Images of Our Flies
You know what? Everybody says,”You know what?” these days. I’ll try not to do it again, but you know what, those of us who have loved, studied, collected, and have used artificial fishing flies are today spoiled to death with images of them.
There is a file here, close at my hand, labeled “Fly Plates”. It is my collection, over seventy years, of colored images of trout and salmon flies. The color photography of flies used to be, by present standards, rather coarse and disappointing. But these early images, rare as they were, were all that we had and we treasured them.
The work of the hands of illustrators and artists, of course, were always fine and full of individuality and insight. They never aged. They were our very own lovely flies, having passed through the artist’s imagination and hand. (I wish I could show you some in my collection.)
But, as the years rolled on, the photography of flies got better and better, more accurate and finer in detail. It has got so good that now we might fairly be said to be in the golden age of angling photography. And there is so much of it, that I have stopped collecting. I am surfeited.
Worse yet, with my own little digital camera, I can contribute to this plethora of images. There is no fly, however unworthy, that we can’t easily document and force on other anglers.
Perhaps the greatest of all the tiers, photographers, collectors, was Paul Schmookler of Massachutets.
One wonders, what, after Schmookler, there is left to do in the graphics of fishing flies…. You can only gasp at the wonder of his giant books-- if you are lucky enough to own any of them or can otherwise get your hands on them. Paul’s fault (I can call him “Paul” because I used to write for him when he was publishing) is to have made me now a bit blasé. I still love to look at flies, especially the older rank of traditional patterns, but the endless images of “nothing” tiny midges, nondescript nymphs, and creations of ugly foam have sullied my taste.
There is that about the advanced technologies that dulls us somehow…. The lens gets between us and the star.