Fly Tying Is A Gateway Drug
There's nothing quite like a fly tying night in deep winter. We say the word "community" so much I think we forget what it really means. But something about, contrasted to the dark night outside - the warmth, cold beer, laughter, quiet, kids, adults, loose maribou feather floating to the floor... it's just that. Community.
I think people think they have to be some sort of fly fishing master before they can set up a vice and pick up a bobbin, but I believe the opposite is true. Fly fishing can be an individual sport. There are so few runs, the fish get so picky under pressure, there isn't much incentive to bring someone new (let alone a group) along with you. I mean, we know all the brain reasons to introduce fly fishing to everyone - conservation! river access! the joy of it all! - but our heart is protective of our places, scared of overcrowding or losing those trout we love most. Many of us fish to be alone, to not see anyone. We left Bozeman for a reason, after all.
And then enters fly tying. Easy to do at a local shop or restaurant, no sharing of your secret spots necessary. It draws in crafty types and kiddos, old wise-guys and those that have never thrown a line in.
At its best, fly fishing isn't just about stringing up a rod. Fly fishing is about weaseling your way into the brain of a trout. It's about understanding a trout's house, it's favorite dinner, the way it changes what it likes with the seasons. Tying a wooly bugger might just feel like feather and string - but it's the beginning of understanding the whole aquatic world under the surface of the water. Understanding the anatomy of a fly helps you understand the anatomy of a fly shop, makes you comfortable asking questions about fishing rather than pretending you've learned it all already. Fly tying introduces you to your resources to learn more - shop, guides, TFOG (that friendly old guy)... even youtube university. If you can tie a fly, what else can you do?
All of it, probably. Thanks to the TU - River of No Return Chapter and the Salmon River Fly Box for putting on these nights right here in our little town of Salmon. It's one of my favorite parts of wintering in the West.