One dark and stormy night, while fishing a
beach on Martha's Vineyard, I saw what felt to me like a touch of
orange and blue flash in the water and I became intrigued. I looked
to where I had noticed it in the water and turned on my flashlight.
There was a swarm of squid milling in the shallow water.
Later, I tied some flies with the orange and blue color note. I
shaped them and built them from the idea of orange and blue flash
at night equals squid to me, perhaps? The fly was the question and
eventually with a little tweaking, it was answered by the fish with
a yes. Is this the only question the fish say yes to? No! So I
continue to find more questions. I choose to view it this way because it
allows me the freedom to not have answers to depend on - only more
and more questions. This attitude prevents me from becoming stale and rigid
in my opinions and becoming fixed into a routine that excludes new
ways of seeing familiar phenomena. It keeps me continuously fluid
and always seeking what I have overlooked before.
Flies are beautiful objects. Paintings are beautiful objects. There
is an energy within the Mona Lisa that cannot be captured by a
paint-by-number reproduction even if Leonardo himself did it accoring
to directions. The energies used to form them are of different orders,
the same is true of flies.
When I see photographs laid out in magazines and books of fly
boxes neatly arranged with rows of patterns each exactly the same,
I wonder why? They do look nice on a page, perhaps that's why.
It is graphic design and it is sensitive to the pictorial and
collectable beauty of fly patterns. There is much more to fishing
with flies than the beauty and collectability of the patterns. The flies
that are tied by fishermen are tied one at a time and they are all
different. The pattern may be generic but the individual fly never is.
Some flies are tied in such a way that they catch fish better than others.
This is also a part of good fly design, creating each fly with an awareness
of how the particular materials used interact with each other and how to
form and balance them so they not only match a recipe but swim and
move with the illusion of a living presence. Flies that are tied with
this goal in mind are meaningful to the fishermen who tie and use them.
Allow yourself to tie flies from your feelings and show them to the
fish. After all, that is how flies were made in the first place. Let the
fish judge your flies. They are the connoisseurs of fly design and
their verdict is the only one that counts.
Fly tying tradition is in a sense precious and it is to be respected.
Respect is a very large word. It can be used as a doorway to
knowledge and freedom or it can be interpreted as a binding to
opinion and structure. Respect your own curiosity and explore from
it. That is respecting and using the lore of the past. Knowing
someone's work is important and, of course, this knowing, in and
of itself, influences what it touches. Still, there are many Madonna
and Child paintings and all are unique. Feelings are the fuel with
which we create, and feelings, no matter how they come, belong to
the one who feels them.
Honoring traditions does create and add a certain value to whatever
a man does. To fashion a fly from tradition is an honorable practice.
A tradition is a storehouse of knowledge that is available for exploration.
Familiarity with a tradition can be empowering and yet, when this
expertise is imposed to define correctness it diminishes into opinion.
There are many opinions and there always will be room for many more.
Hopefully there will never be a final word.
It is important to remember the root of fly tying. It is not to seek glory or
identity from our fellow men but simply to tie flies as an expression of our
feelings and ideas and to use them to catch fish. It is equally as important
to honor the tradition of sharing with others what we have discovered and
to humbly accept the fact that it is because of this spirit of sharing that we
have come to know most of what we take for granted as fundamental
in fly tying.
Once upon a time, there was no Lefty's Deceiver nor was there an
idea of one but there was a feeling and a fellow who found it and held
it and reached for the materials and named them and shaped them.
Then he shared with others what he had found. The rest of the story
is called tradition. It has no final page. There is no deadline for
submittals. ~ Ken Abrames
The previous is an excerpt from The Perfect Fish; Illusions in Fly Tying.
Published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282 Phone: 503-653-8108,
email Frank Amato Publications