I've owned a cheap fly tying vice and beginner's box of materials for several years now without ever developing any interest in fly tying. Initially I tied up a few basic patterns for practice but they looked too silly to ever make it into my fly box. The bug didn't bite and and my fly tying box has been hidden away in a box in a cupboard ever since. A large part of my apathy I think was down to the wide range of cheap and reasonably tied flies available online. Every pattern a beginner small stream fisherman could need, and it is not a long list, is available at the click of a button and usually for little more than about 50p a fly. Now with more fishing experience under my belt I have become more discerning in my fly purchases and requirements. I increasingly think how I would have tied a fly differently, perhaps with one less turn of the hackle or a shorter tail. Fulling Mill's "tactical series" of flies are quite simply exquisitely tied and perfectly suited to the type of fishing I do but, at over £1.50 a fly, bulk orders can be expensive. It got me thinking about my vice and the materials sitting unused in the cupboard. The materials I have are predominantly bright in colour and largely useless so on a recent evening I took the plunge for the second time and made a small purchase of materials on the internet. I figured I would aim to become proficient in tying nymphs before progressing to dry flies just because they seem a little easier to tie.
Buying materials individually for the first time is something of a minefield. It's at times like this that one can become saddened by the demise of the traditional fly shop and the personal touch. In the end I settled on Daiichi 1560 hooks, a bag of hare's mask dubbing, more cock pheasant tails than I will surely ever need, fine copper wire, brass and tungsten beads and UTC Mirage tinsel to add a bit of flash when needed. I figured this would do me nicely for tying up some pheasant tail nymphs, gold-ribbed hares' ears and my favourite nymph pattern, the Mary pheasant tail.
In the week I tied up two #14 Mary pheasant tails to put to use this Saturday on a Welsh stream. The second nymph was a considerable improvement on the first and only this one looked good enough, just, to make it into my fly box. Fishing in glorious 30 degree heat this Saturday, it was always going to be a day for dredging a nymph through the deeper, cooler pools at some stage. When I arrived at a suitable pool I tied on my creation with some reservation, wondering if I was wasting my time. A couple of casts later my fly was good enough to deceive this little titch of a trout.
Sure, tiny trout in an unfished stream may not be the most fastidious fish but I was pretty elated to achieve what I guess is something of a milestone for every fly tyer. More so when the fly went on to fool another three trout on a day when the fishing was tough due to the hot weather and low water. I have immortalised the fly with a photo for posterity. Bear in mind the photo was taken after the event so it looks a little beat up. Scruffy flies seem to work best so it may yet have more work to do next time.
Now that I'm confident I'm not wasting my time I'm looking forward to tying up a few more flies and trying my hand with the # 16 and 18 hooks. I'm especially looking forward to having some control over the fly patterns I fish which brings with it a measure of study and innovation. A new dimension, absent until now, has been added to my fly fishing passion.