Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

November 17th, 1997

What's So Important About A Name?

Writers tend to read a lot. And we steal ideas from each other. The neat part is we don't all think alike, so my thoughts on the same subject can be very different. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, just a title or headline will spark an idea. Even if several writers come from the same region, their experiences and frame of reference can be worlds apart.

Something about the AuSable River in Michigan, our 'home water,' must have been contagious. At least a dozen folks we fished with there are writers. Some are quite good. All with a different slant to their writing.

Plagiarism is a dirty word. I mentioned writers steal ideas. Well, not exactly. The same subject matters, yes. But any worthwhile writer would not steal the words of another writer. (I just stole a line from a commercial, did you catch me?) Commercials don't count anyway - that's sort of public domain.

Fly tying does count. There was a terrific guest editorial in the July/August 1995 issue of Fly Fishing in Saltwaters by Dan Blanton. Part of the article is a shot at writers, and I agree with him. Some writers don't take the time to do much homework. So if a tier puts his name on a known fly the writer probably isn't going to challenge it. Happens all the time.

Dan Blanton, however is the inventor of the Whistler fly series, and more. And he gets more than a little fried at seeing his flies show up in a magazine with someone else's name on them.

Here is another example: Lefty Kreh is credited with inventing a baitfish imitation commonly known as "Lefty's Deceiver." Bet you money you can walk into a fly shop almost anywhere and have the proprietor show you his own version of the Deceiver. Dan points out, and correctly so, "a tier takes a well-established pattern, changes the color, adds or removes a hackle, then changes its name, claiming credit for a new pattern."

Jeeze, I know there is a lot of ego out there, and some folks are probably so insecure they have to take credit for something. How tacky. It's stealing! Grow up, get a life.

Reputable shops and catalogs proudly label flies with the proper name. Kaufmann's catalog shows Lefty's Deceiver in four colors. Blanton's Whistler is also properly listed. As is Popovics Surf Candy, along with hundreds of other flies. Often the name of the fly relates to the originator. A Quill Gordon? Theodore Gordon, of course. (Also correctly called by Swisher & Richards a "Gordon Quill.")

Is the knock-off of fly patterns really plagiarism? If you are a tier, and not selling the flies as your own, no. We all tie those "name flies" because they work. Fishing magazines and websites often give instructions on tying those patterns.

Your version or adaptation is still a version of a known fly. Changing hook size or type doesn't make it "yours" either. It certainly seems right to give credit where it is due, and most tiers do.

Major commercial fly suppliers have instituted a royalty program for fly tiers. I believe Umpqua Feather Merchants was the first to do so. Others will follow suit.

If you are selling knock-offs as your own invention, yes - it really is stealing! Knowingly claiming invention of a fly for your own gain is stupid. Fly fishermen have been known to read books and catalogues. Sure would kill ones credibility to be caught. ~ The LadyFisher

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