October 20, 2011
The Classics

Jock Scott.  Silver Doctor.  Parson.  Green Highlander.  Gordon.  Durham Ranger.  The Akroyd.  The Gardener.  The Glentana.  The Dunt.  Carron.  Black King.  Lady Caroline. 

Exotic names for exotic flies, and for many that’s all that these flies will ever be: names with no physical or visual reference.  But a few of us, a minority among the fly fishing community, have taken these flies and given them substance, given them life.

There’s no rational explanation for why we tie these flies.  Sure, we can talk about how beautiful they are, how full of history, how universally appreciated, but the reality is they are difficult, expensive and no more effective than any of the modern standbys we have today. It’s like a gambling addiction.  You know that you are just throwing money away, but you have just found real silk gut in a dusty back corner of some dilapidated fly shop and you can’t resist the urge to snatch that up.  And you can’t tell me that blind eye hooks with real silk gut are more effective than eyed hooks, but I’m not going to lie, they sure look a lot sexier.  Then there’s jungle cock at $200 a pop.  Dyed turkey tail at 20 bucks a pair.  Kori Bustard at only God knows how much.  Not to mention all the feathers called for that are no longer legally available; one can only imagine the temptations. 

And it isn’t like these are easy flies to tie.  The easy ones take a solid 30 minutes; the not so easy ones can take 4 hours or more.  My wife can always tell by the eruption of expletives that I’ve screwed up tying in the wings that I just spent thirty minutes marrying together.  Sometimes a fly can call for a tail veiling, two to four body veilings, a wing veiling, multiple cheeks, and six ribs seemingly just to make things tougher.  One has to wonder if the originators of these flies designed them with the specific intention of making them difficult to re-create.  Like being able to tie them was a badge of honor they didn’t want anyone else to have.

These flies are art and history and visual poetry.  Those of us who have gained an appreciation for the classics have an emotional reaction when we see a perfect tie.  The feeling is similar to a first kiss or a sudden grab from a steelhead, the heart swells and pounds, palms are sweaty, our breath is quickened.  Listen; if we’re being honest here, the fact is we are the uppity, crazy-eyed, pious, holier-than-thou, anadromous chasing freaks that you’ve all heard about.  I suppose that’s why we tie the classics, for the same reason we fish for steelhead or salmon, because they are the pinnacle of the sport that has consumed us.

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