The only problem I have after coming back from a wonderful fishing experience in Alaska is getting used to the fishing in the “real world!” Usually, my first fishery back is the Columbia River salmon season. In August, fish come back into the river, getting ready for their spawning runs with the first rains. While many folks go out in the river in boats, I really enjoy going to the beaches at Fort Stevens and casting spinners out into the big water.
This year my initial efforts were just awful. While others were nailing salmon all around me, I put in eleven trips before I even landed a single fish! Naturally, I changed my equipment and techniques; I ordered some better spinning and casting reels, changed over my line, and finally switched spinners.
When casting in the big river, a good spinner is essential. You need something that will cast far, spin easily in any current, and come in the right distance from the bottom. Too deep, you dredge up flounder and crabs, too shallow and the fish won’t see the lure.
My buddy Greg is the best fisherman on the beach. He uses great gear, and makes his own spinners. They are not cheap; he uses the best components, and it takes him some time to make them up. His first few years he sold a few to us buddies, but demand got so great that he pretty much shut down production other than meeting his own needs.
But this year I got lucky; I checked with other successful fishermen and found that there was a commercial spinner that was really bringing up fish. It was hard to find locally, but I managed to order some online, and pretty soon was hauling in fish with the best of them. I got curious about where the idea for the spinner came from and so I contacted the public relations guy at Mepps, Kurt Mazurek, and asked about the history of the lure, sold under the name, Flying C. He sent me a great story about the evolution of the lure and I’d like to share it with you! Here is what he wrote:
I spoke with Mike Sheldon, the owner of Sheldons Inc. (Mepps and Mister Twister). When I asked him about the Flying C, his eyes lit up a little. “That’s an interesting story,” he promised.
As you probably know, the Mepps inline spinner was originally developed in France, so it has a long European history. The basic idea for the Flying C was developed by salmon and trout fishermen in the United Kingdom, probably in the 1970s to 1980s. They had modified an inline spinner for deep use in heavy current by adding a lead body to the main shaft, and using a streamlined piece of tan to off-white, latex, surgical tubing as an attractant. If you can imagine how the lure looked, then you might not be shocked to learn they called it a “flying condom.” Crude as all this may sound, word of the lure’s effectiveness started to travel. Mepps knew they could improve on this design even further, and in the early 1990s released the Flying C (with a more family friendly name).
As is the case with all Mepps lures, we eliminated all lead components and upgraded them to brass—nearly as dense, infinitely more durable, eco-friendly, and generates a louder attracting sound when the parts click together. Furthermore, we introduced a range of bright colors in the latex tubing and developed an adhesion process to make sure the tube stayed in place on the body (solving a constant problem of the original design). But that’s not the end of the story. Through our testing phase, we discovered over time, the brass body produced a chemical reaction with the tubing and would change the color of the latex to black. We found that nickel-plating our solid brass body was the best way to correct the problem. Of course then we needed to modify the adhesion process to keep the tube in place. All of this makes the Flying C one of the most labor intensive, costly lures we make. On the bright side it is also one of our best selling to this day. In fact, sales of the Flying C have nearly doubled in the last 5 years. As you can attest, it is particularly popular in the northwestern U.S.
How cool is that! The best lure for fishing big water in the Northwest was called the flying condom!!
Like many of you, I’ve always liked Mepps lures, but had no idea where their ideas came from, or how much effort went into making the lures work well. Not only does the Flying C cast well, but it also lends itself to modification by adding different hooks, skirts and other customizing bits that allow fishermen to put their own touch on an already great product. While the lures are very well made, they will get torn up by a bunch of hungry salmon, and locals save every scrap of the lure to enhance their tackle box. I’m sure the company would rather you buy some new ones, but it is pretty high praise to have your lures treasured so much.
Next year I’m going to start the season with a whole bunch of these. Not only did I wear a few out, I also lost several by tying lousy knots, not checking my leader for nicks, and by casting while my line was wrapped around my rod tip! But mostly I ran out of lures because I gave them away to fishermen who had come a long way for the fishing, could only be there a few days, and couldn’t find any good lures. When a lure is so good that you give them as gifts, with the full expectation the angler will be successful, you know that it’s a great spinner. Even if it did have a sexually explicit nickname!!!
Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and at rvlife.com.