Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana
kline take time to tie 1The other day, returning from a morning’s fishing, I stopped by one of our local fly shops to see a friend and let him know how the fishing was going. My conversation with Pierre quickly turned to what flies were working, so I produced a couple of fly boxes to show him what I had been using. In this case, they were woolly buggers and traditional soft hackles. Both boxes were essentially full with very few open slots. I hadn’t consumed too many flies during the morning’s fishing. Pierre knew I tied my own flies, something I’ve been doing for the last 50 some years. As he admired my fly boxes, he commented “When do you have time to tie all those flies? I can never seem to find the time to tie up several dozen flies when I need them.” What I told Pierre was this. Take time to tie.
There are a lot of reasons to tie flies. If one of those reasons is that you enjoy fly tying, as I do, treat your fly tying as a type of relaxation or diversion. If I am home in Bozeman, Montana, away from my consulting work on the road or not on a local river somewhere fishing, I take time to tie flies just about every day of the week. Generally, I don’t tie for more than 30 minutes to an hour a day, but I do it regularly, year round. In that time, you can tie half a dozen simple flies or one or two complex ones, maybe more if you are really good. Do that enough times throughout the year and your fly boxes will overflow with all the flies you can ever fish. I keep my fly tying space ready, with all the materials and tools I need at a moment’s notice to whip up a few flies. It’s not necessarily the neatest, most disciplined space, but there’s sufficient organization that materials can be found quickly and flies tied without a lot of wasted time.
I’ve been tying flies so long, that it’s almost second nature. It was the first fly fishing skill I learned as a youth, years before I ever touched or fished with a fly rod. Whether the quality of my flies today would stand up to the scrutiny of the experts is a question I don’t care to explore, but my flies do catch fish, so I continue to enjoy tying them almost every day. As I was talking to Pierre, I told him that for me, the 30 minutes to an hour of tying time can come anytime during the day–early morning with coffee, afternoons with a beer or glass of wine, evenings after dinner when there’s nothing worth watching on TV. I’ve even gone to the tying desk in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It really doesn’t matter when you tie those few flies. What counts, and what I was telling my friend Pierre is to take a little time to tie every day and your fly boxes will always be full.
There’s this old story about a young man walking down the streets of midtown Manhattan looking for an address. He stopped a wise looking man and asked: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The wise man said “Practice my son, practice.” Tying flies for short periods of time, every day is a form of practice allowing you to focus and perfect individual tying techniques over time without the frustration of trying to be perfect all at once. When you see a new approach at a demonstration, or read about a new material or want to try out a new pattern, working on new stuff in short increments every day is a great way to practice and learn. Another added benefit of working routinely in short stretches of time is that you really do stay in touch with your materials. If you are tying just a few flies every session, you know when you are running out of a particular hook or other material. You’ll remember that the next time you are in the fly shop or making your online order. In the off season, when you are not consuming flies on lake or stream, taking time to tie a few flies everyday keeps you in touch with fly fishing and you can stockpile those few patterns you know you’ll be using throughout the season. Routinely taking time to tie is a great way to keep those fly boxes loaded up with all your favorite flies as well as providing the opportunity to relax and reflect on seasons past and to come.

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