Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Nov 97, 2016

The seasons affect our time on the water in so many obvious ways. From the waters with predictable hatches to the simple effects of nature on the waters and the fish we pursue, we need to understand and adjust our angling accordingly. Without the knowledge of what is actually happening on the water, time would be (and often is) wasted fishing a mayfly nymph or caddis emerger, when the "soup of the day" is a size 20 grey midge.

Likewise, most of us would benefit from the ability to downsize our gear with the knowledge of just what is needed on particular water during a given period of time. Why lug around 10 boxes of flies in May, when at least 3 of them most likely include flies that will not be effective until September?

The beauty of fly fishing for me is found in the hatches that we pursue. In reality very little of the pursuit involves the fish themselves, since most fishermen learn how to identify seams, eddy's, lies and prime lies fairly early on. Those things don't often change, therefore the remaining part of the puzzle is the dinner they are presented with be it crawling, flying or swimming. Figure that out and the fish appear as if magic. If you don't those same fish may as well be swimming on the moon. But the beauty of the hatches is their differences; from the effeminate stance and delicate flight of a spring Pale Morning Dun, to the lumbering flight of an October Caddis which resembles that of an NFL quarterback being flushed from the pocket. Or the periodic Cicada, which not only brings with it a unique beauty, but also travels with its own orchestra. An orchestra that is playing their own song, which to those who have fished within its echoes at times can be nearly driven mad. Do they ever shut up? I know the only quiet Cicada I have ever seen was dead and floating. It drifted by the leg of my waders heading downstream, and then as I watched it go, was swallowed by the swirl of a big smallmouth. Which of course would not agree to take anything I tied on for the rest of the day?

Hatches are so individual they require you to embrace each one individually to fully appreciate and reveal their beauty. Now throw fly tying into the fray. My tying is cyclic in nature. I prefer to focus on a period in preparation for the coming season and then move along to the next. So along with the differences in hatches, both materials and techniques change as well. In the winter I'm tying on Czech nymph and streamer hooks, with dubbing boxes scattered about and beads, Mylar and buck tail the soup de-jour. Through the spring I'm breaking out the dry fly necks, and the hooks get smaller and smaller and attention to detail is a requirement.

When summer approaches both fishing and tying lends itself to warmer haunts, and the most dramatic of changes takes place when patterns go from Catskill dries to foam, hair and rubber legged creatures. The material scissors come out, along with the super glue and the smell of permanent marker blends it all together. It's an aggressive mindset and style of both tying and fishing. No bashful approach or hesitancy in applying material to hook or splashing your results down amongst the lily pads. I enjoy it while it's here.

After that things begin to come full circle once again. As streamer and McFlyfoam become tangled and entwined with everything that resides upon my bench. Tying different colored egg and Skittle patterns consumes my time at the vise. The Steak and Egg tandem is hard to shy away from as the leaves begin to show color.

While I have my favorite fishing techniques and tying styles, none are shunned and all are enjoyed. I have found over the years that embracing my time on the water as it's brought forward brings far more success than trying to force a favorite style of fishing into a corner where it just doesn't belong. That thought process embodies my time seated at the Regal as well, while tying each season's flies.

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