Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Valley

Martyn White | Thursday, 7 January 2021

As I've had to self isolate the last 2 weeks, I've not been fishing. Luckily that ends tomorrow so I'll be able to get 2 more days on the river to see out the year.

Aside from being bored to tears and spending a couple of days working my way through a trifle I made for a Christmas party of 10 people that obviously had to be cancelled, I've been watching just about every fly fishing and fly tying video I can find on YouTube. Especially if it's about places I've never been, or types of fly I've never seen.

Iceland seems to come up quite often. And while I'm not sure if I will ever go, there seems to be a very interesting culture around fishing there, it's obviously shaped by the fish and the island itself and has led to different adaptations of certain techniques and flies. I'm always interested in the differences and similarities that crop up among anglers in different regions and countries. Flies are one area this is often very noticeable and I've really enjoyed seeing a lot of the Icelandic flies that I didn't know about. 


I suppose some salmon flies from Iceland are fairly well known, like the Haugur and Zelda. I was pretty ignorant of much else from the country until I discovered Ivar's Fly Workshop YouTube channel. Ivar is putting up videos of a lot of traditional Icelandic flies as well as more modern patterns that have been developed there. I've most enjoyed the older fashioned stuff and it's nice that it's being made available as it will stop the patterns being lost and also maybe inspire something new. Helpfully he does videos in English as well as Icelandic. 


One thing that really got me thinking though was the Jock nymph. An old pattern with tail of yellow floss, a body of yellow and black floss and a rib of oval gold. It's simple and ostensibly a fish catcher, but looking at it I know I would struggle to have any confidence in the fly. I think I wouldn't be alone in this either. The "why" of it is what intrigues me the most, I will happily and very confidently fish simpler flies like thread buzzers or emergers made entirely of roughly dubbed seal fur.  I don't think it's the profile, it's a fairly nice slim nymphy shape. I've eventually settled on the idea that the Jock nymph is occupying an uncanny valley; the materials on the body make me think wet fly, but it has a profile similar to that of say, a diawl bach. It somehow seems unfinished, stick a wing and a hackle (or just a hackle) on it and you'd have a tasty looking wetfly for the point or middle dropper, but then it wouldn't be a nymph. In the picture there's a standard Jock nymph and also a variation that I think I could fish with confidence.  I shredded the floss and dubbed it on light thread then switched to a black thread and squirrel dub for the front half. I'm quite happy with the result and although it hasn't been tested on fish, I reckon it'd make a good account fished near the surface on a summer evening sedge hatch.The dubbed pattern has that little bit more movement, but more importantly-I think- it transmits light, something I'm always looking for in flies that are to be viewed from below.

 You could also tie a nice diawl bach but I didn't have any yellow peacock herl.


Anyway, I'm off to get my bag ready.  The local carp have  had close to three weeks of peace from me, a situation I intend to rectify tomorrow.