Change Your Mindset and Improve Your Flies

I am by no means an authority on fly tying, in fact I am relatively new compared to most. However, I progressed fairly quickly because my passion became an obsession and I was willing to put in hours of tying everyday to learn the foundation of techniques required to tie more complicated patterns. New fly tyers have access to a litany of information through the use of the internet. There are fly fishing and tying forums, websites with instruction, Youtube, Facebook and more. For the new fly tyer, there isn’t a problem getting information, it is deciphering information. There is such an overwhelming amount of conflicting recommendations, it is hard to know where to start. Fly tying tips are a dime a dozen, some are good- some are okay. I wouldn’t say any tip is bad, but some are more useful than others.

I’m a big fan of guide and tyer Russ Maddin out of Michigan. Russ has a number of patterns to his credit including the Circus Peanut, the Kraken, and the Mad Pup. All of those are commercially available. Russ is probably most well known for being one of a handful of Michigan guides and tyers that progressed tying and fishing radical streamer designs and evolving it to where it is now. Today I was re-watching the video for one of his newer patterns, the Flash Monkey.  The Flash Monkey is a fly that is effective on many species, including large trout, steelhead, probably salmon and smallies as well. Russ does a great job of teaching how to tie the fly, but it is his commentary in between the tying steps that you will really want to pay attention to. He goes over a lot of things that are missed if you aren’t paying attention.  He says something I wish I was told when I was starting off tying flies. Russ said the following:

“Take your time, if you don’t like your fly you aren’t going to fish  it as well. It all comes down to right now. It pays to go nice and slow. If you don’t like something, don’t be afraid to pull it off of there. It’s not about filling boxes, it’s about tying a fly that your going to like and fish with confidence.”

I used to find myself rushing to tie flies simply to have more flies, but the quality of each one was poor. They didn’t have correct proportions or the durability required to last multiple fish.  Most of those flies never left the box, until I tied better flies and those ended up in the garbage. That is the point. When you are tying a fly, focus all your effort on tying that fly- to the best of your ability. If you tie in a material, and the proportions aren’t right at that moment- it will never be right. Instead of proceeding just to get another fly done- cut it off and start over. By maintaining that quality control, even if you aren’t a fast tyer, you ensure a well made fly that you will fish with the utmost confidence, that it won’t fall apart, and that the design was constructed correctly, which will ultimately catch fish.

I always kept needing more boxes, so I frequently had boxes filled with flies from years past. What filled them wasn’t pretty. Sure, the flies will catch fish, but if that is all we are after, just use bait. Nothing caught trout better for me than pizza dough. But I haven’t fished that way since I was 12. Tying flies with a level of skill is something I am conscious of. Same for fly fishing- if it was just about catching trout, I would use egg and worm patterns and clean house. But giving in to those easy temptations would halt your evolution.


Notice the tail is too long, the abdomen is too short, and the collar is too large and the wraps are uneven. This fly will absolutely catch fish- but I think I can do better in my sleep these days.
I don’t cherry pick flies out of old boxes. If I tied them years ago, and I still have them- I didn’t fish them for one reason or another- mostly because they aren’t tied as well as they could have been.
Here is a cup of flies out of two old ass fly boxes that I will donate to a youth angler I see on the water this year. Beginners are going to lose a lot of flies, so if you can help them out to keep them fishing, why not?

Make a commitment right now- go through your old boxes, and pull out the flies you could have tied better. Take a picture of those flies, and donate them to a fly fishing organization or a young fly fisherman in your area. I’ll even sweeten the deal- for the first person to make up a little donation cup of flies or a box of flies and take a picture and post it in the comments and be willing to send it to me to donate- I will send an IPT Decal and a Circus Peanut streamer.

Lastly, I want to show you the preview to Russ Maddin’s video. He has two or three of these available now. You have to pay a couple bucks to watch the full video, but these aren’t 4 minute tutorials. You are getting 40 minutes plus of instruction not only on how to tie the fly, but on how to fish the fly, and adapt it to the type of fishing you want to do. You won’t find a more thorough tying tutorial out there.

Flash Monkey by Russ Maddin from Mangled Fly Media on Vimeo.

You should also check out his Circus Peanut video. That video will teach you to take this commercial looking version-

bastardized circus peanut


real circus peanut



Circus Peanut with Russ Maddin from Mangled Fly Media on Vimeo.

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