Guest Blogger: Scott Travers, Middletown RI
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.