I’m often asked what it is that attracts anglers to small stream flyfishing and where a 12-inch trout is cause for celebration? I don’t know if I have the answers. What I do know is that many of those of us that do, become obsessed with it.
When I talk of small streams I mean those diminutive waterways close to their source in the pristine uplands. The description “diminutive” is not used loosely — the tackle is ultra light, the water is often thin, the trout small, everything you do or see is in close-up or else not seen at all. In fact, everything needs to be scaled down, expectation no less than presentation and tackle. Here in the deep folds below the awe-inspiring peaks of our mountains bright, cold, clear streams flow – home to brown and rainbow trout – wild, speckled shapes, almost made of stream. Fins hold them in perfect balance between water and sky and then, at the slightest hint of anything strange, in a heartbeat they disappear like illusions into the stream’s liquid atmosphere. They are exasperating in recognition of fraud and have the habit of reducing pompous pretenders to failure and rewarding ordinary mortals.
What makes us different as flyfishers? There is certainly no class distinction between the devotees of the “belly-crawling” extremes of flyfishing and other forms of the sport. To suggest there is would be pretentious, an arrogance that has no place in flyfishing. Some may argue differently, but I believe that flyfishing gets no closer to its roots than this. It’s a rich complexity of finely balanced detail, like the challenge of stalking wild trout with delicate, careful presentations and tying and using imitative flies, some small enough to fit a half dozen on your thumbnail.
Winter is that time when my fly tying station becomes a centre of focus. Here I spend many evenings hunched over the vice, glass of red wine within reach and the sounds of my favourite music in the background and the occasional visit from my grandsons who always want to be part of the fascination of it.
But, mostly it is a time to replenish favourite flies, experiment with a few new patterns and attempt to improve others based on past seasons experiences. My approach to tying is centered on a few solid, in my opinion, cornerstones. I don’t try to create exact imitations, but rather generic ones with distinctive features that the trout will recognize – wings, legs, feelers, shape, size and colour. I like materials that will give the fly a buggy appearance and provide movement or perceived movement; dubbing with plenty of guards hairs, peacock herl, CdC, soft flexible hackles such as grizzly, partridge and Coc de Leon. I avoid overdoing the sparkle adding just enough to reflect light and sheen giving an impression of luminescence that you would expect to find in the natural. I guess the average size is about a 16, with a few 12’s at the upper limit and down to some 22’s at the other end. I seldom go below this simply because I don’t think it makes much difference at this end of the scale. In truth though for me they are just plain hell to tie. If I do, it is rather to prove something to myself than for the fishing.
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