Al Campbell, Field Editor

March 18th, 2002

Advanced Vision
By Al Campbell

No, the title isn't talking about the declining length of my arms. Yes, my age is advancing as fast as my ability to focus on close items is declining. However, I'm not talking about that type of vision. The vision I'm talking about is a certain type of vision that relies more on the mind than the eyes.

Several people have e-mailed me asking why I ended the Advanced Fly Tying series so soon. The answer is; I didn't end it, but rather took a break. As some of you know, I have been in the middle of a major remodeling project for some time now, and my fly tying area has been buried so far under "stuff" that I couldn't get to it. The project is still in progress, but I recently "discovered" my fly tying bench and about half of my supplies.

I have another problem too. Several of the flies I want to show don't seem to be cooperating with my camera skills. Getting the right lighting and angles to show the steps has (so far) eluded me. It's one thing to tie a fly, and something totally different to photograph the details. Many of the steps you see on the screen require odd camera angles or tilting the vise a certain way to get the right light on the area of the fly that needs to be shown. Sometimes I just need another set of hands.

I would like to focus your attention on the Atlantic Fly Tying series that Ronn Lucas and friends are doing. Some of the skills you see there are far beyond intermediate. That is an area of fly tying that I haven't spent a lot of time in. With their guidance, I'm going to be learning along with you. This is fun.

Next week, I'll be adding another pattern to my advanced series. I'll do that occasionally as time and overcoming photography problems allows. Maybe I should say, I'll do that as often as the "honey-do list" allows, but that's only part of the delay.

When you venture into the dark realm of advanced techniques, a lot of focus is placed on doing things differently; or should I say, seeing things differently? This area of tying is as much about finding new ways of doing old things as it is about conquering tough techniques. Sometimes the techniques are simple enough, but the focus or ideas are new. It might be keying in on what makes a fly attractive to the fish, or just finding a new way to conquer an old problem. It's the art of focussing on an old problem with new vision.

When a person truly advances from the intermediate level to the advanced level of tying, he/she has developed a type of vision that permits the mental dissecting of a fly to see what makes it work or what makes it attractive to the fish. At that point, he/she can focus on and enhance the key properties of the fly to make it more attractive to the fish it was designed to attract. Once you reach that point, there are few boundaries left to hold you back.

How is it that a crazy guy from South Dakota could design a fly for a saltwater species of fish he had never caught? And, how is it that he could be so confident that the fly would be successful that he tied several hundred of those flies in several variations before he left to chase those fish? Why could he predict that the fly would be successful, and watch the prediction come true? The answer is vision.

The vision I'm referring to is the ability to key in on the most attractive qualities of any pattern and either enhance those qualities in a similar pattern, or place them in a new pattern in such a manner that they will be more attractive to the fish. Maybe the attraction is a certain type of flash, or maybe a key profile. Maybe the attractive quality is the way a fly moves in the water, or maybe it's the way it doesn't move. To make improvements, you need to know what it is that makes a certain fly attractive to a fish.

You've made it this far, so showing you something new is only the beginning of possibilities, if you have the vision I'm talking about. For instance, why hasn't somebody designed a shrimp pattern that incorporates a keying feature that attracts fish who usually feed on crabs? Are those types of flies too far apart to be combined into a fly that works both ways? If you were able to combine those two styles, what would the offspring look like? Do you have the vision to make it work?

Fly tying is at least as much about mental coordination as it is about teaching your hands to do what you want them to do. When you advance beyond the realm of copying somebody else's work into the area of designing flies that you know are going to work even if they haven't been tested, you have stepped across the threshold that separates the intermediate from the advanced.

Do you have that vision? Are you able to see things differently? If you do, there are no boundaries left to hold you back. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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