Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jan 13, 2014

For many of us fly fishing is a year 'round passion that we either embrace fully, or try to corral to fit within our busy schedules. For others it's strictly a Spring/Summer ordeal where hatches and dry flies are the driving emphasis for their time on the water. Once the frosts arrive they roll up shop and move indoors or onto other pursuits. I personally have always carried my time on the water into the winter months, but admittedly mainly on selective days where Indian summers and January thaws are welcome anomalies. There are the normal lulls in my time on the water caused by a few other conditions that course threw my veins each year, and that seem to overcome my fly fishing and fly tying efforts. They come in the form of Spring Gobblers waking me up at first light, and the velvet bucks of early fall which prompt my bow to come off the pegs.

Yet through the year they all blend together. While chasing strutting gobblers each spring, I am scouting for antler drops and the tell-tale signs of the previous year's rut. I'm walking streams and watching for clearing waters and mid-day hatches to begin. In the fall, I am walking the furthest waters with bow in hand as all the while noting the hatches I see and the gobblers I hear from the roost. My fly fishing not to be any different, I notice each turkey and deer track along the streams, each fly-down gobble during a dawn hatch, and the trails to-and-from water in which I cross. It's a cycle of never-ending observation, in which each pursuit supports the other.

Yet, there is also that time in which I tend to focus most of all on my tying bench. It generally begins immediately after the Christmas rush, and goes right up to my spring gobbler scouting. January through April is when I can focus undistracted on my tying. The restocking of boxes takes place, a few patterns created from my notes during the previous season, and at times an article or two arises from the ashes in which I submit hopefully to the editors in charge. It's a time of leisure. No pressure to be had or timelines to be met; just my vise, the usual new materials from Christmas to play with and possibly a glass of local Merlot or Guinness to accompany me. The dogs tend to lie around at my feet as well. However, I'm not sure whether it's my presence and company that draws them in or the multitude of furs and feather scents that happens to be the main attractant? Either way, I'll take it.

I have found over the years that my winter tying is often the most productive as well. More of the patterns that have proven successful seem to come from winter sessions for me. Possibly because my time at the bench is less distracted by the wants, needs and desires of current hatches? Or knee-jerk reactions to on-stream hunches for needed changes to existing patterns. In the winter I can take a far more objective look at my boxes. I can step back from the time on the water and honestly look at a given pattern or idea. I find myself culling patterns that a season or more ago I was so excited about. Or looking at a given pattern and realizing that once the tail was chewed off, it did much better, thus prompting a revision. I also tend to tie a new pattern in 2-3 versions, and let the empty and full bins tell the tale in the future. I often find myself dumping my first pick into the reclaim bin, which is a process that I find to be quite humbling to say the least.

 Just as I long for no interruptions to my other pursuits, so goes my winter tying as well save for the periodic breaks for snow-blowing and the spreading of salt. I will often pass up time on the water for a day of tying during the winter months. Not because of weather or a lack of wanting to fish, but because my heart really just isn't in it. It belongs to my vise at those times, and when the winter snows come I am looking forward to it just as much as the start of any other season.  

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