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The Technique of Fly-tying
Vernon S. Hidy
April 11, 1960
James E. Leisenring, the master angler whose fine points in stream strategy we presented last week, tied each wet fly he used "from the trout's point of view." Leisenring did not make his own flies just because he loved the art of fly-tying, but because he wanted something far better than the coarse and gaudy store-bought flies that appeal to fishermen more than trout. (Leisenring called such flies "shaving brushes.")
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April 11, 1960

The Technique Of Fly-tying

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James E. Leisenring, the master angler whose fine points in stream strategy we presented last week, tied each wet fly he used "from the trout's point of view." Leisenring did not make his own flies just because he loved the art of fly-tying, but because he wanted something far better than the coarse and gaudy store-bought flies that appeal to fishermen more than trout. (Leisenring called such flies "shaving brushes.")

Naturalness in presenting and maneuvering a fly is the key to triggering the trout's desire, and Leisenring believed the fly itself should have a natural, lifelike look. In his empathy for the trout, he always sought to capture this quality with the materials he fixed to a hook at his old pine fly-tying table. In the hackles that represent the insect's legs, he aimed for color, texture and action-giving qualities, so that his fly would appear alive and kicking in the currents. In the furs and herls that he used for the fly bodies, he sought translucence, color and subtle textures that would quiver with the currents. In the fly-tying threads he chose the color that was characteristic of the undercolor of the insect or nymph he was representing. He originated the wet-fly spun body, a valuable aid in controlling and blending materials used for the body of the fly.

On the following pages we show you how Leisenring tied a Brown Hackle, a Leisenring Spider and the Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear—three flies that entail all the basic problems you will encounter as a tier. These three patterns will serve you well on any trout stream, but do not infer that these patterns will be effective every time you fish. Insect life will vary during the season, as every angler knows. What patterns and sizes will you need? You should look for the answers on the streams, as Leisenring advised: "Study the flies on the streams you fish and then duplicate them, creating the general effect with the materials you believe to be best for it."

Tools for Fly-tying

The tools shown at the right are essential for tying any fly, wet or dry: a vise for holding the hook, scissors, tweezers, hackle pliers, a clothespin, a knife, a quill (or a pin) for applying lacquer and a hatpin for positioning thread. Tying a fly that is lifelike and neat requires some dexterity, but the novice who follows the simple directions for the use of these tools on the following pages will be able to tie flies which will catch trout.

Once you have the "feel" of the thread, the materials and the tools and an eye for the best proportions of the materials on the hook, you are a flytier. The quality of the materials you buy and the variety of patterns you tie are up to you. Experienced flytiers use only the best materials, for however skilled a flytier is, the fly will be no better than the materials in it.

Thousands of fly fishermen tie their own wet flies to insure maximum sport during their hours on the stream. They enjoy, too, the unique pleasure reserved for the angler who creates his own flies to deceive the trout.

Wax makes thread easier to handle; lacquer protects the whip finish of thread winding.

Scissors for cutting thread and materials should have both keen edges and points.

Pointed tweezers are used for picking up hooks and hackles and to knot herls.

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