I got home early from a business trip today, so I took some time to start tying up some Striper patterns that I plan to use when I go on vacation in about a week. I was tying up some bucktail patterns that Kenny Abrames recommends in his book "Striper Moon". Every time I work with Bucktail, it reminds me of one day when I was in my local Fly Shop; shortly after I started using bucktail; which was not long after I started tying flies.
My local shop is probably like most; it's casual, has it's own crowd that drifts in to share fish stories every Saturday morning, etc. This particular Saturday, I was talking to the owner about some hairwing patterns that I had just started working on. There was a group of probably 5-6 people in the shop; a lot of old-timers; most of them both good fishermen and good fly tyers.
So, I said the owner. " Have you ever worked much with Bucktail? I've got a white one that really stinks. Do you think that I've just got a bad one?"
Well, I could hear some muffled chuckles coming from the group; almost before I'd finished asking my question. Having decided to have a good time with my innocence, one of them said: "oh ya, well what's it smell like?" The others began to chuckle a little louder. So, I said "I don't know. It's probably the smell of the hide; it's definitely a biological oder!" More chuckling. Now one of the older regulars; a guy that used to tie flies professionally in NYC has his head in his hands and his belly is moving up and down like an accordion; he's looking at me, then he's looking down, then at me again, then down again; laughing all the while.
Well the store owner knew exactly where all of this was going, so he tried to throw me a rescue line by alluding to where they cut the tail from on the deer; the hindquarters. Finally, one of the regulars couldn't hold it in any more and said; sort of smells like sh_t, does it?" Now everyone's laughing, even the store owner; he's moving boxes around on a shelf that probably hasn't had it's boxes re-stacked all season; just to hide his face. The old fly tyer is bent over laughing and the others aren't far behind him. As a final attempt to rescue me, the store owner adds: "the natural white and brown are the worst, because they don't process them, like they do when they dye them. You probably don't notice it as much with the dyed bucktail, do you?"
He's regaining his composure. But, not the others.
Slowly the clouds part and the reality of the moment closes in on me; hindquarters, tail, smells like sh_t. Now I'm shaking my own head, sheepish grin and all and starting to laugh. I said the the group: "did I really ask that question?" Grinning away like a fraternity of cheshire cats, some of them wiping the tears from their faces with their sleeves, they all assured me that I had. One of them reached onto the fly tying table and grabbed a laundry pin. He handed it to me, pointed to my nose and said: "this is your only solution to working with white bucktail!"
I'm friendly with most of the guys who were in the shop, so I tuned to them and said; "gentlemen, I hope that I've helped to make your day." They all assured me that I had.
Every time I work with bucktail, I think of this.