Are You All Tied up?
Winter is also the time of year when fly fishermen spend more of their available time at their fly tying vises cranking out flies for the coming season. This stands to reason because the ice covering most of our local lakes seriously limits the possible venues for going fishing instead of tying flies. Thus, the focus shifts to depleted fly boxes and slow-motion replays of that huge fish you got right to your feet before the line broke. Anglers need to prepare before they sit down for a protracted session at the vise and this preparation usually takes only a few logical steps.
What fly patterns are you going to need this year? This is usually determined by the species you intend to pursue and where you intend to pursue them. Brown Trout in the upper Mad River will dictate pattern selections far different from carp or catfish in the Great Miami. You will need streamers at least five inches long in loud colors for muskies at Caesar Creek and Deceivers in dark blue over white with a silver tinsel body for white bass at Eastwood Lake.
How many will you need? This will be determined by how often you intend to fish for whichever species that fly is designed to attract. In the Miami Valley, it will pay you well to tie plenty of Clouser Minnows, Muddlers and Woolly Buggers in a wide variey of sizes and colors. You will also need to think about the conditions under which you fish each of these patterns. Woolly Buggers spend a lot of time ticking along the bottom, getting hung up on rocks and stumps. This is especially true of the versions weighted with bead or cone heads. Tie some extras of those because you will probably need them. If you only intend to fish once or twice during the season for steelhead or muskies, you probably won't need as many flies for those species.
Should you tie them or buy them? This depends on a number of factors, among which are the degree of complexity of the fly, the availability and cost of the materials needed, your skills as a tier and your time constraints. If you need twenty steelhead flies for a trip to the Chagrin next week, you might want to think about buy at least some of them unless you can tie rather quickly and you have plenty of time on your hands. Likewise, intricate patterns such as Royal Wulffs in size 14 would probably be something to buy. Elk Hair Caddis would be something else to purchase unless you happen to have an elk who looks overdue for a trim. On the other hand, easy patterns like Woolly Buggers, Woolly Worms, Ants and Mickey Finns can be tied very quickly with cheap materials you probably already have on hand if you do any tying at all.
Don't shy away from tying because of the initial cost of some materials! You need to do the math to find out how truly cheap tying really is. For instance, the price for a large pack of olive saddle hackles at a local store was $30. One hundred #6 streamer hooks were $12. Figuring the amount of saddle hackle necessary for a decent Woolly Bugger, each one should cost around twenty cents in terms of materials used. The lowest price one can find for these flies is 79 cents plus shipping and handling. Obviously what originally looked like a large price tag for raw materials comes out as a true bargain!
Schedule your vise sessions! Sure, you can pop out five or ten Muddlers while you're watching CSI re-runs in your spare time but large scale production takes extended blocks of time and some proper planning. Schedule such sessions for a time when you are least likely to be disturbed for several hours! Send your wife to her Mom's and the kids to see their older siblings who have their own places! Then get out your fly tying gear, put the cordless phone within reach along with about three cans of beverage, some raisins or something similar and get busy! You'll be shocked at how many flies you can crank out if you can stay dedicated to the task.
Mass production is the key! One other tip is to tie a lot of the same fly at a time. Set yourself a goal for each session such as twenty Beadhead Olive Woolly Buggers. This will keep you from spending time rummaging through your supplies as you change patterns. You can set out what you need within easy reach and just crank out fly after fly. In the cooking world, this is known as mies en place which is a French term meaning “everything in its place”. In the fly tying world, it means showing good sense. Also, don't move on to the next pattern until you finish tying what you will need of the one you are tying now! You may need so many flies of certain patterns that it will take more than one vise session for that pattern. Stay committed to that pattern until you have all you need, then move to the next one until it is finished! A good idea would be to figure which patterns you will need at ice-out, tie those first and so on according to a timeline of need. In that way, you will feel prepared for the beginning of the season even if you are running out of vise time before ice-out. Nothing says you can't finish tying your fall steelhead flies in April when a big thunderstorm has pushed you off the lake and swollen all the rivers.
Well, there you have it! By following a few simple strategies such as these, it will not take long before you are all tied up and ready for the season to come!