A Touch of Midas

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

Fly fishing is an old hobby. Catching fish on a "feathered hook" has been traced to the early 1200s in Europe. Nowadays, estimates of the number of people in the United States who fly fish range upwards of 10 million, and as many as one-fourth of them probably tie their own flies.

The craft of fly tying still uses natural materials that are gathered from the wild - fibers and fur that connect us to nature as surely as the tug of a fish on our line.

One reason to tie flies yourself is to save money. Fishing flies are big business; one U.S. wholesaler recently estimated they would produce one million dozen flies in a year. Simple but well-made flies sell for about $1.50 to $2.00 each, so tying flies for your own use is a worthwhile pursuit.

More at the heart of the matter, though, is that it is a thrill to catch a fish on a fly you created yourself. Want to learn how? You can teach yourself out of books and videos, but taking lessons can save you frustration and time.

Fishing clubs, like Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers, conservation organizations and parks and recreation departments often have fly tying lessons for beginners. If you live in a city big enough to support a fly shop, they also probably offer fly tying lessons.

Fly tying is not hard to learn, and it doesn't require any special skills other than the ability to handle small items and thread with some deftness. You don't have to be an expert to produce flies that will catch fish, either. Some tiers ultimately take the hobby to the level of an art form, but plenty of flies tied by beginning and average tiers are readily accepted by hungry fish. Make no mistake, though, that some flies are more complicated to construct than others, and it takes some skill to do them well.

I started out as a 13-year-old with a Boy Scout fly tying kit and instruction books gleaned from the public library. Similar kits are available today from tackle stores and almost all of the mail order fly shops, some of them quite expensive, with high quality tools and materials.

A kit is not a bad way to get started, but you can also buy fly tying tools separately, then buy just the materials you need to tie

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