March 4, 2010


The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.
Douglas Horton

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci

Thoughts I've been having recently set off a memory.
My son and I were camped near Sparwood (home of the world's largest dump truck), on the Elk River.
It was getting late. Elevenish, which is very late if you rose at five to cook breakfast, throw together some PB&Js, and spent the next fourteen hours chasing cutthroat. I was frantically fighting off fatigue while tying as many Adams as I could before falling into my sleeping bag for a few hours. And I'd delegated the task of sifting through my shoulder bag to my son to look for any flies we thought might work some magic the next day on Michele Creek. Namely, more Adams.
As he went through the many film canisters in the bag, I got a running commentary concerning the contents of each. That he found only a handful of flies that might fit tomorrow's bill was expected, but what struck us was the sheer volume of flies I had in this bag! All meticulously tied with something, some place, some insect, some strategy, in mind. Mission completed, he tipped back his hat, stood to throw another chunk of birch on the fire, and laughed.
"I guess the question isn't why", he said, backlit by a shower of sparks rising into the night sky, "the question is, why do you have to have all of these with you all the time?"
I put the whip finish on the last Adams for the night, cemented the head, and took it out of the vise. Standing, I turned off my headlamp and stretched, all the while looking for a somewhat rational answer.
"Well... hm, I don't know. Guess I just got used to carrying them with me 'cause it was easier to do that than to have to sit down and sort through them for however long every time I wanted to go fishing."
Which was undeniably, embarrassingly true. Rather than take the time to actually sit in one place long enough to affect some order into my fly assortments, I'd tell myself 'next time', stuff another film canister into my Sage bag and be good to go, escaping once again the increasingly daunting task of bringing some order to my inventory. And, truth be told, avoiding doing that had caused me grief. Several frustrating incidents come to mind of rising fish and me, sitting on the ground, madly scrounging through my damned chock full bag of canisters looking for the one that held the flies I'd tied the night before. Sometimes I got lucky, most times those rings were only a memory by the time I found what I was looking for.
In my decision to 'simplify' this situation with the flies, I was presented with another problem. The thrust of the idea was to carry fewer flies and have them more readily available. I could already see that deciding which flies to carry was going to be an ongoing project, dependent upon what kind of trout, and where I was going each time. So, what was I going to house them in? I settled on a few smaller, waterproof boxes with rounded inside corners. Having had access to a multitude of box styles from my years at the shop (I'd tried them all at one time or another), I'd found that these 'tournament' boxes fit my needs perfectly.
I fish a lot of small flies. A fourteen is often as big I'll go. Having a box that I could easily dip into rather than one that had all those rows of foam that I would've filled too full (because it was too expensive to buy enough of them) seemed to provide the best, and quickest access. Beside that, they fit better into my vest, which, by the way, I still prefer over any of the packs I've ever tried or seen on the shelf. Now I know we all have our own likes and dislikes, and what I chose may very well wrinkle some noses, but it works for me.
But, in the final analysis, as I got comfortable with my new set-up, I found that I gained more confidence. I can't stress enough what an advantage that mindset now affords me. It's allowed me to carry fewer flies but fish them with more skill. We all hear over and over that 'it's not the fly as much as it's the fisherman', and I am a true believer in that adage.
Having the right fly in any given situation is the optimal scenario, but, beyond that, it doesn't always guarantee success. What will increase
your odds is your skill level, outside of once in a while just plain getting lucky.
I like to say that there will always be x number of dumb fish in any stretch, on any given day. How you fish to the rest of them is what matters.
Keeping it simple. It's not as easy as it sounds, until you try it.

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