Big Guy, grinning from ear to ear, showed
up carrying something strange. It was either a bad practical joke
- or the world's weirdest aquarium. The thing was about three
inches wide, two feet high, maybe three feet long, and made of very
heavy clear plastic.
I need to tell you here, Big Guy is Castwell's
best friend and fly-fishing-fanatic. Hanging around Castwell
is contagious, even without visions of wild trout and huge
salmon. Behind the serious mad scientist (that's certifiable - he really is an
inventor with patents on thin film technology) there is this childlike curiosity that
has to know about everything. And it's catching.
Have you guessed what the thing is? It's a tank to test out flies ... yes, they
really did it. Big Guy had tied up some really great-looking shrimp. So the tank
was filled with five gallons of water, and leaders were tied to the new flies.
Wow! What an education. Oh, all right, I got into it too ... no, not the tank, the
experiment. They let me drag a couple flies through the tank. This lets you see
some things you just can't see any other way. Yes, of course I've drug a fly
through the water while I was fishing. And checked out how it looked in the water.
But that's different.
Why? For one thing you can look directly through the tank and see how the fly
rides, from the front, side or top. I should probably say here we were testing wet
flies, stuff we want to use for salmon. Imitation bait; sandlance, shrimp and other
flies that look like the food salmon eat.
Big Guy's beautiful shrimp sank. Not exactly, but sure didn't look like a real
shrimp. Neither did a terrific shrimp I was given by a well-known tier from
California. This shrimp is so involved it takes a pro an hour to tie one. The end
with the eyes (supposed to be on the hook end) went straight down for the bottom.
No amount of strip, snap, jiggle, twitch or pull would make it ride realistically.
Time for a cup of coffee and some head-scratching. How could this be? We dug
out more flies. Castwell's Chum Choker, (featured here recently as Castwell's
Chum Fly) the one he caught the huge one on, literally swam. Perfect! We knew
why that one worked.
I landed a small silver recently on a Pink Humpie fly. That went into the tank.
Another winner. Now the guys are looking through everything. What else do you
have? Even bare hooks were not safe. Leaders were tied on and into the tank they
An hour later we had learned even more. Some flies we had purchased flopped
over sideways once in the tank. Some rode head down. Others rolled over not quite
on their back ... the hook really shows up that way. Materials that looked great out
of the water looked awful in the water. By the time we had gone through our fly
wallets we discovered something else.
Here's an example. You go into a shop, to get a few flies to go after your
favorite fish. Do you pick out the flies yourself? Do you look at each fly as you
pick it up? Probably not. We're all in a hurry, even when we're planning our
recreation. You can't catch fish with flies that don't work - unless you snag one.
Besides looking for the obvious, like thread coming off, unevenly tied flies that
won't swim properly; look for something you might not have expected. A fly with
the colors reversed. Visualize any bait fish. Fish generally have white or light
colored bellies with darker sides and tops; the colors can vary.
What do you think the odds are on a fish taking a fly that is dark on the bottom
and white on top? The point is we have examples of the proper tie, right alongside
the bad ones. They were purchased together, from the same bin.
How can this be? Easy, fly fishing has become big business. Television, books
and movies have brought many new people into the sport. New industries have
developed. Lots of flies are imported, from places you wouldn't expect. How about
Africa? Malaysia? And more. Yes, there are American tied flies. But even that is
Take a good hard look before you buy flies. And if you are a tier doing any wet
flies, a "try" tank like Big Guy built might be a terrific investment. It sure is an
amazing education. ~ The LadyFisher
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