Tying and thinking, and all the world’s problems are solved

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

I suspect most of us have tasks we do when all we really want to do is think.

I have several. Mowing the grass and working in my garden are two of them. I did both of those Friday, but somehow didn’t get all the world’s problems solved to my satisfaction.

There are just plain too many to solve in a little more than two hours of grass mowing, even if the weather is more comfortable than normal for that task, though not as comfortable as it would have been the day before. An hour or so working in the garden didn’t get me much further along, so I had to resort to another task on Sunday.

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I’m a fly fisherman, therefore I tie flies. Maybe that statement’s a little presumptive. I have heard that there are fly fishermen out there who do not tie at least some of their own flies. I can’t imagine that, but I have been assured that it is true.

I’m not a very good fly tier. My flies never look as beautiful as those I can buy in a fly shop, and especially not as beautiful as the photographs in a fly tying magazine to which I subscribe.

What comes from my vise looks even worse today than it did a few years ago. The old eyes aren’t what they used to be and I have restricted myself to only the simplest and most mistake proof of flies, which is another one of the reasons I was tying flies Sunday afternoon and evening.

The fly tying magazine to which I subscribe has these two columns written by fly tiers who come up with some of the simplest and easiest ways to tie flies I have run across. My Sunday fly tying was dedicated to teaching myself to tie one of these flies while I put my mind back on the weighty subject of all the world’s problems that I had left unsolved in my grass-mowing and gardening sessions.

The columnist who invented the fly I was learning on Sunday is billed by the magazine as “The Creative Fly Tier,” and I have to agree that it is an apt moniker. The fly I was teaching myself to tie Sunday was named the “pinhead panfish fly.” It is very similar to a bass popper simply named “the pinhead popper” tied by the same guy, “Fishy” Fullum.

I had been planning to try the pinhead popper for bass when the version for panfish appeared in the magazine. I decided to start with the panfish version because I have caught a lot more bass on flies used to catch panfish than I have panfish on flies designed specifically for bass.

The choice was a tossup between that pinhead panfish fly and one described in the magazine’s “Warm Water” column, which is written by different people. The one from that column in which I am interested and which I will teach myself to tie is the soft-bodied diver using foam, which is a version of the Dahlberg Diver that is tied by spinning deer hair onto waxed thread, wrapping it on a hook, then trimming it to shape and painting it. I don’t find hair spinning very easy, though some do. The soft-bodied diver uses sheets of foam to produce the same shape and action.

Foam has become one of my favorite fly tying materials these days because most of the flies I have seen described that incorporate it are fairly simple, almost mistake proof, flies to tie. I say “almost mistake proof” because I can make mistakes on things other people consider mistake-proof.

I’m not going to describe how to tie it, but it contains mostly material that is not purely for fly tiers, such as a thin sheet of sticky-backed foam, the type of pins used in sewing that have the little plastic beads for heads, metallic embroidery floss and super glue.

The only materials common to fly tying, in tying this fly, are the type of thread used and the hook, and hook isn’t even one developed most specifically for fly tiers. Fly-tying tools — the fly-tying vise, thread bobbin, scissors — those sorts of things are used.

The fly can be gussied up with some acrylic paint and water-based varnish once it has been completed.

By using exclusively man-made materials, it enters a debate that I suspect most fly tiers ignore. There are tiers out there who are super traditionalists who believe that only natural materials, other than the hook, thread and glue, should be used in tying flies. Then there are the super conservationists who believe that only synthetic materials should be used because they don’t require killing birds, or squirrels, or deer, or other creatures to acquire the materials used to tie the fly.

I suspect that I am like most tiers and use what ever is easiest and/or cheapest. The purpose of tying flies is to produce relatively delicate and easily destroyed and lost lures to catch fish. They are a lot cheaper to tie than they are to buy.

Then there is the added benefit of having another task to do while solving all the world’s problems and with all the problems in the world today, a thinker needs as many tasks as possible to occupy himself or herself while thinking on these weighty matters.

The only problem with tying flies while concentrating on those weighty matters is trying to avoid being distracted by daydreams of monster fish hooked on the fly taking shape in the vise.