A fine and twisting thread
I took my son Mark to play in a baseball game in Burlington last week. Turns out the game was canceled because of rain, but we never got word until we were already at the Burlington High School field. So I found myself with a little extra time to spend in the big city. And, not wanting two hours of driving to be completely wasted, I stopped by a fly shop to buy some fly-tying supplies.
Mark came in with me. While I was sorting through the racks of marabou, chenille, grizzly hackle, and No. 6 streamer hooks in 4X length, looking for ingredients to tie wooly buggers, he was looking at the display of fly-tying gadgets. “Dad,” he said, working to hold a serious expression as he pointed at an impressive-looking pair of magnifying fly-tying glasses. “Please don’t ever wear anything like this.”
OK, so I admit the glasses were exceedingly dorky. They looked like a combination of my chainsaw helmet, the old headset I used to wear at night when I was a middle-schooler wearing braces, and my grandfather’s reading glasses.
Grandfathers, as you know, are old people. I almost wrote “my father’s reading glasses,” but “father” doesn’t sound as impressive as “grandfather,” even though my father is actually now not only a grandfather but a great-grandfather. That happened because my older brother became a grandfather, which happened because my niece became a mother, which happened for reasons I won’t go into since this is a fishing column.
Now I’m not as old as my brother, but I did celebrate a birthday two weeks ago. (I use the term “celebrate” loosely.) It was my 48th birthday. By the time my mother-in-law was 48 she was already a grandmother. By the time my grandmother was 48, she was a grandmother many times over. Which, I suppose, also makes me old enough to be a grandfather. Which, as noted above, is old.
Which brings me back to the fly-tying glasses at the shop in Burlington. Despite my son’s observation that they had a high nerd-value, they were actually well designed to hold the magnifying glasses at the proper distance between the eyes and the fly-tying vice, but with a hinge so they could be lifted out of the way when not needed.
And, although the No. 6 wooly buggers I was going to be tying with my new supplies are quite large, as freshwater flies go, I’d spent the previous evening attaching miniature little beads and feathers almost too small to hold onto tiny size No. 18 hooks to make some Copper John nymphs.
(For reference, flies and hooks, as well as the part of the fly line called the tippet, for some mysterious reason get smaller as their size number gets bigger. And so a No. 18 hook is only a fraction of the size of a No. 6 hook.)
It’s hard enough just picking some of these supplies up between my fingers, and I’m supposed to be able to take fine fly-tying thread, and see to wrap it around that tiny hook to attach those tiny feathers and beads and wire, and twist it at the end in just the right way around the head of the fly to make a little teeny knot so that all my hard but nearly invisible work will not come unraveled.
So what I was really thinking — as I smiled and nodded at my son and laughed with him at how silly and ridiculous-looking the headgear was, and how somebody would be really embarrassed to ever be caught wearing it — was that I wished I had a pair just like them.
Of course, I couldn’t buy them with him watching. And if I do go back and buy a pair, I’ll have to keep them hidden or else risk losing any respect I might have in the house. Until then, I think I’ll be tying a lot of size No. 6 wooly buggers.