The Quest, Part I: Obsession and It’s Consequences

I have a strange relationship with fly tying. On the one hand it has helped me to get more out of my fishing. I love seeing a trout sup down a little sherry spinner tied by my own two hands. It’s a special kind of satisfaction that just doesn’t exist with shop bought fluff. I have also found, however, that it sometimes has a tendency to drive me into a kind of unhealthy obsession. The most bizarre thing of all is that the obsession isn’t actually about tying flies.


Organisation. Where would we be without the simple joy found in sorting stuff out, finding a proper place for every last widget? Fly tying is an absolute class A activity for those of us with a ‘sorting out’ fetish. The endless packets of dubbing, the myriad feathers and capes, the insane variety of hooks. Oh what joy! I am certain that I have a problem. I’m becoming the kind of fly tier that spends more time, a lot more time, sorting out fly tying paraphernalia than actually tying flies. Perhaps the worst thing of all though, the real bottom clencher, is that I rather suspect that I spend even more time just thinking about sorting out fly tying gear than even sorting the damn stuff out.


I’m pretty sure that the underlying cause for this worrying obsession is my erratic fly tying behaviour. Let me explain by way of an example. Last season I had a wonderful fishing trip up to the north of Scotland. My brother and I caught countless beautiful trout, many of them on dry flies, and many of them during gloriously calm late summer evenings. By way of chance I discovered one or two really useful flies for such occasions, and I promised myself that a fine selection would be promptly constructed in plenty time for this years trip. Imagine, a whole winter closed season of drizzly saturday mornings, cold feet, central heating and beer (and curry too).


Opening day came around this past March and I found my fly boxes full of lovely Polish woven nymphs, bombs, more nymphs, and even the odd nymph. This fine assortment had of course been enthusiastically tied up for chucking in the vague direction of non-existant winter grayling. The time and effort I spent on those flies was admirable. At least, admirable in the same way that trying to fix a broken washing machine by bashing ones head against it is admirable. The reality is that those grayling flies were tied up during one of the brief obsessively productive phases where real fly tying took place, rather than the standard ‘organisational’ phase.


Fresh out of this period of production overload I struggled to find time/motivation enough to replenish my spring dries, and so ended up taxing flies off my brother. In typically waltzing fashion the rest of the season flew by, and when late August reared its head I found myself in dire shortage of even the most essential loch flies. I had no choice but to bundle all my fly tying gear into a shoulder bag and humph it into the boot of the car along with my waders and curry powder. North, north, north we drove. “Buggirt, ya damn moron” I cursed myself. Precious fishing time had to be sacrificed for fly tying, mid-trip.


The worst thing about tying flies like this is that some kind of essential material or hardware always goes walkabout. Deer hair, dubbing, hooks. Check. Thread, bobbin holder, scissors. Check. Vice… bugger. It’s some kind of unwritten and unchangeable fact of fly tying life folks, and nothing is ever going to change it. Well, nearly nothing…


  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Is the photo in the middle just a deer hair emerger with a tail.It looks brilliant.Doesnt the tail affect the way it sits in the surface though?

  2. - Mike -’s avatar

    Hi Paul.

    You’re exactly right, it is a DHE with a tail. I experimented for a while with various tailing materials, and I eventually settled on a few barbs from a grey or brown partridge feather. These are very easily waterlogged and don’t seem to make much difference to the floatability at all. Stuff like poly yarn is useless.

    Good luck!

  3. Anonymous’s avatar

    Cheers Mike,
    Looks great.Think i’ll be tying a few of those up over the winter.

  4. Trout Underground’s avatar

    I use a lot of Mallard flank for a tail — it’s nicely barred — but it doesn’t last long in the fly box.

    As for my fly tying table, one glance and it becomes clear that compulsive organization isn’t one of my vices…

  5. - Mike -’s avatar

    Hi Tom. Thanks so much for dropping by. And many thanks once again for the kind link to my blog from your latest post. You’re a star (they say flattery will get you anywhere..)

    Anyway, I agree with the mallard flank thing. Durability can be a bit of a pain. But I love the look of the partridge feather when it’s in the water. It sort of ‘expands’ out a little bit and gives an almost translucent kind of effect.

    And here we have another example of the sort of useless rambling we fly tiers are prone to…

    Stay tuned Tom, there’s a real….interesting Part II in the pipeline 😉

  6. flyfishertc’s avatar

    With the end of the trout season on the Welsh Dee, my thoughts turn to fly-tying for next year and I have decided to tie a fly box full of clyde style wets, as perfectly as I can and in various sizes and weights.

    The only problem is that I had the same thoughts last year and ended up this season tying flies in a hurry the night before each trip.

    Half the fun is in the thinking and planning!

  7. opax’s avatar

    Fly tying is one of the greatest ways to dream about the actual thing. Organizing fly tying stuff is probably same thing, in a pervert way.

  8. Jorge’s avatar

    “I’m becoming the kind of fly tier that spends more time, a lot more time, sorting out fly tying paraphernalia than actually tying flies”

    I’m agree with you.


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