Fly Tying Struggles

By Mark Usyk

I sit at my tying bench because it’s near white out conditions outside. Late last night the thought had entered my mind about hitting the Oriskany Creek today, but old man winter has other plans, and I’m not feeling like having a fist fight on a creek with an elderly man that always gets in the last swing. Not today anyways. So in between putting the finishing touches on a couple stories destined for various readers and finishing up reading the last chapter of a book about the guide who kick started all the bone fishing lodges in the Bahamas, I find myself in front of my vice tying up a buggy, nymphy looking thing one moment, a streamer the next, then staring out the window as the snow fall picks up. Reading about bone fishing in the Bahamas is something that does not help one cope well with the white stuff falling outside, in case you were wondering.

I’m tying for some peace of mind on a cold day, but I’ve got a couple planned trips coming up to great lakes tributaries that I need to be filling a box for, so I’m at least tying patterns that will get me ahead of the game on that front. Funny thing the way that works though. No matter how many I tie, the day before I’ll decide I don’t have enough and go into fly tying panic. Staying up late the night before is in my near future, it’s almost a guarantee. And what’s even funnier than that is that I’ll tie in preparation, then tie in panic, and then when I’m actually on a river for a couple days, I’ll only use a couple of them if the box has thirty in it. It’s a viscous cycle that repeats itself all the time.

Fly tying was something I thought I wanted to do simply because I’ve always been the kind of person happy doing things for myself. I don’t remember the last time I fished a fly I didn’t tie. Actually in the beginning I used the excuse that I was going to tie them myself to save money, but if you don’t know the truth to that one allow me let you in on a little secret before you try it for the same reason yourself. There is no way possible that you are going to get into tying flies and save money. Actually, there’s one way, and that would be if you tied them, sold them, but never fly fished yourself.

You think you just want to tie Woolly Buggers so you buy a cheap vice, a package of hooks, some marabou and chenille, and a spool of thread. Then before you know it you’ve rebuilt a room in the house to hold a tying desk, a wall of drawers full of materials ranging from hackle capes from every known chicken and game bird known to modern ornithology, rabbit pelts, buck tails in more colors than the kids breakfast cereal with all the marshmallows, squares of elk hair in twelve different shades, and more tinsel that the past five years Christmas trees all put together. As a matter of fact, you actually kept some of the tinsel off this past year’s tree because it was a different thickness than any you already had, and you can’t stand to see possible fly tying materials go to waste. Some people might look at you as a type of hoarder, but you have plans for everything you stuff in a drawer or plastic storage bin, even if you don’t know exactly what that plan is just yet.

I’ve got a small collection of books as well. Anything to do with fishing and especially fly fishing I scoop up when I come across it. My favorite books are just collections of stories, but I’ll admit to having no less than ten which deal specifically with tying flies. I’ve flipped through them all, but never actually used one to tie a fly. At the most I might refer to a picture in one although even that’s rare. But still, I’m a fly tier and there was a book on the subject, so I had to have it.

Fly tying relates to fly fishing in two ways. In one, the flies are what you cast to catch the fish. That’s the simple one. The other is the fanaticism that’s connected to both. It takes over just as the fishing itself does. I’m in Upstate NY, but last week I tied up a couple squid patterns that you’d use in salt water, the idea that I could fool my brain into feeling like I was in a warmer, sunnier, tropical environment. All I did was drink rum because of it instead. I don’t know what’s more alarming in this instance. The fact that I tied up a squid pattern in the frozen north, or the fact that I had the right materials to pull it off. The struggle is real.

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