Like most trout fishers,
I've done my share of turning over rocks and catching bugs in
my hat, for it is these bugs that offer us a clue to what a trout
may be eating. While it is true that trout will eat things other
than what is naturally available to them (the dreaded cheese ball
and canned corn hatch, eh), part of the fun of fly fishing for
trout is trying to figure out what they eat and how they eat it.
Once determined, the challenge is then to create and present flies
that will fool the trout into thinking it is their natural food,
and thereby hooking a few.
Steve Thornton, of
Lincolnshire, England, is a professional advertising and editorial
photographer by trade. He makes his living by creating images
of products that will appeal to consumers. In a sense, that is
exactly what he does with his fly tying - the consumers in this
case being the trout and grayling in his favorite rivers and streams.
He creates images of natural food items out of hooks and threads
and bits of material, hoping he can convince a few fish that this
is the dinner they had been waiting for.
His skill as a photographer
directly applies to his fly tying. The task is not simply to replicate
the details of the subject, but to accentuate those details that
are most appealing to the consumer - the shine and gloss of a
bright red apple, for instance, or the fluttering gills of a caddis
Steve's flies are realistic
- of that there is no doubt - but they remain fishing flies first
and foremost. As he says "All of my flies are easy to tie. Anyone
can tie them, as long as they follow the step-by-step procedures.
And they are great fish catchers." So much so, in fact, that his
Ammonite Nymph has circled the globe, from Russia to Japan, New
Zealand, and across the United States, catching fish along the
way. "When I am doing flytying demonstrations, it is amazing how
many fly fishermen and women come up to me and say the Ammonite
Nymph is their favourite pattern".
"I love to fish fast
water. It's the first place I head for. The Ammonite is just great
at searching for fish. I once pumped a trout in Mayfly time on
a river called the Wye in Derbyshire. It had been working on the
top and bottom and its stomach was full having eaten six or seven
different species of food such as adult caddis and mayflies (Danica),
hydropsyche larva, danica nymphs, shrimps, alders, and rhyacophila.
I put this selection in a specimen bottle along with an Ammonite
Nymph and wow - the Ammonite just disappeared. The overall colours,
translucency, shape, silhouette, and segmentation made the Ammonite
Nymph blend so well with these naturals that it finally convinced
me why it was such a good searching pattern".
"My second favourite
is the CAM Emerger. This, like the Ammonite, has all the triggers
or trout food signals, but works on the surface. The CAM Emerger
can raise a fish when nothing is breaking the surface. This pattern,
like the Ammonite, I tie in large #8's for fast water down to
#18's for slow glades and back eddies. It's a relaxing pattern
to fish with, gazing at its high Mohican wing dancing with the
stream can be quite dreamy until the eventful take awakens me".
When Steve started
tying realistic fishing flies, he grew frustrated from the lack
of suitable materials for such flies. So much so that he started
designing and creating his own materials, eventually leading to
the formation of his company, Virtual Nymph (http://www.virtual-nymph.com/).
The intent of Virtual Nymph is not to sell all things fly tying
to all fly tyers, but rather to target that niche of tyers who
prefer to create patterns that closely mimic naturals. Obviously,
his materials are tuned to his tying techniques, but clearly are
limited only by the inventiveness of their users.
The first material
he invented, and most likely his most popular product based on
its worldwide sales, is Nymph Skin. "The problem with Nymph Skin
was the minimum amount I had to order, one ton. Then I had to
send it to Germany to be cut into the required width and thickness.
Naturally, I needed shops to sell it for me, but like any new
product the shops seemed to decline on stocking it when it was
ready to launch. So, hence, Virtual Nymph." Since the introduction
of Nymph Skin and the formation of Virtual Nymph, he has developed
several unique fly tying products and continues to introduce new
products as fly tying techniques are refined and developed.
As a popular demonstration
tyer at shows in Europe and the USA, and an instructor of fly
tying course, Steve has become adept at teaching his tying techniques
and showing fellow fly tyers how to tie his favorite patterns.
It wasn't long before he combined his skills as a photographer
and his desire to teach by offering step-by-step instructions
for his flies on his web site. The natural progression of such
work was his CD-ROM "Masterclass Flytying" which was
followed up by his recently completed book "Listen to the
I recently learned
that Steve will be coming over to the US to fish some of my home
waters in the Catskills. From what I've seen of his tying and
heard about his fishing, I'm pretty sure he's got some fun days
(click on the links)
Nymph fly tying supplies
to the River