Afterthoughts on the Contest!

The results are in and the prizes will soon be on their way to the lucky winners of this, the first FAOL Atlantic Salmon & Steelhead tying contest.

The number of flies entered and the quality was high in our estimation. We learned quite a few things during the contest and will make a few changes the next time that we feel will be to the advantage of the Tyers who enter.

The reason we started talking about doing a tying contest over two years ago, was to provide yet one more way for our readers to participate in the website and showcase their handiwork. We also recognize that by putting one's work up against others, it will promote individual growth of one's skills. Of course, being one of the winners is good for the ego too but that will fade with time whereas the skills will endure.

Another goal of the contest was to give readers a venue for voicing their opinion and in a very real way, help to determine the eventual winners.

Of course, all of this voting either by the readers or the judge of the technical aspects of the flies is rather subjective regardless how dispassionate we try to be. Much of the opinion rests on somewhat fluid opinions of what things such as ribbing, floss work, wing shape and size and so on should be. None of the flies received the full potential of 100 points nor do I expect any fly by anyone could, myself included. We all improve with every fly we tie and that is much of the challenge of this craft.

We all look at flies with our individual biases and these are based on our knowledge of the craft. The technical aspects of the flies are little known by a non Tyer. He/she will see the fly's colors and overall shape. Do the colors clash or is the shape unappealing. These are opinions that are relatively easy. Are the parts of the fly in proportion to each other, is the hook too big or small, are there lumps where there ought not be? These are things that Tyers can judge out of their experiences at the vise.

Even Tyers of standard types of flies may not realize the importance of some of the technical skills such as even ribs, flat floss, correctly attached veils, smooth, small heads and other such things that are typically found on the fully dressed flies. These are areas that we look at and measure against our experience as Tyers. I tell Tyer's new to tying full dressed flies that the knowledge learned will make them better overall Tyer's. They will also notice completely different things on a fly than one who has never tried tying fully dressed flies. I've not been proved wrong on these points yet.

When judging the technical aspects of the flies, fractions of points separated many of the flies. Some of the simpler flies were elevated in their standings by the Reader's Choice points and some helped by the creativity part.

Some things to keep in mind when tying fully dressed flies are addressed in depth in the Atlantic Tying section here at FAOL. Here are a few basic things to watch.

  • Keep lumps under areas that will have floss over them at a minimum. Every tiny uneven area will show up like a beacon.

  • Keep ribs tight and even. If you want a tapered look to the ribs that is different. I mean even like this. //// or tapered like this // / / . Not like this // / //.

  • Keep wings fairly low and not too big. There are no real rules to govern size but look critically at the hook size in relation to the wing as you tie the fly.

  • Keep control over the number of turns of thread and the size of the head. Typically, relatively small bluntish heads are most pleasing on a full dressed fly. A long head such as is typical on a Rangeley style streamer looks out of place on a full dressed fly. Keep the head SMOOTH too! Put more than one coat of head cement on it to fill the irregularities. It makes little sense to spend many hours tying a fly only to take a shortcut on the head. The head and floss are two of the first things we look at on these flies.

  • Try not to crowd too many parts on a fly. If you are trying to tie a fly with a three section body, a size 2 hook may be too small. If you are using a small hook and want these parts on them, use smaller tinsels and fine, short herled Ostrich butts and joints. Two ribs of medium tinsel will look off whereas three of fine will look more proportionate.

  • Check the toppings to make sure they have the tips on them. You cannot take the tip out of a topping to shorten it! If you must shorten a topping, do it at the butt and not the tip.

  • Generally, one wants the tip of the tail and topping to meet at the tip of the wing. This is not a hard and fast rule but is traditional. Certainly, a fly can have these tips not converge and still look very good. Just keep it in mind as you plan out the fly.

Some of these points can also be used in other styles of flies.

We hope you all had fun with this contest and that you will enter the next one even if you didn't enter this one. We will be posting info later in the year for the second contest so, stay tuned!

For any of the entrants who would like my input on their flies and how they might improve them for next year, please contact me at rlucas@cybcon.com or at 503-654-0466. I am more than willing to help in any way that I can.

Happy Trails!
Ronn Lucas, Sr.

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