Please let me first say that this thread is in no way meant to be antagonistic or adversarial, we all have our own opinions on this subject and these are just mine. It's also not meant to be a challenge for everybody to try and find examples of flies that I thought were originals that someone else tied before me. I am quite sure it's possible that someone, somewhere may have done similar things. If you find some please share them with me, it will be interesting to see how others approached the same patterns that I did.
Next let me say that I'm writing this in the middle of the night because 1) the subject has me so excited I can't sleep (no really, all I can think about is answers to this question) and 2nd) this is a huge subject and it's likely to take me awhile to get all my thoughts down. My wife and I run our own business, (a custom knife shop and art gallery) If I spent all the time tomorrow during working hours that I'm going to spend writing this tonight I would be subject of many scowls and frowns because we have way too much work to get done before Christmas and I shouldn't be spending so much time on this. I am the master of my own domain, that's why I'm doing it while she's asleep.
Some of you may know that six years ago I challenged myself to catch each of Alaska's game fish with an original fly pattern of my own. It's a tall order but first we need to know what an original is. I knew that if I saw examples of what other tiers tied to imitate a particular food of a targeted fish, I couldn't help but emulate that tier. I purposely didn't seek tying recipes, look at flies or read fly tying books. I approached it from another angle.
When I decided to become a custom knife maker I did the same thing. I purposely didn't take classes in knife making, apprentice under established makers, watch you tube videos, or read books about it. I knew that if I did, I couldn't help but emulate what I saw. Instead, I just started making knives. I established my own style first, then got the necessary training to make quality knives. As you would expect, I broke a lot of rules at first.
Back to fly tying. My approach was simple, find out what a targeted fish species liked to eat, research that food item and tie something that looked like it.
What is an original Since there's no way for me to know weather or not someone has tied a pattern like mine before or not, I will say that my originals are original to me. That's to say that I tied them with no help from anybody else. I didn't look at recipes, or examples of fly patterns. I looked at the organism and tied what I saw.
I had very limited "formal" training in fly tying. I had just gotten one of those rudimentary fly tying kits for Christmas (you know, the ones you can get for about $30.00) and spent all Christmas day tying flies, I was 51 years old, but I had been an artist and craftsman my whole life. This was just another medium to be creative in. Being un-schooled in the art, I broke a lot of rules though. It helps that the fish I fish for most of the time have never seen another fly, lure or human being.
One more thing I never went into this project wanting to develop new patterns to license or sell. I'm doing it just for me, for the challenge. You may call whatever you see here an original, a variant or a published pattern (we all have our own ideas about what those are. I'm not sure what a published pattern is except that mine are published here and in my blog) The only thing I ask is that if you saw it here (or in my blog) first, and you want to use it, please credit it to me.
The first fly on a float trip I noticed that the grayling were feeding heavily on a little white moth. I gathered up a few and googled it. Here are some excerpts from my blog about tying a spruce bud worm moth.
"In my research, I learned that the moth is likely a spruce bud worm moth. In many parts of their range they are bigger and darker, but up here in northern Alaska they are quite small and very pale. I thought I had an original idea, to tie a fly that emulates the moth, but as it turns out, it has been done before, lots of times, but I could find where anybody did it the way I did it.
I still liked the idea and copied some pictures of it (the real bug, not the imitation) off of the internet."
And here's my imitation.
Many experienced fly tiers will say that this moth breaks all the rules, it doesn't have a hackle, it won't float. In fact it didn't float very well. It laid in the surface film just like the real moths do, and the grayling ate them up. They worked until they got waterlogged. I put floatant on them and they'd work some more for a while. Finally, I'd change the fly. I caught a hundred fish a day on these flies.
The next fly
Here's my example....
I tied as realistic a bumble be as I could tie, but it took 45 minutes. There he is in the middle just under and a little to the right of the real one.
Who's going to spend 45 minutes per fly? Answer, not me, not more than once, so I simplified it and tied all the others in just a few minutes each. Now, can you call all those bumble bees with the chenille and hackles originals? Nope.
Here's another look at the real bee and my fake bee.
And all my moths and bees.
Here's a grayling on one of my original spruce bud worm moths.
And, one on one of my bumble bee variants. I'm quite sure I can't call this an original, although I didn't follow a recipe or look at other bumble bee flies.
Next I tied what I call an "egg butt scud" an "egg head scud" an "egg butt nymph" and an "egg head nymph"
Can we call them originals? Probably not. I took two commonly tied flies and put them together. I never saw anyone else do it but am I the first one to do it? Probably not. Lets call them variants, or hybrids.
Do they catch fish? you bet.
While launching my boat in the lake that day, all the fishing reports were coming up with nothing. Mine was the only fish we heard about caught on the lake that day. It was pretty rewarding. This lake is one of the only places I fish that does get a lot of pressure, mostly from spin fisherman and trollers. I actually do OK on this lake with flies.
I often open the stomachs of fish I catch to see what they're eating (not a new concept, I know). These snails came out of a rainbow. I had never heard of a snail fly before so I'm working on one. (I have since heard of a snail fly but won't look at one till I've developed my own)
Now, some salt water flies. We catch a lot of these spot shrimp, and so do the salt water fish we target.
So I tied these.
Are they Originals? I don't know. Certainly, lots of shrimp have been tied. I tie these up to 7 inches long, I use flash chenille, hackle, pearlescent mylar and monofilament. All common materials, I bend my own hooks (6/0 and 8/0), I weight them with lead wire and fish them down to 120 feet with fly lines I make myself. I developed the pattern myself without any recipes or examples of other flies. You can decide for yourself if they're variants or originals. I would say probably not but have to say I've never seen any like them.
Here's a close up.
Here's what I call a "Non-Pelagic Squid"
I've never seen anything like it, I developed it myself, and we catch a ton of fish on it, so much that I named my boat after it ( a private boat, I don't do charters, have nothing to sell). This one is articulated, probably over 6 inches long. There may be something like it but I haven't seen it. I would call this one an original. (now someone can show me something like it and shatter my fragile ego)
Here's a few more, A hot pink Non-Pelagic Squid,(on the top) a tiger rock fish imitation (middle right) It's articulated, over ten inches long and over five inches from top to bottom. It's weight-ballanced for the fly lines I make. At the time I couldn't get hair long enough to make them so I bought cosplay wigs on eBay for the hair. I still use a lot of costume wigs for fly material. They come in every color, even glow in the dark. On the bottom is a sea lance imitation. There may be some similar flies out there, I just haven't seen any them yet. Call it a variant. I also tie them with a beads the length of the body, that may be more original.
I've never seen a Tiger Rockfish pattern before, I've never even seen a fly that big before. I make a China Rockfish pattern like it and we catch a lot of fish on them, mostly ling cod and halibut. I use fake fur, flashabou, Lady Amhurst cheeks, 3D eyes and 10/0 hooks. We cast them, though it ain't pretty, fish them between 60 and 120 feet down and tickle the top of the structure with them.
I suppose arguments can be made, on all the flies in this post, either way depending on where your line between an original and a variant is. I'm just doing it for the fun of it, not for all the riches and glory that can be had in developing original fly patterns .
I understand that part of the art of tying flies is tying the essence of the bug, not necessarily the exact bug. I see the art in that too, it's just not always practical to tie lifelike replicas for fishing.
I hope you are all having as much fun as I am tying and fishing flies.
All my best.
Interested to know where you all think each of these lies in the scale between "Original" and "Variant" It might not be a "Black and White" thing.
I gotta go to bed now.