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Tying Philosophy


I believe that a properly directed creativity must have a sense of whence it comes.  In my case, I attribute my creativity to God, my Creator, and I attempt to give glory to Him by imitating His creativity.  And though my abilities be infinitely smaller than His, I create with the greatest skill and vision with which I’ve been endowed.  When I tie, I neither spare any reasonable expense nor indulge any needless excess.  I invest whatever time it takes, whatever energy is required. 
 
Besides striving to honor God in my tying, I also try to both honor and further the rich tradition of the art itself.  I do so by blending traditional materials with original styles and techniques.  One obvious example is my hooks: Making hooks out of gold is nothing new – native peoples from pre-Columbian Central and South America were catching fish with gold fishhooks many hundreds of years before the first Victorian salmon flies were ever conceived.  Those fishermen, however, made practical hooks from gold because of its utility; I make artistic hooks from gold because of its beauty.  So I create new expressions in an art form that is hundreds, possibly thousands, of years old.
 
S-Profile (resized)With regard to fly patterns, I am of the mind that fresh styles and techniques, far from showing a disregard for tradition, actually honor the mind of the great tiers of old.  Let us not forget that those old masters, after all, were radicals in their time, pushing the bounds of possibility and carving their own signatures forever into the art.  What I most try to emulate, then, is not their particular styles or techniques but their creative posture.
 
My view of the history of full-dress salmon flies also helps to explain why my style often strays from strict, traditional interpretation.  I love classic patterns like the Jock Scott and Green Highlander, and I fully appreciate the skill and creativity infused into them.  But, like the Victorian Era in general, flies from that time often exhibit a certain level of pompous arrogance and needless excess which I hope to eschew from my own patterns.  My style is therefore both uncompromising technically and understated artistically: I may hand-fashion a hook from 18-karat gold, only to dress it with silks and feathers in just a few complementary colors.  I do so because beauty need not be complicated, because impact can be more powerful when suggestive rather than overt.
 
What I do, then, is really a distillation of flytying: I seek to boil down the blood and sweat of painstaking technique into a vision elegantly simple and pure.  This is not unlike what every flyfisherman aspires to do when he takes to the water: He seeks to place all his years of learning and preparation into one cast to one good fish, a fish worthy of those years and that cast, in the hope that he will have done enough.
 
It is my hope that I will have done enough.

-Shawn Davis

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