Fly Fishing Initialisms

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Initialisms is a term coined in the late 19th century as a precursor to a more familiar term—Acronym. According to Merriam-Webster acronym did not appear until the 1940s. Regardless, most folks know what they mean, despite having a subtle difference in definitions. Take the first letters of any short name or phrase, put them together to abbreviate the name or phrase. This is a handy way to shorten writing or conversation without losing the meaning of a longer string of words. The subtle difference, however ignored by the masses, is this. If you can pronounce the string of letters as a single word, i.e. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) it is an acronym. If you have to recite the letters one by one, i.e. CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) it is an Initialism.

CDC Winged BWO Biot

As I was working through a bunch of Wikipedia articles related to fly tying, it struck me that Initialisms and acronyms have to some extent permeated our avocation like they have across the spectrum of endeavors. Only uninitiated fly anglers wouldn’t be familiar with these initialisms—PMD (Pale Morning Dun), BWO (Blue Wing Olive), EHC (Elk Hair Caddis). Of course there are more obscure initialisms that might take some explaining—CDL (Coq de Leon), CDC (Cul de Canard), PTN (Pheasant Tail nymph)

As I reviewed fly tying and fly fishing literature, other initialisms that seemed a bit obscure appeared.

  • TDC (Thompson’s Delectable Chironomid).
  • GRHE (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear)
  • APBTPT (Andy Pusan’s Bead Thorax Pheasant Tail)
  • WR16 (Wood Road Access 16)
  • IP Red (Island Park Red)
  • LC Moose (A stonefly tied by W. Lewis and S. Christensen with moose wings)
  • LBS (Little brown stone)
  • RAM Caddis (Ross A. Marigold)
  • H&L (House and Lot)
  • AP Muskrat Nymph (Andre Pusan’s)
  • BLM nymph (Beaded Little Mayfly)
  • PMX (Pale Madam X)
  • JRB (Jack Rose Bastard – a midge adult)

And probably one of the most bizarre initialisms out there:

  • SCHWARPF (Swept Custom Hackle Winged All Revised Purpose Fly)

Initialisms are useful in written communications to shorten the writing as the initials can be explained the first time they are used. “The CDC (Cul de Canard) Emerger is a useful fly during mayfly hatches.” But in verbal communications, initialisms can be problematic. First, if it doesn’t roll off the tongue like PMD does, it can sound awkward. “Look at those BWOs”. Also, unless the listener knows what the Initialism means and is familiar with it, things can get confusing. Imagine this older guy walks into the fly shop and starts a conversation with one of the staff. “I am heading down to Bust Your Butt Creek for a few days camping and fishing with my new girlfriend. I’d like some PMDs and PEDs as that’s what’s happening down there now. “The staff guy replies, “We’ve got the PMDs in the sizes you need, but for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, you’ll have to go the drugstore around the corner.” The old guy replies, “Oh I don’t need those with this girlfriend, I meant Pale Evening Duns.”

One of my favorite PSWBs

So, when I hit the Firehole in Yellowstone next Spring I will be ready with my PSWBs if the water is high. Otherwise the WBs with P&O trailers will work, but I always carry some EHCs and GGs for when the hatches are prolific.

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