Flies tied by LEX HOCHNER
I began designing and tying flies close to 50 years ago when I spent all of my summers in upstate New York. I was exposed to some of the most historic watersheds in that area. My initial material source was my mothers sewing kit and a tube of "airplane" glue. I still vividly remember the first trout, a brown, that took my home made nymph crafted from button thread; that poor fish definitely had a vision issue, but I was hooked for life.
As a youngster, I developed a passion for watching trout going about their business even if I did not have a rod in hand. When the fish became active, I became transfixed by their body language and ultimate methods of predation. I was fascinated by their uncanny ability to "feel" the presence of potential danger which early on, taught me that to succeed as an angler there existed the necessity of not only the attractive characteristics of a fly to trigger a strike, but just as importantly, its presentation and the stealth of the angler. This combination of the "mad science" of fly design, angling and hunting, to this day are as intriguing to me as ever.
The last ten to fifteen years have provided the modern day fly tyer with a treasure trove of new and versatile materials, and, some of the patterns now being crafted by both recreational as well as commercial designers are quite outstanding. Combined with the relative accessibility of so many more fishing venues during this same period of time, many of these new and innovative fly patterns have been able to showcase their angling success and intrinsic value over a wide reaching geographic panorama.
Probably the most valuable lesson that I have learned during my progression as a fly designer is that it is imperative to have a complete and thorough understanding of the target species of fish which in every respect is going to play the role of a very skeptical audience reviewing my "performance". There are absolutely no shortcuts in achieving this level of design proficiency, and, this learning process is never-ending. This fact unto itself is inspirational as well as humbling by causing the admission, and ultimate realization that there's always something new to discover and then factor into the design equation. Reading all we can about both prey and predator, spending as much time as possible on the water observing this relationship and talking to other individuals, be they anglers, fellow tyers as well as guides who make there living as per their success rate, are the intrinsic ingredients for ultimate design success.
Finally, one last observation, "it's virtually never right the first time"; from material selection to tying technique, be patient and keep tweaking. Keep different material options as well as color schemes on hand until you feel that you have accomplished your visual as well as functional goals. Initially put the new pattern through some rigorous tests and determine if its performance is as planned. If not, go back to the vice and try to get it right. Sometimes it'll work, sometimes it won't; don't get too full of yourself when it does, and too frustrated when it doesn't. Remember, fly tying is an art, not a science. Last, and most importantly, fish your creation repeatedly and under varied conditions. Hand some out to other anglers and let them do the same; all feedback is valuable.
If fish could speak, this whole process would be completely unnecessary, but I personally have yet to meet Nemo; and that is precisely the cause of the the addictive nature of this recreation. To me, there is no better example of the term "functional art" than the successful design of a fly.