Vise Advice: Get ‘Em Guidey

Winter is on. How do I know this? Because I’m not super psyched about taking down those holiday lights on an icy ladder. Because there is kid’s ski stuff draped everywhere. Because the vise and I are getting to be pretty good buddies these days. Not best friends like my butt and the couch when the big football game is on, but pretty close. We have our own special handshake, so that’s cool. And while I’m thinking about the time I spend at the vise in winter, there are some core principles that I like to stick to when working on my flies for the upcoming season. Most importantly, I want to make my flies “guidey”.

Four materials and you’ve got bugs that out fish the stuff in the bins.
 Not so many flashy parts, but plenty of fish appeal are the real signs of a guide fly. 

What is a Guidey Fly?

Think buggy and ugly. Like a well-seasoned guide boat in August. It ain’t always pretty.
Guides have a job to do, and their flies have to work. Sure, lots of guides out there are happy to grab whats hot from the bin and hit the river, and more than once I’ve had clients bust through a dozen in quick time and have had to do the same. I spend just as much time as the next guy loading the box for the trip at the fly shop. But the big difference in the flies I tie lots of and the flies I tie few of all come down to productivity: If it works, I’m tying it. If I can simplify it, I’m doing it. Lots of flies in the bins have a lot of appeal when you’re staring at rows of flash and color, but when you’re looking at a run and holding that same fly in your hand, it just won’t cut it. A guidey fly is a simple fly, a fly that covers more than one hatch, and isn’t concerned with exact matching of a specific bug. This isn’t an attractor, say, as much as a simplification or improvement on existing patterns that keeps them effective but makes them fast to tie and easy to lose. I really have no problem with clients tearing off a bug that took me all of two minutes to whip out. So oftentimes, the patterns I tie for guiding have been improved or simplified and away we go. Take, for example, the prince nymph. A known go-to everywhere that fish live. I tie lots of them, in lots of variations. But the ones that I like to use most often when on the water are a lot simpler than the biot-winged beasts in the bins. Thinner, sparsely tied hackle and antron tails in place of biots, and they fish great. Next time you’re at the vise and have visions of giant streamers with all the bells and whistles, make sure to whip out a few simple hare’s ears, or try tying that next fly without the flash. Get guidey at the vise and your fishing will thank you.


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