Less and More
One of the interesting aspects of fly fishing pre-Internet was that travel would introduce you to distinctive fly patterns that had been developed by anglers attempting to improve success on their local waters. An example for California is the Sierra Bright Dot, and when fishing Montana, I learned of the Madam X and the Bitch Creek Nymph, each a productive fly that I had not encountered in California fly shops. Sometimes knowledge of these regional flies would spread through magazine articles, fly-tying books, mail-order catalogs, and fly-fishing shows, but this passage of information would be slow and spotty, and good flies remained unknown outside of the locales where they originated. Patterns that gained broader recognition could, in turn, be considered flies that caught fish.
The Internet has changed this dynamic. With a bit of tapping on the keyboard, fly patterns from around the world become instantly available for our perusal, and innovations such as “hot spots,” the use of which contradicts decades of imitative theory, can be adopted seemingly overnight by thousands upon thousands of fly fishers.
If you tie flies, you’re living in an amazing time. The abundance of fly patterns online has both resulted from and spurred an extraordinary profusion of tying materials. This is certainly great fun; I love sitting at the vise, letting my imagination roam as I wrap this and that to a hook’s shank. But the critical consideration here is that what I am creating is an act of imagination that might bear little relation to the reality of what fish want. It’s not unreasonable to assume that many of the patterns that wind up online are similarly — and merely — the products of imagination and lack adequate on-the-water testing.
Or maybe the many new flies we’re seeing online have indeed caught fish in numbers needed to show they’re successful. The clear implication, though, would be that one fly is pretty much as good as another, controlling for size and purpose. It wouldn’t bother me if that is truly the case. Placing faith in one’s skill as a fly fisher, rather than in the fly itself, is surely the way to become a better angler.
Publisher and Editor