First Trout

Guest Blogger: Scott Travers, Middletown RI

My very first trout caught on the pink head fly that I tied myself.

My very first trout caught on the pink head fly that I tied myself.

I began fly fishing and fly tying just over two years ago. As a novice, like with any new hobby or passion, I had little in the way of fly tying materials and tools. I had purchased a used vice and a few basic tools to get me started. At times, it was a little frustrating because if I wanted to tie a certain fly, I would look at the recipe, gather my materials, and sometimes I would not have the materials I needed, other times I would have the right materials, but not in the right size or colors.

However, I had, and still have, two great mentors, John and Wes, to keep me going. Before one particular outing, Wes was showing me how to tie a certain fly with a red head. We were tying in a group with other people. He was positive the red head would induce a strike by the stocked trout in the pond where John, Wes, and I were going to be fishing in the upcoming week. I was doing my best to keep up, however, I didn’t have any crystal flash, so I substituted tinsel, then I didn’t have any red thread, so I substituted pink, it was the closest I had. I kept my work to myself so that he wouldn’t have to slow down everyone in the group to share supplies with me. When we were done, I kept the flies hidden so that he wouldn’t see the deviations I had made from his pattern. On the day we fished the flies I kept a distance from my mentor, turned my back hoping to keep my fly out of his sight and tied it on. That morning was very slow and when I caught the first fish of the group, which was my very first trout ever, Wes rushed over to me to get a picture and asked “is that the red head fly I showed you?” The first thing he did was look at the fly. So I explained, “well, I didn’t have any crystal flash, so I used tinsel, and I didn’t have any red thread, so I used pink”. He took a couple of pictures and we continued fishing.

I felt bad that I hadn’t followed his instructions perfectly, however, it worked in the end. A few days later, John sent me a picture he had received from Wes. Wes had tied a dozen flies with pink heads using tinsel, just like mine. It was at that moment that I realized fly tying was more of an art than a science. I continue making flies with little variations or substituting this for that. That creative process, making something that is different from what anyone else is using, and learning what works and what doesn’t, that keeps me tying flies all year long.

7 thoughts on “First Trout

  1. Mary S. Kuss

    You have hit on a profound truth, independently, very early in your fly fishing experience. It is and always has been more art than science. Enjoy your fly fishing and fly tying journey!

    Reply
  2. Michael Vorhis

    I’m a thousand percent with ya Scott! Creating is the fun of it…hoping and imagining that “now this one has just GOT to work!” And then now and then one does, and it validates that urge, and the imaginative muscle in the brain grows a little bit. That creative aspect of the dual tying/fishing hobby is a huge part of what it’s all about.

    Make a rod sometime…then tie up your own leaders the old-fashioned way using blood knots, then look at bugs in your stream or pond and come up with your own way of imitating one…and finally use all that and lay an offering out there…and just see what happens. Nothing better in this wide world. : )

    – Mike

    Reply
  3. Steve Marsh

    Thanks for that article. It’s seldom that I tie a fly the same way after a few iterations. Tying to me is a pass time in it’s own right and seeing the evolution of something that’s “your own thing” is gratifying whether the fish like it or not. But , surprisingly, more times than not, they do. Keep up the tying and the creating.

    Reply
  4. Jaime Chriswisser

    I’ve been tying for about 4-5 years and started much the same way you did. Even to this day, I see a cool new fly and am missing half or or more of the ingredients. And believe me, I have a lot of stuff. It’s maddening, but as you have seen, it inspires creativity. I tie a lot of ‘old school’ flies that you never hear of anymore (North Country Spiders, Mickey Finns, Black Nose Dace, etc.), where I think it’s important to follow the recipes as closely as possible, but I substitute when I have to, and sometimes it’s a better fly because of it. This is just getting worse, as there are new materials on the market almost every day, and even if you could afford them (I certainly can’t), how in the hell would you organize them all???

    I say roll with it and have some fun while you’re at it. New and successful fly patterns emerge all of the time, and I’ll bet a lot of them are borne of necessity. Another thing to consider, is that in areas where the fish see a lot of pressure, they may be wary of certain flies, whereas yours may look like a safe food source, as the fish haven’t seen it before. For example: If I fish a new area, I go to the local fly shop for fly recommendations. They may recommend a few patterns, but I know they are recommending those same flies to everyone who walks through the door. I will by a few of the recommended flies and say thank you for the advice, then peruse my boxes for something *similar*, but not exactly the same. Maybe a color hot spot, etc, will drive the trout to eat my fly, as opposed to what they’ve been seeing all season.

    Cheers,
    Jaime

    Reply
  5. Mike Cline

    Scott,
    You said: “I felt bad that I hadn’t followed his instructions perfectly, however, it worked in the end. A few days later, John sent me a picture he had received from Wes. Wes had tied a dozen flies with pink heads using tinsel, just like mine. It was at that moment that I realized fly tying was more of an art than a science. I continue making flies with little variations or substituting this for that.”

    You have captured the essence and lure of a lifetime of fly tying. In fly tying, there is at least one eternal truth: Fish Can’t Read. You will become a better tier by focusing on technique rather than pattern. Functionality, durability and fishy elements make for flies that catch fish not exacting patterns. We hope to see some of your fish catching creations in future posts.

    Reply
  6. Phil Rispin

    Well done Scott, don’t worry in a very short time you will have enough stuff to keep you tying for years to come. It’s a very pleasant addiction.

    Phil Rispin

    Reply

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