With the first serious blanket of snow upon us here in Chicago, it seems fitting for a good ramble on fly tying. Last weekend I was watching Midnight in Paris with my girl (you gotta do what you gotta do). The main character, Gil, was a writer who found himself lost, wishing is was born in the 20s - a Golden Age of literature and art. He spent his nights at Parisian bars sharing ideas with great minds lost to time such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Dali. Of course, my mind quickly drifted to all things fly fishing, in this case, fly tying. I wondered, are we living in the Golden Age of Fly Tying?
By way of example, see the fly pictured above. It is my first attempt at the the fly, which is dubbed the fur trader (pun intended). It is a modern articulated streamer first made public by Matt Grajewski. I came across it on the internet. It appears pretty standard for today's industry - but think about what it is? It is made, almost entirely, of synthetic materials (craft fur). It is articulated using wire, beads, and epoxy. It's head is made of a craft fur dubbing brush. It is designed for trout!
At one time, the size 8 wooly bugger was the modern trout streamer. Tyers were limited by available materials and hooks and tied for fishing rather than tying for itself. As more materials became available, the wooly bugger evolved into flies like the circus peanut, sex dungeon, sculpzilla and of course the fur trader. These streamers are articulated, covered in rubber or plastic or synthetic fur that maximize motion with out requiring a lot of movement and swim as if they were born and raised in the river. The one inch wooly bugger has matured into a 9 inch monstrosity - pretty amazing. What's more amazing is the speed at which the evolution has occurred and the evolution seems to be just getting started. Each year (or season) we have rattles, uv curing glues, glowing materials, lure lipps - what's next?
The wooly bugger's evolution exemplifies the fact that we have entered into or are firmly entrenched in the Golden Age of Fly Tying. Thanks in large part to the internet, the seemingly never ending supply of new and creative materials, and the rapid infusion of young, creative fly fishing minds that have taken hold of the possibilities and quickly shared, altered and adapted flies and techniques with amazing speed. The moment a fly pattern hits a blog or forum it begins to grow, evolve, change to fit different species or environments all over the world. Oh, and I say young only because I believe the older generations of the sport, as with everything, get stuck in comfort zones or concepts. For instance, when I show my Grandfather the modern trout streamers in my box he laughs and tells me "only pike or bass will eat those!" That being said, a creative mind is not bound by age or time and fly fishermen are a particularly creative lot. I can only expect this Golden Age of Fly Tying to continue.
Naturally, this begs the question - are we in the Golden Age of Fly Fishing? Maybe, maybe not. I, like Gil, find myself in wandering nights sharing water with anglers like Ted Williams, Joe Brooks and yes Ernest Hemingway. At night, I cast a line with those pioneers of the sport who fished when fisheries were new, undeveloped and untouched; when fly fishing in saltwater was cutting edge, when boat ramps weren't crowded or didn't exist. Now, we can fish for Golden Dorado in Bolivia or Tigerfish in Tanzania and are only limited by the all powerful dollar. Can we be in a Golden Age where waters are being depleted, rivers crowded, runs diminishing? As I said, anyone can travel into the wild and may do so not because of a passion for the sport or the fish but only because they can afford trip. Sure, today's average fly fishermen can cast farther, more accurately, reach greater depths and distances, but has fly fishing lost the greatness of old, the mystery?
I have to develop that proposition further but, for now, back to the vice to take advantage of our Golden Age.