Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Apr 08, 2013

In the world of fly tying an inevitable discussion is bound to rear its head from time-to-time. The discussion is much like that of the "chicken and the egg" question, but in piscatorial pursuits includes the "Fly and the rise". Or rather which came first, the pattern or the rise requiring the pattern? Sit around a campfire and if my experiences are the norm, you will hear a consensus that most patterns are tied to catch more fishermen than fish. I tend to agree, especially when considering the entire spectrum of patterns tied over the years. But what happens if the selection is narrowed down to those patterns that we keep over the long-term? Those tried-and-true patterns that just plain catch fish for whatever reason? Now, as a fly tyer I will be the first to admit when at the bench, artistic license often comes into play, which can in turn create some exaggerated and off-the-wall patterns. And as luck would have it, those "artistically inspired" creations at times turn out to be great producers of fish. Though I will admit when alone in a room with just myself listening, that far too often they produce nothing and end up in my throw-away bin. Beautiful they are, but useful they prove not.

Now for some tying styles mind you, such as the Atlantic salmon patterns, artistic flare is the defining part of each pattern. Over the years they have become as much a coat-of-arms to a particular tyer then anything remotely associated with that of catching fish. Yet endure they do, and we love them for it. However, trout fishermen pride themselves at knowing their quarry so well, and studying the hatches in which they feed on to the umpteenth degree, that you would think all patterns for trout would come first-and-foremost from the "rise". We all know the scene. Fish are rising all around you but refusing every fly in your box. Then, out of the corner of your eye you see a fluttering bug and catch it, revealing a previously unnoticed shade to a local pattern. It's that twinkling of an eye when experience meets knowledge, and experienced hands turn towards the bobbin and vise to produce a bit of wisdom on a hook. Certainly that must be the case the majority of the time in the birth of trout patterns. And then one steps into a fly shop and peers into the bins at a Turk's Tarantula, a Golden Retriever, a Parmachene Belle or even the venerable Royal Wulff. It's then that he finds himself scratching his head and wondering just what rise did any of those tyers witness that inspired those patterns. I am certain if asked, each pattern has a logical explanation as far as the creator is concerned. But in the end, I would bet more artistic hunch and possibly a bit of boredom came into play at some point. Neither of which is a bad thing mind you when at the bench. Besides, the end results for each of those aforementioned patterns speak volumes for themselves over the course of many years. Never-the-less, our reality is that there are just as many effective patterns that were born due to wisdom and imagination at the vise verses that which is gathered on the water.

However, I think we also are now living in a golden age of change within the fly tying community. There are additional forces in play over recent years that are driving the new patterns in which we find in those pro-shop bins each spring. Technology and innovation within today's markets are producing annual crops of new materials in which the tyer has to choose from. And each spring we are seeing revised patterns and tying techniques developed around a newly created material. We are seeing face-lifts to decades-old patterns that in turn are generating huge reports from the water. These new materials and techniques, one would think, would further muddy the water surrounding the original question or does it? I think it actually bridges the gap in many ways between knowledge and artistic imagination, where a person of knowledge of the water who also possesses the imagination of the vise, actually views each hatch and pattern in a new light cast upon it by the additional materials and techniques at hand. It's at this place in time where a new fly tying "trinity" is formed of entomological knowledge, skill at the vise and the artistic vision of all the materials at hand. OR it could just be a case of a Piscatorial Nimrod such as me, sitting at his bench while looking at a new material in his hand and saying, "Cool this stuff is shiny!" Then proceeding to mutate every pattern in which he thinks it could possibly work, in the hopes of finding that next great pattern.

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