These 4 Game-Changing Fly Tying and Fishing Commandments

This story was originally published in December 2019.

Fly tyers will spend the next few months stocking up on flies to use all summer long. Even fly anglers who don’t tie their own will also spend a lot of time planning adventures for the months ahead.

As we head into another Maine winter, I sat down with Don Corey, owner of the Annika Rod and Fly Learning Center in Brewer, as well as veteran Ernie MacDonald, to ask for “commandments.” fly tying and fishing that could bear fruit. for bleachers and anglers.

And as always, they were eager to help their fellow fly fishermen. Here are four suggestions you’d do well to consider – a pair of tethering tips and a pair that deal more with fishing.

keep them lean

When you sit in front of a vise and are surrounded by various piles of feathers and lint, the temptation to create a puffy, bulky fly can be overwhelming.

Corey advises against this.

“You’re talking to guides and people who fish a lot, especially people who use trolling streamers, and ‘thin to win’ is key,” he said.

And his reasoning makes sense: Streamer flies are often designed to look like baitfish like smelts.

“You don’t usually see a big smelt,” Corey said. “You see big anglers, but not a big smelt.”

In fly tying classes, instructors often caution beginners that it is better to tie a sparse fly than to rig a sturdier version. The message: Use less material than you think you need, rather than more.

Credit: John Holyoke

Don’t just tie up one or two

When you start tying a pattern in a vise session, you may be tempted to tie a fly or two and then move on to another pattern. Boredom can strike. Variety is the spice of life. Right?


Corey said it was important to overcome this boredom and build up a good supply of a particular fly before tying another.

“A lot of times people tie two of one pattern and then two of a different pattern that they’ve learned. You really have to sit down and tie half a dozen to get some consistency,” Corey said.

Half a dozen is fine. A dozen is even better, he said.

There are several reasons for this. Consistency, as he pointed out, is a good goal. But if you think of your vise as a fly-tying factory, tying more than one fly in one sitting also increases your efficiency.

“Probably a third of the time [you spend] Tying is about getting the materials ready and putting them away,” Corey said. “So if you take out the materials, tie [at least] half a dozen.

The other benefit to tying more: you’ll get better at the techniques you use the more you repeat them.

“By the time you get to flight number six or nine or 12, if you compare those to flight number 1, you’re probably going to see a pretty big difference,” Corey said.

These first ones won’t be great, but they can still be used for something.

“If you make six or eight, the first couple probably won’t be good. They’ll be substandard,” Corey said. are your flies.”

Credit: John Holyoke

Get off the beaten track

Now let’s talk about the use of these flies. Corey said many fly anglers have certain expectations of what a given fly is supposed to look like, and when they stop by his shop to find one, they’re not willing to be very experimental.

“People tie flies for the anglers, not the fish,” Corey said. “From a retail perspective, if I don’t have a typical Hornberg and a typical gray phantom and a typical woolly bugger to sell, often people will just pass on it, [saying]”That doesn’t look like a Hornberg.”

Even if a fly shop owner vouchs for the odd fly and tells the customer that anglers are lucky with the variation of a classic pattern, many will refuse to try it.

Sometimes this reluctance to change can cost an angler a great day on the water with a super productive new fly.

And that’s how it goes.

“The traditional guy will be like, ‘I hear what you’re saying, but I want a real Hornberg,'” Corey said. “We have our preconceptions of what the fly looks like.”

Credit: Gabor Degree

trust the fly

Here’s some news that should surprise no one: if you don’t catch a certain fly, you’ll never catch a fish with it.

Sounds simple, right? Maybe not.

“People always ask me, ‘What’s the best fly?'” MacDonald said. “I tell them, ‘The best fly is the fly you believe in.’ If you have a fly that you think won’t catch fish, you won’t catch fish with it because you’re going to throw it once or twice and bring it back. You will not fish it.

Corey agrees.

“The fishing is about 75% confidence,” Corey said. “If you trust a fly, you’re going to fish it longer and harder and give it every chance of catching fish.”

And it’s important to have confidence in a few flies, because most fly anglers end up landing dizzying numbers. Many will sit in fly boxes for months. Or years. Or forever.

“You know, people have 15 or 20 times more flies than they’ll ever use,” Corey said.

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