Fly Swap

February 4, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Quilters have their bees and bakers have their cookie exchanges. At these events, the artists in their respective hobbies get together to exchange patterns and recipes, adding a little more to each other’s experience, each taking away something new to try. The equivalent for fly anglers, the phenomenon that is fly-swapping, accomplishes the same.

The fly swap is becoming commonplace on many internet message boards and websites where fly anglers meet and discuss fly tying, rod building, and the changing nature of fishing with the long rod. In these exchanges, anglers tie up a number of flies in a single pattern and either send them in to a swap master with a postage-paid return envelope or meet in person to exchange.

The Missouri Valley Fly Fishers Club (MVFF), based in Bismarck, is one such group of anglers that hosts a pattern swap. For the third year in a row, I have been privileged to be part of the MVFF fly exchange. Last year, I was able to attend in person, and I highly recommend that anglers interested in fly fishing give the club a try and stop in for a few meetings, or visit them online at Being on the road this year, I regrettably knew I would have to send my patterns in.

I set to work on 25 of my recently-developed “soft hackle fry” flies. The fly is a simple recipe, consisting of a wet fly hook, some Mylar tinsel for flash, orange dubbing for a body and a partridge feather for a collar. In my mind’s eye, it looks like a hatchling minnow or other small fish; on the vise it just looks cool. Throughout first snowy weeks of April, I cranked them out, three here, five there, until I had the number I needed.

I packed the patterns in a small plastic container and mailed them off with a return box, expecting a number of goodies to be returned in their place. After all, twenty-five flies of the same type going into the mail box means twenty-four different ones come back. Some patterns might be the other swappers’ favorite streamers, dries or terrestrials. Still others might be classics that work on the tiers’ home waters. Whatever was in the box the following week would certainly be eye-opening and provide insight into other anglers’ strategies.

I was not disappointed.

My brother tossed me the return box while going through the mail. I tore open the self-addressed mailer and dumped the flies on my tying desk. They spilled out like coins from a slot machine. Pay dirt!

There were streamers of every size – mohair leeches, black-nosed daces and woolly-bugger type patterns tricked out with flash and beads. A high-vis foam beetle, with a bright yellow sight spot was a highlight for me, and I wrote it down to add to next winter’s list of patterns to tie. A number of modified classic nymphs, such as the Prince Nymph and pheasant-tail also showcased the other tiers’ skills. It was a bounty of flies that were sure to catch fish on any water. I placed them in my streamer, dry and nymph boxes, according to their type, and checked my arsenal over for the umpteenth time.

Another successful fly swap complete, I headed back to work from my lunch break, dreaming of a twitch at the end of my neon-orange fly line drifting lazily on a bluegill pond. I hoped to exchange more memories along with a pattern next year…in our outdoors.


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