Worried about what your flies look like? It's recommended you take a look at this article by Doc before you fret yourself over comparisons to the expert's flies.
I raise genetic hackle and because of my farm's proximity to Yellowstone National Park, during the course of an average summer day I meet more then the "usual" number of fly tiers and fly fishermen as they arrive to visit my farm and its flyshop. These anglers do come in all shapes, sizes and localities however one young fellow, D.J., stands well above the many.
He arrived one afternoon with his father. As he stepped down from the muddy pick up truck he still wore his fishing vest which was slightly damp from a recent splash of mountain water. I imagined he got wet as he jumped from stone to stone on Mill Creek. Suddenly the boy heard the muted crows of my flock of hackle birds. His eyes grew wide. A smile crossed his face as he knew what he was about to see. I sensed the boy's excitement and after some pleasant introductions I asked him if he wished to see the birds. He quickly agreed and began for the door.
Once D.J. stepped inside the barn, he moved quickly between the cages as he sought out all the diferent varieties of color. I had seen this behavior more then once so after several minutes his father and I moved back outside so the boy could gather up all that he was sensing. Through the open doorway I watched him pick up a few fallen feathers.
It seemed the boy was a tier. After several minutes alone with the birds he rejoined us holding several long saddle feathers between his thumb and forefinger. "Your father said you like to tie flies. Is this true?" I asked. The ten year old didn't answer but with his free hand reached inside his vest pocket and produced a midge box. He handed me the box and upon opening it I saw a vast assortment of colors, shapes and different sized "flies". Very few took on the remote appearance of the "standard recipe flies" we all know and use.
"What do you catch with this one?" I asked as I raised a vibrant colored hackle #16.
"My father calls that one a Picasso Hackle," the boy said as he placed his collection of salvaged feathers on the ground. I thought to myself that the fly was aptly named.
"My flies don't look like my Dads but they do catch fish," he quickly added.
"Did you catch something today up on the West Fork?" I asked refering to a branch of Mill Creek.
"Dad caught a few on a Yellow Grizzly. I was using a Candy Cane," he said as he took the box from me and produced several sparkley little flies with a red and white twist body. "They couldn't stay off the hook with this one," he beamed.
I looked at the few flies which were placed in my palm. His father reaffirmed the fact that his son did catch a slew of fish on that day. The only common factor threading the "Candy Cane flies" was the #16 hook and the basic materials. Each fly was definitely unto itself. Yet, according to the two anglers, each produced fish.
After several more questions, which were directed at the boy, I saw the pattern which his father had also seen. The "Picasso" flies tied by D.J. were representations of fantasy insects and minnows. Underlining the complete assortment was D.J's very logical statement, "the fish only sees the fly for a moment. I'm just helping the fish see the food. And, since they (the flies) do catch fish, I must be doing something right."
D.J. found his own solution in the flies which he tied. His dexterity was lacking (but he wasn't out to impress anyone). His representations were more then slightly off ("but the fish only sees it for a moment") . His selections failed to match a hatch (he did admit that during a full blown insect hatch he did use his father's flies). But, the bottom line was D.J. was having fun. He caught fish on flies which he tied with his own hands. I guess that leaves me only to restate the expression, "out of the mouths of babes. . . truths are sometimes spoken."
So remember to call any fly you tie a "piece of art." Because, if it works. . . don't you dare knock it.