So you’re standing at the water’s edge and staring intently into the open fly box in your hand.

Which fly?

Your first fly pick is likely influenced by several factors and could be based on your experience with the lake or stream you’re standing on, or recent fishing reports from mates (or other dubious sources). Maybe there’s some obvious trout action visible, or there are a lot of insects flying around. Whatever the logic used, you select and tie on a fly.

All is good for a while and expectations are high. But after some time, if there is no success, the questions in your head begin. Is it the right fly? The answer is, possibly not, because it’s not working. Or what if it IS the right fly, but the fish are not there? Are there fish there? Of course, there are fish there, you’re on a trout fishery – that’s why you’re there in the first place – but the fish may be in another section. So, what do you do? Should you change fly or maybe location? Will a ‘bite window’ open or will it remain bolted shut? And what the hell is a bite window anyway?

The internal questions come thick and fast and your mind races to seek the answer – and you decide to change the fly.

So here you are, standing at the water’s edge and staring intently into the open fly box in your hand.

Which fly?

The answer has to be in there somewhere!

After more unsuccessful casts, the voices in your head are back. More questions and internal debate as the pressure to crack the code rises. Your brain is battling, calculating and reassessing the possibilities of why you’re not catching fish, and the wheels on your little trouting outing are starting to seriously wobble. Things are getting desperate.

It MUST be the fly that’s not working! You come up with even more theories about trout behaviour: the angle of the sun, moon phase, barometric pressure, or if certain superstitions are relevant after all… and decide on another change.

So here you are AGAIN standing at the water’s edge and staring intently into the open fly box in your hand.

Which fly?

This is getting out of hand and the pressure builds in proportion to the number of fly changes you make. You are becoming flycotic.

This sad condition is flycosis: the mental anguish of fly selection and the internal justification explaining why the fly should work, but then doubting it, which leads to continually changing flies. It can go on indefinitely and depending on the level, completely ruin a day’s fishing. But there is help.

The field of study pertaining to the angler’s mind and the flyfishing process, is known as flycology. While not specifically defined, flycology has been with us for a long time. The earliest flychiatrists, such as Juliana Berners and Isaac Walton, recognised the condition and produced some of the early pivotal self-help titles. The field of flycological study has proliferated, and its growth is reflected in the thousands of books now published relating to all facets of the topic.

Generally, the condition of excessive fly-changing is mild, and it can be treated simply by using a fly you have confidence in, or reverting to an accepted proven pattern. It is especially helped by not taking your fishing too seriously. Have faith and fun!

But sometimes this is not enough. And if the simple cures are not effective, the angler can slip further into a deeper flycological state.

Some fishers find it isn’t always easy to use accepted patterns, or their faith is tested once too often. In these extreme cases, such tormented, unfortunate souls see the fly as the ultimate. And, in the need to feed their torment, turn towards the mystical and mythical. They may even start to experiment in the dark arts, and try fly-tying.

The fly-tyer’s den – be warned, you could get lost in there for hours!

While this may seem like a harmless pursuit at first, fly-tying is highly addictive, with many getting hooked on the ‘hit’ of tying a successful fly. They’re then lured down the rabbit hole of seeking the ultimate imitation. Those afflicted can become reclusive and withdrawn into their own world, spending hours alone in a den filled with the feathers and furs of exotic and rare fauna; being seduced by gel-spun threads, UV finishes and the new synthetic materials. Tragic.

So beware: flycology is real; and it has consequences.

But perhaps the biggest and most serious ramification is that, while you’ve been standing at the water’s edge dealing with your personal flycosis, or glued to your vice, you may not have noticed the lost hours where you don’t really recall what happened, or know where they went! You have been nowhere else but in the moment.

And there’s the irony. Flycology has actually revitalised your mind. The phone calls, bills, work, life issues, stress and worries have all taken a backseat as your concentration has been unequivocally focused on the fishing.

As a close friend of mine says, flycology is a form of ‘meditative mindfulness’ and she reminded me that as such, it has a wealth of health benefits: it can help us to increase our ability to normalise emotions, reduce stress and anxiety; and lots more.

Flycology has its benefits

So here you are, standing at the water’s edge and staring intently into the open fly box in your hand.

Which fly?

The real answer is, tie on any fly you want and start fishing… and let flycology work its magic.

(P.S. If you are still concerned about your own, or a friend’s, flycological health, maybe consider consulting a flychiatrist. These are easy to find by Googling ‘Fly shop near me’.)