A Continuing Series of Articles
about Thinking Strategies to Create Your Own Original Fly Patterns

    PT.1: Weather and Fishing

Steampunk Fish by French sculptor Edouard Martinet

used by permission.

PART ONE: fight mental blocks and expand the playing field.


There are a zillion ways to teach and do fly tying, so obviously there are a lot of workable approaches.

But getting the feel of how to create your own original fly patterns requires a little more - which is a little less.

Picture yourself as an intermediate level fly tier. You have an interest in creating something new. You've read the magazines and viewed the Web sites, perused the fly bins, talked to fly fishing friends, and maybe taken a class or two. By all accounts, you should be primed and ready to blast out some new fly patterns of your very own.

Then it happens.

"Natural materials are preferable to synthetics."

"Is that a fly or a lure?"

"Looks like a bass fly to me."

"That hook is for bait fishing."

"Belongs in a tackle box, not a fly box."

Or in classes:

"A good fly shouldn't require materials that aren't in a fly shop."

"We got mostly trout around here, so learning other stuff isn't that useful."

"Flies should be fish catchers."

"Back to the Basics!"

"Want only patterns good for local waters."

"No experimental flies!"

Even just two or three of the above statements, rendered with a frown or an air of the wizened fly fisherman, is enough to send a fly tier's brain scurrying for cover.

So, Numero Uno in our list of creative strategies is:

Mentally eliminate all restrictions and statements of "purpose".

In short, that means you are tying for the "heck of it". The only expectations you should have are energy, awareness and persistence on your own part. Throw out all the other stuff, especially the ever-present, well-meant advice of others.

Explore a new material to see how it handles, what its characteristics and possible advantages would be, analyze what makes it tick and how it fits into the realm of fishy-ness and fly-tie-dom.

Change the material's shape or appearance, create tools, try using materials in ways never intended. Suspend judgement. Have fun.

Mix your personal observations with the intelligent hunches of others. Blend in a scoop of entomology and a pinch of bug anatomy. Ask yourself why certain flies are the way they are, and what good flies have in common. And always be aware of how your creative play fits into that schema.

Creative, purposeless play results in a lot of open threads and incomplete connections, but therein lies the advantage.

Always Keep Things Simmering on the Back Burner

At any one time, I probably have a half dozen incomplete fly tying ideas sitting on the back burner. And they always bubbling on the cooker, never filed away out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

These half-born ideas have voids waiting to be filled by whatever will act as the key to unlock them. If you are too busy, too preoccupied, or too inattentive - the key passes by, you don't notice, and you've lost the opportunity. Always keep ideas simmering.

My office desk is littered with half-baked experiments, packages of materials, handouts, tools, hooks and the like. There are always things around from recent creative tinkering, to jog my thoughts, and pull me in for another round of "what-ifs?"

"Experimental" is not a dirty word.

Think about this: many flies popular today would have been considered weird and experimental before becoming popular: Parachutes? Cripples? Copper Johns? Flies from duck butt feathers? Patterns tinseled like friggin' Christmas trees?



An illustration from personal experience:

Earning a Master of Fine Arts degree is two years minimum of graduate study. During this time, you will have completed your core art studies, and start down the road of independent creative work. For many, the Tabula Raza (e.g. blank slate) often looks as massive and forbidding as Hoover Dam.

A natural reaction is to act with purpose and focus, target clearly in mind, finished product just around the corner. And that is exactly the wrong thing to do!

Throughout my graduate study period, the comment I heard most often from my faculty advisors was: "You are too focused on a finished product." And what they meant was, "You need to spend more time in creative play."

Important Concept: Purposeless Play

What is creative play? It is working by banging together ideas and materials and processes and techniques and history, in a deliberately aware, but unfocused manner.

What you want is to see new sparks fly and fresh connections fuse – new nerve synapses. There are countless ways this can be encouraged, but it is important to realize that anything resembling a mental block is a big no-no.

So in this first article, we have a recommendation.
Play attentively, but purposelessly.

Whose view of fly tying is correct?

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping

Always give yourself extra time whenever you know you will be at one of the following: a craft store, a hardware and building supplies outlet, a toy store, a hobby shop, a dollar store, or a sporting goods store.

Any store with a lot of "stuff" meant for purposes besides fly tying lends itself to casual strolls down the aisles, taking in all the parts and pieces you haven't seen before.

If you find yourself saying, "Hey, that's interesting, wonder how I could use that?" - you know the creative brain has kicked into gear.

Very often, these visits supply the trigger that makes an idea come fully to life. The whole "Eureka, I have found it!" experience is exciting.

You will drive homeward with newfound optimism, and an itch to get back to the tying bench.

Recent newly found "shopping" items

• Holographic glitter - Jo-Ann

• Colored Jelly Rope - Jo-Ann

• Colored rayon flock - hobby stores

• 1/4" x 4" rolls of white sheet Ethafoam - hardware supply

• Nylon-coated, stainless steel leader wire

(for making the joint on articulated flies)

• Liquid Fusion urethane cement (a "must-have")

• Sulky Metallic & Holographic embroidery thread - Jo-Ann

Give your new idea a space to grow – protected and free from others’ opinions.

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