by Fly Fisherman

There are actually no hard ways to tie a fly but, using the old cliche, I must admit that some ways are easier than others. Consistent, careful preparation of materials and consistent tying of proven patterns will effect constant improvement and skill in tying flies. Permit me to emphasize one important action here. If you are new at fly tying or just starting, GO SLOW DELIBERATELY. Make every move and every operation of the procedure as perfect as you possibly can. Be brutally critical of your own work regardless of the complimentary platitudes of your friends. Be wary of the head turning remarks such as, “That’s a beautiful thing,” or “How can you possibly make such perfect little flies,” or “Boy! If that won’t take old MacDonald up in Hot Creek nothing else will.” Never, never be completely satisfied with your own work. It could have been done better by you. If the tip, the tail, the body, the wings or the hackle isn’t just right do it over and over again until your own standard of perfection is reached or you are ready for a straight jacket. When that latter point is reached it’s time for a cup of coffee or a Coke.

Believe me when I tell you that if you work in the attitude of demanding perfection and are consciously deliberate in your material portions, the improvement in your productions will be startlingly fast and with it will come increasing speed in tying.

It is amusing to me and will be to you to observe the tactics performed by some anglers in testing flies to determine their quality. I’ve seen fishermen drop flies on a showcase to see if they would bounce. Their theory was that if the fly bounced it was a good one. The truth is, the only thing this procedure proves is whether or not the fly will bounce on a showcase. If you should happen to have a discarded, sloppily tied dry fly in your collection, just take your scissors and clip off the nice fine ends of the hackle all around the fly. It will probably bounce lively enough when dropped. I’ve seen anglers caress their lips with the hackle on the fly as a test of hackle quality. That method proves no more than the showcase bouncer.

 I’ve noted one experienced fly fisherman discard flies because they didn’t feel just right to him and have another deliberately select the same flies because they passed his lip test. The flies could have been good ones or bad ones in either case. The only true test of dry flies is at the end of a leader and their subsequent performance on the water. As you tie flies and handle various grades of materials you will, in time, be able to ascertain, at a glance, whether or not the fly is a good one. Its outward, clean-cut appearance must, of course, be one criterion, next conies quality of the material used, lastly, and of great importance, comes the reputation of its maker, his experience, his tying procedure and his skill.

Obtaining factual criticism of your own flies in their tests on fishing waters, disregard the periodic occasions when trout will ruthlessly accept almost any pattern tied any way and every way. The true test time is when there are none or few fish working. Will your production stand the test of constant whipping, cracking it dry, floating satisfactorily after innumerable casts and, other things being equal, will it raise fish? After a fish is taken and the fly is thoroughly water soaked and slimy, can it be cleaned, dried and used again and again? If so, you have a fly, son, you have a fly.

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