It's been a little warmer this week. The thermometer poked
its nose above freezing for several days in a row. The snow
is melting – at least in the daylight. Winter rallies at
night and everything freezes solid. Then the sun has to do
its work all over again. But the warm is winning and the
snow is retreating. It rained a bit the day before yesterday.
The moisture in the air and the slush on the mud smelled like
spring. Or the promise of spring. It is still not warm enough
to open any windows or doors, but it is warm enough to start
the water in the streams flowing from top to bottom. It may
be warm enough to do some fishing. I'll see on Saturday.
By Dave Pearson, PA
I'm devoting a good deal of time this winter to honing my
fly tying skills. I'm not alone in this. Many of us putter
at the vise, fill our boxes, and dream of warmer times and
wild places. Tying keeps us on an even keel as we wait for
the sweet of the year. At least it keeps me on an even keel.
My flies are adequate to the task. They catch fish. Sometimes
one will even catch my attention. I'll put a little dot of
head cement (fingernail polish, actually) on the whip finish,
lean back and say to myself, "Nice fly!" But they all don't
look like that. And at this time of year, when the fishing
is more theoretical than actual, I find this bothersome. So
much so, that I've taken a short class to improve my ability.
That class was so helpful, that tonight I start another.
The classes are small and short – 8 students and 4 meetings.
The instructor is a patient and helpful fellow, (in the photo
below). His ties are neat, buggy, and consistent. Exactly
what I need.
Unfortunately, I'm a poor student. I teach guitar for a
living and I know a poor student when I see one. A poor
guitar student doesn't take instruction well and doesn't
He ignores the conceptual framework of a technique as "too
basic" and focuses on the end result of the technique. He
insists on finding his own way to the end result. This is
not willful capriciousness. He genuinely wants to learn. He
just does not see what is there – only what he thinks is
I have this same tendency (as I discovered in my first fly
tying class!). The instructor would be explaining away and
I'd have the fly halfway dressed before he was done with his
explanation. And the fly was "almost right" not "right." I
finally found that to get the result I desired I had to take
instruction from beginning to end and not just the bits which
I thought were new to me. In point of fact, it was all new to
me. I had to "keep it green."
I'm also helping to teach a fly tying course. The class
is sponsored by my TU chapter and has been held every
winter for decades. We get, roughly, a dozen to a couple
dozen students and in 9 weeks we show them the rudiments
of fly tying. On the 10th week we teach them to cast. This
is a beginner's course, though; occasionally, we get a
seasoned tier who wishes to brush up on the basics. The
main instructor, Bob Laubach, will gather the class around
and tie a fly. Then he'll send everybody off to their vises
to tie what he just demonstrated. Bob's helpers (that's me!)
will circulate, check out how each student is doing, and
offer advice, comment, and correction.
Teaching teaches me a lot. If I can teach it, then I
really know it. If I can explain something clearly and
distinctly, then it is clear and distinct in my mind. If
I can demonstrate it in a fashion which encourages
understanding, I understand.
So, I'm a student and a teacher. These roles combine to
make me a better tier. That and practice...practice,
practice, practice. If I don't apply what I know, I do
not improve. Heck, I may even get a bit sloppier. In
this respect, tying is like a sport. Just because I
know the mechanics of shooting a basketball doesn't
mean I can go on the court and shoot basket after
basket. I actually have to shoot hoops to get good at
...shooting hoops. I have to tie flies to get better
at tying flies. It's one thing to know it in my head;
quite another to know it in my hands. Only then can I
tie row after row of identical flies, time after time.
It's raining again. Rain and snow actually...a wintry mix,
I believe it is called. But, it's mostly rain. The air
smells good, but it's still too cold to open the windows.
I'm thinking Spring Creek for Saturday. But then again,
half the fly fishermen in the county are thinking "Spring
Creek" for Saturday. Maybe I'll go elsewhere if this warm
spell continues. Maybe a freestoner will be ice - free
enough to be fishable. That would be perfect. And there
is always Monday. If it keeps warming, more water should
be open on Monday.
But for now I will tie a few flies.
One after another.
Each one just like the others.
Time after time. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at:
From Hemlock Headwaters Archives