Eye of the Guide

ATLANTIC SALMON FLIES - Application to Trout Flies

Satoshi Yamamoto - Mar 07, 2016

Significant Improvement:

In the spring of 2014, as the guide season approached, I had to cut my time for Atlantic Salmon Flies, to spend more time working on trout flies, filling boxes and orders. I noticed some changes right at once. I could tie much better looking flies with great efficiency. Now I got back to what my mentor and outfitter Tom Travis said to me almost all a year before; "If you can learn Atlantic Salmon Flies, you can tie better trout flies, especially some sensitive & careful spring-creek patterns". Thread control, number of thread wraps, knowing materials, handling materials, and so on are all the techniques and knowledge I learned from tying Atlantic Salmon Flies were shining on the much smaller hooks of trout flies.

It may not be due to physical skills of mine. Rather, it's the improvement of visual aspects and mind-set. Let me tell you those gorgeous married wing pairs are held by ONLY 3 TURNS of thread on such big hooks, yet are very durable. Converting all this onto much smaller trout hooks with much finer materials, how many wraps can I omit? Less thread wraps means less time (perhaps a micro nano second!?) and less bulk. Consequently all of those translated into more efficiency and better profiles.

Many days I had spent 4 hours in the morning and another 4 hours in the evening just to complete one Salmon Fly. What's the unit to measure the level of concentration? So, focusing on one trout fly that takes me only several minutes and has become much easier and even forgiving!!

No-Hackle Gnat:

I confess here that I was not able to tie a No-Hackle properly or wasn't good at other patterns with wing quill materials. Now they are part of my signature spring-creek patterns! This may be one of the actual physical skills that I gained by learning Atlantic Salmon Flies. But then again, understanding materials and handling them with confidence would mean more. I can tie them in without breaking, in any sizes, and in any intentions.

Furthermore, this illustration from "How to Dress Salmon Flies" (T. E. Pryce-Tannatt, Review 5) inspired me. I was like "wait, I can apply this idea to my No-Hackle Gnat can't I?"

Here they are. I came up with five different ways (angles and orientations) of winging mallard wing

My No-Hackle Gnat is different from a standard No Hackle. By employing a turkey biot, I can create much slimmer abdomen. Number of fibers for tail is much sparser than the conventional. Then I gained skills to control a pair of mallard wing strips to any intentions: positions and angles. Each style = angle of wings = has its meaning and intention.

I can do the same for sizes 20 and 22 Baetis patterns too.

As a Person:

Last but not the least, here's a very personal memoir. As I have mentioned in the first chapter, my personality has been significantly affected through the course. I had never thought of that. I consider myself patient as a guide and in a general way. Yet Atlantic Salmon Flies require more than extra patience. Curse words won't help. Unfortunately one's mistake and incapability are crystal-clear on such large hooks. It's ME who has made mistakes, not due to materials. Solutions? Be even more patient and practice more!!

As much as my budgets allows me I have been purchasing the best materials available with reasonable prices. What's that for? Am I tying to sell them? No, it's just something that triggers and encourages me. I want to pursue with my best. Some flies would end up as practices or failures; other might be worth framing and even bought. I honestly don't care about the consequences.

During the practice and learning stage (November & December 2013), I woke up early and tied from 7 am to 11 am. In the afternoon, I caught up with other stuff or went fishing at DePuy's Spring Creek. Then in the evening, I went back to sit at my tying bench and tied from 7 pm to 11 pm. That required quite disciplines besides concentrations. That was how much effort and time I invested just to reach the start line. Once I became comfortable, I got more relaxed and started to take more time for preparation. I tried to complete one a day. Yet that was still on the similar schedule mentioned above. In the morning, I would complete from tag and tail to entire body with or without throat and under-wing (depending on patterns). Then I would finish the rest during the evening session. It still required 6 to 8 hours of dedication and concentration a day!

I am diagnosed as myopia and I use contact lenses when I go outside. For fly-tying inside of my house (or reading books), I had been wearing a pair of glass as an alternative to contact lenses. However, as I pursued more accuracy and preciseness specifically for Atlantic Salmon Flies, I needed better focus. I consulted with my optometrist. Fortunately he has some understanding of my gibberish as he once took fly-tying classes with my mentor and outfitter Tom Travis at Montana's Master Angler Fly Shop. He prescribed me a pair of glasses solely for fly-tying. That is another important reason why my trout flies were significantly improved.

I would like to mention that the dressing Atlantic Salmon Flies is something special. It requires lots of time, practice, patience, self-training attitude, and investments (money and effort). But does that make me someone with special talent? No!! I don't care and I'm not. Through the course, I came to see all the events as my personal journey. As discussed in Review 10, Mr. Kelson was said to be an arrogant and immodest person. But I would imagine he was solely intense and extra enthusiastic to the subject: tying better and effective flies to catch elusive Atlantic Salmon. I don't think he was looking for world-wide fame. Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's tone would be more comfortable: stylish and distinctive to the subject yet never intimidating or overwhelming others. I'd just like to have good conversations with like-minded people. Then I'd like to remain open to welcome newcomers just like my predecessors have done to me. And that's how I'd like to be as a fly-dresser, as a fly-fishing guide, and as a person. 

I repeat: I will forever be the apprentice of Atlantic Salmon Flies……….

Satoshi Yamamoto, www.leftyanglerandflies.com, is a guide and a fly-dresser in Livingston, MT.

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