Since roughly mid-December (I think), I’ve been taking a break from fly fishing due to a tendon strain in my elbow (commonly referred to as tennis elbow). I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been not to be able to get out and fish. Especially since our local winter fishing season has been unusually good for those anglers lucky enough to get out, whereas when I was able to fish, it was one of the driest and warmest Autumns I’ve ever seen. I’ve been seeing so many pictures on Facebook of my friends just pounding the rivers and netting beautiful steelhead and I kept thinking to myself, “Where were these conditions in the fall?” Well, it is still warmer than usual, just as it was in the Fall. However, warmer in the winter is more like Fall temps and we’ve also been lucky enough to have either rain or snow melts that have given us several bumps of fresh fish into the systems.
As things have been turned upside down for me in my personal life since December, it’s been really hard not having that release from fly fishing to calm my nerves. It wasn’t even until mid-January that I started tying flies again, just because without the option of getting on the water, I felt uninspired at the vise. But, I have been tying lately. I even made myself a new tying tool caddy for my desk. And more than that, I’ve been reading a ton (finishing Strip-Set, expect a review soon as it’s a good one). But now, this weekend, I’m planning on hitting the river again. I did what I promised myself I would do and go until the end of February with no strenuous activity for my casting arm. Because of this, it is feeling stronger and I no longer have the constant twinges of pain when I grip with my hand or turn over my forearm. Wish me luck.
The fly tying has really helped me mellow out the last few weeks and I’ve been hitting the vise any chance I can get. First I was just toying around with some foam popper patterns just because I’ve always wanted to try them, but then I started thinking about steelhead. I tapped our local fisheries biologist Michael Durkalec (recently featured in Belt Magazine) to get some information on the baitfish populations in the Rocky River and through trial and error; I have refined a shiner pattern that I think will be really successful as it mimics pretty well the size, color, and profile of the real thing. I’m not even going to show a picture of it at this point because it’s just not finished yet. I think perhaps it’s been beneficial to designing this pattern that I haven’t gotten to go out and test it yet. I think too often I rush a pattern and without immediate success on the water, I abandon it in order to try something else. I’m like a kid in a candy shop with all the ideas I have rattling around in my brain, but for once, I’ve taken several weeks to develop a pattern slowly, and once I test it out this weekend, I plan to take the time to refine it some more. This experience has given me a new outlook on how I want to tie moving forward.
Last night I took a few moments to clean out my fly boxes and organize my pack. I tend to do this before every unique season, but this time I approached it with more of a minimalist feel. I always tend to have a collection of random prototype flies that I’ll try out when I’m on the water in different conditions. And by collection, I mean like 15-20 different patterns where I only have 1 or 2 of each and they cover a huge range of styles and materials. Last night, however, I cleared all of those out and consolidated my remaining boxes so that the only current experimental fly is that shiner pattern and everything else is tried and true patterns that I know work well on my river. I may add one or two more experimental flies to test in the field, but I will no longer have such a scatter-brained approach to tying as I have in the past. I am resolved to be more methodical and patient in developing new patterns and I think those designs (and I) will benefit from it in the long run.