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The Final Analysis

Necklace and PendantThis was the hardest fly I’ve ever tied.  Every step of the process was much more difficult than I thought it would be.  Each moment of satisfaction was preceded by hours, days, or weeks of innovation and struggle.  Until literally the absolute final step, each step involved navigating a tangle of dozens of wires, flax strands, and feathers.  At the rear of the fly, more than 100 strands of various materials meet in a cross-sectional area the size of a dime, each one with a specific role in the weave.  And in the end every part had to come together as if without effort.  It was like trying to tromp through a swamp wearing my best clothes and emerging spotless on the other side.

Some of my greatest epiphanies come to me when I am lying in bed trying to sleep.  I’ve learned when this happens that sleeping is an impossibility, so I routinely get up and work late into the night at the tying bench rather than tossing and turning in bed.  I finally completed this fly at 2:00 AM more than two weeks after the original deadline I’d made for myself.  The exhilaration and relief I felt at that moment, enjoyed alone in the total silence of a sleeping house, matched the difficulty of the task.  I was too excited to sleep the rest of that night.

The process of developing a new fly always teaches me a lot and helps me develop as a goldsmith and flytier.  So many new techniques, styles, and materials were used in this fly that I learned as much from it as I have from any other I’ve created.  That learning process is both exhilarating and humbling – it gives me great pride to have successfully incorporated so many new ideas, but it also makes me realize just how much I still have to learn.  Most exciting is that it has given me a glimpse of the endless possibilities in this art form and has inspired me to push further.

Front ProfileNo fly ever turns out quite the way I first envision it.  In some ways it may fall short of my vision, in some ways it may exceed it.  My initial vision of this fly was cleaner than the final product.  The vision never has rough spots.  I was envisioning a seamless transition from straw to gold, but the differences in the properties of the flax and gold made accomplishing the transition difficult.  Tapering out the flax left a lot of fuzzy loose ends protruding from the necklace chain, something I wasn’t anticipating.  Weaving the exoskeleton of gold around the fly was far more difficult than I thought it would be, and the twists weren’t as clean as I had envisioned.  That would be my only regret about this fly – I envisioned it cleaner.  That said, having only one regret about the execution of a new pattern is fantastic.  Besides, on further consideration I’ve come to embrace the rough areas of this fly.  To spin straw into gold is to turn something common and rough into something exquisite and pristine.  This fly represents not only the beautiful product of that process but the process itself.  So if the fly’s rough areas serve to tell the story more fully, perhaps its deviation from my initial vision of cleanness represents a flaw in the vision rather than a flaw in the finished fly.

The fly exceeded my expectations in many ways.  The hook is more stunning than I could have possibly imagined.  The interaction of the woven strands of gold and ostrich herl was far more complex than I could have envisioned.  Each line’s simplicity becomes infinitely more interesting when several others alternately match and oppose its symmetry, leading the eye deeper and deeper into the piece, at a point threatening visual over-stimulation.  When viewed from different angles, new interactions and patterns emerge, revealing even more dimensions.  In all my flies, I attempt to use deceptively simple materials and schemes to create visual experiences that are much more than the sum of their parts.  This fly accomplishes that goal and then some.  In the end, all I can ensure when I present one of my flies to others is that it pleases me.  And this fly pleases me.

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