Trout Bums | Cataloging your fly-tying names
By Randal Sumner
Special to The Seattle Times
The new fly-fishing catalogs started showing up at my house a few weeks ago. I had gotten Cabela's, L.L. Bean, Orvis, my favorite, Kaufmanns' Streamborn; and about another 50 pounds of others. It was late January and the fishing on the Yakima was slow. The river was low and clear and the water temp was around 38 degrees.
Most of the trout bums I know were tying flies that time of year. It's pleasant work. The tying stuff is cool in a weird, roadkill kind of way. I've got pieces of elk, deer, squirrel and other varmints, plus partridge and some expensive chicken feathers. There is tying thread, wire and hooks. We're tinkerers working on our latest super-fly ideas. That is what tying is really all about â€” our ideas about bugs and trout. In a complicated world this is pretty simple stuff: We tie up our latest idea and test it out on the trout. Testing, testing, always testing.
There are several schools of fly-tying, in a way similar to various movements in art. Minimalism, super-realism, postmodernism and, of course, impressionism. I find the older I get, the more minimalist my ties are becoming. For example, I rarely use dubbing on my Mayflies, just thread to form the bodies. Last fall I tied all my Blue Winged Olives without tails and an oversized Dun parachute. The trout bought them like an art collector at a Van Gogh yard sale.
One of the more quirky twists of modern fly-fishing is trademarking and naming flies after yourself. As you page through Kaufmanns' catalog you'll notice he has invented and trademarked a bunch of patterns; Kaufmanns stoneflies, pheasantails, wooly buggers etc. You need to be careful not to tie these trademarked patterns. I think it could be against the law; you don't want a run in with the fishing police.
I've wondered about this naming business from time to time. When you're a little kid, do you dream of a fly with your name; like a bridge or an opera? What if Pablo Picasso had been born in Montana to a fly-fishing clan? He could have left us with the Picasso midge, instead of a world visually enriched beyond imagination.
I would have liked to have fished with Pablo's flies, and you can bet they would have caught fish.
So here's my advice, dear trout bums: If you do invent a fly that is really deadly, keep it to yourself. Don't name it, don't sell it, use it often and die with the secret. Now that is truly inspiring.
Trout Bums appears on the first Tuesday of each month. Randal Sumner owns Blue Skies Guide Service on the Yakima River at Blue Skies Fly Fishing Guide - Yakima River, WA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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