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Fly Fishing
A Fly Tier's Obsession

By Stu Thompson


We fly tiers are an obsessive bunch aren’t we? Who else would sit at a table for hours on end trying to design the perfect fly that catches fish all the time? How many flies are tied to try and achieve that goal? Hundreds, thousands, MILLIONS!!!!! We all do it. That one special pattern, so elusive but yet so near. Forty years of fly tying you would think that I have come up with the perfect fly but nothing could be further from the truth. I have however come up with some exceptional flies that take fish quite regularly. This is what I would like to explain to you, the process for designing and tying good flies that will take fish consistently.


The first item you have to think about is silhouette. By far the most important step in tying flies. But how do you know what the proper silhouette is? Get your waders on, take some sample jars, and a sampling net and go out to your favorite lake or stream and do some collecting of the different aquatic insects and baitfish that inhabit that body of water. Do you have to label every jar with a scientific name? NO! As long as you know the body of water it came from all you have to do is label it as a mayfly, stonefly, or whatever type of baitfish you collected. Then once you get home get some alcohol (not the stuff you drink) and place that in the sample jar to preserve your sample. Now that you have your samples what is the next step in the tying process? The answer of course is to study the shape and forms of that particular sample and try to figure out how to make the same silhouette. Questions have to be asked all the time. How do I get the wide body of a Stonefly or Dragonfly nymph? What do I have to do to get the shape of a sculpin? These are the types of questions you have to ask yourself before you even try tying. Once you develop the answers then take it to the next step and sit at the vice to develop the fly further.

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