When you tie a fly onto the end of your fly-fishing leader, you have been “touched” by the labor and effort of another human being.
I venture to say most anglers don’t give this much of a think — but it is true.
The fly you fish with was created by a human being. Either you or someone else.
It’s that simple, and profound.
We rarely contemplate this, yet in this time when it seems everything and anything we want can be conjured or delivered instantly, a fly whose purpose is to catch fish — well, a human being created it, not a machine.
As for the creation part, that needs some clarifying.
My passion has always been to discover (as best I can) the history of the fly I am looking at or using — who created it and where it came from.
This is one of the great joys of fly-fishing, one you can be a part of, or apart from — your choice.
The flies we use to catch fish are time markers.
I can look in my fly box and with relative certainty know, or tell, the story of where a certain fly came from and its intended purpose.
Flies, for me, are also reminders.
In all the vehicles I’ve owned, the sun visor above my head gets filled with flies as the months and years pass.
The flies that go on my visor are the ones on the end of my leader at the end of a fly-fishing day — whether that day lasted one hour or 12 hours.
They can be nymphs or streamers or a dry fly.
I clip the fly off my leader and secure it to the sun visor, just as you would your fly patch to a fly-fishing vest, etc.
These flies bring a crooked smile on early wintry days in the West, when the temperature is a balmy 10 below zero and I’m driving toward the piercing, rising sun and must shield my eyes with the visor above my head.
The flies come into close view on those mornings, and for a time I am transported to the place and time when I attached those flies to the visor.
I can almost taste the sweet summer sweat of hiking a canyon and fishing its river below.
My ankles and knees, through jointed memory, remind me of the effort, and the photo-log in my mind illuminates the many beautiful memories of days like that.
Or. . .
A very wet, cold, but highly satisfying day of floating and wade-fishing a big river in the Western spring when the weather is nonstop snow, sleet and rain, but the fish catching (and releasing) is so good that your mind magically lifts you from the physical misery to a place of palpable purpose and mental warmness.
So. . .
When you are in a fly shop, and you see that “smorgasbord” of delight that is the fly bins, take a moment to realize that another human being tied those morsels.
And if you tie your own flies, when you open your fly box and make the choice, remember the related story: you may have tied that fly last night or last year, but it’s a good bet you recall something about the circumstances associated with its creation.
All this to fool a living, beautiful predator into eating a replica of another living creature in the natural world.
Something that ties us all together.
This fly-fishing — it really does exactly that.
Maybe I’ll see you on the water.