Fly Tying is a Video Game

| December 20, 2015

fly fishing fly tying video game mind body soul #flyfishing

Body Mind Soul Fly Fishing
Is the art of tying flies the equivalent of a video game? I believe, perhaps it is. I also think you would benefit by thinking of it as a, as your, video game too. Here’s why …

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I was watching a show today on how surgeons are using video games to warm up for surgery, games like Madden football and those games that show up on a 3D plane on a flat TV screen. A particular surgeon took the concept to the limit by training young surgeons, and students in surgery fields on video games as a warmup for their procedures.

Many of us take for granted the physical hand-eye coordination we bring to the art of fly fishing, particularly casting and fishing, but the truth is some have more, and some less, “ability” we bring to this game – a game that relies heavily on hands, eyes, body and mind – all working in coordination. Another bittersweet truth is that as we age, or face physical setbacks, one or more of the needed ingredients (hands, eyes, body or mind) can wane.

There are a couple of ways I “tune” myself and am re-tuning myself now, for the strong yet sensitive activity of fly fishing – at waterside. The two ways we’re talking about today are by tying flies and (in the spring) by practicing small before going big. I consider these the highest priority as long as our bodies are following along as they should.


You’ve heard it here before: FEEL FREE TO THINK. Fly tying is a great calisthenic for those of us who need to edge our way back into the groove of actual fly fishing – at water’s edge. Why?

Fly tying is our video game because it takes us into another world, of course related directly to our ultimate goals (unlike modern games), but still a video game. We use our imagination, or set plays, to create a successful imitation of reality that we believe will give us our best chance to score and even WIN against our adversary.

In the best of fly tying sessions, we are at once present at the vise, and miles away … thinking about how this fly will work at the water the fly is intended for.

And one other added benefit of tying flies is the revival of our dormant (in my case), or simply slightly rusty, hand-eye coordination. I have made a habit of fly tying within 24-48 hours of departing for a fly fishing destination – almost as a rule. It helps me limber up my fingers for tying knots on leaders, and it helps me tune into the fly that I am tying on when I arrive at the point where the fly meets the water.


The idea of big and small is subjective of course. However, my idea of practicing small is when (the season allows) I am able to practice on, say, carp, before I go to big saltwater and have to nail a cast to a redfish at fifty feet. If you ask me, I will tell you carp are much more difficult than redfish, and that’s what makes them a great tuneup for sight casting – for anything here in Texas. I have yet to go from carp to bonefish or other notorious saltwater species, permit come to mind, but when I do get the chance for those gamefish, you can bet I will try and tune up on carp first.

Even the sensitive attention we pay to freshwater trout fly fishing can be a warmup for other bigger game. It’s about regaining focus, really. A Navajo Quality Water trout puffing on a size 22, is frustrating, but it also teaches timing and focus (on that tiny strike indicator). Go from there to striper below your favorite lake, and I believe you will catch more striper that may be just ticking on your fly some particular cold morning.


December 21 is the first day of winter. I always love this day, but not because it signifies my least favorite season – winter. I love it because it is the shortest day of our year here in North America. From December 22 on, the days get longer, colder for awhile, but longer. Spring. My hopes, eternal.

The fly shop man cave is slowly getting cleared of the flotsam and jetsam of six months forever lost … and I look forward to 2016 as a better year than 2015. It won’t take much to accomplish that goal. More on all this tomorrow – along the Monday Morning Sidewalk!


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Category: Body-Mind-Soul, Fly Fishing For Carp, Fly Tying

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