Advanced Fly Tying

Learn about ‘Roadkill from Roadkill: Tying Killing Flies From Flattened Fauna’
by Bob  Scammell

No sooner had my pupils adjusted to the gloom of Blackout’s Bar ‘n’ Cue when I spotted one of them, Jason, waving me over. It was that time of a Canadian winter when it is too early for fishing, and too late for suicide, when many oudoorspersons think a drink or several might help. Jason, too, was gloomy. He sagged and sighed like a foul-hooked belly boat.

“There’s no way out,” he groaned, “I’ve just gotta take up fly tying.”

“Whatever the hell for?” I asked.

“I just can’t afford store boughts anymore.”

I recovered consciousness with Jason pounding me on the back. Almost drowning in Blackout’s draft is a fate worse than death, but a laugh like that was worth it.

“Its not funny,” Jason said, “this year’s order to Dan Bailey’s took all my tax refund, and my spousal facsimile ain’t functioning as such nor even communicating much.”

“Jason ... Jason my young friend,” I said, “the only hobbies that cost more and pay less than fly tying are revenge and adultery, which may be a distinction without a difference, when you get right down to it.”

“Come on, “ Jason said, “you do it, tie flies, I mean.”

“No way are you going to believe me, but would you believe him?” I asked, pointing at a nearby table.

“Who he?”

“Dibbley Bobbin,” I said.

“Not the living legend of fly tying?”

“As he lives and breathes.”

“What’s he doing?”

The gangly gent had his necktie around his right wrist, using it like a rifle sling to steady his aim and winch his left hand with a glass of dark amber fluid toward his mouth.

“C’mon, we’ll ask him.”

I introduced Jason, then asked Dib what was it with the sling and sip.

“Tie flying this drink ... or trying to hang myself from it?” Dib’s eyes swam behind
his thick glasses like raw oysters in a crystal fish cocktail dish. “Naw, I lie. It’s
one a them Catch 22’s. I just ain’t steady enough to take my medicine until I get
the first dose down.”

“What’s doing this to you, Dib,” I asked?

“Well, I don’t like to think it’s the medicine, so I guess I’m a Cement Head from
inhalin’ head cement fumes or maybe it’s poisonin’ from all that lead wire in my
wet fly patterns.”

“Why don’t you just ask for a straw?” Kevin asked.

“real men don’t use straws, son. Can’t get her down fast enough that way.”

“Jason here’s thinking of taking up fly tying because tailor-mades have got to
expensive,” I said.

“Anyone who thinks they can save money tyin’ flies is one hackle short of a
neck,” Dib pronounced.

“What?” from Jason.

“One BB shy of a full load.”

“Then how come you turned pro?” Jason asked.

“Fate. There I was gettin’ nowhere, like anyone else. Tyin’ up my year’s supply
whist watchin’ instant replays until the Stanley Cup playoffs petered out, or until I
could puke, whichever came first. It takes long suffering to get addicted to any
truly disgustin’ vice. Oh, I sold a few: the ones that looked like owl pellets, them
was your dry flies. Look like coyote tu.. er..dung? Them was the wets. Then
along came the catch and release places and the bait bans and my kinda flies
was in with the new instant fly fisherpersons, all of which believes if it ain’t meat,
the fish won’t eat.”

“The Chinatown Dumpster,” Jason chanted reverently, “the Wapiti Gutpile, the Green Oozy Booger, the Hot-wired Whole Squirrel Hide, the Hacked-off Liver Leech...”

“... yup, my masterpiece. Then came the video...“... ‘Roadkill from Roadkill: Tying Killing Flies From Flattened Fauna,’” Jason said.

“You got it,” Dib said, “suddenly I’m a star.”

“I’ve always wondered...” Jason started.

“... how many flies can a pro tie per hour, am I right? Like askin’ a hooker how she got started or man how’s his sex life, eh? Or, worse, how many mpg’s he gets from his rig or how many cows he owns?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“No problem, kid: it ain’t that it’s rude, which it is; it’s just that them kind of questions plain invites a man to lie,” Dib said. “But I am going to give you the gospel. The answer is zero, nada, zilch files per hour. Hell, I’ve arrived. You buy my patterns anymore, and they been tied under license, offshore by human robots in Kenya. Now they pay me not to tie and the more I don’t tie, the more they pay me and vicey versey. I may be the highest paid professional non-fly-tyer in North America...But let’s get back to economic analysis. How much this latest order set you back, son?”

“Well,” said Jason, “the start is $1.85 U.S. a pop. Factor in monetary exchange, gst, Customs duty and their $5 handling, postage, more handling and insurance... I figure pretty close to $3 Canadian a fly.”

“Such a deal! You’re laughin’ all the way to the bank! How many you order?”

“Ten dozen.”

“Three hundred and sixty loons for the year’s supply? Looka here. Just start with the vice, the first thing you gotta have to catch the vice. Last super-dooper, tie-by-its-ownself machine I saw in a walnut coffin lined with red velvet was $550. Give her a flip and she spun on to eternity or, if that’s too short, until you ot the mortgage paid off on her. And backlashes? Don’t get me started. High-tech junk. Every tier I know has three or four of the latest wonders in storage until he gets around to old faithful, the Thompson A. Figure between a grand and two into your overhead, unless you can sell the stored junk vices to another sucker.”

“Add in $1000 or so for every other fad in tools. Then, for you, the overhead won't be underfoot like it was for me. Naw, roadkill wont be good enough for you, even if you did have the nose and stomach for it. You’ll want your premium hooks, the hackle necks from roosters better bred than you are, so as you need a vault to deter thieves and protect against serving gourmet meals to moths. You wont buy bulk like the pro does. You’ll be at the mercy of the splitters and dividers that corners markets and causes disasters like the Phentex Famine of ‘85 and the Pliobond Panic of ‘89. But all that’s nothin’. The worst two parts of a
mateur’s overhead is to come....What’s you day job, Jason?”

“Like Bob ... I’m a lawyer.”

“Okay. Hunnerd and fifty per hour, right? Fifty percent overhead, if you’re lucky, am I right again? Seventy five an hour left for you, fifty after tax. Best you’ll ever do is ten flies per hour. There’s five bucks each overhead for you that a pro ain’t go because he’s go no day job, before you ever tie fly one. Why don’t you just mouthpiece a extry seven, eight hours ... buy your ten dozen and have a few bucks left over to buy me another shot or three of this here medicine?”

I waved in the waitress.

“But that ain’t even the worst. Pros play by hookers’ rules.”


“Pros don’t give no freebies... Wait ... You’ll get the point, Jason, after I do a little cross-examination. How many flies you tie last year, Bob?”

“Maybe 25 dozen.”

“How many you have left when you hung her up for the season?”

“Maybe two, three dozen.”

“How many you fish yourself?”

“Ten dozen, max.”

“Sell any?”

“Please! I’d never do it for money.”

“Obviously. So, where’s the gone gross, the missing 12 dozen?”

“Well, son John and nephew Kurt ‘look’ at my fly boxes occasionally, then there’s several of my buddies say they like to admire the display. Suddenly, there they are gone.”

“Don’t matter anyhow,” Dib said, “half your production’s gone to fly box browsin’ and boostin’, what I call finanglin’. You’ve just doubled the price. We’re closin’ in here fast, boys, on $10 - $15 per fly.”

“But you’ve got to give a discount,” I said, “for the entertainment value of the great stories the fly finanglers tell.”

“Now ain’t that the truth,” Dib said, “‘the old woman don’t like the mess’, or ‘my daughter’s allergic to the cul de canard (that’s ‘duck’s arse, ‘ par ‘n my English) feathers’...”

“... Or,” I interrupted, “there’s always the likes of Doc Moller, a practicing root canal specialist, who claims his fingers are to stiff to tie flies ...”

“... or you, and especially even me, Bob, claiming the eyes ain’t good enough any more to tie smaller than 16’s, but they’re still good enough see finangled 22’s floating out at the end of a long cast in a light chop on a dull day.”

“But ... But ...,” Jason spluttered. “What about the challenge, the accomplishment, the satisfaction of catching fish on a perfect fly tied by yourself using nothing but the finest materials.”

“You ever catch any fish at all on them road kill patterns a mine?”

“Hundreds, maybe even thousands,” Jason said.

“I rest my case. Fortunately trout’s brains is just a goose blivet smaller than a fly tier’s,” Dib said, and turned to flag in one for the roadkill.

Suddenly a great sob came for Jason. His eyes were streaming. His upper lip quivered like a Hacked-off Liver Leech, as though in fear of the natural Green Oozy Booger poised like a python above it.

“B...B...Bob,” Jason blubbered, “n...nobody can t...tie Le T...Tort (hic) H ... H ... Hoppers that f...float flat yours. How a...a...b...out...?

“... A perfect finangling finesse. ...This kid’s a natural,” Dib said, re-tying his cravat with only one steady hand, while sipping a shot offhand with the other, “only one lesson and already the moves of a pro.”

From Bob Scammell's excellent book Good Old Guys, Alibis and Outright Lies.