for those who know him and are familiar with his tying skills… the very idea of Paul Arden talking about flies and fly design would have most chuckle through various forms of politeness and the hard-core tier would probably just:
but ! keeping in mind that Paul continuously travels and fishes the World and catches a lot of fish with his heretic flies, in a very special moment of ‘Enlightenment’, the man has shared some well-weathered and quite interesting thoughts on this matter and most particularly, by introducing his ‘Smudge’ philosophy.
the avid tier/fisher will notice that this is basically the same idea as the ‘scruffy’ vs ‘nice and neat’ schools of fly design, however the approach and description make this a real gem well worthy of consideration. enjoy !
” I’m going to pick up on a topic that Bernd wrote about sometime ago, mainly “How to design a great fly”. It’s a topic which many of you will think I know absolutely nothing about, and there is a great deal of truth in this, because I believe that it’s the fish that design great flies, or if they don’t actually design them – because how, or indeed why, would they do that? – then they are responsible for the continual tweaks that we make. All flies I believe are works in progress and it’s only after a very long time, and many fish, do they become somewhat stable.
I also think our background roots in flyfishing have a great deal of influence on how our flies look. Mine was stillwater trout fishing, as virtually everyone knows. I was extremely active in the mid-late 80s when stillwater dry fly started to evolve in the UK. Back then no one I knew fished dries apart from a few regulars who occasionally fished dry sedges. What was waiting to unfold was pretty much a revolution.
I started fishing dries because of my mother! She had visited a tackle shop while on holiday, and presented me with some river dry flies and a can of spray floatant. I was given these in September – they didn’t float very well – but they caught a hell of a lot of fish, and moved a hell of a lot more, and I couldn’t wait to try them the following year. This was at a time when almost everyone stripped lures for trout, the occasional wet fly and there were a few switched-on guys who were fishing buzzers.
It was the next year that I discovered Gink. I’d never seen it before and as far as I know it was new in the UK. Gink changed my life – and everyone else I knew too, so much so that Gink became a verb – to gink, ginking, ginked! I started using damp flies; a Hare’s Ear picked out and I had a fly similar to a picked-out Amber Nymph which I could gink too. I also had Skues’ Little Red Sedge and I was nailing fish on dries! It was around then I met a chap called Dennis who fished for Grafham, he was fishing dries too, and remains to this day one of the best anglers I’ve fished with. Dennis actually tied the first Hopper – a shortened up Daddy Long Legs with an orange body, had some interesting experiments going on and brought dry fly to the competition scene and from there it became known.
The Shipman’s came out soon after and that was a far better fly than the Amber Nymph/Dry that I was fishing and I started tying suspenders too, or maybe I was doing this before, anyway I’ve jumped topic…
So back to the subject! I think a great fish catching fly works for many reasons, the first is it can suggest the life that the fish is eating, which normally means no hard outlines. Imagine the difference between a doll and a human. If I was to present you with a smudge that looks humanish it would be difficult to determine if it was a doll or real. So smudges are good.
A fly that has inbuilt mobility has to be good. It will work for us, just by sitting there. Seal’s fur, soft (hen) hackles, rabbit are good examples of great materials that will move and catch fish even when we’re not pulling them.
Colour is a huge trigger. You can indeed present just a colour – orange for example – and it will catch fish and can be the only answer. Sometimes the colour to fish is not the colour of the naturals. In small flies, I think claret is better than olive for example, certainly when it comes to buzzers. But mixing colours is the best. I try never to use one shade of olive for example, but instead mix two or three different shades. Fish prefer this. Which makes sense when you think of hard outlines. One shade of a colour is the equivalent of a hard outline.
So that’s my philosophy, don’t try to imitate the natural, try to suggest life by presenting a smudge.
Oh, there’s more: A great fly should take between 60 and 120 seconds to tie. There are very few flies I fish that take significantly longer than this. Muddlers (Minnow), Invictas, some nymphs, the RFU and Terminator style flies do take longer – hell I often have flytying competitions with mates, where we tie flies that take literally hours to tie – but the best flies in my opinion should be quick. Ten in twenty minutes would be normal for my best flies.
So we’re talking a fast colourful smudge. Perfect! “
that thing above is Paul’s notorious ‘RFU’ or Royal Fuck-Up. the more you look at it, the more you accept and embed yourself into it, the more you’ll see what makes it such a special fly !
‘Scream’ gif via Tumblr