Trico Spinner

Art of Giving a Fly Away

The Art of Giving a Fly Away by Scott Jolly

Ed Note: A great bit written by Scott Jolly and sent to us this holiday season.  I found it, among other things, under the tree…when I took it down. This wonderful Thursday article needs to be read. Thanks Scott for writing this up. The “art and act of giving is one thing we can execute all year long. It goes well beyond the holiday period!” Thanks Scott for the guest Blog!

“Trico Spinners”, “Was the answer to my unspoken question, and he finished the conversation by clipping the bedraggled fly from his tippet and placing it in the palm of my hand. For more than a minute, I marveled at the smallest dry fly I had ever seen, and he was gone before my mumbled words of thanks could reach his ears.”

The Master René Harrop: Stackpole, 2010 “Learning from the Water”

With this quote I ask you, during this season of giving, “is there an art to giving a fly away?” Do you believe that the mysterious, superstitious, and highly competitive angler among our tribe has the capacity of giving? And if so, is it a good thing. I would argue that it is. I would also argue that there is an art to giving a fly away. The principles of giving a fly away are as simple as answering the 5 basic questions of who, what, when, where and why.

The first question of artistic fly giving is, “who should give the fly away?” This is a very easy question to answer.  Fisherman with insight that are having success, who can also see with great clarity, that all other anglers around them are lacking it or are yet to discover it. This concept is especially pertinent in the scenario where another angler has the courage to ask you for your insight when they see you are having success and they are struggling to solve the equation. One small act of kindness may create a moment that leads to a lifetime of discovery as it did for René Harrop.

You may wonder what to give when you find yourself moved by the spirit of giving. I learned the “what to give” when a legendary angler told me “Bring a bottle of whisky over to my house at 6 P.M. and I will tell you some of my secrets”. During this magical evening, he gave me one of his self-tied flies. He gave me just one fly. At that moment, I had an epiphany. He gave me just one fly because he knew I wouldn’t fish it and lose it. Had he given me two, I could fish one and tear the other apart to discover its tying recipe. In the end, I wished he had given three flies. Giving three flies allows the recipient to fish for the moment, a second for discovery, and a third as a symbol and reminder to the act of artistic giving.

The “where and when” of artistic fly giving are lumped together. The most memorable place of giving is near the action of the day. This location may be streamside, the takeout, the boat dock, the parking lot. Enjoy it while sharing a beverage. Spin a tale on how you discovered the fly, why it works, and how it found its way in to your arsenal. The memorable act if giving is then tied to the location, the fly’s history and why it will be successful in the future.

The “why” of giving is most important. May I make an argument that art is “the preservation of all things considered beautiful”.  I would also argue that an angler who has success recognizes all that is beautiful in the world of fly fishing. The successful angler will become an entomologist, ecologist, hydrologist and with some luck a fly-tying mixologist. They will become casters, rowers, multiple rod and reel owners. They will support our sport financially and protect it politically.

The point being, is that we are all like museum curators and just like them it is our duty to preserve all that is beautiful in our sport so that future generations can paint on their own canvass in the world of fly fishing.

So, there you have it … the formula for artistic gifting of flies. Now that you know the secret of giving, I hope you will take the opportunity during the coming year to change someone’s life. I ask that you give just three flies. I also ask, that you have the courage to make your moment of giving during the height of the hatch and allow others to experience how beautiful it is to fool fish after fish with exactly what they want. Become a sentry and a curator of our sport so that future generations can truly say they have mastered the art of giving a fly away.

Happy Holidays,

Scott Jolley

Xmas 2018

Art of Giving, Rene Harrop, Scott Jolly, Trico Spnner
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  • Well done Scott.
    We all need to learn to give more. But also give thanks when we are given something.
    And to pass it on as well. If you’re taught a secret, or given a special fly, do you hoard the info/fly or pass it on to somebody else that was having the same troubles you were prior to the gift?

  • What an outstanding post, Mark! And great writing by Mr. Jolley as well. (And quoting the legendary René Harrop- truly a great guy – is a good maneuver also ha). Three rings above outstanding! I have memory of hundreds of occasions I gave flies and assistance to other anglers over these many years which I could hog your blog with, but I have one I’d particularly like to share on this snowy day. In the 90s I used Georgetown Lake as an excuse and drove to Butte to deliver an order of flies to a shop there, then proceeded to the lake. The surface came alive with splashy rises as the large rainbows attacked the huge skittering caddis in late afternoon. Fish exploded on my size six Goddard caddis flies cast after cast. I watched a little guy of about ten casting a Zebco rig furiously at the fish with a fly below a bobber with no success. He yelled “hey mister! what ya usin’? “ so I walked over to give him a Goddard. On his line was a crudely tied black bugger thing which he proudly claimed that he had tied himself. I replaced it with a caddis- he cast out, reeled once and was into a fish, and then, another. I headed to the car and he yelled thanks mister. Stayed over in Anaconda that night and went to the lake next day- too good to walk away from, Dude. While waiting for the action to start , I cast a subsurface pattern or two and noticed when the boy’s family wagon pulled up too. “Gettin’any?” The boy hollered before he was almost immediately into a fish. He came my way and said “try one of these I tied- they’re workin’” and he pulled out a box with three more of the crude buggers. I hooked a fish one, lost it, and then the hatch lit up. I asked if he was going to use the caddis I’d given him and he said he’d lost it, so I gave him a couple and went back to fishing. We both landed and lost fish. I needed to get home so I left the water and began loading up when the little guy approached me and said “ I tied these up cause they work for me sometimes. Why don’t you take em you might need em sometime”. He handed me the small box with two buggers in it and as I started to pick the flies out, he said “ Mister, you better keep em in the box so you can tell my flies from your flies. See ya, mister”.Mark, that box with the two buggers still sits on my fly table all these years later- one of my coolest treasures. And I call on all tiers to donate flies to the Wounded Warriors program. Giving gives back. Thanks

  • Peggy A. McNinch
    January 17, 2019 4:38 pm

    This was such a great post.

  • i try to give a couple of flies that I believe in. when
    I fish with someone ,a gesture , hopefully may work not necessarily at this time or place but hopefully at future time, when one must say he said they work give um try!

  • I always felt my friends should give me whatever fly they weren’t carefully guarding. And, I definitely think fly shops should participate in this “art”. Mark-I’ll stop by the shop next week!

  • allan roberts
    January 18, 2019 8:54 am

    My mentor and fly fishing buddy was Barney Griff from Dalton Pa and we fished the

    Delaware River together for 22 years before I lost him in 1997.

    We were like two peas in pod and in those days we would often fish for 15 hours straight.

    He was such a genuine giving person and he always said a fly fisherman would

    rather see his buddy catch a fish then him.

    He was the kind of guy that you would immediately like as he wore his heart on his sleeve.

    He was a great fly tier and he carried his flies on one of those big metal boxes with 4 tiers that hung

    on his chest.

    We often encountered other anglers on the river and more often then not I would turn

    around while fishing and see him opening his box of treasures and giving his new friend some of

    his unique patterns.

    He crafted many of his own designs and his greatest creation was Barney’s “orange stone fly” which I
    still have today and it is a “go to fly” that produces results everywhere.

    He was patient and kind and taught me everything I know about fly fishing ………………. and I miss him.

  • Great read. Challenge accepted.

  • Terry Armstrong
    January 18, 2019 5:48 pm

    I read somewhere that you should always carry at least 3 of a pattern. One to fish with, one in case you lose the first, and one to give away.

  • Thanks for the nice note for xmas. Give me all your flies!!

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