Winter weather in the Northeast made for plenty of opportunity to learn the craft. Clearwater Fly Shop was outfitted with tables, chairs and enough supplies to make pretty much anything that an angler could dream up.
Of course, I started with the basics. There were Woolly Buggers and simple wet flies. Streamers were my favorite from the beginning.
At first, my crappy technique was tolerated, but soon, the real education began. Dave had put up with sloppy measurements, poor thread wraps and the like, but there came the day that he ripped my "fly" from the vise and started tearing the materials off the hook. He told me that the hook was worth more than that, and what I was doing was a real waste.
That's when I began to pay attention to what went into the craft of building a proper fly. Soon, my flies improved. They didn't fall apart upon touching water. They resembled actual invertibrates and various trout food sources. Dave stopped tearing my shit apart. Tying became a part of fishing life.
One day of every weekend was spent at Clearwater Fly Shop. There would be nine or ten of us. Jim would bring a maple pie, Dave would have six dozen Reese's. Nome would call the local Thai food place and order our food with a Thai accent. But most of all, we would tie flies.
One of the best things we ever did in our tying sessions was the "trash can challenge". As stupid as it might have been, it taught me valuable lessons in tying. We would take scraps of material, candy wrappers - actual trash from the bucket - and challenge each other to make something with it.
Tying has become less and less part of my days. Work gets in the way, and life has other demands. This cool fall weather still encourages me to grab the vise and spend some hours crafting up some flies. Fall fishing might be transitioning into winter fishing, but there's always hope that spring will be here soon. Might as well start whipping up something for the longer, warmer days.