Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps . .


Part Thirty-three

The Magic in Fly Design, Concluded

By Ken Abrames


One dark and stormy night, while fishing a beach on Martha's Vineyard, I saw what felt to me like a touch of orange and blue flash in the water and I became intrigued. I looked to where I had noticed it in the water and turned on my flashlight. There was a swarm of squid milling in the shallow water.

Later, I tied some flies with the orange and blue color note. I shaped them and built them from the idea of orange and blue flash at night equals squid to me, perhaps? The fly was the question and eventually with a little tweaking, it was answered by the fish with a yes. Is this the only question the fish say yes to? No! So I continue to find more questions. I choose to view it this way because it allows me the freedom to not have answers to depend on - only more and more questions. This attitude prevents me from becoming stale and rigid in my opinions and becoming fixed into a routine that excludes new ways of seeing familiar phenomena. It keeps me continuously fluid and always seeking what I have overlooked before.

Flies are beautiful objects. Paintings are beautiful objects. There is an energy within the Mona Lisa that cannot be captured by a paint-by-number reproduction even if Leonardo himself did it accoring to directions. The energies used to form them are of different orders, the same is true of flies.

When I see photographs laid out in magazines and books of fly boxes neatly arranged with rows of patterns each exactly the same, I wonder why? They do look nice on a page, perhaps that's why. It is graphic design and it is sensitive to the pictorial and collectable beauty of fly patterns. There is much more to fishing with flies than the beauty and collectability of the patterns. The flies that are tied by fishermen are tied one at a time and they are all different. The pattern may be generic but the individual fly never is. Some flies are tied in such a way that they catch fish better than others. This is also a part of good fly design, creating each fly with an awareness of how the particular materials used interact with each other and how to form and balance them so they not only match a recipe but swim and move with the illusion of a living presence. Flies that are tied with this goal in mind are meaningful to the fishermen who tie and use them.

Allow yourself to tie flies from your feelings and show them to the fish. After all, that is how flies were made in the first place. Let the fish judge your flies. They are the connoisseurs of fly design and their verdict is the only one that counts.

Fly tying tradition is in a sense precious and it is to be respected. Respect is a very large word. It can be used as a doorway to knowledge and freedom or it can be interpreted as a binding to opinion and structure. Respect your own curiosity and explore from it. That is respecting and using the lore of the past. Knowing someone's work is important and, of course, this knowing, in and of itself, influences what it touches. Still, there are many Madonna and Child paintings and all are unique. Feelings are the fuel with which we create, and feelings, no matter how they come, belong to the one who feels them.

Honoring traditions does create and add a certain value to whatever a man does. To fashion a fly from tradition is an honorable practice. A tradition is a storehouse of knowledge that is available for exploration. Familiarity with a tradition can be empowering and yet, when this expertise is imposed to define correctness it diminishes into opinion. There are many opinions and there always will be room for many more. Hopefully there will never be a final word.

It is important to remember the root of fly tying. It is not to seek glory or identity from our fellow men but simply to tie flies as an expression of our feelings and ideas and to use them to catch fish. It is equally as important to honor the tradition of sharing with others what we have discovered and to humbly accept the fact that it is because of this spirit of sharing that we have come to know most of what we take for granted as fundamental in fly tying.

Once upon a time, there was no Lefty's Deceiver nor was there an idea of one but there was a feeling and a fellow who found it and held it and reached for the materials and named them and shaped them. Then he shared with others what he had found. The rest of the story is called tradition. It has no final page. There is no deadline for submittals. ~ Ken Abrames

The previous is an excerpt from The Perfect Fish; Illusions in Fly Tying. Published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282 Phone: 503-653-8108,
email Frank Amato Publications

Archive of Old Flies


[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice