should be fishable. But his main standpoint as long as I have known him is that he, unlike a number of other salmon fly dressers, Charlie is prepared to demonstrate his skills in public. As with Oliver, this is an admirable quality.
I have long believed that acquiring the skills to deal with natural materials in the creation of flies is the corner stone on which all other fly dressing hinges. I feel that this is paramount in the pursuit of fly dressing excellence and in order to reach the higher echelons of the craft, one must pay particular attention to the materials. For example materials should not just be selected from the packet and attached to the hook.
Ask a number of questions first: Are the feathers, fur etc., clean. Do the feathers need steaming. Is the feather exactly right for the task in hand.
Materials should be washed, steamed and prepared to get the best from them. Remember that the best results are obtained from the best materials. When it comes to dressing good flies, a silk purse cannot be made from a sow’s ear no matter what the skill level is. Believe me I have tried and failed on many occasions.
The use of synthetics in fly dressing is nothing new, however there is a plethora of new materials on the market. Once again I had the pleasure of watching Howard Croston of Hardys demonstrating fly dressing for competitions on the big reservoirs. Howard described some of his methods as ‘belt and braces’ fly dressing, he had to make sure that the flies were fit for purpose, no more apparent than his rendition of various Blob patterns. Great to watch! And I have to say that I have seen some of the micro patterns that Howard dresses for river fishing and they are lovely flies. I have attempted to lead up to the answer of the initial question by considering the connection with fishing, materials and skills and flies fit for purpose.
Modification of my views has been necessary along the way to arrive at a final answer to the original question, ‘What is fly tying’.
The answer is that there is no one simple, single definition, there is no easy statement to answer the question. One must consider the materials used in the craft, the acquisition of materials to improve the quality of the product, whether those materials are natural or synthetic. But most importantly of all the dissemination of the skills one has acquired for the benefit of others is at the very top of the list. Over time, I have benefited from those who have trod the fly tying path before and have asked my mentor a number of times why he disseminates his skills so freely and with such enthusiasm.
‘The answer is simple Paul, I do it as a thank you to those who have devoted their time to my cause’. I only hope I can make him proud by following in his foot steps in my attempts to educate budding fly dressers.
Finally I would like to thank our Editor for the opportunity of expressing my views here. I have had to think long and hard before putting pen to paper (finger to keyboard these days). It would be great to think that others have views on the matter and would be willing to share them with our readers.