The stress was starting to build. I have this inclination
toward over commitment and people pleasing, not to mention
avarice. These were all contributing factors in me signing
up for six fly swaps in the course of four months. I have a
procrastination problem I am trying to get control of and
at times I question my technique. Telling myself that if
I sign up, and then meet the deadlines, it will enhance
my self esteem, I still find myself up against the wall
and fretting over my priorities in an effort to get all
the flies out. Aware that if I can get the flies tied,
I will get some really cool flies in return, the
anticipation overwhelms me.
I am not really a great fly tier. I would say I am adequate.
I do enjoy it though and I find, as with most things,
practice improves performance. The twelfth fly is
inevitably better than the first anytime I attempt
a new pattern. I find I gain a better understanding
of each process with repetition. Yea I know, wow, what
a revelation. There are times that I amaze myself with
simple epiphanies, not understanding how I could get
that far and not have realized it before. Some of the
problem lies in the fact that "I don't need no stinking
directions." You know, just give me a picture and I
will figure it out. Most of you guys should understand
what I am talking about. Sure, some of you actually do
read directions. I can only assume you have tried to
wing it often enough that you came to the realization
that maybe there was some benefit. There is humility
in that which is sometimes hard for me to grasp.
My first attempts at fly tying came in the 70's when I
was first embarking on my journey into the Nirvana of Fly
Fishing. I had been steelheading quite a bit with my brother
and a friend, casting spoons, lil corkies, and egg clusters.
It was through reading subversive elitist literature that
I had become enamored with the prospect of catching one on
a fly. I already owned a 7 wt. glass rod that had begun to
serve me well for bass and trout. My next purchase was a
new cutting edge Cortland graphite 9' wt. 8-9. I knew in
my neophyte fly fishing heart this was something that would
assure me success in my quest for ole ironhead.
This was the point where it became apparent to me I was
not only changing techniques, I was changing my entire
approach to preparation for a fishing excursion. No longer
could I just pack up my hooks and bait, my box of corkies
and spoons, and flog the water. I needed a whole new line
of accoutrements. Most of all I needed flies. I had a fine
selection of bluegill poppers and a bunch of "guaranteed
to catch trout" flies from my local department store, you
know the ones, hackle twice as large as it needs to be and
too soft to float.
The only way to fix this dilemma was to throw more money at
it. Boy did I throw money. I figure the saving grace here
is that my wife and I were still DINKS (double income, no
kids). This was back in the good old days when I still
understood disposable income. I bought a vice, a bunch
of tying tools, threads, chenille, saddle hackle, tinsel,
and hooks. And anything else I thought I just needed to have.
I feel this was a great place to start, for as you know
steelhead flies are generally larger flies and of course
larger means easier to see and work on. I had purchased
a couple books on tying, and had been a religious magazine
aficionado, so I had patterns at my disposal. But once
again, I really didn't feel I needed the instruction
available. I was off on a tangent, tying what worked for
me. Big hooks and brightly colored chenille afforded me
the inspiration I needed.
I had found another material that just looked like the
cat's meow, it was this sticky backed prism tape. I figured
it would be just the ticket for a big bright and flashy
attractor. I mean, it was bright and flashy. The only
hindrance to a practically tied fly was affixing the
sticky tape to the hook. I had to angle a 1/16" piece
stuck to a duplicate so that I could attach it with
thread behind the hackle.
I actually got two of the frustrating little boogers
tied and decided they looked so bad that there was no
sense in tying anymore, so I moved on to that old
beginner's standby, the skunk. Black after all, does
hide mistakes better.
It was with a small bunch of crudely tied experiments,
and my new state-of-the-art Cortland graphite rod, that
I stepped out on the shelf of the 'horseshoe hole.'
The shelf was on the inside of the bend and on the
outside was another shelf under which could be seen
spring kings. The water was crystal clear and there
were, maybe 12 nice sized springers occupying the slot.
All big and bright, running from 12-25 lbs.
My casting left a little to be desired; however I did
manage to get the fly out to the head of the hole. I
could visually follow the drift, for the red, white
and mylar concoction stood out like an underwater
beacon directing any and all piscatorial migrants
to come hither, for a free lunch.
As the fly drifted over the first couple fish, my
breathing became labored, over the next couple and
my knees began to knock. By the time the fly approached
the next and largest springer yet, I was stunned to
disbelief, for half way through the slot I had found
a taker for the gaudiest fly to date that has ever
come off my vise.
He casually rose about a foot above his lie and turned
his head to take a little nibble. My moment had arrived
and I wasted no time in putting the steel to him as I
tried to rip his lips off. I only succeeded in snapping
the tippet. This was the epitome of buck fever. I ran
out of expletives deleted. My first ever shot at a
springer on the fly and I had broken him off like the
neophyte I was.
Never let it be said I accept failure gracefully. I
still had another, of what by then had become the
hottest fly on this stretch of the river. I couldn't
tie it on fast enough, or should I say slowly enough.
I would state by this time I was completely convinced
that fly fishing for big salmon, in gin clear water,
had to be the most exciting adventure to date for me.
I saw endless hours of fishing in my future. I pictured
myself banking behemoth after behemoth, on big obnoxious
looking flies of my own design, which no fish could
Having successfully affixed fly to leader amidst my free
form fantasizing, I proceeded to repeat the previous cast
and was quite pleased when it looked like an instant
replay right up to the point where, once again, a
massive king rose to the fly, inhaled it, and turned,
only to feel the bite of the Mustad. I managed to get
a set on the hook, and was rewarded with a burst to
the surface and an awe inspiring aerial display which
began with a double leap and ended with my knot coming
The Skunks looked much more aesthetically proper on the
end of my leader, but the boys in the horseshoe hole had
not been informed of that fact. As the day wore on and
I continued to entice another strike I came to the
realization that the hot fly is inevitably, the one
you just lost.
I have never tied another of those abominations, not
that I haven't been tempted. I am however fascinated
with flashabou. It is one of my favorite components
when I tie steelhead or salmon flies. It looks more
suited to a fly than that horrific maylar tape, yet
it still provides the flash needed to catch this
fisherman. Every time I tie on an overwing, or tail,
or body of flashabou I am reminded of just how enticing
it can be at the right place and the right time. I long
for the time to find that place again.
~ Cary Morlan (Linemender)