Catching Fish or Fishermen

Tying flies is like artwork. There’s a certain finesse to it. My wife made the mistake of comparing it to crafts. Once. As someone who ties commercially, I am expected to keep up to a certain standard. I want people to say “that’s a nice fly,” not “that’s a nice fly for a dude with one arm.” This quality assurance has done nothing but make me a far better tyer and continues to do so with each order I tie for. One thing we sometimes do is pick a fly out for us instead of for the fish it serves. As fly designers, we sometimes design a fly to try to catch a fisherman’s eyes instead of a fish’s eyes. We all do it, it’s just the nature of us. We often catch ourselves tying flies that don’t resemble a true fly or of a color pattern not true to flies. Sometimes this works to our advantage though. The fish sees something it has never seen before and the fly triggers a reaction strike.

I’ve had numerous people ask me how I find time to tie for myself. My answer is, I don’t. The way I keep my fly boxes filled is by messing up. That OCD tendency that says, “that fly doesn’t look quite right.” And, “that fly is unacceptable to give to a customer.” Those flies go in a pile for my boxes. They catch the fish just the same as that flawless fly. I’ve seen people kinda give the stink eye when looking in my fly box before. Some of the flies in there are a little shoddy looking. But they still catch fish and I’m more efficient in my tying by not discarding them.

Recently, I decided to spend a Saturday morning in one of my favorite spring creeks. It holds wild rainbows and brookies and is a beautiful scene. I got up early while the family was still asleep and headed down the road. Between the chugging of coffee and the adrenaline of catching natives, I got there pretty quick. I grabbed my sling pack with the essentials….

The Essentials


You could definitely tell summer was fading out on this cool September morning. Leaves were about to start changing colors and the sun shined through the trees in a way that you just have to stop and appreciate.

Sun Rays


I threw on a buoyant olive Elk Hair Caddis. Now there certainly weren’t any olive caddisflies flying around on the water, but with wild trout, especially brookies, your fly selection is usually not a deal breaker. They are starving and in a confined space where food availability is very competitive. It’s more important to stay hidden and to have a nice drift. You can even catch them in the winter on caddis and stonefly dry flies, which I use a lot. I like them for their buoyancy. You don’t have to dry the fly and apply floatant every couple of casts like with many other dries. I started catching them in the ripples. The fall is when the male brook trout, as well as brown trout, put on their pimp suits. Around here, they begin spawning around mid October and should be left alone during that time. But late September to early October is a great time to catch them in their elevated state of aggressiveness. Here’s a male that had just begun to show some coloration.



I’m always looking at rocks while walking the water. One reason is that I have on numerous occasions hopped to a big rock only to find a starfish-sized wolf spider sharing the very same rock. I have no shame in stating that I will spazz out every time in such an occasion. Another reason is you sometimes get to see cool things like this stonefly casing I found. Look at the size of that thing. That’s pretty big for such a small stream.



I kept fishing upstream, hitting the faster water and having success with the Elk Hair. Here’s another larger one I tricked into taking my caddis.



I even caught a crawdad with my float line. If you just touch them with the line, they’ll usually grab a hold and you can pull them right out of the water.This pic reminds me of the I Pinch commercial. I love these dudes.

I Pinch


When it was all said and done, I must have caught a couple dozen in just a few hours. That’s a good day on a spring creek in my book. And remember what I said about flawed flies… Here’s the only fly I used after a day of fishing. It never slowed down! Maybe the trout saw it all jacked up and thought, hmmm… that fly never made it out of its shuck. Easy prey.

Finished Caddis


Here’s my point: don’t get hung up on the small details. As with anything in life, we have a tendency to go overboard on the small stuff. This goes with the territory of trying to perfect something. We see this with sports, shooting, fly fishing, etc. Instead of doing it for the love that initially drove us to it, we tend to make it a practice session fueled by competition and in the process induce stress into a stress relieving hobby. It’s always a great choice to try to better yourself at anything you do. Just make sure you still have fun and don’t take it to an unhealthy extreme. And help each other out man. Spread the knowledge. It’s not a job interview; it’s a passion.