release fishing as she successfully hooks and lands her first wild trout, but again, there’s more.  She has learned compassion and the need to accept others who may be different, and when her friends fail on their first attempts at fishing she knows better than to tease and taunt. She knows firsthand what it’s like to be the recipient of such harmful behavior, and displays kindness to all others. She also learns to respect the very thing that makes fishing what it is: fish.

In the third book, Olive Goes for a Wild Ride, Olive becomes separated from her friends and faces the fears that all kids would should they become lost.  She soon hooks up with a stranger who befriends her and the two set off on a wild adventure where Olive, who up to this point has always been the student, becomes the teacher.  Together she and her friend explore a wild river and learn about each other and all that is important in the great circle of life.

The obvious point of the books is to introduce younger children to fly fishing – to plant a seed of interest in hopes of getting kids outside and participating in a wonderful experience.  Who knows, if Olive is a child’s introduction into the world of fly fishing, maybe they’ll become future stewards of our resources. Along the way hopefully they’ll learn to be accepting of others who are different from themselves.  Compassion goes a long way in creating people of strong character. To that end we can all learn from Olive.

So yes, Olive is all about fly fishing.  But she is about so much more as well.

And just as Olive is about more than just fly fishing, profit from sales of the books is about much more than just making a few bucks.  A percentage of proceeds from the sale of all books is donated to two groups that use fly fishing as a means of raising money to help fund research for childhood diseases:

Hooked On a Cure, hosts an annual fly fishing event to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Casting 4 A Cure, uses fly fishing events to raise money for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation to help fund research for Rett Syndrome and support for families dealing with special needs kids.

Both groups are led by fabulous, compassionate people that happen to love fly fishing. When I learned of these groups it became obvious that Olive needed to do what she could to help. What better than a series of books for kids about fly fishing, helping groups of people who use fly fishing to help kids?

So if you’re heard of the Olive series of fly fishing books for kids, consider taking a closer look. If you’ve never heard of them until now, I also ask that you look beneath the surface to see what the books have to offer.

You truly cannot accurately judge a book by the cover, and exploring beneath the surface may yield some pleasant surprises.  Fishing dries on the surface is fun, but an astute angler knows that fish take the majority of their meals under water.  Exploring the depths is what makes the woolly bugger such an effective and popular pattern.  Take a closer look- I think you’ll get hooked on Olive the Woolly Bugger, and by doing so you’ll be helping kids in more ways than one.

Why the Woolly Bugger?

For those inclined toward fly fishing, the word(s) “Woolly Bugger” is as common as “rod” and “reel”. For those who are not in the fly fishing know, Woolly Bugger is certainly a curious term.

Rather than use up a bunch of bandwidth trying to offer an eloquent description of the Woolly Bugger here, let me point you to perhaps the single best explanation available, written by Cameron Larsen, titled the Ubiquitous Woolly Bugger. That pretty much sums it up.

The Woolly Bugger can be tied in many variations. It’s just as common to see them tied sparsely as it is to see them fat and real bushy. Some are tied using bead heads, some using tungsten cone heads, and some with dumbell eyes for additional weight and “realisim” in representing a baitfish.  Traditionally the Woolly Bugger is not overly ornate, tied in brown, black and of course olive marabou, chenille and hackle. Over time tiers have gotten liberal in using a wide variety of colors and additional material.  It’s not uncommon to see the Woolly Bugger tied using rubber legs and a bit of flash, as if the uber-effective patterns needed anything besides their big bushy tails to set gamefish into a tizzy.  They are effective, and perhaps the most versatile of all flies because they represent so much, yet nothing in particular, in the water.  Whatever the case may be, the Woolly Bugger spells “food” for fish. And not just trout.  Everything from bass to steelhead will hit a woolly bugger if you present the fly properly.

It’s been said:  “The Woolly Bugger is so effective, it should be banned from some watersheds. I suspect its effectiveness is due to its resemblance to so many edible creatures in the water–nymphs, leeches, salamanders, or even small sculpins. Its tail undulating behind a fiber, bubble-filled body is just too much for most fish to resist. It just looks like a meal!” – Bill Hunter, The Professionals’ Favorite Flies

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

As for how to fish the Woolly Bugger, Gary Soucie wrote a great article for Midcurrent that comprehensively covers just about everything you need to know. Read the article here.

Just as there are many variations of the fly pattern itself, the spelling of the name seems to be up for debate, or at least interpretation, as well.  One will find many different ways to communicate the same thing:

Wooly Bugger. Wooley Bugger. Woolley Bugger. Wolly Bugger. Wolley Bugger (the latter two I assume are innocent typographical errors). The list may go on.  I myself prefer Woolly Bugger – it  looks as if that’s how it should be spelled.

And “Woolly” has a certain playfulness to it which was an important consideration when deciding to name a series of fly fishing books for kids after the fly. The funny looking name certainly lends itself well to a children’s book, and admit it – “woolly bugger” is fun to say.   I read once where the decision to name a book is critical (this seemed obvious to me). The article cited J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter as an easy name to remember because it’s unusual. I believe Olive the Woolly Bugger is equally as unusual as Harry Potter – perhaps even moreso.  But Harry Potter’s success isn’t due just to the name, and I seriously doubt I’ll be the next J.K. Rowlings. That’s fine with me although I would like to sell even a fraction of the books she has.

To the unindoctrinated, a Woolly Bugger is a curious name of considerable whimsy, so it was a perfect title to hook readers.  Olive, as a color,  is one of the traditional and best known variations, and for obvious reasons became a logical choice when naming the central character.  Calling her “Black the Little Woolly Bugger” or “Brown the Little Woolly Bugger” just wouldn’t have had the same appeal, so the clear choice became “Olive the Little Woolly Bugger”.

Nothing in this world is without complications, however, and it would seem that something as innocent as a children’s book about fly fishing stands to encounter some challenges.  Shortly after having the books published I received a very nice email from a gentleman in England.  He pointed out to me that in the UK, the term “bugger” carries with it certain “negative” connotations, and that I might be up against a bit if a struggle marketing my books in the UK.  I thanked him for his nice note and acknowledged my familiarity with the unfortunate association.  However, I am confident that fly anglers in the United Kingdom are well aware of the Woolly Bugger (and hopefully by now Olive the Little Woolly Bugger), and can enjoy each without being offended.

I assure you that Olive the Little Woolly Bugger is nothing more than good, clean fun for kids and those who are kids at heart.