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Fly Tying

What Defines Your Favorite Fly?

A recent discussion I had with a fellow angler was simple, yet perplexing. What are your three favorite flies and why? Most responses might simply listing three flies and it got me wondering why? What’s driving my favoritism? My three favorite flies are double bead stonie, Big Jerk baitfish, and the Moose Mane soft hackle. After I had written it down, I too stumbled on why these were my favorite flies. I was actually taken a back, I really didn’t know why off the top of my head, so I thought on it and thought on it. What about a fly makes it a “favorite”? I sat down and wrote out a few reasons why I truly loved each fly:

Double Bead Stonie:

  • Buggiest looking fly I tie
  • Versatile
  • Catches multiple species
  • Fun to tie

Big Jerk Baitfish:

  • Symmetry is unbelievable
  • Sleek look
  • Guarantees success when fishing for pike or bass
  • Can be mass produced
  • Extremely fun to tie

Moose Mane Soft Hackle:

  • The look is incredibly unique for a tried and tested pattern
  • Extremely reliable for catching multiple species
  • Can be transformed into an almost an infinite number of variations
  • Extremely fun to tie

After writing these down, I realized, all of my favorite flies have three things in common: aesthetics, reliable for catching target species, and enjoyable to tie.

There are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of different flies. Every so often, I will find a pattern or make my own that makes me say wow, that is a cool looking fly. A fly tier by the name of Hugo Harlin comes to mind. Although some of his flies are unfishable, they are truly works of art. Some people think fly tying is an art, some, like Ted Leeson in The Habit or Rivers, would suggest otherwise. I don’t think Ted ever got to see Hugo’s work before writing his book. So, I’ve come to decide that when regarding a fly as a favorite, there is undoubtedly an aesthetic aspect. Whether that be dazzling color symmetry, line configuration, shading, or shadowing, the aesthetics has to catch my eye and spark my mind to light up and say, “WOW that is cool.”

Reliability, something we are all looking for in a relationship, our cars, homes, and for me, in my flies. If I have the coolest looking fly in the world, but it doesn’t catch fish, for me, it’s a turn off. Picture this, you’re sitting on the stream bank fishing for brook trout, it’s a warm spring morning, and you pop open your fly box to select your first fly of the day, what do you grab? Old reliable of course. A sense of comfort alongside unrealistic expectations set from past success. These flies, I would argue, make you the angler you are. How many comfort flies do you have in your box? How did you come to having resolute confidence in that fly? Was it a giant fish you caught using it or a 100 fish type of day? Whatever the cause may be, reliability of a fly to produce fish sparks favoritism for me.

            Finally, the fun of tying. If you don’t tie your own flies, then you most likely have a different reason why your favorite fly is your favorite. I tie thousands of flies every year, some for myself and some for others, but regardless, I tie a lot. Something that comes with tying a lot is boredom. If you ever hear an avid fly tier say they never get bored, they’re lying to you. Sometimes, I sit down and just don’t want to tie. Similar to writer’s block or a creative barrier, sometimes the imaginative juices just aren’t flowing. However, there are probably half a dozen patterns that I have yet to tire of, even better, I still thoroughly enjoy tying them, despite tying the same pattern over 100, if not 1000 times. After writing my reasoning behind my favorites, I realized, there is a direct connection between how much I like the pattern and how much I like tying it. If it’s not fun to tie, then to hell with it! I never would have guessed this, but I suppose that’s what reflection does, opens your eyes.

            Now favoritism is objective, your reasons may not be the same as mine or maybe they are. Regardless if our reasons overlap, there exists reasons behind favoritism and that is what truly sparked my interest. A reflection of my favorite flies was a really enjoyable exercise and I hope you try for yourself. It actually opened my eyes to how much I, for no reason, shun many flies in my box. Maybe next time, I won’t grab the usual super fly and go for something I’ve avoided for years!

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