Feathers ’n Fins: Flies

Posted March 02, 2012, at 8:25 p.m.

Assuming that you started tying flies long before your hair turned the color of a Gray Ghost, you probably need another fly like a porcupine needs another quill. So the question begs: why do you continue tying flies, streamers, trout flies, bass bugs, Atlantic salmon flies, whatever — that may never be knotted to a tippet? Let alone buying more fly boxes or books to contain them.

For the most part, fly-tying fishermen answer that question with a short cast, saying that producing a few more flies, traditional patterns or otherwise, is a spring ritual, like dipping smelts and picking fiddleheads. Others will say they give away many of the flies they tie, including donating them to fishing clubs for fundraising auctions. Never let it be said, though, that money can be saved by tying flies. That’s a false cast for sure. Simply put, tying flies is a pleasurable pastime that is challenging, productive, satisfying and relaxing — except, of course, when the thread is snipped off while trimming a wing or hackle.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. But let me ask you this: why is it that tying flies isn’t regarded as art? Obviously, dressing hooks with feathers, wools, flosses, tinsels and hair from everything including the dog requires creativity, imagination and a sense of design, symmetry and color. As one who has long struggled at vises and easels, I’ll say it takes as much talent, patience and concentration to create flies that have the “just right” proportions and profiles, as it does to compose and paint pictures that speak. Moreover, at the risk of raising eyebrows, I’ll say it matters not if a fly is never fished or a painting is never framed. After all, art is its own reward.

There are, of course, reasons other than the aforementioned for turning out flies you don’t need. The expression in the eyes of a fishing partner, for instance, when, confidentially, you give him a newly created fly that’s proving to be a fish-taker. And now comes March, with its assurances that Old Man Winter’s obituary is in the offing and ice outs and spring fishing are only weeks away. Thus urging you to whip finish a few more Nine-Threes or Muddlers or Blue Charms just for good measure. All told, it can be said that the reasons for tying more flies are many and varied, all of which are good reason for saying there’s more to fishing than catching fish.

Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be viewed on the BDN Internet page at: www.bangordailynews.com. Tom’s e-mail address is: tomhennessey@ymail.com.

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