June 2nd, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Character Flaws, Gaping Maws
By Cary Morlan (Linemender)

The stress was starting to build. I have this inclination toward over commitment and people pleasing, not to mention avarice. These were all contributing factors in me signing up for six fly swaps in the course of four months. I have a procrastination problem I am trying to get control of and at times I question my technique. Telling myself that if I sign up, and then meet the deadlines, it will enhance my self esteem, I still find myself up against the wall and fretting over my priorities in an effort to get all the flies out. Aware that if I can get the flies tied, I will get some really cool flies in return, the anticipation overwhelms me.

I am not really a great fly tier. I would say I am adequate. I do enjoy it though and I find, as with most things, practice improves performance. The twelfth fly is inevitably better than the first anytime I attempt a new pattern. I find I gain a better understanding of each process with repetition. Yea I know, wow, what a revelation. There are times that I amaze myself with simple epiphanies, not understanding how I could get that far and not have realized it before. Some of the problem lies in the fact that "I don't need no stinking directions." You know, just give me a picture and I will figure it out. Most of you guys should understand what I am talking about. Sure, some of you actually do read directions. I can only assume you have tried to wing it often enough that you came to the realization that maybe there was some benefit. There is humility in that which is sometimes hard for me to grasp.

My first attempts at fly tying came in the 70's when I was first embarking on my journey into the Nirvana of Fly Fishing. I had been steelheading quite a bit with my brother and a friend, casting spoons, lil corkies, and egg clusters. It was through reading subversive elitist literature that I had become enamored with the prospect of catching one on a fly. I already owned a 7 wt. glass rod that had begun to serve me well for bass and trout. My next purchase was a new cutting edge Cortland graphite 9' wt. 8-9. I knew in my neophyte fly fishing heart this was something that would assure me success in my quest for ole ironhead.

This was the point where it became apparent to me I was not only changing techniques, I was changing my entire approach to preparation for a fishing excursion. No longer could I just pack up my hooks and bait, my box of corkies and spoons, and flog the water. I needed a whole new line of accoutrements. Most of all I needed flies. I had a fine selection of bluegill poppers and a bunch of "guaranteed to catch trout" flies from my local department store, you know the ones, hackle twice as large as it needs to be and too soft to float.

The only way to fix this dilemma was to throw more money at it. Boy did I throw money. I figure the saving grace here is that my wife and I were still DINKS (double income, no kids). This was back in the good old days when I still understood disposable income. I bought a vice, a bunch of tying tools, threads, chenille, saddle hackle, tinsel, and hooks. And anything else I thought I just needed to have.

I feel this was a great place to start, for as you know steelhead flies are generally larger flies and of course larger means easier to see and work on. I had purchased a couple books on tying, and had been a religious magazine aficionado, so I had patterns at my disposal. But once again, I really didn't feel I needed the instruction available. I was off on a tangent, tying what worked for me. Big hooks and brightly colored chenille afforded me the inspiration I needed.

I had found another material that just looked like the cat's meow, it was this sticky backed prism tape. I figured it would be just the ticket for a big bright and flashy attractor. I mean, it was bright and flashy. The only hindrance to a practically tied fly was affixing the sticky tape to the hook. I had to angle a 1/16" piece stuck to a duplicate so that I could attach it with thread behind the hackle.

I actually got two of the frustrating little boogers tied and decided they looked so bad that there was no sense in tying anymore, so I moved on to that old beginner's standby, the skunk. Black after all, does hide mistakes better.

It was with a small bunch of crudely tied experiments, and my new state-of-the-art Cortland graphite rod, that I stepped out on the shelf of the 'horseshoe hole.' The shelf was on the inside of the bend and on the outside was another shelf under which could be seen spring kings. The water was crystal clear and there were, maybe 12 nice sized springers occupying the slot. All big and bright, running from 12-25 lbs.

My casting left a little to be desired; however I did manage to get the fly out to the head of the hole. I could visually follow the drift, for the red, white and mylar concoction stood out like an underwater beacon directing any and all piscatorial migrants to come hither, for a free lunch.

As the fly drifted over the first couple fish, my breathing became labored, over the next couple and my knees began to knock. By the time the fly approached the next and largest springer yet, I was stunned to disbelief, for half way through the slot I had found a taker for the gaudiest fly to date that has ever come off my vise.

He casually rose about a foot above his lie and turned his head to take a little nibble. My moment had arrived and I wasted no time in putting the steel to him as I tried to rip his lips off. I only succeeded in snapping the tippet. This was the epitome of buck fever. I ran out of expletives deleted. My first ever shot at a springer on the fly and I had broken him off like the neophyte I was.

Never let it be said I accept failure gracefully. I still had another, of what by then had become the hottest fly on this stretch of the river. I couldn't tie it on fast enough, or should I say slowly enough. I would state by this time I was completely convinced that fly fishing for big salmon, in gin clear water, had to be the most exciting adventure to date for me. I saw endless hours of fishing in my future. I pictured myself banking behemoth after behemoth, on big obnoxious looking flies of my own design, which no fish could resist.

Having successfully affixed fly to leader amidst my free form fantasizing, I proceeded to repeat the previous cast and was quite pleased when it looked like an instant replay right up to the point where, once again, a massive king rose to the fly, inhaled it, and turned, only to feel the bite of the Mustad. I managed to get a set on the hook, and was rewarded with a burst to the surface and an awe inspiring aerial display which began with a double leap and ended with my knot coming apart.

The Skunks looked much more aesthetically proper on the end of my leader, but the boys in the horseshoe hole had not been informed of that fact. As the day wore on and I continued to entice another strike I came to the realization that the hot fly is inevitably, the one you just lost.

Purple Spackle

I have never tied another of those abominations, not that I haven't been tempted. I am however fascinated with flashabou. It is one of my favorite components when I tie steelhead or salmon flies. It looks more suited to a fly than that horrific maylar tape, yet it still provides the flash needed to catch this fisherman. Every time I tie on an overwing, or tail, or body of flashabou I am reminded of just how enticing it can be at the right place and the right time. I long for the time to find that place again. ~ Cary Morlan (Linemender)

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