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To many fly fishers, tying flies is an indivisible part of the experience. I've created my best new patterns using a tiny bedside table in the Green Acres Motel on the Delaware River. Some of the biggest laughs of any fishing trip come from tying sessions on an annual trip to Maine with Jim Lepage of Orvis and Jim Babb of Sporting Classics magazine. Many of the names we give these new patterns can't be mentioned in polite company.
I recently spent a week steelhead fishing in Kamchatka. One night, Vladimir Plotnikov, one of the Russian guides, and I decided to tie some flies after dinner. My tent-mate, Ken Buechler, of Rancho Santa Fe, California, has three young daughters who love to tie flies but he has not tied any in years. After a few glasses of vodka he got up enough nerve to try his hand. Fifteen minutes later he had produced a fine Pink Woolly Bugger. The next morning, on the river, I noticed he had not tied on his new fly.
"Ken," I asked," why don't you try that fly you tied last night? I promise you it'll give you a greater thrill to catch one fish on your own fly than three on one you didn't tie."
He looked me right in the eye and said, "I'd rather catch the three fish."
Even though I know Ken could have hooked as many fish on his fly as on a store-bought pattern, I also realized it takes time to have confidence in your own creations. It takes confidence just to make the commitment to tying flies. I cannot begin to count the times I've heard fly fishers wistfully utter: "I don't have time" or "I don't have the patience" or "My hands are too big" or "I'm too old" or "They don't have classes in my area" or "I don't have a place in my house to do it".
You cannot imagine what great therapy it is to sit down to a vise, listen to some good music (or listen to that episode of "Law & Order" if you must) and tie a few Spey flies for next month's steelhead trip. Wait until everyone else has gone to bed and the house is quiet. You'd pay a shrink hundreds of dollars for this kind of peace.
Fly tying kits are also one of the most popular holiday gifts in the sporting world. If you know a friend, relative, or a fishing buddy who would love to learn, a kit will be a gift that will last a lifetime. Even if they only catch one fish instead of three.