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green butt skunks

February 16, 2011

such an informative diagram. thanks book of the black bass.

oh fine.  now sam’s gone and done a really cool post on axes so now i have to up my game.  he threw down the gauntlet.  we’re kind of competitve.  with other people it means that sometimes we yell and throw stuff and hit things.  but with each other it just means we end up stepping up, pushing each other, feeding off of each other, inspiring each other.  it’s actually really pretty great.  everyone should have a couple of these sorts of people in their life.  this post is also partly inspired by his movie map post…a river runs through it is one of my all time favorite movies (you can find it in the state of montana on the map, and if you don’t know which one is montana then find a river runs through it and then you will forthwith know which one is montana.)  anyway, these axes he spoke of are functional art really.  high quality functional art.  which for me brings to mind fly tying.  fly tying can range from completely basic and pedestrian (albeit incredibly useful), to stunning and completely superfluous (and not particularly useful).  it can be a production assembly line sort of gig or it can be art.  to me there is nothing cooler than when art is functional.  to me that is the epitome of fly tying.  and as an added bonus, like the ax heads, flies are place based.

so fly fishing has quite a long history, though the established art and record keeping of fly tying is a bit shorter.  i tried to find a map relating to fly tying but i found nothing.  i thought it might be interesting to look at the location of origin for some of the most popular flies out there but found none.  so perhaps i’ll get motivated at some point in the not too distant future and draw one up (don’t hold your breath.)  at a very basic level the point of a given fly is to attract a fish either by imitating a food source or by arousing an aggression response (imitators vs attractors).  this is part of the reason flies are very place based.  you have specific fish, eating specific critters, in specific places, at specific times.  in the past the ability to tie a particular fly was also somewhat dependent on the materials available at a given place, though this is not the case as much anymore.  there are certainly flies that have utility at numerous places, yet these flies may differ somewhat in their precise pattern and in the materials used.  for example, many trout flies can be used on multiple continents, though the pattern is often somewhat altered, using different materials or slight alterations in the original pattern.  the coachman and the royal coachman are two popular trout flies that are good examples of a common fly used on multiple continents, with place based tweaks done to the original pattern.  the coachman is perhaps one of the oldest and most famous trout fly patterns, designed by a man how drove queen victoria’s coach.

the traditional coachman pattern was later “dressed up” by a new york city fly tier (or dresser), in order to fulfill an order for a coachman fly that was a bit sturdier, and gave rise to the royal coachman fly.

aside from the geographical requirements of fly tying, which tend to lend themselves to the functionality side of fly tying, there are individual approaches that are often simply personal choices based on what a particular fly tier might find not only useful but also aesthetically pleasing.  and just like with axes, or any other product, some people put quantity over quality while some choose quality over quantity.  this is a link to a very informative page on some popular wet flies.  these are some really beautiful, well crafted flies, and they are functional as well.

and then we have a fly like the gray ghost.  here is a more functional version of the gray ghost via orvis, where they state, “not only do they work, but you should have then in your box out of pure respect for the tradition of the sport.”:

and then you have a slightly different version, via best made, the same company that makes sam’s axes.  if you want to know more about them you should go ahead and read sam’s post, there’s no need for me to repeat it.  although the gray ghost is a completely functional fly, this particular version of the gray ghost was a fly tied (i had this as ‘tie flied’ instead of ‘fly tied’ for a really long time) in honor of carrie stevens, arguably one of the preeminent fly tiers (tie flyers) of the 20th century, certainly one of the most famous female fly tiers in the history of fly fishing, and the originator of the gray ghost.  if you didn’t see the story of this fly when you were poking around best made’s shop for an ax then you should go do it now.  it’s a work of art dedicated to a legend…it’s primary function in this case is not to catch fish but to be beautiful, to be a quality crafted piece of art, and to honor the influence this woman had on the art of fly tying and on the artist.

anyway, like ax making or any other craft, fly tying has the ability to be art…place based, high quality, incredibly functional, art. and with that, i will leave you with the green butt skunk (i know you were wondering what was up with the title of this post.)

scruffy green butt skunk

fancy butt skunk

did you know the green butt skunk is the most popular summer steelhead fly in the northwest?  this sentence conveys much about the art of fly fishing and fly tying.  a particular fly, a particular season, a particular fish, in a particular region.  that is a beautiful thing.  at least to a geographer.  and a fly fisherman.  and also to the patagonia company, seeing as how they have a tshirt with a green butt skunk on it. cheers.

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