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Thoughts on Flies…and Winter…or Bleh as it shall be referred to.

In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.
In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.

Yet again we are given a dose of warm weather and rain.  The river has jumped up a few hundred cfs.  It should settle by the end of the week again.  That seems to be the mode of operation for this winter.  No snow, lots of rain, and a fluctuating river.  Why doesn’t it just be March already, without any consistency its like a precursor to Spring.

UGH! MEH! BLEH!  Its kind of a downer really, all this pretty great weather in between all the rain and frozen H2O particles coming down, and no fishing.  Water temps are still topping out around 39 degrees which is damn cold but fishable, so when the river is in shape it is worth it to nymph or streamer fish some holes.  I am not getting my drift boat out until it decides to officially be spring and with February looming and big snows still anticipated for that month, it looks like it may be a late one.

If I have learned anything about the winters here its this (this is applicable to the months of November through March): “Winter is Coming…eventually…maybe around February 4th…but maybe next week…I don’t know…get back to me.”

DAMNIT!
DAMNIT!

Where is the bloody snow!?  Literally everywhere else in the country that it is supposed to be snowing it is, but not here.  While I have no doubt that it will snow, and it will probably be one of those miserable snows that just never stops, causes problems.  Then when it all settles it will be March 15th and everyone will be bitching about how the winter was too short.  Dude, the winter was shot like two weeks ago.  Its so late now anyone that has a weather dependent business has already took the hit and is just playing the waiting game like the rest of us.  The upper elevations are finally starting to get better but with crummy snow, warm winds, and rain mixed in, the conditions just plain suck.  I haven’t even got my skis or snowshoes out of storage and at this point I may never this season.  It’s too late to be playing in the snow, too much stuff to get ready for the spring…if it ever shows.  My fear is that the winter will finally arrive…and then never leave.  Like a few years back when the damn snows up high didn’t melt until late July.

I keep looking longingly at my fly rods all secured in their tubes propped up in the corner by the door.  My wading boots have a permanent spot next to the heater in the bathroom where I dry them between wade trips.  I say permanent because I have been out two times since November.  Its driving me bonkers really.  The saying, “Winter is Coming,” can suck it as far as I am concerned.  Pretty sure Winter got lost and when it does show up its just gonna make everyone mad with its tardiness.

The tying has been my salvation.  Without the ability to unplug from the day and the world by visiting the river, my cabin fever gets the best of me.  Anglers everywhere know what I am referring too.  That need to be outside, in the river, the smell of trout on your hands, bugs in your beard, a strong tug, a tight fly line, and a filled net, its becoming overbearing now.  Late February is so close but the weather may have other plans.  The vise is the only refuge I have, besides youtube videos of New Zealand and the Lapland.  I have been taking my time and relearning a few techniques, fine tuning a few newly acquired ones, and getting creative but simple with my patterns.

I love developing new patterns, trying different materials, working out different ways to replicate and imitate the natural.  My need to get into a decent fly shop with a plethora of tying choices, and a wad of cash is increasing dramatically as we get farther into this snow-less winter.  My supplies are dwindling which is a good thing, I get a kick out of perusing the feathers, hair, and synthetics for flies, much like some anglers look at the fly bins.  The other thing that short supply does is it forces you to try new things.  Shit, I ran out of that, well lets try this instead.  Then, bam!  I have a sweet ass new fly to try.  That’s how a few of my more productive patterns came about.

Is this the river of my dreams?  No seriously I found this pic and don't remember what river it is.
Is this the river of my dreams? No seriously I found this pic and don’t remember what river it is.

For me the trip starts at the vise.  Every time I tie a new March Brown Emerger, or Skwala Stonefly Nymph I fish it in my head.  With each turn of the quill or wire I cast the fly into another riffle or run.  When I head cement the fly at the finish, in my head, I am releasing the fish and casting for the next.  Sitting at the vise didn’t use to be that way.  I sat at a vise before I ever picked up a rod, but now, every time I tie its like a little dose of fly fishing on the river.  It gets so bad sometimes I tie flies in my sleep and come up with new patterns for the rivers of my dreams.  It sounds super dweeby but hey, I am a nerd for fly fishing.

The one thing that I am missing is that angler to angler connection.  My Lady listens to me talk about trout, flies, rivers, and everything in between all the time.  We stay up after the minions go to bed and talk about fishing.  Well I talk and she listens.  She thinks its cool.  A little nerdy but she has been watching me develop into an angler and tier closer than anyone.  While I love talking to her about fish, she doesn’t share the same passion for it that I do.  She wants to travel with me to rivers, learn how to better row the drift-boat, and there isn’t another lady I know that can rough it in the outdoors like she can.  She’s the best kind of fishing partner…the one that doesn’t fish, but can row.  My Lady is not an angler and that’s cool and she knows it.

I do miss tying with a group of anglers, talking shit and telling lies.  I saw that the local fly shop is having tying on Sunday mornings and I will try and hit it, but work gets in the way.  I should look into a group of anglers getting together somewhere like a coffee shop or something and tying for an hour or two one day a week.  It would be cool to be amongst other anglers, share patterns and techniques, talk about fish and the river.  I don’t get a lot of that in my tiny little room under the stairs where my vise and materials sit.

I love to tie, but I love to fish even more.  With tying for guiding now its a bit more fun because I am tying a huge amount of flies that I normally wouldn’t.  For myself, I typically tie a set of flies at the beginning of the season and that’s all I need.  A set being 6.  I do not intend to tie all of my flies but a majority of them will be tied and not bought.  Why not?  I still tie a set at a time, but I was taught that tying the same pattern 24 times in a row can make tying really boring and mistakes happen when you get lazy after about the 20th fly.  I switch between two and three patterns until I have 2 sets of each.  The next day I may repeat the same patterns or move on to the next hatch.  It keeps it from getting dull or feeling like a chore.  I finish a set of March Brown Emergers, I get tired of tying tiny little mayflies, and move onto a large Salmon Fly Dry, then maybe a Green Drake nymph, and then back to the Emergers.  I get special requests from friends for sets of flies, Craneflies are a big one, as well as my super tasty October Caddis Pupa, and those also give me an excuse to change it up as well.

A little troutsnack party
A little troutsnack party.

The other plus side of tying for the guiding season is I feel like I am working.  Not just tying for myself but tying for clients is a big push for me.  I have tied for anglers and sent sets of flies off in the mail from time to time but never the amount I’m tying for guiding this season. The guides at the shop I used to work for would have me tie certain flies for them.  It saved them having to buy a few before their trip. We also used to tie for each other all the time. Carp flies, for trout flies, a particular guide had some amazing bass flies that I still use, and we all shared patterns and tying lessons. They were notorious for stealing flies from the table before heading out on trips though. So don’t leave flies hanging around.  I always got very critical but always constructive feedback on patterns of mine so I welcomed the less flies in my box.

There is something quite satisfying to hear a guide or angler praise a finely tuned, personally tied fly pattern.  It always made me feel like I was doing something right when my flies were in other anglers’ boxes.  I never got nervous about my flies being out there, but I have always been laid back about my flies. Fish eat ’em for me.

It’s cool that not everyone can tie them, you can’t find them everywhere, and just because you have one doesn’t mean you are fishing it right.  I have met a lot of anglers that just put the fly on/in the water.  Its always a riverside treat to meet an angler or anglers that see you catch a decent fish and ask what you used and you show them something they wouldn’t have in their box.  I am always handing out flies on the river.  I never want someone to get off the river with a bad taste in their mouth.  If a few of my flies help make their day better than of course I am gonna hand them out.  What really get’s me is when they ask how to fish it!  Oh man, yes, lets talk about that.

Flies do a lot of things besides catch trout; they inspire anglers, help concoct stories of grandeur, enlighten and educate on the ways of the river, and each one is a tiny work of art.  Such simple but intricate things; much like the trout they catch, much like the anglers that tie them on.

Tamarack

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