That First Jock Scott
That First Jock Scott

From Guest Blogger: Eunan Hendron, Eunan blogs @ Addicted to Vise

In December 2011 I got back on the tying wagon after about 12 years off. I decided I wanted to tie a classic salmon fly, the Jock Scott. I got all my materials together and tied that sucker for all I was worth, and it was rubbish. Undeterred, I tied a similarly poor effort, and subsequently ended up on a tying journey since then which has brought me both great dismay yet an immeasurable amount of pleasure that still continues today.

To say classic flies are difficult is probably accurate – at least starting out. Winged wet flies (Bergman), married wing salmon flies (Kelson, Pryce-Tannatt etc), Rangeley Style Streamers (Stevens) and little dry flies (Dettes) all have quite strict patterns, proportions and styles. But the common ‘thread’ of skills among all these styles, as well as regular nymphs, buggers and streamers, are material selection and handling, attention to detail and thread control. These three attributes are perhaps the most overlooked aspects of fly tying for beginners and experienced tyers alike, particularly those who are self taught.

Dr. Burke
Dr. Burke

Now, saying, ‘tie classic flies’ is quite daunting for most folks. They think of rare or expensive materials, lots of time and quite often frustration at not being able to achieve a desired look for the final product. But the reality is, for many classic style flies, including Bergman Winged Wet flies and many Classic Atlantic Salmon flies, there is an abundance of quality materials and substitutes for rarer materials which can be picked up at your local or online retailer. Often times these materials are less expensive than for newly innovative products that are commonly produced year after year.

Take a winged wet fly – all you need are duck quills for the wing, floss for the body, tinsel ribbing, some hen hackle, as well as wet fly hooks. Many, if not all of these materials usually find their way into a fly tyers stash at some stage in their tying career. Patterns for flies are widely available online, and there are numerous online fly tying and fishing forums blogs and videos to provide tips on techniques and skills. Sure, you’ll have to invest some time to practice tying those flies, but if you tie flies every day or even three times a week, try tying one classic wet fly before you do all your other tying. You’ll start to see a difference or improvement a lot sooner than you can imagine.

Childers
Childers

It is in the development of the skills and attention to detail in tying quality classic flies that you will improve the overall quality ALL the flies you tie. Perhaps the most important skill in my eyes is thread control. All too often I see tyers use 20 wraps of thread to hold a hen hackle or a piece of floss in place, where merely 5 or 6 at MOST, will suffice to do the same job.

Tyers will start off buying the cheapest materials and then in a few weeks or months realize they’ve got a bunch of useless stuff and go buy more. Material selection is essential to tying a great fly, but it starts right at the time of purchase not just at the vise when it’s time to tie that material to the hook.

Attention to detail comes from experience. You see how someone else ties a fly, and compare it to how you tie it. Perhaps you see how they tie an underbody and its nice and smooth, but yours is bumpy and unsightly – if you watch, or pay attention to detail – you will eventually master the technique of tying an underbody, so much so that it will come as second nature to you and you’ll be doing it will all flies you tie.

White Ghost
White Ghost

The reason for starting with, or at least having a go at tying classic flies is because of the oft perceived beauty of a well tied classic fly. This beauty originates from three things, in my opinion – attention to detail, thread control and material selection. If you persist with tying classics to achieve these three attributes, you’ll find all your flies much more visually appealing and accurate to what you find in reference materials.

Of course, tying visually appealing flies often catches more fishermen than fish, myself included!!

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