Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can you return flies that don't work?

TO BUY or TO TIE .. 



     When you go into a fly shop you're going in to shop for flies. Ned and I fished the Arkansas last week and made the required fly shop stop on the way.
"I'm going out to fish the Arkansas. What should I be throwing today?"
     The poor guy behind the counter knows you expect an answer and that you need flies. So he'll fill one of these little plastic cups until he hears you holler, "STOP." As he's filling you'll get a running commentary with the words, "the one fly you'll need ... this was very effective yesterday ... the guides are using these ... you must have these ..." You'll also hear advice like , "fish this low and slow ... be sure to get a good drift ... some are throwing 3 or 4 flies ... tie this 18 inches below ... tie this 10 inches below ...  fish this close to shore." Unless you only bought one fly, you'll be unable to recall the names of the flies, where you're suppose to use them, and what advice you were given for fishing them once you put your waders on. This is why it is unlikely that you'll have a convincing case when you come back into the fly shop at the end of the day and ask for your money back on the flies that just didn't work. 
     When I mentioned to Ned that the I didn't start hooking fish until I tied on some of my own flies, he said, "Yeah. Same with me."
      This got me thinking about this whole buying or tying dynamic. We need the fly shops near the rivers for current info and info on current, a place to book guides, and advice on access as well as the mercantile activity. But only a guide, on the river,  who has had time to evaluate your skill set, and is trying to connect you to a specific fish that he sees right in front of you, can make a fly selection suggestion that will probably work.
      In my humble opinion, just getting involved in buying flies destroys the intuitive skills passed down from our ancestors who stumbled along streams 40,000 years ago and learned not to spook a fish they needed to catch. Those that spooked the fish are not our ancestors. They died of starvation before they could reproduce.
     Once on the stream with $54.97 worth of flies we figure we have to use them. But since we can't remember exactly all the advice, we tie on the "one fly" we think we should be using and then fish it the way we kind of remember hearing. I think that is why buying two dozen flies before going out on the stream is dooming us to failure.


     Tying your own is not for the thrifty. Every recipe from a big name fly tier will include an exotic (or erotic) ingredient you'll never use again and only comes in $19.95 sizes. But just as it's possible  to get into fly fishing for under $100 (See my much heralded book by the same title : ) you can get into fly tying with a vice, some cat hair, dryer lint, embroidery thread, a glue gun, goose feathers, dog hair, yarn, and some craft beads. It helps if you know pheasant and elk or deer hunters. Along the way, you'll learn the name of the fly, where and when to use it, how to fish it, and what it is suppose to imitate. All of this is explained in the recipe or video for tying the fly.  If a fly shop wanted to do this level of education it would take the same amount of time which means they'd need to triple their staff and keep the shop open 30 hours a day. In other words, it actually takes longer to tie a fly than to buy a fly. Much longer. Does it cost more in the long run? Don't ask. But you'll notice that most fly shops have as much floor space devoted to fly tying materials as they do to finished flies for sale.


Here's a Blue Winged Olive (Mayfly) on the Arkansas last Friday. 

Here's a BWO imitation tied by an amateur fly tier in Boulder. I bought it at the Colorado Trout Unlimited Gala Friday night. It would have been nice to have it along earlier in the day.

     Last Friday, in  Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas with Mike, I took this photo of a massive midge hatch on my boot and flying around. The midge in flight looks strangely like the photo of an sparkle winged RS2 hanging on my tying bench.


     Next week I'll be fishing the "Holy Water" of the Ausable River in Michigan with Bill. I'm trying to get some information on what trout might be interested at that time, but I'm over a thousand miles from a fly shop on the river. So in the meantime, I tied up these because I have confidence in them and I know where and when to fish them.

I pray these flies will work in the Holy Water.

Pat Dorsey turned me on to the chocolate foam wing emerger last year. I've added a couple flavors.

Mike says you can't lose with a Barr's Emerger

I tried out the sparkle RS2 and it worked like a charm. The glue gun midges are still in tryouts.

Midcurrents has a great video on how to tie this. Can you tell that I'm all out of hungarian partridge feathers. If Fred or Aaron don't  shoot it, I probably don't have it.

As I imagine the fish would see these masterpieces.

      Blogging this out has brought me to the conclusion that tying is better than buying for everyone involved. The fly shop will come out ahead, your own head will come out ahead, and your fish count will come out ahead of your buddies who "buyed" rather than tied.