December 11th, 2006

The Generic
By James Castwell

Most will agree that the first flies did not float very well, if at all. Actually, most think they were not intended to. They were just intended to attract fish. That the general style of flies continued for hundreds of years is not surprising. Fish are curious. So far, there has not been a fly that wouldn't at some time and place catch something. As time went on, inventiveness brought forth a wide range of materials and some attempts to make flies float and more or less represent in varying degrees some insect forms. Not to go into the bait representations at his time.

With clever minds and quality feathers, flies started to float and the dry fly was indeed born. It lived on more than one continent and in several styles but there remained a certain sameness to all dry flies. The general shape of a trout fly was a tail, a body, a wing, and some hackle. This is true for the wet and the dry. The only difference is the amount of hackle and the web in the feathers. The elements remain virtually unchanged.

The first realistic attempt to create an actual dry fly was by Vincent Marinaro, the creator of the jassid. His use of a slanted front tank and photographs of a fly tied with a cris-crossing of two hackle feathers produced a fly which for the very first time gave an accurate impression of the footprints of a dun as it floated on the surface. Another often overlooked feature of his fly was the placement of the wing which was nearly dead-center of the hook shank. With the combination of the cross-style hackle and the proper placement of the wing he was far ahead of the field. Too far actually and his flies were never accepted as anything but bizarre and an oddity. A shame really as he was quite correct and the flies were a snap to construct.

He was however perhaps blinded by his own theory and failed to take his inspection to the next level. That a dry fly needs to represent an insect and do so well before it gets into the window of a fish's vision is an accepted fact and one to be striven for at all costs. Observation of living insects from below the surface will reveal some interesting elements however. As he stated, the "color of the body of a dun is superfluous as it does not engage the water," is close but not quite accurate. A dun can at times keep its body above the surface but it is greatly the exception. Usually the body will ever so lightly touch. That the color is not readily apparent is true, but that it does touch is also true.

To represent a dun correctly the tier needs to rethink what it is he is attempting to do; to represent, from below the surface, an image that will interest a fish enough for it to start the rise response. To do so is far simpler than has been accepted and followed over the years. The only elements that are required are three. A body. A wing/post. A hackle, wound shinny side up, so as to represent an image from below the surface, of the legs of an insect, and enough turns to float the fly.

A tail is unnecessary and counterproductive only helping to sink a fly no matter what it is made of. The vertical wing/post needs to be applied first to the middle of the hook shank for balance and needs to be made of a material rigid enough to facilitate the winding of a convex, horizontal hackle feather, which will be used to support the fly and represent the insects legs.

Nothing else is needed and will only serve to further the demise of the fly. Keeping the body slight/sparse is best, selecting a winging/post material which is highly visible to the angler is desirable and the hackle should be in proportion to the body and the pattern of the legs of the insects being represented.

Color is not necessary at all and only shade may be of any value, actually one set of light and one set of dark of any given hook size will be sufficient. As these flies are of a generic nature it is only natural that I refer to them as 'generic's.'

These are a style of tying requiring the exact placement of the elements and has not before been previously suggested. Flies such as these may have been tied before but not with the full understanding and intent as these are. They are extremely simple to construct and the rank amateur can produce them.

This is not to imply that all of the millions of other flies which have been the creation of the fly-tier's mind will not continue to catch fish. They will. However it is time to put an end to that era and actually advance the craft. The 'generic' flies are easier to tie, require far fewer materials and shades in one's fly collection and will actually entice fish to rise more freely as they more closely represent the insect which the fish consumes daily.

There is no set way these flies must be tied. No secret method. No rules. Whatever works for the individual tier will be fine. The only thing that must be adhered to is the placement of the parts. The wing/post of the appropriate height and centered, the body slim, the hackle wound concave (seen from the bottom) around the post with enough turns to support the fly. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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