The value of good simple fishing flies

Posted by Steve Galea at

The photo above shows a dozen brassies in size 16 along with a dime for comparison. The brassie, to me, epitomizes what a fishing fly should be. It is easily tied uisng a small list of readily available materials (a size 16 scud hook, black thread, a short length of copper wire and a solitary strand of peacock herl.) Most importantly, it is a proven fish catcher. 

I tied these brassies  last night after a friend of mine reminded me of how effective they can be as a dropper fly. And while they are not the most sophisticated pattern, there was something truly satisfiying about adding them to my fly box. 

I think it has something to do with the pay off they will provide. One of these little guys will likely hook a brook trout for me in spring. And that fish will probably be hooked after it has snubbed other offerings that took far more effort and skill to tie. 

All this is to say even in this age of incredible material availability and complex patterns, there is something to be said for a good simple fishing fly. 

Over the Christmas holidays, I watched a DVD that showed famed English fly tyer Oliver Edwards tying a very complicated woven stone fly, among other things. It was truly a work of art and one day I would love to have the level of skill required to produce such a fine example of that pattern. If that day ever comes, however, you'll never see one of those complex stone flies in my fly box. It's simply too labour and material intensive to rate as a fishing fly. 

That's just me of course. We all must determine for ourselves how much material and effort we're willing to cast to the waters in pursuit of fish. Where you land on this says a lot about how you view the sport and how far aesthetics have crept into your fishing. Is your fishing predominantly about the fish or the fly? Most tyers struggle just a bit with that question. 

The beauty of this pastime is that it can be about both. You can insert as much aesthetics into your fly fishing as you deem fit. It's your fly fishing after all. And tying beautiful, complex flies, whether highly effective or highly impractical, is something you have every right to do. Where you get your enjoyment is no one's business but your own.

These days, however,  I think some of us are too quick to underestimate those tried and true patterns from a bygone era in our quest to find the next great thing. Some of us rush by those patterns much like a teenage boy rushes by the bookish girl to catch glimpse of  a passing cheerleader.

Having been a teenage boy more than a time or two, I would suggest that sometimes the bookish girl will surprise you. 

Which is to say that you can find beauty in even the most unassuming fly if you look close enough.  Anyone tied with skill is worthy of a place in your fly box and deserving of a front row seat if it catches fish to beat the band. 

In this case, it just happens to be a brass band too.


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