A Few Thoughts on Tying Flies
I had been fly-fishing for only a few months when I became convinced that tying flies was a logical next step in my evolution as a fisherman. This was likely a consequence of conversations with the folks who got me started with fly-fishing – Mel Armold, Kay Watkins, and Ed Adams. So, I dutifully tracked down an inexpensive vise and other tools, a couple of instructional books/videos and materials to tie some simple flies. I’m pretty sure that the first fly I tied was a Wooly Worm. Next came a Wooly Bugger, then an Elk-Hair Caddis. Of course, more materials were required for additional flies – thankfully Rainbow Grocery in South Fork and Rio Grande Angler in Creede had good assortments of hackle, dubbing, etc. If those local stores didn’t have what I felt was needed, Cabelas was a good alternative source. Later, I would seek out materials from Conejos River Anglers and ArkAnglers in Salida. I eventually graduated to bead-head nymphs, but I have yet to tie complicated flies like grasshoppers or damselflies.
A large cardboard box with cardboard dividers served well (and still does) to separate materials, but it quickly became apparent that a fly-tying desk would be necessary to hold all the tools and provide a good surface for tying. THis also let me indulge in my long-standing interest in working with wood. I made one for myself, one for a good friend, and much later, one for the CTU auction. A trip to the Colorado at Harper’s Ferry in Arizona convinced me that a portable fly-tying kit would be very handy to be able to tie necessary flies “on the spot”. Thus, an order was placed with Cabelas and I have since used that kit on trips and for our “Flies and Lies” meeting, since it is much easier to transport.
After a few years, the vise I started with was deemed to be insufficient. Okay, really I just became envious watching friends who had rotary vises tie flies seemingly with no effort. I purchased an inexpensive rotary vise, only to discover that it was my lack of talent rather than a limitation of my equipment.
To their credit, the friends who got me started tying flies never tried to convince me that it would be less expensive than buying pre-made flies at a fly shop. Instead, they focused on the satisfaction of catching fish on flies you made yourself, as well as exercising your creativity in the development of patterns and your skill at tying flies that held together well. I think my creativity stopped after adding a brown hackle tail to a typical elk hair caddis. And I believe that was the fly that was used to catch my first fish on a homemade fly.
I don’t tie as much now as I used to (I blame the Internet and websites that offer flies for less than $1 each), but I still marvel at the skilled and creative tiers that we have in abundance in our chapter. You can get pointers from them by coming to the Flies and Lies meeting on November 19! And I’ll bring my portable kit and perhaps tie my modified elk hair caddis.