Fly Fishing Initialisms

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Initialisms is a term coined in the late 19th century as a precursor to a more familiar term—Acronym. According to Merriam-Webster acronym did not appear until the 1940s. Regardless, most folks know what they mean, despite having a subtle difference in definitions. Take the first letters of any short name or phrase, put them together to abbreviate the name or phrase. This is a handy way to shorten writing or conversation without losing the meaning of a longer string of words. The subtle difference, however ignored by the masses, is this. If you can pronounce the string of letters as a single word, i.e. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) it is an acronym. If you have to recite the letters one by one, i.e. CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) it is an Initialism.

As I was working through a bunch of Wikipedia articles related to fly tying, it struck me that Initialisms and acronyms have to some extent permeated our avocation like they have across the spectrum of endeavors. Only uninitiated fly anglers wouldn’t be familiar with these initialisms—PMD (Pale Morning Dun), BWO (Blue Wing Olive), EHC (Elk Hair Caddis). Of course there are more obscure initialisms that might take some explaining—CDL (Coq de Leon), CDC (Cul de Canard), PTN (Pheasant Tail nymph)

As I reviewed fly tying and fly fishing literature, other initialisms that seemed a bit obscure appeared.

  • TDC (Thompson’s Delectable Chironomid).
  • GRHE (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear)
  • APBTPT (Andy Pusan’s Bead Thorax Pheasant Tail)
  • WR16 (Wood Road Access 16)
  • IP Red (Island Park Red)
  • LC Moose (A stonefly tied by W. Lewis and S. Christensen with moose wings)
  • LBS (Little brown stone)
  • RAM Caddis (Ross A. Marigold)
  • H&L (House and Lot)
  • AP Muskrat Nymph (Andre Pusan’s)
  • BLM nymph (Beaded Little Mayfly)
  • PMX (Pale Madam X)
  • JRB (Jack Rose Bastard – a midge adult)

And probably one of the most bizarre initialisms out there:

  • SCHWARPF (Swept Custom Hackle Winged All Revised Purpose Fly)

Initialisms are useful in written communications to shorten the writing as the initials can be explained the first time they are used. “The CDC (Cul de Canard) Emerger is a useful fly during mayfly hatches.” But in verbal communications, initialisms can be problematic. First, if it doesn’t roll off the tongue like PMD does, it can sound awkward. “Look at those BWOs”. Also, unless the listener knows what the Initialism means and is familiar with it, things can get confusing. Imagine this older guy walks into the fly shop and starts a conversation with one of the staff. “I am heading down to Bust Your Butt Creek for a few days camping and fishing with my new girlfriend. I’d like some PMDs and PEDs as that’s what’s happening down there now. “The staff guy replies, “We’ve got the PMDs in the sizes you need, but for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, you’ll have to go the drugstore around the corner.” The old guy replies, “Oh I don’t need those with this girlfriend, I meant Pale Evening Duns.”

One of my favorite PSWBs

So, when I hit the Firehole in Yellowstone next Spring I will be ready with my PSWBs if the water is high. Otherwise the WBs with P&O trailers will work, but I always carry some EHCs and GGs for when the hatches are prolific.

Free Substitutions

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

Ahhh, free-sub…we start out liking it, because there are thirty eight kids who want in on the kickball game but only one kickball. Free-sub gives us hope that we too can rotate in before the recess bell. Then a few years later we establish ourselves, maybe in another sport, maybe as a strong-side front line volleyball spiker…and free-sub becomes a bore, ensuring that once we rotate out we never get back in. Then we evolve further and become a fan, and the picture gets cloudy…I mean, we can accept footballers running on and off the field with abandon but it just doesn’t sit right that a baseball pitcher doesn’t have to hit…and years later still, we appreciate the free-sub concept again, when we start coaching kiddie sports and the parents are counting how many minutes their little booger-eater was in the game compared to Johnny.

Free-substitution is a mixed bag of blessings and curses. By the time we start applying it to fly tying materials, we appreciate the ability to use fluff off an old sweater when the Aussie Possum runs out–we do appreciate that. But it’s the curse side of materials substitution I want to dwell on today.

Don’t get me wrong — there are few on the planet more prone to use “found” or “similar” materials than I. I greatly enjoy the creative juice aspect, and I celebrate when my “faked” handiwork fools a fish. But over the years I have realized that the downside of free materials substitution is that people long ago were really smart. So when the pattern calls for something specific from nature, there are generally good reason, and switching something else in is often a desperate, rather than genius, move.

A few examples:

Continue reading → Free Substitutions


Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

There are multiple steps to tying flies that are potentially problematic, but one in particular resurfaces for me in numerous fat-bodied flies: The dreaded downramp.

Consider a fly body that increases in diameter from near the tail (Figure 1). Almost regardless of what you use to build up that base (yarn, thread, whatever), it fattens up as it extends forward toward the fly’s head. It may need to get fatter as a result of some underlying lead wire wound around the hook shank, or simply because the insect it imitates is fatter than a needle. Now, I’m not talking about fly bodies that look fat but are mostly air, courtesy of fluffy dubbing; I’m talking more about fly bodies substantially built up with a base.

Figure 1 – Built-up Base of Body

Over that body base is usually then wound materials that establish the “look” of the fly: dubbing noodles or dubbing-loop fluff, yarn, peacock herl, palmered hackle, wire or plastic tubing or D-ribbing…whatever. For simplicity we’ll call all that stuff “the works.”

The problem: Starting to apply “the works” from back to front, over the body’s base, is easy. “The works” easily climbs that up-ramp from thin to fat (from left to right in Figure 2), each turn laying close and nice to the previous turn, just like you want it.

Figure 2 – The Ramps

When winding “the works” up-ramp, there are no gaps, no body base peeking through to look sloppy and promote unravel during use.

Continue reading → Downramp