Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Tying one on

Beer at the ready, it’s time to start tying.

By Mark Taylor

My local Trout Unlimited chapter recently jumped on the trend of hosting fly-tying gatherings at bars. The inaugural gathering at Ballast Point Brewery in Daleville, Va., drew about 30 people, which is about how many people show up to the chapter’s monthly meetings.

A non-fly fishing friend to whom I mentioned this was perplexed.

“It seems like drinking and fly-tying wouldn’t go well together,” he mused. “Don’t you need to have some dexterity and attention to detail?”

Fair question. Admittedly, at that first Brew Tie I drank only one beer because I had to drive home. And when I tie at home I’m usually taking it pretty easy on the hooch.

So, what happens when a fly-tyer really, um, ties one on?

Being that TU is a science-based organization, there is really only one way to find out. So here I sit at my tying bench, an ice-cold Bell’s Two Hearted Ale at the ready.

Tonight’s pattern will be, of course, the Drunk and Disorderly streamer. Created by Tommy Lynch, it’s a big and meaty fly — even the single-hook version I’m going to tie — that’s effective for predators like big brown trout and smallmouth bass. And it’s challenging enough to tie that it should be a good test of aforementioned dexterity and attention to detail.

So here, we go….

Flashabou tail goes on. Got the body of the fly looking pretty decent and spinning the deer hair head isn’t too tough. Just got to be careful shaving this head and gluing on the doll eyes. There we go. I’m no expert and this is no Tommy Lynch original, but it will catch a fish. Man, I love Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Time for another.

Fly one. It could be worse.

OK, maybe do a little color experimentation here and go with a darker deer hair head. Get that body put together … spin that deer hair …. tighten up the hair… Darn, I just pushed the entire body down onto the bend of the hook. Pull it back out… carefully shape the head with the razor…glue on those eyes…not bad. This thing will catch a fish. Oh, yeah! Big streamers rule!

Time for a change of pace. Same fly. Different beer. This time a Sweetwater 420. Little less alcohol. Still plenty of hops. Yeah, tasty. OK, where’s my bobbin? Got it. OK, tail on. Wrap the rabbit strip and then the chenille body. Oh, wait. Chenile first, right? Deer hair collar. Spin. Stack. Trim. Eyes. This thing looks a bit like Ratatouille the rat. Trout eat rats, though, right? Maybe a bass will eat it?

Fly three: Looks a little like a rat. But a fish will eat it. Right?

Why do we fish? We fish to catch fish, that’s why. And it’s good to get away in nature. I love nature. I like fishing with my buddies. I wish my buddies were here flying ties with me. But they aren’t. Oh, well.

Do I have any of those Parkway Save the Galaxy IPAs left? Yes! More than 8 percent ABV. I better nurse this one… Going a little brighter here. Big browns love gaudy colors! Tail. Body. Head. Glue on eyes. Oh, yeah. This thing is righteous!

Fly four. Uh oh.

You know the saying: Big fies equals big flish! Except Copper John nymphs. Those are great little flies. Why am I not tying any Copper Johns? I caught one of my best trout last year on a Copper John. I want to tie a Copper John. I am going to tie a Copper John, yessir I am.

Change of pace, and not a good one.

OK, that maybe wasn’t such a good idea. Did I finish that Save the Galaxy already? Where is the waitress? I’m ready for another one of those Big Lick Brewing’s Peace, Love and Hoppiness double IPAs. Oh, wait. I’m at home. Gotta get it myself.

I’m going back to the D&D. No baby size 2 hook this time, either. We’re talking a 1/0 giant, brown-trout-slaying monstrosity. As in, giant fly. Giant brown trout. Now where are those 1/0 streamer hooks, dammit? OK. Focus. Is it hot in here? I think it’s getting hot in here. Tail. No problem. Chenille and rabbit body. Check. Rubber legs. Yeah, rubber legs! This thing needs some freakin’ rubber legs!

Spin deer hair. No problem. Tighten it. Easy peasy. And now, shaping the head with the razor blade. What’s all this red paint on my fly? Wait. That’s not paint. Little super glue will close that cut right up. Yep. OK. Eyes on. Score! Best one yet!


Time for one more. Tie on tail. Body. Tail. Must. Spin. Hair. Couch. Sun so bright. Dog licking face. Flies? I was tying flies?

Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited’s eastern communications director. He loves to tie flies and loves good beer. The flies and beer drinking depicted in this column were simulated, as far as you know.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.