Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Over, under, around and through, that's the way to tie…a fly? Well, that's the way I finish them at least.

Another great start to a fall bird season and the switch to daylight standard time has dashed my hopes of anymore after-work hunting trips. But once again those pre-standard time hunts have given me more materials that I'll ever use. Partridge feathers, pheasant tails and, thanks to a new 15-member family on the block, turkey quills are piled high on my tying desk. Now I have all those dark hours after work to get back to tying.

My goal this year is to tie 600 flies. Last year, I said I'd get 500 in, and it ended up being more like 375. Like any hobby or sport, the more a person practices, the better one gets. I think 600 should get me back up to snuff before the days lengthen, the water thaws and I can put those flies to use.

Start Simple

To get into the swing of the fly tying season, tucked down in the back room of the basement listening to talk radio or watching DVDs, I start simple. Easy creatures like soft hackles, pheasant tail nymphs, and simple thread midges shake the rust out of my hands and help me remember how things are done. Not only that, the flies produced still catch buckets of bluegill each summer. It is good practice and it gives me time to fill the holes in my flybox left from last year.

By December or January I'll have moved on to intermediate patterns, or at least new ones. Flies like the classic Adams, the ornate Stimulator or tiny Elk Hair Caddis usually test my skills and my patience by mid season. The added challenge of the hobby comes with each new fly recipe. I would like to learn new patterns that mimic common insects I saw this year; such as foam or woven damselflies, to match the blue bugs that swarmed local lake shores and stream sides during the heart of summer.

Keep the Fever at Bay

Late winter brings hope of spring and instills in my mind the idea that smallie fishing is only a few months away. As a result, late winter is the time to bring on the streamers! Clouser minnows, woolly buggers and mohair leeches are prime patterns for bronzeback fishing. But there are new ones out there I'll need a few of. Chuck Loftis' EZ Perch was a killer pattern on smallies and pike in the Sheyenne during the spring. Too bad I only had one which I received through the Missouri Valley Fly Fisher's swap. After catching five fish in an hour with it, I sacrificed it to a high branch in an old tree. I'll make sure to create a bunch of them, just in case the elms are biting next spring.

Along the way, I'll experiment with ice fishing jigs, tie up tiny flies for tough hardwater days and combine standard, ice and fly fishing to find patterns that work and others that just look good in the tackle or fly box. At the very least, the flies give me time to try things out: my skills, my patience and new techniques. Any way it is tied, I always come up with something exciting.

In the end, that is when most of the art of fly tying occurs; when I'm just goofing off at the vise, killing time until I can put the patterns to use…in our outdoors.