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Why I Don’t Tie

by Robert Morselli
Sure, they're beautiful, but....

Sure, they’re beautiful to look at, but…. Brant He. Fageraas photo

Whenever fly tying comes up, verbally or in print, I have programmed a tiny voice in my head to say: don’t go there.

Let’s get this out in the open, I’d positively love to tie flies, and for all the usual reasons: from obtaining a deeper understanding of entomology right through to the satisfaction you derive from landing a fish on your very own pattern. What’s not to like?

Despite this, I listen to the aforementioned inner voice. I have to. My sanity somewhat depends on it.

The things that I truly love to spend my time doing can be counted on one hand. Fly fishing and cycling are just two of those things. At the start of each fishing outing, whether it’s a full-day affair or just a 90-minute sneak to local waters, I always ask myself if I shouldn’t have gone cycling instead. The exact same thing happens when I decide to zip around on my bike. Considering that enjoyment of both of these activities can be attributed to the exact same weather variables (no rain, clear skies, low wind), you can begin to understand the ‘logic’ that fuels that question. Fortunately, my thoughts settle quickly – and I do end up enjoying the bike ride, or the fly fishing. Now, if I were to add fly tying to the mix, there is no doubt in my mind that I’d at some point go through some form of minor depression. Doing one activity now means forgoing not one but two other activities.

I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t save the fly tying for cold, rainy nights – when I wouldn’t head out with the bike or fly rod anyway. I know many tiers, and nearly all of them are obsessive about the craft, which makes perfect sense to me.  In fact, I wonder if it’s even possible to tie flies without being obsessive, about everything: history, materials, process, tools and technology.

Another reason I don’t tie is because I’m a closet librarian. I know full well that I’d spend way too much time keeping all tying materials organized, labeled—heck, probably alphabetized. In just five seconds, I’d be able to locate a tying material I last saw 42 months ago. I have the clarity of mind to see this for exactly what it is: borderline obsessive. Oh, and organizing takes time – time subtracted from other, and what I honestly believe to be healthier, activities: fly fishing and cycling certainly come to mind….

Finally, I can’t accept having an 8,000-fly collection and knowing that I’ll use but 10% of that collection, at most (of the fly tyers I know personally, the one with the “smallest” collection thinks that he has approximately 2,000 flies).

Perhaps when I retire, when manual dexterity and vision are on the downward curve, I’ll probably curse myself for not having started tying decades earlier, when I didn’t need 5X magnifier to see exactly what kind of bug that #22 really is.

I do sometimes think about what it would be like to spend a Saturday morning tying patterns that my boxes are short of… I’d have two splendid hours to while away… Whoa! Cancel that.

Fur and feathers? Not in my house.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Robert Morselli is the research director for the internationally syndicated television show "How It's Made."
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  • woodswalker

    I actually feel sorry for you Robert. On many levels.

  • B.J. Moose

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the single best reason to not tie flies; it is the worst way to save money ever invented. By the time I tie a dozen flies I have spent ten times their retail cost. Now excuse me I need to tie a dozen more Skwalas for Saturday.

  • jim@FFO

    I look at tying as the equivalent to knitting or needlepoint. Sedentary, repetitive and (for me anyway) mentally relaxing. Much like those hobbies, it’s easily done, fairly portable and the results are sometimes visually appealing. Xmas sweaters and flies notwithstanding. Despite having enough materials to start a small tying business, I still enjoy finding a pattern that challenges my skill and looks appealing. If it actually catches fish, that’s just gravy.

  • Adeodatus388

    I cranked down a local canyon last week after an hour in the saddle going up; slowed by a slight incline near Idledale I stopped to pick up litter along the shoulder and see how the creek was flowing. Down below was a slow bend I’d never noticed – and therefore never fished – and three simultaneous rises. Today I’ll take a long detour from the planned errand run via bicycle and see if the 3wt can connect with those trout, using a fly from the massive archive leftover from those nights tying between guiding and classes. The Renzetti does a fine job hanging the cycling bibs to dry these days.

  • Shakeyfly

    I tie. I like it. I used to agree with the saving money part as being BS, but when Saltwater flies and pike flies are going for 15.00 – $30 dollars a pop now, I save a crapload of money ripping out my own deceivers, clousers, mushmouths, sandeels etc.

    The biggest reason for me to tie is that I enjoy it, and I enjoy having my flies a certain way.

  • Mark

    Tying and FlyFishing are one for me. I used to buy flies, but since a while i’m hooked on tying. The gift of catching a fish on a self made fly is just amazing.