...about magic wands
Rodney: Aside from this interesting “theory”, as you so aptly call it, I think the pattern-buffs, whether they extol exact imitations or not, are actually trying to compensate deficient casting techniques. The worst is that lots of them aren't even aware that they're doing it.
I've got another theory.
Moderator: Your turn then.
Rod: I call it the magic wand syndrome. Man constantly strives to find utensils to make life easier and save toil and sweat. Even knowing there are no miracle products for losing weight or lightning-fast systems for learning Russian in 6 months, we're always willing to try out something new, just in case. No matter what...to avoid suffering and pain. Fly fishing has two magic wands. Rods that cast yards and yards almost by themselves. They make unbelievably delicate presentations, even against a headwind. Then you have the infallible flies that no fish can reject.
Quillan: I hope you aren't insinuating that I go around selling magic wands.
Rod: In a way, you do. What you defend can be bought. That's why most all fishermen change the fly before changing the cast or the presentation. And that's why most angling forums, debates and discussions always focus on this or that pattern. It also explains why there's a lot more literature about fly tying than any other angling-related topic. Fishermen keep trying to replace practice and training with a new rod or a new pattern. So they keep failing. They refuse to accept that the only magic wands in fly fishing are training, study and hours of effort. And, Quillan, you can't buy those in a store.
Mod: Mmm, interesting.
Quill: And quite wrong. There's a lot more skill involved in the option I defend than in yours: knowledge of fly-tying materials, manual dexterity, creativity, imagination, an artistic flare and, particularly, knowledge of entomology. Though I'm sure you consider how you handle the butterfly net more important then recognizing exact species of mayfly under the binocular magnifying glass.
Rod: He who fishes better catches more fish than the guy with the better imitations.
...slight point of encounter
Mod: Don't you guys believe that, in the ultimate analysis, the guy that makes the best presentation with the best imitation will catch the most fish?
Quill: Yeah, but that hardly ever happens.
Rod: You're right there.
Mod: Hummmph! Please enlighten us.
Quill: The angling styles of the great majority of fly fishermen are much closer to one option than to the other.
Rod: Almost always closer to imitation. Obsessed with changing flies to solve all their problems.
Quill: More and more anglers are focusing almost exclusively on presentation and stock their fly boxes with only a couple of patterns.
Rod: Yeah, but they're still a small minority.
Quill: It's funny but usually the guys that catch the most fish know little about casting. I think I know why.
Quill: Because they make the best presentation they know how to make. They get as close as they can to the fish and, with little more than the leader, they drift the fly past the trout's snout. No technique, no special training. That's all they do. And once the fish sees the fly, either it looks a lot like what it's eating or see you later, alligator. And that, Rodney, summarizes everything you're trying to defend.
Rod: You're describing a special type of fishing done in certain streams under specific conditions. That kind of fisherman does catch fish in his usual streams but he's very limited in any kind of river where he can't get so close.
...dragging isn't always decisive
Quill: I maintain that a realistic imitation doesn't need an impeccable presentation; it can even drag a bit.
Rod: Never. The trout, for example, is much more finicky about a poor presentation than about a specific fly pattern. If a trout knows anything, it certainly knows how to tell the difference between something that floats and drifts naturally from something that's forced.
Quill: What poor presentations do is highlight the deficiencies of a given imitation. Natural insects are continually subject to whimsical eddies and micro currents. They rarely drift in a straight, predictable line.
Rod: True. That's what makes a proper presentation so difficult. The imitation has to follow the not-so-uniform drift of the natural insect.
Mod: Let's try to wind up with some last thoughts, OK?
Quill: I'd like to end on this note: the vast difficulty, study and work required to create almost perfect imitations always pays off on the stream. Very few fishermen systematically use this type of fly, but they undoubtedly catch the most fish. Today's artificial fly, with current knowledge of the art of fly-tying, stands out as much more important than presentation. Never, until very recently, has this been so clear.
Just about anybody knows how to cast and make more or less presentable presentations. But very few can tie patterns that truly imitate natural insects and then use them for fishing. That's the real source of this controversy.
Mod: Your turn to finish up.
Rod: Fly fishing is about placing a fly on the water without spooking the fish and making it drift naturally. No matter how good your imitation is, it's always going to be tied to a tippet, which, in turn, is tied to a thicker leader and a much thicker fly line. Between you and the fish, there's almost always going to be a multitude of currents that are sometimes absolutely indecipherable. You'll be surrounded by vegetation and obstacles and the wind is rarely going to be your ally. This whole reality interacts with itself and changes with each step you take and each minute that goes by. In the stream, I sincerely prefer to rely on my skill and knowledge more than what I have in my fly box.
Mod: Many thanks to both of you for this interesting debate. Happy fishing until next time.