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It's Fly Tying Season

It is official! Fishing season is over and it is now tying season. At least that is the way I look at it. And I will tell you what, I sort of look forward to tying season. Not that I do not tie a fair bit during fishing seasons - which I largely define as the time that the Grannom caddis start hatching and dry fly fishing perks up through the rest of the season. But tying season is when tying generally is for fun rather than to fill needs. I do not look forward to the snow and the cold but it makes it so I would rather be tying and I quite enjoy tying season.

Donation fly boxes and wallets
Fly boxes and wallets tied for Coulee Region Trout Unlimited last winter. These will be at our banquet this year.

I am a pretty good organizer - a lot of my job is juggling about ten things at once and it all goes in a calendar or a "to do" list to keep it all straight. I do not do a heck of a lot of organizing when it comes to tying season. I know people that plan out their tying season and have a list of what they need to tie down to the number of each pattern in each color they plan to tie. I always wonder how well they keep to their schedule? That kind of planning is not for me - I know, I have tried it. Oh, look, a squirrel. Fly tying is a creative endeavor, the "angler's art" if you will. I generally tie what I am in the mood to tie. I tie some because I have needs to fill for next year but mostly, I am tying for fun. I tied more flies for others than I did for myself last winter.

Some experimental flies.
Experiment and have some fun - these divers are meant for a sink line or leader are tied with Fettucini Foam.

I have some needs each year - I will tie a number of CDC and Elk Caddis to have another year's worth and there are a few other patterns I routinely need more of each year. I have some need for more of Andrew Grillo's Hippie Stompers and User Friendlies. I can always stand to have a few more parachutes - some natural colors along with the purple and pink I have done really well with. And I have made it a point to fish more wet flies this year. Sure, I said the same thing before last year and did not do it but this year, I swear! I have been playing around with a low floating terrestrial and I will play around with that a bit this winter but modifications are best done after a day on the water. But most of the time, I am not tying to fill needs but tying to have fun. I did a bit of commercial tying - I do not love it nor do I enjoy it much. Maybe nobody really enjoys it, I don't know. It certainly does help you get to be a better and more efficient fly tyer. But it is not really for me.

CDC and Elk
A pile of CDC and Elk flies destined for the Driftless Angler Fly Shop.

Tying season generally means things slow down a bit - more weekends at home and less traveling to go fishing,camping, watching my nieces play softball, or what-have-you. With COVID still "out there", the two shows I usually tie at in Madison are cancelled again this year, that little bit of travel is out this year.

Turtle Stack beer and a musky fly
Turtle Stack Brewing (La Crosse, WI) Jalepeno and Honey Scotch Ale and musky flies - a great Friday night after a long, long work week!

While this COVID thing has generally really sucked, some interesting things have come out of it that has brought us closer together. Wisconsin Trout Unlimited's "Talking Trout" series on the first Wednesday of the month has been a nice distraction. (You can view past episodes on their YouTube page.) Last winter, I put together an every-other Saturday fly tying event for WITU that I hope to resurrect - maybe a bit less often - this winter. And a small group of us got together on Saturdays evenings to tie flies and have a drink or two over Zoom. It was a great way to see some friends from other places and have a chill evening.

Image from: https://www.breakingbourbon.com/tnt/driftless-glen-whiskeys


Wisconsin is making some fine whiskeys. Give Driftless Glen Bourbon a try. Being aged in smaller barrels for a shorter amount of time (at least what has been released so far), their Bourbons are rather unique. J. Henry and Sons grow their own heirloom red corn as well as growing most of their own grains and make some very fine whiskeys from these grains grown on their Dane farm. The Wollersheim rye is well worth a try too. I have not been able to get my hands on a bottle of their Bourbon yet. Increasingly, there are really good whiskeys outside of Kentucky. No, I do not plan to turn this into a whisk(e)y review page but it is what I usually have if I am imbibing while tying in the evening.

Tying season means much more generally unneeded materials. I've yet to throw a cast at a musky but the flies are a ton of fun to play around with.

Tying is mostly a chance to sit back and relax a bit. I do not feel much need to fill my boxes or production tie so I usually am tying for fun and for others. My latest avenue has been musky flies which are a blast to tie and a nice break from tying small stuff for our local spring creeks. I have never caught a musky nor even cast for them. Maybe that will change but even if it does not, tying the Buffords, Hollowflyes, and bulkheads is a lot of fun. There is a lot of creativity in coming up with colors and shapes. And it lets me buy some more fly tying materials...

A dark bulkhead offset by a Whiting grizzly dyed pink schlappen feather. We'll see how it swims...

So I am looking forward to this winter's tying season. It is a chance to look ahead to the next season and dream of days on the local spring creeks, another day or two with friends on the Lower Wisconsin River, and maybe a trip or two to chase a hatch or two. Hell, maybe I will go and chase musky this year.

olive and brown bucktail fly
Another musky fly - an olive and brown bucktail bulkhead with a little tail shank for a bit of extra movement. Will it work? Who knows! That's part of the fun of tying.

I do a bit of tying all year but tying season, it gets more serious. I have been trying to tie a fly or two every evening as a way to sit down - not in front of a computer or a stack of grading - for 20 to 30 minutes and be a little creative. It is also a great way to make a meeting pass by a little more quickly.

A bass/pike sized streamer - some bucktail, hackle, flashabou, and laser dub, add in a little creativity and call it a fly.

Coulee Region Trout Unlimited's banquet is scheduled for March 25th so there is a lot of tying season left if you would like to tie up a box of flies - I will gladly make a trade for your chapter or other non-profit. Just shoot me a message in the comments or in an e-mail.


Enjoy your tying season! Let me know how you plan to enjoy your tying season. Cheers!

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