The patient art
Imagine for a second a bait fisherman sitting down with a block
of wood and carving knife trying to fashion a spinner or a spoon
lure. Or a bow-hunter crafting an arrow from rocks and branches.
Unlikely images to be certain, but Truckee’s John Lim is of a
different breed: he is a flyfisherman.
Flyfishers often make comparisons between their sport and science.
Or art, depending on who you ask.
In either case, the skills can be taught and Lim is willing to
share some of the secrets of fly tying in a four-session adult
education class in May.
To Lim, a 15-year Truckee resident and part-time employee in the
Longs sporting goods department, fly fishing is not something
arbitrary, done on a whim.
It is a constant study of fish, their feeding habits and the insects
indigenous to a specific region.
Not to suggest that fly tying and fishing are not lacking in fun;
in fact, Lim knows the opposite is true.
“This is a lifelong hobby,” said Lim, as he tied a damsel fly
with thread, chicken feathers and a size 14 hook. “The reason
I like it is because every situation is different. You’re always
learning something as you go out.”
The trout in the Truckee region essentially feed on four types
of flies: stoneflies, caddis flies, mayflies and midges.
As a fly tier, Lim’s job is to imitate the physical characteristics
of each of these flies when creating a fly.
There are life three stages of flies: nymph, emerging and adult.
It is key that the flyfisherman knows what stage the fish are
currently feeding on for a trip to be successful.
Once this is determined, Lim sets out to create a fly which will
not only look like, but will be capable of moving similar to the
insect being imitated. The wrong fly at the wrong time of the
season can prove disappointing for the inexperienced fisherman.
For instance, a tube on the rear of a dragonfly’s body squirts
water to propel it along. When Lim creates a dragonfly, he crafts
it so it will be able to move like the real insect when pulled
by a line.
Lim calls his flies “impressionistic” as opposed to realistic.
“It leaves the fish the impression of the insect, but is not exact,”
In order to best imitate the insect, Lim collects them during
He also keeps a constant supply of fowl feathers, threaded bobbins,
hooks and cement to be able to create a new fly he has seen.
While supplies can be expensive, Lim said store-bough flies cost
$1.50-$2, but home-made hooks average 22 cents apiece.
Through the years, Lim has taught fly tying to students who have
carried their knowledge over into successful tying and fishing
He even taught tying as an elective at the middle school level
when he was a teacher.
Though patience and study is required, it actually only takes
about four or five minutes to tie a complete fly.
Since the 1980s, Lim has taught fly tying in the Truckee area,
which is known for its clear lakes and streams filled with trout.
While it is Idaho and Montana which draw flyfishermen the world
over, Lim said Truckee is an excellent place to do some serious
“You can fish all year ’round here,” Lim said. “In the fall you
can still fish lakes and streams. In the winter, you can flyfish
Pyramid Lake for cutthroats.”
Lim said he uses his own flies for fishing almost exclusively,
but will, on occasion, buy others if the circumstances warrant
“When I’m in another town or state, I’ll go to a fly shop and,
in order to extract information from them about where’s the best
place to fish and what are the conditions, I’ll buy some flies
from them so that way, they’ve given me information and I don’t
feel like I’ve taken advantage of them.”
The names of the flies Lim creates and teaches are esoteric, to
say the least. Wooly buggers, gold-ribbed hare’s ear, parachute
Adams and Martis midge to name a few.
Students in Lim’s class will be taken from the simple wooly worm
pattern to the emerger pattern bird’s nest and will be walked
through the steps of taking a hook and turning it into a fish
“My goal is, I want students to learn that when they start tying
they will have fun and they will learn techniques that will carry
on. They will pursue this as a lifelong hobby and something you
can do and have fun doing it.”
“Most people who learn to tie from me come back and say, ‘let
me show you my flies.'”
The most rewarding experience, Lim said, is when he sees students
successfully fishing with flies he taught them how to create.
“That’s why I do this,” Lim said.
The patterns and secrets to fly tying can be learned when Lim
teaches his class beginning May 12 at Sierra High School. Class
dates also include May 19, 26 and June 2 from 7-9 p.m.
Registration is $40 and the class is limited to just six students.
For information, call 587-7685.
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