Tying On The Road

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Tying Flies in Camp Photo by Louis Cahill

Tying Flies in Camp Photo by Louis Cahill

When Kent and I hit the road for a Gink and Gasoline outing, among the pile of rods, waders, cameras and Cliff Bars there’s always a canvas tool bag stuffed to the gills with feathers and fur. It’s generally a ridiculous amount of materials. Way more that we could ever use. Everything we need to tie a thread midge or a streamer that looks like something Elton John wore in the 70s.

I don’t care how well you plan for a trip you always need just one more of that hot fly. Maybe there’s an unexpected hatch or maybe a sudden inspiration. In any case that bag of feathers has saved more than one trip.

I’ll never forget a subfreezing night we spent in a fish camp on the White River in Arkansas tying shad patterns. We would tie a fly, bundle up and scramble out to the river to try it out under a flood light. We’d watch how the fish reacted then hurry back to the room to drink whisky, speculate about the fish’s reaction and tie another variation. We got no sleep but we ended up with a killer shad pattern, and a hangover.

I don’t know why I forgot, on a recent trip, to pack that bag of tying materials. We drove to West Virginia to fish for musky and before we went I tied up a half dozen patterns, no two the same. I knew that the friend we were fishing with had some killer patterns and didn’t even expect to use mine, but I can’t go fishing without tying flies. Of course, one of my patterns turned out to be the hot ticket and,of course, I lost it on some structure at the bottom of the river after four fish had eaten it.

We tried again and again to reproduce that fly from our buddy’s materials. No luck. The secret ingredient was a saltwater material that he didn’t have. We never managed another hot fly. “Never again,” Kent told me at least a hundred times.

Get yourself a travel vice and a tool bag from the home depot and spare yourself the grief. There’s nothing as rewarding as catching some bug and replicating it on the spot then tearing up some fish on that new fly. It doesn’t hurt to have some whisky on hand too.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Tying On The Road

  1. I my lifes work as an Ironworker and 50+ year fly fisherman I have always had a tying kit along with me away from home. If I couldn’t get home for the weekend for whatever reason I would go fishing to keep out of trouble and leave the job at the job. Tying flys for the areas I fish is easily handled in a motel or picnic table with a little planning. In the pacific northwest where I live I have been fortunate to be within a few miles and mere minutes from some very theraputic stress relief. The fishing is good too!

  2. Tying stream side has been an effective strategy for my friends and I since we got our drivers licenses and could travel to fish some 35 years ago. Fishing the Catskills where matching the hatch was essential in the days before bead heads and euro-nymphing we would do our best to have what we might need in our boxes, but spent many hours at roadside picnic tables at mid-day taking the hands on knowledge we learned the evening before to tweek our patterns or tie imitations of some of the lesser known bugs that we happened upon. I remember 2 incidents where tying on the spot made the day. One was a flying ant hatch one evening and the other was a very sparse tiny black and white bucktail streamer that represented fish fry that the trout were rushing into the shallows to eat. Beside catching more fish the other benefit of being prepared to do some stream side tying was that we had motivation to observe the insect activity more closely. We had a purpose to turning over rocks and netting naturals on the water which had the ulterior benefit of giving us a deeper understanding of the ecosystem and its food chain, knowledge that has stayed with us till today.

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