Pam, one of my best friends, is marrying Nate, an Idaho Game Warden. She wanted something that would include him in their wedding, so she asked me to tie flies for table favors. That was about nine months ago. The wedding is in three weeks, and I’ve tied about twenty-five flies–I’m shooting for a little over thirty.
I started out thinking that I would just tie flies that I would actually use. I favor small flies. Size 18 Parachute Adams. Size 22 Pheasant Tails. I envisioned these gnat-sized flies impaled on fingertips (and began to mash down the barbs with a little more vigor). Eventually, I changed things up. Every time I tied, I would tie a handful for myself, then increase the size of whatever I was tying and throw some in the wedding pile. This worked, but some of them are still a little too subtle, too small. They eventually migrated into my fly box.
“Tie something frilly,” my wife suggested.
“I don’t fish with frilly flies.”
“They’re not for you.”
“But there’s going to be gamey people there. People who know how to fly fish. Game wardens. Sportsmen.”
Pam confirmed this–so I changed again. I bought a 50 pack of size 6 Mustad hooks. The shanks are fat and twice as long as regular hooks. Some of the flies that I’ve tied are bigger than fish I’ve caught. And they are frilly. I went to the fly shop today and, as I thumbed through brass beads, I had the thought, “these white beads would really make my chartreuse Woolly Buggers pop.”
As I checked out with my purple marabou and hunter’s-orange antron, the guy at the till chuckled. “Damn. What the hell are you tying?”
“It’s not for me, man.”
I had to change the way I thought about flies. I had to stop thinking about what appeals to fish and start thinking about what appeals to a bride. And the bride? She digs chartreuse.
But even the flies I tie for fish aren’t really for fish. They’re for me. They are for whatever superstition I’m currently buying. I’ve lifted rocks and looked at what crawls out. They look a bit like my Pheasant Tails but nothing like my Purple Hazes.