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 Seventy-one

Pro Shops

By Old Rupe


Every golf course has the local pro who will show you how to correct your deficiencies for a small fee. Thirty to fifty dollars a lesson will go a long way toward making a person a better golfer. Each golfer accepts this as a way of life. The golf-pro is a teacher, not a person who will play with you to make your two-some a lower scorer. Boy have we missed the concept in fly fishing. Our pro's are guides who help a person catch fish or in some cases actually catch the fish for them. Where is the teaching aspect?

Teaching seems relegated to schools offering group lessons at seven to eight hundred dollars a person for a two day period, mostly aimed at beginners. There are few fishing professionals who either can or will analyze a persons 'game' and then provide the two hour lessons needed. Casting lessons that cover specific subjects such as right and left-hand mends, tuck casts, indicator nymphing as well as the cerebral aspects of the sport appear to be offered by few. My observations conclude that one-on-one teaching is the only thing that works. It just takes a real sharp fly fisher to be able to fulfill this function and one-on-one lessons are expensive. Most students are not smart enough to realize they need the help, and those who do either don't know where to find it or can't afford it.

Our professionals write, give clinics, run lodges, guide, tie flies, etc, but don't fulfill the real need. Today we need an instructor who says, "Let me watch you fish for an hour or two and then I'll discuss what you need." When the observation period is over a quick turn at the tying bench and a short discussion of leader making and entomology should produce an evaluation of the students abilities and a list of things he needs to improve.

The instructor would then present a plan which would rectify the problem. A series of intensive half-day lessons with time in between for the student to practice and correlate what he has learned. This learning process may be spread out over a period of time. I could even visualize parts of the teaching process being farmed-out to others with the instructor carefully monitoring the process. The student would then have to decide how far he wanted to go.

The beginner would need a different program which would allow him to experience the sport in sufficient depth to see if fly fishing was his thing. A later desire to improve his abilities would place him in the observation and improve scenario.

I can also visualize interesting individual presentations such as 'How to Utilize the InterNet and the Personal Computer to Expand a Fishers Horizons,' 'Accessing the World Wide Fly Fishing Data Base in Print,' Rod Building and Fly Tying ' (see Al Campbell's act on this site), 'Advanced Fly Fishing Entomology', 'Stream Improvement Strategies,' 'Bamboo Rod Building' (bamboo questions can be answered here weekly real-time by Ron Kusse, an expert who has built the world's best rods before most of us were born). The list goes on and on. Some subjects lend themselves to group learning and some do not.

Why not have a program to show prospective fishing professionals how to apply behavioral objectives to the teaching process, and how to evaluate objectively their own teaching performance? What about a national fly instructors certification board that would over-look the profession much like our state medical boards do our doctors? (No, FFF doesn't do that.)

Today the level of instruction is much better than it used to be. Forty years ago there was none. There has to be a realization from the fishing public that quality instruction costs money, and like the golfer and tennis player. The fly fisher should be able to come to the fly fishing pro-shop and get the specific help he wants. It may be a lesson on how to elevate the back cast or how to tie a certain type of fly or a integrated program designed to match his long term goals.

Few are qualified to teach and those who are today usually can't afford to. I don't mean to dismiss the role of the guide. Guides serve a useful function and some like Al Campbell are not only guides but teachers. I guided a little at one time but seldom had the opportunity to teach. At that time fly fishers just didn't charge to show others how to play our sport.

I remember the time I was fishing and my wife was relaxing in the van below Stephan's Bridge on the AuSable River in Michigan. She called to me from shore and I came over. It seems she had talked to a man from downstate who had bought the equipment but was sitting in his car too intimidated by his lack of skill to get out and try it among all the posturing fly fishers present. She asked me to please help the guy. After fifteen minutes he caught his first fish and after ten trout or so I left him on his own. Now he wasn't the 'complete fly fisher,' but he was catching more fish on that hard-fished stretch than most of the others present. Ten fish from 100 feet of water at the canoe take-out wasn't bad for a beginner. I even gave him 10-15 flies.

That kind of help is still present on the stream today, for free, but some want and need more. It's great to see that people like Ron Koenig from Pennsylvania still gives away more flies than he uses. Dave Ulmer actually came to my pharmacy looking for containers to hold Albolene floatant to give to those he meets on the stream. I've seen Tim Heenan give over two hours of free instruction to a beginner on indicator nymph fishing. What a lucky beginner to have accessed an expert of that stature. I've been the recipient of Al Campbell's free day-long lesson on how to fish pocket water. I couldn't have been more fortunate. With people like these out there our sport will survive.

I think we should take the teaching and guiding privileges from all those who fail to stress good stream etiquette. I don't need road rage on the stream.

Look out you golfers, in the future you will see our professionals designing interesting stream sections and using videos and computer programs to correct casting faults. Four passes over a trout will be looked at like four-putting a green. A guide in the future will serve more and more the function of todays golf caddy, handing the fisher the right rod and fly for the situation.

Please try to remember the time when some of us old codgers fished the rivers for the love of the sport, and when socio-economic status and ethnicity didn't really matter. A man was judged by how he laid out the fly.

Like it should be.

P.S.: There should be a required list of books and articles concerning "why we fish" which fly fishermen must read before they are allowed on the stream. Maybe a drop of bourbon from a tin cup should be mandatory. Robert Traver it's a shame you are gone. ~ Old Rupe

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