Our Man In Canada
June 14th, 1999
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The World's Most Difficult Fly to Tie:
By Kevin Fancy

I was out in the bush a few years back fishing a pristine little puddle of water known as Dunk's Lake in Ontario. Don't go looking for it on a map anywhere as I could draw you one that would take you right to it's shores and you would still never find it. It is one of those hundreds of thousands of lakes in Ontario that defy description and location. Maybe they're not there at all and it's a twilight zone kind of thing. We all know lakes like them, but forgive me for I digress. I was going to talk about the world's most difficult fly to tie.

So here I am camped on the shores of this beautiful sea green lake. I, and a couple of friends had decided to make a weekend of the first fishing outing of the year. It was during the spring, in fact the very weekend, the dragonflies were emerging. There were without exaggeration thousands, maybe millions of them drying their wings on every available space of sun exposed plant life. I will never forgive myself for not bringing a camera that trip.

We arrived in camp at dusk on Friday night and the lake was alive with both insect and fish life. It was tempting to just hop out of the car and head straight for the water. Having done that before however I knew that if we waited until after dark to set up camp the job would become miserable. Not because of the bugs, as it had been too cold for mosquitoes or black flies, but because tents set up in the dark inevitably end up on root masses or rock piles that thrust themselves out of the ground AFTER the tent has been pitched over clear ground.

It's a fact; camps set up in the dark are always in the wrong place, facing the wrong direction and lead to the misery of all who stay there. So, in quiet agreement we decided to forgo the first nights angling, pitch camp and collect enough wood for the entire two-day stay. But about the world's hardest fly to tie, I'm getting there!

Anyway, by dark camp was set and we were prepared for anything, taking our places around a comfortable fire to discuss the battle plan for the days to come. Had anyone seen our group huddled around the fire that night they would have thought us nothing more than a rag tag crew of hobos. Poorly dressed and drinking firewater from tin cups as we swore and told stories that seemed too far-fetched even for our little corner of the twilight zone. No folks passed however and we were left to our own devices, unless we were seen by some creature of the night that was smart enough to stay a safe distance away. Not even a bear would have been wise to interrupt on of our tales after the third round of old iron feathers blended whatever and paint thinner so we passed the night in silence and were up and at'm before the crack of dawn.

Four members plied that lake all day. Not exclusively fly fishers as a whole, everything was tried. Bait fishing with minnows and worms, casting plugs and spoons, flies of every size and variety you could imagine but nothing would work. The fish continued to rise but none would bite.

Now if you were me at this point, and I'm sure you can see what the problem was (as hind sight is twenty-twenty and you are sitting in a warm comfortable chair at home right now and I was being frustrated to bits in a boat trying to catch anything that would be dinner) you would have realized the trout were stuffed to the gills on the emerging dragonfly larvae. As we all know trout can become fixated on one food and that is exactly what I was thinking had happened that day as I pulled the boat to shore for the night.

At supper time out came the box dinners. One measly little fish was taken all day and it was caught on a Doc Spratley wholly by accident. Yes, by accident as my fellow angler was in the process of taking a wind knot out of his line when the fish hit the fly right beside the boat as it splished and splashed below the gunnel. One little fish between four tough anglers, pitiful. Now back to the world's most difficult fly to tie.

After dinner we again gathered around the fire to smell up our cloths and this time, instead of boasting, we had to admit defeat and discuss the misfortunes of the day. It would have been nicer to speak of fame and glory (and we would have had there been no witnesses) but now was not the time for tales. We had our honor to uphold before we headed home the next day and one can not stretch a fish that has yet to be caught.

Although the day had pretty well been fishless, it had not been strikeless. Yes almost everyone had had strikes at one time or another and the talk turned to the what's, when's and wherefore's. After a while I determined that the majority of hits had been taken on primarily black or gold bait. Hits were at or near the surface and smaller baits were preferred over larger ones. Add that to the knowledge that the only fish taken that day was taken with a fly and I was on my way to success. Or so I thought. As the others headed for bed that night I was busy rooting through my fly boxes by firelight. I needed a black nymph like bait with a little gold on it. To my chagrin, none existed and I was crushed. I looked at this and that, but to my mind nothing fit the bill. Then it hit me, tie a new one here and now! I had some hooks and waxed dental floss in my toilet kit. I took apart an old minnow pattern fly who's body was made from woven gold Mylar. An old Zug Bug was sacrificed for its tinsel and body material and I was ready to create.

Holding the hook in my fingers like the old pro's used to I tied. My first attempt was crude and was condemned to the flames. The second attempt faired no better and it to rose with the phoenix. I was running out of buggy body material and was just about to go in search of another fly to cannibalize when the call of nature shouted in my ear. While I stood in the dark contemplating the bush in front of me an idea came to hand. I shan't go into details but it will suffice to say that I discovered all the buggy body material I needed at that moment. A pair of scissors flashed in the firelight and before I knew it a pile of material lay before me. In the end I had three flies tied and this is what they looked like.

The tails were sparse short straight pieces of black bear hair. The body material was of a hair that is common to most humans, but shall remain hidden and nameless for taste's sake. The body was over-wrapped in oval gold tinsel and a small wing case located just behind the head of gold Mylar woven tinsel graced the back. A false beard of red hackle was the crowning glory and that was born by the fire that night.

Now there obviously would be no story if this unusual fly born of necessity did not work the next day. It did, and produced limits of fish for both my partner and myself. How did the others fair? As poorly as the day before. It just goes to show you (as my son always says) "Flies rule and hardware drools"! I'm trying to break him of that habit. The next problem was two-fold. First, what to name this little gem. After acquiring more materials from other sources I thought the "Canadian Nymph" was both accurate and to the point, if you get my drift. The second problem became acquiring enough material of DIFFERENT colors to match the HATCH as we say. It was discovered after that first prototype that the female of our species produces a higher quality material and as a married fisherman you can imagine my dilemma.

So now my dilemma is yours. It is a great fly and well worth tying but to acquire material you must be a Svengali. World's most difficult fly to tie? You bet your life. Having one colour is easy enough but try and put together a selection of shades. Difficult doesn't always refer to skill level; sometimes it can be in merely finding rare and dangerous ingredients. ~ Kevin Fancy

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