It's a stunningly gorgeous March morning here in Phippsburg, with fresh, fluffy snow in the trees undisturbed by any breeze and a brilliantly bright blue sky. It's the kind of morning where you (or at least I) feel like I can get anything and everything done on my list even though rational analysis says otherwise. Doing dishes this morning (yeah, we often leave 'em 'till the a.m. - no kids to judge us) I was struck by how much fun I've been having tying flies this winter. I've been cranking out patterns for albie season on the Cape and North Carolina and restocking boxes for striper charters and NEED to get busy on bonefish and permit patterns for my Soul Fly Lodge group in April. Moving from plates to cast iron pans I contemplated why I've been enjoying this winter's tying so much and here's what I came up with...
1. I've been making the effort to get together with friends to tie and just loving it. Some outings are more productive than others in terms of quantity of flies produced (and volume of delicious beer consumed) but it is always energizing and I love picking up ideas from others. Thanks Matt Bickford of Maine Striper Adventures for getting us together on a regular basis. Who knew about using channel lead to weight flies? Brilliant Ben Whalley! (Helps to turn over the hook but distributes the weight along length of the shank but not top of the shank - getting a different sinking motion and eliminates the drawbacks that come with lead eyes). Not only am I tying up a hand-full of your Best Bet Fly patterns but I'm incorporating channel lead into some bonefish flies that will eliminate the need for the bead chain eyes when going all stealth-mode. Conversations with these guys about striper conservation, promoting more involvement in advocacy, and of course the usual fish-talk is thought provoking and motivating, so thanks also to Rich Pschirrer of Up 'n At Em! Guide Service, Patrick Rudman of Old Maine Outfitters, Josh Geib of I Just Catch a Shitload of Fish, and Todd Bickford - the quietest and best angler of the group. Come on Craig Uecker - make that schedule work so we can learn more about tube flies!
2. I've been committed to keeping a (mostly) clean and neat tying station. In the boat I'm a stickler for everything having a place and everything in its place but my tying table is too often a victim of the double whammy of entropy and tier's-ADHD. At it's worse, the chaos extends to the side table, and the floor behind my chair, and the tops of my storage bins. I have no doubts that I'll fall prey to this blight once the guiding season starts up again but for now I'm (usually) being diligent and disciplined in cleaning shit up and only having materials out for the specific pattern I'm tying.
3. I'm also doing better at maintaining a production tying approach and this helps immensely with the effort to stay organized. More importantly, I tie better flies when I repeat same pattern right down to size of hook and type of flash over and over again. Being pleased with the results keeps me motivated. Repetition breeds efficiency. Full fly boxes gives me peace. It soooo easy for me to craft one fly and then think "what if I added this material...?" and pretty soon I'm six flies deep and each one is different. I've been prioritizing needs over wants, proven patterns over the ever tempting great experiments and loving the satisfaction that can come from discipline in tying.
4. Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop resumed in-person tying classes and while I wasn't smart enough to sign up for some awesome offerings, I was really pleased to return to teach another albie fly session. I love the process of translating the action of tying a fly into written and oral instruction notes. It forces me to consider every movement and step. It helps me reexamine the habits I've developed around a particular pattern and I often end up simplifying materials or application resulting in a better fly. The act of writing down notes, steps, observations is also a huge help, which leads me to reason #5.
5. I started keeping a bound notebook next to my tying table a couple of years ago and sometimes I have the discipline to make notes on what I'm doing, learning and wondering. I organize it by pattern and even if I don't refer back to it, the act of writing out my observations helps cement them in my brain. I wish my sketches were aesthetically pleasing, even just to me, but they aren't. And never will be. But they help.
6. I've been working to learn more about the materials I'm using, or should be using, and how to make the most of them. I'm much more knowledgeable about UV cured resins thanks to my class prep for Eldredge Brothers. I'm working hard to illuminate 1 to 2 seconds at 12 inches, then pausing 10 seconds, then illuminating 1 to 2 seconds at 6 inches and pausing before zapping it up close for the final cure. It does make a difference in completeness of cure and limiting heat build up, both of which make for a more durable fly and serve to limit material distortions. I've been geeking out on hook design and manufacturing. So many choices. There are endless possible variations of any proven pattern but sorting through the merits and drawbacks to substituting craft fur or arctic fox or finn racoon has lead me back to infatuation with coyote fur.
7. I've been diving back into a couple of tying books that are as relevant and exciting as they day they arrived. Bob Popovic's Fleye Design is the bible and encyclopedia. Drew Chicone's Feather Brain, along with some of his species specific titles, is the perfect compliment. I've been watching videos too. What an incredible resource YouTube can be. If you haven't availed yourself of Gunnar Brammer's instructional gems lately, do it now. I've also made time for some awesome online events. Masters of the Fly is hosting Jason Taylor this Sunday evening at 8:00. If you fish for stripers or pike or musky you want to sign up for this session. Same is true for two more upcoming online demos and conversations. On March 12 Blane Chocklett will help you up your Game Changer game via an awesome set of seminars hosted by The Articulate Fly. Ben Whalley is in the virtual house April 4 with South Shore Fly Casters. Get registered now.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm far from completing my winter tying tasks. I'm not at the point of waking up in a panic at 2:17 am, but I am feeling the urgency brought on by longer days. I hope you're finding fulfillment in your tying.
Capt. Peter Fallon
Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC