Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ugly Flies

I tie ugly flies.

AT left, plate one from the 1860 volume by Henry Wade Salmon Flies from Rod Fishing. Public domain image without copyright from wikicommons (and a redundant disclaimer, to boot).

These are wonderful flies. I have a soft spot for salmon flies. I have a soft spot for salmon. I have relatives who only mean "salmon" when they say they are going fishing.

The first time I saw a Spey rod in the mortar house (where we kept both types of mortars), I thought it was some sort of buffoonish prop. Now, I'd read all of McClane's New Fishing Encyclopedia at this point but still had never seen a Spey rod. At least, it didn't stick.

I had a copy of the encyclopedia thanks to Book-of-the-Month club.  We bought a lot of books at my house and sometimes I got to spend the bonus points that came along. The volume came from the windfall.

So, Salmon flies. Gems on hooks, really. I can't see the colors anymore but I remember them. I remember the iridescence.

I tie ugly flies. Luckily for me trout eat ugly things.

I started back at the vise a couple months ago after last tying flies with any serious intent in my uncle's basement in the summer of 1980.  I had a Thompson clone around here somewhere that I bought at a curio shop in Kansas in the late 1980's. I've used it a few times over the years. Never more than three or four at a time and years between. My materials finally got buggy (the hair) or brittle (the feathers).  Some of the feathers were OK still. A few.

So, back at the vise. It has taken a while - and a new pair of glasses - to get back to speed in tying. I had a hard time even whip finishing by hand when I started back.

So, a couple hundred flies and I'm doing fine. I've even learned a couple new techniques. Shocking, I tell you.

This all matters because I've tied a bunch of flies for the Amber Liquid guys to use at spring trout camp here in a little over a week.  They're functional flies (and the amber liquid guys don't read the blog so no worry on the surprise).

They are however, ugly.

There's a lot of rusty brown and black bodies and grey and brown hackles. There is some flash and a few nice 18 partridge and yellow tied with silk. They're not "pretty."

Most are a little lumpy or the hackle is a little far back (don't crowd the eye George would tell me over his own glasses as we drank Coors beer and tied) or the lead winds on the butt indicating that it is a weighted nymph protrude a little far or aren't too tight.

You get the idea. I'm going to give them to the Amber Angler guys and they will suspect I am trying to rig the "big fish" contest we have at each fish camp.

Some won't know trout eat ugly. Crippled duns, wingless spinners, dead sculpin, caseless caddis.

Mayflies are beautiful. Iso larvae are just ugly little guys.

So. I tie ugly flies. I'm happy with them. The trout eat them. I don't think trout get "beautiful" on the plate nearly as often as we'd like to believe.

I double whip finish so they don't come undone. I think the batch I give the Anglers I will dab with Sally Hansen's. I don't use the stuff but lest something come apart in the water, I'm going to be doubly sure.

The ugliest ones I'll naturally save for myself.

Big Fish trophy is in the bag.



  1. experimental flies are solely the domain of the big bear and the new cub he's bringing to camp...

  2. I haven't yet mastered tying the "bear paw" though I'm going to give it some effort here over the weekend.

    All I need are some hay hooks and 6gage copper winding and half a dyed elk hide. I'm on it.