I stumbled across three old, dusty links in the depths of my Delicious account last night, and decided to re-read them. Once I'd finished, I realized how much truth, knowledge, and experience the writer managed to cram into three short blog posts.
It's about that difficult fly-tying transitional stage, starting just at the end of your last lesson (assuming you got some kind of a lesson, whether from a mentor, fly shop, website, book, or whatever), and it ends right about the time you can consistently crank out a few dozen dries, nymphs, or streamers that look totally identical, are well proportioned, with none of the ugly little imperfections.
...if...that is...you get to that point.
Many tyers seem to do their class, learn a dozen patterns or so, and settle in for the long haul, tying buggers and hares ear nymphs for the rest of their days, with the same trapped hackle fibers, crooked tails and crowded eyes as the first ones they cranked out. Others push themselves to learn a few more patterns, usually the ones they fish most, and usually manage to master them....with the same bent tails, mangled hackle, and crowded eyes.
True, all of these flies will catch fish. That isn't really the issue. And if you don't have the desire to not only tie more flies but to also tie better flies, then this is all the farther you'll likely progress. If, however, you have the desire to progress beyond the realm of one angler I know (who once answered my question of what they were taking by the reply: "They're taking my ties, so they must be keying on cripples."), then the following articles and the 9 tips they contain will be the foundation for "Fly Tying Grad School".
Part One, Two, and Three of Singlebarbed's tutelage is packed full, pressed down, and overflowing with simple and not-always nice truths of tying. Among them, he starts off with the cold truth:
Refining your tying for the critical gaze of other fishermen will make your flies sturdier. All the painful lessons you’re about to learn are lost on fish, fish are stupid, lack artistic sense, and eat cigarette butts.
Then goes into the lessons proper. Not far into the lessons, comes this nugget which really, is the core message:
Flies don’t wind up with proper proportions by accident, and tail, body, thorax, and head are all mapped in your mind before thread touches the hook.
He not only tells you 'what' but also 'why', which is an essential part of the learning process for me, without which, any lesson is only so much missed nap time. In any event, if you're a beginner tyer interested in taking your craft to the next level, this should be required reading.