SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

David McCullough

After several years of tying salmon flies in the 4/0 and 5/0 range I started to notice that I was left with some very nice quills that had lots of fibers to tie to 2/0 and smaller hooks. I didn't really need to be a rocket scientist to realize that those fibers would be going to waste if I didn't tie some flies in smaller sizes.

So I made up my mind to be the true Scotsman that I am and started putting them to good use. The first dozen that I dressed I would not bother to show to anyone. They were that bad! I had been thinking big for so long that trying to scale down was a real eye opener.

After a while, though, I started to get the hang of it. After all, I was still using the same size thread that I had been using all of the time. I tried to use 8/0 thread but found that I could not spin it flat enough to achieve a satisfactory result. Whether or not it could actually be flattened, I just - could't see whether it were indeed flat. The fine thread also had the tendency to cut into the fibers that I was trying to lay flat and lift away from the tie-in point.

I've found that I could tie a smaller head on a larger fly than I could on a smaller one, but on the plus side I still had a whole raft of materials that I had been ignoring since they were too small for the larger patterns. I also found that soft hen necks (I prefer using Hoffman and Metz) work best for body hackles and throats.

The next idea that occurred to me was to try tying full-dressed flies to fish with. After all, I did get started dressing flies with the intent to catch a fish! This way I could justify owning all the return-eye hooks in my collection.

I have caught plenty of chinook, cocho and steelheads with flies that I have dressed but, alas, no Atlantic salmon. What a novel idea - catching Atlantics with classic patterns! Several years ago I took a very large king salmon on a Rosy Dawn, but I still wanted to feel the King of game fish on the end of my line.

Someday in this lifetime of mine I hope to make that dream fishing trip for Atlantics a reality. Until then I'll be filling my Wheatly fly box with patterns worthy of such a noble fish, dreaming of that moment when an Atlantic salmon will make a fatal mistake and strike my fly. Here's hoping it will be on a Murdock or a Butcher.

One final note; we should all strive to have fun with this fly tying pastime of ours and not get too serious about it; after all, we only get to go 'round once in this lifetime - so, please, let's have a good time!

Gordon - #7 Alec Jackson Hook

Red Sandy - #2 Antique Hook

Chatterer - #1/0 Ray Smith Hook

Dressed by David McCullough

Photograph © 1994 Michael D. Radencich