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
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
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)