December 3, 2010

the challenge

I was presented with a simple task the other week, tie up some trout flies. With a bit of apprehension, I dished out my take on a few adopted trout patterns that have made their way into my day box over the years, and called it good. Classics like brassies, scuds, caddis pupa nymphs, and tungsten laced death magnets like the possie bugger are all relevant patterns no matter what species of fish you pursue. Just about any fish will take these patterns if presented properly. How do I know this? Because I've caught monster pike on size 12 scuds before, that's why. These patterns are not all that difficult to tie either, but when presented with the order of producing trout flies, the task all of a sudden seemed formidable.

Just about everyone who starts out fly tying will typically begin with tying simple patterns like hare's ear nymphs or pheasant tail nymphs, but trout flies nonetheless. I was no different, in fact many of my flies for roughfish are basically bastardized trout nymphs on steroids, tied on extra heavy hooks. So it's not the difficulty that certain patterns present either, though tying in parachute posts on size 20 midge patterns certainly are not my forté. Tying commercially, or for that matter, tying 12 dozen flies of a single pattern in a single color in a single size will pretty much curb your anxiety about using unfamiliar materials or techniques. Repetition is a handy trick for gaining confidence and consistency behind the vise. Rather, my angst was likely deep rooted in the fact that by tying a trout pattern, there was a high likelihood that I would have to follow a strict recipe and stick to it.

brassiesThe Brassie. A classic midge pattern for the ages. In copper and hot orange, laced with purple peacock herl, tied on a Mustad C67S 2X heavy 3X short size 12 scud hook.


One thing that I've observed after spending five seasons behind the vise experimenting with roughfish patterns, is that I've begun to become a bit of an impressionist when it comes to my fly development. It was a branch that started not long after learning to tie. I learned all the basics and skills necessary to guide me through filling a generic trout box, from tying elk hair caddis, to PT nymphs, to CDC emerger patterns, to PMDs and trico poly spinners. Perhaps it was boredom, or simply lacking the discipline to hone my craft and further develop more advanced tying techniques common with tying dry flies for trout. Likely, the lack of interest and proximity of solid dry fly water for trout is what helped fork that branch so early on. The absence of necessity certainly wasn't enough incentive for me to continue on with more advanced dry fly patterns, so naturally I delved deeper and deeper into the nymph underworld. As they say, "once you go nymph, you never go back".

Back to the challenge at hand; I'm not proposing that I tie up a production run of a fleet of Parachute Adams, there's still no need or interest on my part for dry flies. A good start, however, would be to perhaps look at my objectives at the vise for a bit and blast through a few nymph patterns and actually follow someone's recipe. Overcoming the urge to simplify, adapt or substitute is the easy way out, and you don't improve your tying skills by copping out. Embrace the challenge. Seize the opportunity to improve. Tie better flies.


Look for a few more traditional patterns over the coming winter season. Should be an interesting ride.