So I’m at my fly vice with the usual array of fur, feather, plastic, cottons and silks, and some bizarre metal instruments that would seem more at home in an operating theatre or dental surgery, and I’m deep in thought. I’ve decided to go and fish a small stream near home, however I feel I’m short of the ‘right’ fly. Now the right fly concept is an interesting one. Sitting at the desk I have no idea of what that ‘right’ fly may be… but I have a feeling I just don’t have it. And I need it because it’s the one that will catch me all the fish.
The thing is though, this line of thinking is completely irrational. I’ve already got hundreds of flies. They may not all be in one spot and don’t ask me where every individual pattern actually is, but just know that I’ve got lots. Many are secreted somewhere in or on my vest (in fly wallets, in old fly hook packets, or on my wool patch). Quite a few are in the car: in plastic containers, loose in that little open compartment in the console with coins and an old receipt; and there are a couple stuck in the back seat upholstery. So I’ve got plenty of flies. Yet still here I sit, with this urge to tie the ‘right’ fly.
In some situations it’s highly relevant to have a particular imitation, e.g. when a hatch is on. However, the stream I’m going to fish is a small mountain creek populated mostly with rainbows. Although it’s early autumn, summer hasn’t let go yet and the temperature is still more than warm, making wet wading an absolute joy—and the terrestrials are very much up and about. There are plenty of grasshoppers leaping as you walk through the grass, March flies still annoy you if you stop to rest in the shade, caddis are dipping, stoneflies are huddled up in the moist shade of the damp rocks, beetles are buzzing and those #$#@ wasps seem to have a nest right where you need to stand to get the best shot at the best pools! The fact is, there is such a vast array of trout food around the stream that really, any terrestrial mothy, spidery, beetlely, caddisy, anty -type fly will do. Surely fly choice is not that hard or important in this situation? So why am I here at my desk, deep in thought and not fishing? Especially when I’ve got all those flies!
What is it that makes us keep looking for the better mouse trap; searching for the perfect fly that will slay the fish? I can remember someone (apologies for forgetting who) once observed that there are “more grasshopper fly patterns available than there are species of grasshopper!” We know trout can be finicky at times, but they only have a few seconds at best to make a decision as potential food drifts by in the swirling currents of a mountain stream. As long as the fly looks buggy, it should be noticed. As long as it looks natural it will probably be eaten.
But why don’t I catch as many fish as I should? It has to be the fly because surely it can’t be me… can it?
It’s easy to blame something else for our failings. Humans are good at externalising things and not so good at internalising… maybe I didn’t get that trout because the fly was wrong. Or maybe I missed it because I didn’t read the current well enough and the fly dragged. Perhaps it’s not a wonder fly I need, but to pay more attention to the stream and how I present the fly.
Sure, I may still go through a few different flies to see which one is working better—and it’s foolish not to carry some sort of fly selection and variety of fly sizes. But if I’m really honest and analyse my fishing, my presentations are sometimes far from perfect. And sometimes (possibly often) I spook fish as I move along. There are also times when deep down, I know I haven’t always read the stream as well as I could. So sometimes (possibly often) I don’t catch the trout that I should have, and it’s not the fly’s fault. Perhaps I should shift my focus a bit… maybe it’s not the fly. Maybe it’s me.
So back at my desk, the search for the ‘right’ fly has suddenly becoming much less of an issue as the realisation hits that I don’t need to tie more flies, I just need more time, practice and experience on the water.
Picture an empty chair in front of a fly vice, to the sound of a slamming front door.