Part Twenty-six

Blow 'em Up
By George E. Emanuel



It is quite easy, and perhaps altogether human for us, having achieved some level of proficiency at tying, or other pursuits for that matter, to reach a plateau of excellence, which we simply fail to rise above.

There is only so much one can learn from articles and books. Videos, as powerful a learning and teaching tool as they are can not critiques ones tying ability. Even most instructors will balk if asked to comment on ways to improve when asked to do so by a reasonably accomplished fly tier. After all, teachers are fallible as well, and many of their students do in fact surpass them in ability given sufficient time and provided they have occupied that time in the actual practice of the art.

I consider, most humbly, myself to be a reasonably accomplished fly tier. I am able to look at a picture and tie a resemblance of the same without instruction. My flies catch fish, and that obviously makes me happy.

A great man once told me, "when anything ceases to continue to grow, it must therefor begin to die." Suffice it to say that as this admonition applies to fly tying he means that if you fail to continually improve, your art will suffer for the lack of effort.

So now we have somewhat of a conundrum, we can not improve beyond a certain point by reading, by watching videos, or even by consulting with teachers of our art. We can not, even after hours of engagement, watch even the greatest of our contemporaries at the vice and depart with no more critical view of our work than we had when we began the exercise.

How then do we get that level of constructive criticism, which will allow us to push the boundaries of our abilities, to break through, as it were, that wall which we all come upon if we tie long enough?

My personal experience, and I will venture yours as well, makes me my own best (and sometimes worst) critic. If I am honest with myself, and as objective as is possible, I usually find an imperfection here or there in my work, which through contemplation I manage to correct or improve.

I have found that a very useful tool for doing this is a close-up lens on my camera. Now I use a digital camera for all of the pictures you see each week in this column. But a better tool is a 35mm camera, preferably with a set of close-up lenses.

Now, take said 35mm camera, and whatever close up lens or combination of lenses will allow you to completely fill the viewfinder with your fly mounted in the vice. My example in this article is a size 22 Blue Winged Olive, which is extreme, but it illustrates the point of this exercise.

Take your picture of your best fly. You will be amazed when you get your prints back from the photo finisher at what that little 4 X 6 print teaches you about your work. Now, for the real test! Take the negative of that print back to the photo finisher and have it "blown up" to at least 8 X 10.

You will see areas on your fly at once, which can stand some improvement. You will learn things from this simple technique, which will absolutely improve the quality of your work.

The first time I saw a "blown up" fly I had tied I was frankly humbled to find that I had not yet achieved that level of ability which would allow me to call myself an expert, nor have I yet achieved that level. Perhaps destiny holds no such accomplishment for me, but, I can still improve, I can still strive toward perfection.

Hell, I'll never be perfect, and neither will you. But, by striving for this lofty goal we will certainly extract from ourselves most, if not all of the ability the Creator endowed us with in the first place. And this after all is as perfect as any of us will ever become.

Now take a fly and "Blow 'em Up"

If you have any tips or techniques, send them along, most of this material has been stolen from somebody, might as well steal your ideas too!~ George E. Emanuel (Chat Room Host Muddler)

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