Is There Any Art Left in Dry Fly Tying?

So the Hendrickson mayflies are hatching on area rivers, and the trout are besporting themselves merrily. The fishing here in the Northeast is pretty good, albeit with high water. Now in the spring cycle of hatches and rising fish, I am lead to wonder: Are classic dry-fly patterns dead?

It seems fewer and fewer anglers fish dries tied in the classic Catskill style. It's all about emergers. In counterpoint, the Hendrickson dry in the photo was tied by the late Elsie Darbee of Livingston Manor, New York, in the in 1970s. Flies made by her and husband Harry, along with those by Walt and Winnie Dette down the road (now all deceased), were at that time the pinnacle of the fly-tier's art. This particular fly is about as well made as you're ever going to see.

Such patterns still work, of course, but they're a lot more work--and require more skill--than lumping a stub of wing material on a dubbed body and calling it an emerger. Don't get me wrong. I fish emergers a lot, and they can work wonders. But where's the art?

And I still fish the classic styles, too. Partly out of nostalgia, I guess. And partly from respect for the craft. It took me years to learn to tie them well. So I'll tie on a Red Quill or a regular Adams or a Light Cahill or maybe even a Borcher's Special (for you Michiganders) or something similar and really enjoy casting to a rising trout.

There are still a few such flies in the mail-order catalogs. But not very many, and most of those aren't very well made. I think they don't fit in this age of fly factories.

On the other hand, I was talking the other day to a Catskill friend who reported the capture of an 18-inch brown on a dry. When I asked what pattern, I could almost hear him smiling over the phone. "A Brown Bivisible," he said.

Ha!