Christmastime, when fish are jumpin' in my mind

OLYMPIA - Christmas music - often set to a swinging jazz beat - bounces through my head on a lot of summer fishing trips.

This is why:

I churn through hundreds of trout flies each year.

Many of them fall victim to reckless casts into snag-infested waters, but bankside trees and shrubs snatch their share.

I even lose flies to fish every now and then.

Most of my empty fly boxes get restocked during winter evenings. It’s easy to sit down at the vise and wind feathers, fur and weird, glittery space-age synthetics around tiny hooks when it’s dark and drizzly outside.

I put CDs in the music box – or tune to KPLU jazz – and fall into that trance of fly, fly, fly, fly, fly … This winter ritual usually starts just before Christmas, so the sound track always starts with Christmas music.

My favorite kind of Christmas music comes with a jazz swing to it, as all the Christmas records of my childhood starred Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin or the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich. My father was – and remains – a jazz fan, and he didn’t own any holiday records with church organs or soaring choirs.

When I was a kid, I thought all Christmas music swung with a jazz beat. You can imagine my culture shock when I first listened to Christmas music in a church.

When I was in first grade, my class learned “Silent Night” for the school Christmas show, and I kept waiting for the drum solo to start.

Anyway, I tried something new last week. I hooked my computer to some speakers with the idea of listening to the music I have stored on this sometimes-baffling machine.

The evening started with my favorite – The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

This simple, jazzy pairing of piano, bass and drums – along with the clear, trebly warble of a children’s choir – takes me back to my own childhood in the 1960s and 1970s – and my daughter Courtney’s childhood as well.

There is exuberance here – and a little of the melancholy of the holiday season as well.

This is also fine music for tying flies. The notes percolate through the air and spur yet another size 20 Sparkle Dun – in pale yellow, olive, tan or black – off the vise and into the fly box.

Sometimes I pull a fly out of my box on a warm summer morning, and I remember tying that bunch while listening to Christmas music.

All this means that Christmas music – usually set to a swing beat – often percolates through my mind.

Last winter, I tied most of my Iris Caddis – the best fly to drop onto the water when the fish swirl for caddis flies during the midsummer – while listening to Dean Martin Christmas records.

Martin’s smooth, lush voice burbled “Rudolph the red-beaked reindeer,” on my internal soundtrack when I tied on an Iris Caddis during a smokin’ hot evening on Oregon’s Deschutes River last July.

Yeah, it sounds strange, but there it is.

The biggest dry fly brown trout of my fish-addled life scarfed down a size 16 ant fly on Montana’s Madison River a few summers back. I can still recall seeing that big snout tip up and suck down that small fly, which looked like a bit of cinnamon stick on the water.

And, of course, Frank Sinatra was gliding through this song:

Oh, by gosh, by golly

It’s time for mistletoe and holly

Tasty pheasants, Christmas presents

Countrysides covered with snow.

Oh, by gosh, by jingle

It’s time of carols and Kris Kringle

Overeating, merry greetings

From relatives you don’t know …

I’ve never told anyone this before, and I wonder why I’m now sharing this with thousands of readers now. Then again, I’ve always been comfortable with keeping Christmas in my head all year long – as long as the trout keep slurping down my flies.

I could go on and on, but I’ve got more flies to tie, and Eartha Kitt is about to purr through “Santa Baby.”

Merry Christmas to all of you – especially when the trout rise on warm July evenings.

Chester Allen: 360-754-4226