It’s difficult to admit, but several years ago I almost had to declare bankruptcy. What precipitated this embarassment? Stock market? Loss of Job? Gambling addiction? No, it was fly tying. Yes, FLY TYING. This sad tale begins a decade or so ago, after having discarded my spinning gear in favor of a flyrod. Sensing my passion (obsession) for my new sport, a friend suggested I learn to tie my own flies. I really didn’t think I had the manual dexterity to tie good flies, and as it turned out I didn’t. But when my friend gifted me an Orvis beginner’s flytying kit, I felt obligated to try. After creating a few wooly buggers and gold-ribbed hare’s ears with the material provided in the kit and after having found a few trout apparently brain-damaged and willing to sample them, I was the one who became hooked.
Soon I found myself subscribing to American Angler, Fly Fisherman, The Drake, Flyfish and Tying Journal, Flytier, and others. Had to get a larger mailbox. I began to study the fly patterns in these publications with the intensity of a classics scholar deciphering a newly discovered ancient Greek text. From each magazine I tore out pages of fly patterns and created files. Soon my flytying space began to resemble what you see on that hoarders cable show. Then there were the flytying books. The best of the best: Dave Hughes’ Essential Trout Flies. So concise. Such appealing photos Great fly recipes and fishing tips. I found myself reading this book over and over with the scrutiny of a twelve-year-old studying a Playboy purloined from his dad’s sock drawer (before the internet, of course). And don’t forget the videos.
Time to put this knowledge to work. So began the trips to my local fly shops. So much to buy. Hooks: dry fly, caddis, nymph, streamer, hopper, jighead, in every size from Titanic anchor to microscopic. Feathers: rooster, hen, pheasant, partridge, peacock, marabou, ostrich, and others, in all available sizes and colors. Furs: elk, deer, moose, beaver, bucktail. Threads, tinsels, lead wire, copper wire, silver wire. Next yarns. Then beads in copper, silver, and brass, again all sizes. Who knows what else that I am forgetting. Soon all my spare time was consumed by flytying and accumulating a flyshop’s worth of finished product. I began to take my vise to the office and tie during downtime. I stopped shaving and bathing. My wife threatened to leave this stranger who had moved into our house, displacing the husband she once knew. I believe she had begun commitment proceedings.
Then, thankfully, tenkara. Studying the tenkara-scripture, I learned that the fly was not the essential in catching trout, but rather the presentation of the fly. Of course, I already knew this deep down, but I needed to be reminded. Now all I required were thread, a feather, and a hook. I began to analyze what seemed to work consistently on my local stream. I divested myself of the notion that I needed duns, emergers, spinners, etc., in five sizes and colors, and began to fish almost exclusively Deer Hair Caddis, a Pale Morning Dun parachute, and a couple terrestrial patterns in the warmer months. Amazingly I continued to catch trout. Perhaps one day I’ll get to the point I’m fishing just a sakasa kebari, but for now I’m content with what I’m doing.
I hope this story can help another angler avoid a similar fate. If you want to start tying flies, at least in the beginning stay with the tried-and-true, and perhaps you can avoid adding a room to your house to store your flytying materials.
Got to go. I need to put some ostrich herl on Craigslist.