The CDC feathers were light and delicate, and the tips were aligned well. I turned the bobbin and tightened the thread, locking down the feathers. I added the remaining materials and looked back towards my computer awaiting the next instruction. 

I took a fun fly tying class on Zoom taught by Tim Cammisa this weekend. One of the flies I was most excited to tie was the CDC Shuttlecock, an emerger. Fishing emergers during a hatch is incredibly fun and challenging. As I grabbed my whip finish tool to finish the fly, the thread broke and started to unravel. I was hoping the classmates and instructor couldn’t see my fly unwind. I started to panic, but was able to re-tie on a new line and finish the fly. Smaller dry flies are difficult for me to tie, but I was happy to learn this fly, and I was proud of how it turned out. The creative and artistic efforts and expression of fly tying has given me an additional way to stay connected to fly fishing, has provided me opportunities to tie flies for friends, and has helped me have some fun arts and crafts time.

An element of my personality and part of exploring fly fishing as a hobby for me is creativity. Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Jonathan Fields defined creativity as a survival skill. His further thoughts are also inspiring, “It’s the ability to imagine possibilities and make them real. We can use our creativity or not. The potential is there.”

 In my profession, I design stream and wetland restoration projects. I love the creative combination of science, engineering, and community feedback in my design efforts. In that process, I typically begin the design with defining project goals and identifying constraints. The goals and constraints set the foundation for the design effort. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly said, “Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives.” Growing up, I liked to draw and create superhero characters, but I knew my art skills were not as good as some of my friends and classmates. I was involved in the “Rock and Roll Revival” and sang in front of audiences but I knew my voice and acting skills were not exemplary either. I had moments where I wanted to play an instrument, but I didn’t stick with them. My father is an excellent musician and singer; I wanted to be as talented musically as he was, but it wasn’t meant to be. I have a creative mindset, but there were many times in my life where my lack of artistic talent disappointed me.  

One of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman. He gave a speech in 2012 to the graduating class of the University of the Arts that went viral. He stated, “When things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art. Do what only you can do best.” I was drawn to Mihaly’s philosophy, Jonathon Field’s mantras, and Neil Gaiman’s encouragement that each person is creative, and our self expression can only be completed by ourselves. In our lives, our jobs and hobbies can provide creative outlets that we may not consider artistic, but can still be fulfilling. 

Creativity takes action, the will to take a chance, the will to make a choice, and the will to observe, learn, and change. In fly tying, you can choose the style of the fly and all the materials, the thread, the hook, feathers, dubbing, tinsel, wire, and others. You can choose the flies to use, which rig to set up, what techniques to use, what areas of the stream to fish, etc. We use our original ideas and imagination to visualize, decide, and try each option. We can set goals and define constraints to give us a foundation to build upon or we can try different things spontaneously.      

Fly tying is an incredibly creative part of fly fishing. Dave Whitlock, Bob Clouser, Lefty Kreh, Lance Egan, Blane Chocklett, Kelly Galloup, and Gary LaFontaine are incredibly creative fly tiers whose patterns have expanded fly fishing and helped me learn more about fly fishing. The class I took with Tim Cammisa this weekend was excellent. Creating a new pattern is often completed to meet a particular need of imitating a particular food source for fish or for triggering an aggressive response from fish. The problem solving element of the fly creation serves as the goal of the effort and the materials are often the constraints.     

A benefit of fly tying as a creative outlet is that fish provide instant feedback, and beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. When the fly you tied tricks a fish, it is instant gratification. My first fly that I tied that I caught a fish on was an Isonychia nymph, following the pattern Scott Major created. I will always remember that moment and that fly! 

In exploring hobbies, I would recommend making sure it helps you express yourself in a creative way. It is important to learn and grow with your hobby and find the support of mentors and a community, but look for something where you can use your imagination and original ideas. Making flies, dancing, writing, woodworking, rug hooking and many other hobbies can help you  unlock your creativity and find what only you can do.   

5 Replies to “How to Find Your Creativity in Fly Fishing”

  1. There are so many aspects to your hobby! You have embraced it from beginning to end!
    Yes, we are blessed by our Creator with our own creativity! Talents and time count!
    Your patience is amazing! So many details! I love the results!

  2. Very well written, Scott, and I appreciate the kind words. Creativity and fly tying go hand-in-hand, and I look forward to following your blog and Instagram posts to see where you take the flies that were shared in class.

    1. Thanks Tim! I appreciated your combination of energy and focus. It’s exciting to learn from someone so knowledgeable.

  3. This idea of creativity being yours to complete. Yes! And the fulfillment that comes from stepping towards an aspect of life that draws us, I have personally experienced this. The more I can become less attached to how well it goes, the more I grow and feel and allow the activity to unfold. I am gaining an appreciation, through your words, for this kind of creativity you find in tying flies. Who knew?

    1. Thank you Sam! There are so many aspects of ourselves that we need to find a way to connect with, creativity helps me connect to those parts of me I don’t always see.

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