When I first started tying flies as a teenager, I’d fish with whatever I created, no matter how ugly it turned out. What I learned was that most of the time a trout had no problem hitting a wooly bugger with a hackle wrapped too loosely, or a muddler with a hair head spun poorly and trimmed even worse. These days, however, I have a habit of tossing any fly that doesn’t look like one I’d pay $3 to $5 for in a fly shop into the “spare parts” drawer.


I’m sure part of it is, as you become a better tyer, little mistakes irk you more because you should know better than to make them in the first place. But while I hate to admit it, I think my habit of discarding mis-ties has more to do with not wanting other anglers to see the occasional wonky fly and think it represents my overall tying ability. And yes, that goes right back to the idea of lures and flies catching fishermen, not fish. A striper doesn’t care if a Deceiver’s head is wrapped unevenly any more than a brookie cares if one wing of a dry fly is shorter than the other. But I do.

Do imperfect flies get under your skin or do they end up in your box even if they’re not worthy of a photo shoot for the Orvis catalog?