3 minute wonder

3 minute wonder

Martyn White | Thursday, 30 September 2021

Aside from getting the last of my wet wading chasing smallies, I've been tying a load of tarpon flies for a friend recently, he fishes for tarpon quite a lot around the Yucatan. I'm jealous, I'd love to get back down there, but it certainly won't be a possibility for at least three years I reckon.

Something I like about tarpon patterns is how simple they are, well most of them anyway. Keys style flies, ideal for clear water fishing are essentially just a hook, thread and a few feathers. Yes you can tie and fish more complicated patterns, but there's something elegant about the simplicity of these patterns that really appeals to me. They appeal to tarpon too, among other species in both fresh and salt waters.

I've always liked simple flies, even as a kid I found something more appealing in plan thread buzzers than cat's whiskers. When tying flies for myself, I like to try to keep tying time down. Trout flies I think 5 mins is about right, Large predator flies can take longer, but even though they'll last longer and are less likely to be lost I still don't like spending 30 mins plus on a fly that doesn't need it. If I'm tying for other people, well, it's their money.
But I do think there's a culture of needless complexity in some aspects of fly tying, it stems from traditional trout and salmon flies, but I notice it gradually creeping into saltwater and esox tying. Some of it is probably driven by people trying to make a name for themselves, some of it probably from a misunderstanding of how a fly behaves in the water and how the fish see it. Most of it is unnecessary. I'm not saying we should stop trying to improve things, but we should be more focused on making changes that actually help. In classes I'm often asked questions along the lines of "can I add X? It'll be an extra trigger maybe". It rarely is something that is likely to make a tangible difference to the performance of the fly. It's just an extra stage. I'm all for adding stages that do something, adding an articulation to create more action & improve hook ups, or adding a soft material to a pattern so that there's movement when the fly is at rest can all be reall improvements. An extra 2 strands of a slightly different colour flash? Not so much. Sometimes the additions even become detremental.

Of course there's a balance to strike and taking a bit of a trouty approach to saltwater tying and adding some details that make the fly look nice to a person's eye can help the angler's confidence, just don't go to far. Cam Sigler's tubes, Stu Apte's tarpon fly, the bucktail deciever; all flies that are simple to tie, but each aspect is functional. You'd be hard pressed to find more consistently effective flies in their given fields too. And it's not just in the salt either, think about the hare's lug, Sawyer's nymphs or the partridge & orange. But don't listen to me. Do what you want just remeber that a 3 minute tie will often work better than a 20 minute tie.