A. K. Best : What Fly Tiers Forget

As a preview to his appearance in Ohio, A. K. Best gave Cleveland Plain Dealer writer D’Arcy Egan some insight into his sometimes contrarian take on the sport and how it is practiced. Among the tidbits: use a rod that allows you to land a fish quickly, even if you are fishing a small stream, and use common sense when tying mayflies. “Fly tiers leave a lot of stuff out, trying to match an insect perfectly. But they don’t. Most every mayfly has a darker thorax than abdomen, but most flies don’t reflect that. And they don’t tie the wings long enough. Mayflies don’t read proportion charts. Their wings are going to be as long as nature wants them.”
You can also read A. K.’s thoughts on basic casting techniques on MidCurrent.

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  • john egbert

    In my 1926 edition of of George La Branche’s in The Dry Fly and Fast Water, his long narrative on “Imitation of the Natural Insect” concludes that careful imitation is absolutely necessary. After what may be the most introspective blend ever of experience and experimentation, diced with unusual humility on success and failure, La Branche concludes his order of imitative importance on pages 164-165:
    “1st Position of the fly
    2nd Its action
    3rd Size of the fly
    4th Form of the fly
    5th Colour of the fly.” To support 1. and 2., after 100 unsuccessful casts over a big fish with a Whirling Dun, La Branche, cuts off the fly and tosses it above the fish, which in turn takes it. To another finicky fish, he cast multiple times without success until he noticed the dry flip up as if preparing to fly off the water, and the fish struck.
    In one’s refinement of flyfishing methods, perhaps a pro like AK Best has numbers one through four well under control. His imaginative still wrestles with 5. Many people who do not have numbers 1-4 under control can tie on some assurance with the perfect tried and true pattern handed to them or tied on by a guide. If it gives them a great day on the water, it’s wonderful. Most fly fishers are somewhere between AK and new to the sport. In reading La Branche and other great writer’s on the subject, the tension between ignorance and knowledge, certainty and risk, and discipline and imagination is evident. Like life, good fishing starts with attitude. Once I heard Albuquerque legend Bob Gerding asked by a neophyte, “What’s your favorite fly?” To which Bob responded, “The one you have the most confidence in.”