This is a fly from Ray Bergman's book Trout. It's
somewhat nondescript, along the lines of the better-known Parmachene
Belle, Lake George, or Ibis and White. The red and white color
combination must have been magic for the brook trout of the day,
there were so many variations on this theme.
I decided to make things a little more interesting this time out
and tie this fly in hand, or without a vise. I did use a bobbin,
and scissors, but no additional tools. I could have done without
the bobbin as well, but would have had to resort to hackle pliers
then to use as a weight on the thread at times. Though I used no
bobbin when I started tying, it was a long time ago, and I find
I'm something of a slave to that tool now, and am simply used to
it. It's a little more difficult to hold the hook securely with
the weight of the bobbin, but for me, it's worth it.
I've tied some flies off and on over the last few years in hand
like this, and find it to be an interesting exercise. It's very
freeing in a way. I like being able to park myself in front of
the TV and watch a playoff game downstairs, not having to be
chained to my tying table in the spare bedroom. Awhile back I
did a large number of married wing wet flies for an ad agency
in town (a long story). After about a couple hundred I got so
bored I began to do them in hand, so I could get out of the room.
It was quite difficult at first, even though I had Kelson's
The Salmon Fly at my disposal, which has a wonderful
tutorial. I found though that after a little practice I could do it.
I've practiced quite a bit of late; this picture will give you some idea.
For every one shown I've probably tied three or four others, just
in the last couple of weeks, ones that didn't survive the razor
blade. I've been trying to get them up to the caliber of the ones
I can do in the vise, and though I'm not quite there, I'm getting
closer. Certain things mounting wings in particular, seem to be
much easier to do, while other things that are easy to do with a
vise are more difficult in hand, like winding hackle and body
materials. These are large flies, and as you get smaller, things
get much more difficult.
I've read that Lee Wulff could tie down to size 20 in hand, and
one of these days I'll have to give that a whirl. Right now though,
these #6 wet flies are all the challenge I need. I'll put up a full
dress fly here one of these days that I've done in hand. I've done
one already, but I won't be showing anyone that fly any time soon.
In the meantime, here's the recipe for the Premier, in case you'd
like to give tying in hand a whirl!
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman;
The Salmon Fly by George Kelson.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA