Fly-Fishing: Limited time forces a new approach to fly-tying

I vaguely remember a time when my only responsibility was to show up for work every day.

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I vaguely remember a time when my only responsibility was to show up for work every day.

When I wasn’t at work, I could tie flies anytime I wanted to, right in the living room of my apartment. (I could take my flies and go fishing just about any time I wanted, too.)

Now, I have kids and a house, a job and some freelance work on the side, a spouse who works the opposite schedule of my own, I’m in a couple of organizations and I’m taking a class, to boot. Suddenly, it seems every minute of my life is gobbled up long in advance.

Now, I have to carefully plan when and where I tie flies. Actually, the “where” part has been decided for me — at my workbench in the basement. “When” is when I can catch a lull in the endless schedule of soccer games and (kids’) homework, cooking dinner and painting ceilings, (my) homework and fishing articles.

I’m not complaining. I know I’m lucky to have the kids, the spouse, the house and everything else. I’m just saying they don’t leave many hours in my life for patiently transforming feather, fur and hooks into clever little fish-catchers.

But I found some time last weekend, and did a spring cleaning on my trout fly boxes.

I recognized some trends in the flies I tie and the way I tie them, and I bet it’s having an effect on my fishing.

Trend No. 1: I tie way too many mayflies. Traditional dries, Comparaduns, parachutes, Klinkhammer Specials, spinners, slender mayfly nymphs — I bet they make up 80 percent of my total patterns.

Sure, the mayfly is the “fly” in fly-fishing. But as Rick Hafele, in his recent excellent book, “Nymph-Fishing Rivers and Streams,” writes “there are more species of caddisflies than all the mayflies and stoneflies put together . . . you will encounter caddisflies, often in abundance, in just about any water you fish.” It’s time to tie some rock worms, Elk-Hair Caddis and soft-hackles.

Trend No. 2: I tie way too many size 12s and 14s. Again, they comprise most of the assortment. There are a few giants and a few tiny ones along the sides. Considering that small insects such as Blue-Winged Olive mayflies are the most abundant species in many streams, and considering that juvenile larvae and pupae are available underwater, and considering that midges are probably the most abundant aquatic insect in most streams, I really need to diversify in terms of size. It’s time for some hook shopping.

Trend No. 3: The boxes are stuffed and I tie new flies every winter, yet when I get on the stream, I use the same few flies over and over. I can tell because when I clean out the box the following spring, those flies still have bits of tippet knotted to their eyes.

I probably reach for the same models every time because I’m in a rush to get a cast to a working fish and grab the first fly I see that has worked before.

It’s also because when I glance in the box I see a bunch of flies that don’t look so good and a few that look just right. But when reorganizing the boxes last weekend, after culling a few that had been damaged or were badly made to begin with, I realized most of my flies looked pretty OK — symmetrical and properly proportioned.

It’s time to take a closer look in the box while fishing, and to start using the flies I already have more effectively.

Besides, as they say, the wrong fly fished well is better than the right fly fished poorly.

In any case, I’ve re-packed the boxes, leaving room for the caddisflies and smaller mayflies I’ll be tying during the next few weeks — If I can find the time.

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