It has been a while since I tied anything at all so to ease me back in to it I had a short session yesterday evening at the vice. I confess to feeling very rusty to start with and it took a few flies before I settled into some sort of rhythm but that is to be expected after a lengthy break. All the gear had been packed away for months but this gave me a blank canvas to begin from. In place of the usual chaos of feathers and furs I had a bare table in front of me. I really must make more of an effort to keep it like this instead of letting the fly tying table degenerate into hopeless untidiness. Problems arise when I am having those ‘creative’ days when ideas for different patterns burst forth and I grab materials willy-nilly as I try to keep up with the flow of my thoughts. I’ll attempt to keep those types of days at bay for now and concentrate on filling up the fly boxes with my usual patterns, so I am not going to unpack everything, just a few basics. I slapped an Al Stewart album on the turntable and got to work.
I started off nice and easy with a fly from my box which I used to have great faith in but for some strange reason have not used for a long time. I guess you could call it a monochrome zulu if you really had to put a name to it. Two lonely looking examples in my fly box are old and faded so a few new ones are required. Just a Black Zulu but tied with a white fluorescent floss tail, this fly is a cracker for when the light begins to fade on the lough. You can pop a couple of strands on flash in the tail as well if you like but I doubt if that makes a massive difference. Size 12 has been the most consistent size for this pattern over the years for me. Zulu’s seem to have dropped out of favour for some reason, which I find strange. I still like them in small sizes.
One day last year I reached into the fly box for a silver badger only to find I was out of them. This is a very popular pattern hereabouts but one I rarely fish as the Beltra Badger seems to be a better salmon fly in my opinion. Sea trout on the the hand take the silver badger with gusto so I had to tie up a few in different sizes. A very easy fly to tie, I like grey squirrel tail for the wing instead of badger hair. Yes I know, the purists will have a hissy fit over this but I think the badger hair is too stiff on the size 10 and 12 hooks I use. I doubt if there is much to pick between the silver badger and a Teal, blue and silver but it is nice to have a local pattern on the cast. For no good reason other than it was already on the bobbin holder I used blue tying silk instead of the normal black; the trout won’t give a damn. The dressing is very straightforward, a flat silver tinsel body ribbed with oval silver, the tail is made from a golden pheasant topping. A blue hackle (I prefer hen but use what you are happiest with) and a small pinch of grey squirrel tail for the wing.
Feeling a tad more adventurous now, I made a few Storm Crows. Stan Headley’s original pattern had tails made of dyed cock pheasant tail fibres but I find these too weak and easily broken so I use cock hackle fibres or bucktail dyed crimson instead. Sometimes I change the colour of the French Partridge hackle just to a bit of zing to the fly. This are a nice looking pattern with plenty of action. A dull day on Carrowmore beckons………..
Next up was a couple of Silver Drakes. Check out Patsy Deery’s book on Mayflys for the details of this one. I like to give it a swim when towards the end of the hatch when the trout can be fussy, it has yet to give me a bag of fish but it usually turns up one or two.
The Red Mayfly is an odd sort of fly but on its day it will catch you a trout on Mask or Carra. I made a few up today. A simple red silk body with gold rib and a red game hackle palmered down it. Tails are either red game fibres or a few strands of badger hair. A natural French Partridge hackle is wound at the neck. I made a couple of pink variations too with a pink silk body and dyed pink french partridge hackle.
More patterns poured off the vice. Small yellow Goslings, Green French Partridges and many more. I snapped the thread a couple of times and made a mess of the head of one fly but in general I was happy with the flies I tied. I have a list of patterns that are required so I will work my way through that over the coming weeks. Hooks and materials are in plentiful supply (to say the least) meaning it is simply a case of making time to sit and tie.
I felt a deep, warming pleasure just sitting tying those few flies, a grounding sensation which I missed more than I had realised. At different times in my life there have been similar, and sometimes longer breaks from fly tying but I can’t recall missing it as much as I did this time around. Advancing years, current uncertainties, call it what you will but I felt a yearning to simply make a few flies, a feeling that had been growing over the past couple of weeks as Christmas loomed. Since a very young age making fishing flies has been a part of me, who I am. Many people recognise me as ‘that Scottish fella who makes the flies’; in some ways my fly tying helps to defines me. On the downside, my eyesight is definitely getting worse and anything below a size 12 hook is becoming a problem for me. I can live with that for now but I dread the day when making flies becomes impossible even with glasses. For now though I have to make up some more trout flies before Paddy’s Day and the start of another season here in the west.
After the hiatus, we are now looking at the house move this coming spring. Starting the new job sapped my energy and we lost focus on the house sale. We also lost a much loved cat, changed the car, dealt with the latest covid situation and much more, all of which distracted us greatly. The move, much delayed and I have to say much feared, will be back on track in the new year but we still have a few more jobs to do before putting the house up for sale. I hope it is all done and dusted before the fishing season takes off in earnest in March/April but that is out of my control. Until then I will keep making flies and post my efforts here.
This will be my last post for 2021, a strange and often trying year for so many people. Many of you reading this have lost loved ones this year and I want to pass on my condolences to those of you who are grieving. I hope 2022 brings us all some relief from the pandemic and that brighter days are ahead.