Have you ever heard the term "my way or the
highway"? The idea is either you do it my
way or get lost. That attitude doesn't allow
for much diversity or freedom of thought.
Sometimes the idea of tight controls is good,
but most of the time it isn't. Humans usually
do much better if they are given the idea and
tools to do the job, and then allowed to work
it out within loose guidelines.
Flyfishers are a rather independent breed. We
like to experiment and expand within what we have
learned, and we like to be creative while we learn.
Fly tiers may be a bit more creative by nature
than others; but we all like to have some choice
in what we do something, and how we do it. I call
it human nature.
When I first started tying my own flies, I produced
some awful looking things I loosely called flies.
I was learning, and many of my improvements in tying
were gained by copying somebody else's pattern. I
had to learn the skills before I could use them
creatively in my own creations. As I learned, I
could adapt that learning to creations of my own,
but I first had to have the basic skills of the
The same is true with casting a fly line. Some of
the casting I do is pretty creative. If I work on
my form, I can reduce some of that creativity, but
I still seem to launch out on my own at times.
Joking aside though, I had to learn the basics before
I could learn to double haul or roll cast or tuck
cast. From the core of basic skills, I was able
to expand and learn more, but without those basic
skills, I would have been unable to learn.
To play a musical instrument, you have to learn the
notes and the basic chords before you can expand into
real music. Those notes and chords are the foundations
of the music we want to hear and play. Without that
foundation, we're merely making noise, not music.
Everything has a starting point that we build on
to create what we want to create. Without that
starting point, we can achieve nothing.
Bear with me folks, I'm getting to my point soon.
Not too long ago I got an e-mail from a guy who
said he wanted to learn to tie bass bugs, especially
divers and poppers made of colored deer hair. I
sent the guy back a link to my fly tying series
here on FAOL, and suggested that he start at the
beginning and learn the skills as they are shown.
A few days later, the guy e-mailed me and said he
found the bass patterns he wanted to tie, but he
needed to know how to start the thread on the hook.
Once again, I suggested that he start at the beginning
and learn the skills as they were shown so he wouldn't
miss anything he might need.
A few days later he wrote me back and said he didn't
want to learn how to tie trout flies, so the rest of
the series was useless to him. And, could I please
explain how to select, prepare and attach feathers
to the hook. I told him that the fly tying series
was written to show skills in a certain order and
he needed to go back and learn what I had shown
and he had skipped.
A few days later I got an e-mail from the guy asking
me how to get the hair to puff up like that. By then
I wasn't a real happy camper, so I just sent him a
link to the first pattern that showed spinning deer
hair and nothing more. He wrote me back and said he
didn't want to learn how to tie a hopper, but really
needed to know how to make the deer hair puff up
like that. I didn't reply.
A few days later the guy wrote me and said he could
tell I had a "my way or the highway" attitude and
he would find his information elsewhere. And, did
I know of any fly shops in his area that taught bass
fly tying classes. Darn, I really don't know of
any classes like that, so I haven't replied to his
My point here is something called a foundation. I
don't really believe I'm the "pompous ass" he says
I am in his e-mail; but I do think you need a
foundation of basic fly tying skills before you
can realistically expect to create something as
complex as a spun hair bass bug. Basic skills
like starting the thread and finishing the head
are important skills you need to know if you're
going to tie your own flies. Without that
foundation, your learning will be difficult
I'm sure casting instructors occasionally get the
same sort of request. "I just want to learn how
to double haul at least 100 feet, but I don't want
to learn any of that other stuff used in trout
fishing." It's an instant world with expectations
for instant success, but people don't want to lay
a foundation for the success they seek. If they
fail, it's because somebody else didn't want to
show them how to do it right. All they wanted
you to do was show them the complex stuff.
I hope that guy is reading this. I want him to
know that he'll never get to where he wants to go
if he isn't willing to travel the road to his
destination. There are no magic potions for
instant success. The fastest route to success
is paved on the foundation of basic skills. It's
that way in everything we do, including fly tying.
You must learn to walk before you can run, and
walking is the foundation to everything we do on
our feet. The same concept applies to fly tying.
Do you suppose he'll ever go back and learn, or at
least read the basic fly tying instructions? I hope
so. The creativity he seeks, and we all want to
enjoy requires a certain set of basic skills we
all must learn before we can be creative and
successful in what we do. Until then though,
I'll remain the "pompous ass" who wasn't willing
to help him learn.
Learn the basics, and the future is yours.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts around the basics.