W. T. F. ?

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Why tie flies?

They’re not very expensive (classic Salmon flies apart), so why not just buy? It’s conceivable to go fly fishing with just one fly, until it falls apart with wear or is broken off in some marauding tree, but what if your one fly represents something the fish just don’t want to eat that particular day? Obviously, you need some different types to hedge your bets. In any aquatic habitat there will be many food items: nymphal, pupal and adult forms of mayflies, sedges, chironomids, stone flies, alder flies, damsels, dragon flies, crane flies, water beetles; also shrimps, hog lice, aquatic worms, leeches, tadpoles, fish eggs, prey fish, and many more microscopic bugs. Terrestrial insects can end up in the water, and they number thousands of distinct species. All living things experience growth, so size is another factor to consider. Colour is another consideration.

Inevitably, you need more than a few. My own fly collection now runs to seventeen fly boxes, which I estimate to contain over 7,500 flies, and do not cover every eventuality I might meet out fishing. I need regular replacements too, so to contain the cost I tie my own. The economic argument is persuasive, but that’s not ‘it’ at all: tying flies is also a creative and very rewarding hobby in its own right. It is enjoyable, interesting, restful, therapeutic, quiet (save for the odd expletive) and convenient. You can take it up with modest resources but can invest as much time and money as you want to. It is a broad church from the casual to the specialist devotee.

A ’fly in these terms is not restricted to a representation of ‘a small insect with wings’ but is the application of (various) materials onto a fishing hook (no longer just silk, fur and feather) to represent a food item, or something that a fish will ‘bite’ out of curiosity or aggression. I know of fly tiers who do not actually fish: creating beautifully crafted, individual fly patterns is enough reward in itself, it is an art form. That said, the hunter-gatherer gene is strong within many of us and there is an undoubted thrill and powerful sense of satisfaction in catching a fish with one of your own creations. Try it.

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