Most of us here have hundreds or thousands of flies in our stash, some tied, some bought, some gifted, some found. For me and many of you, having been in the business for a long time (yes, you can touch me) the number of flies that have passed through my fingers is staggering. Flies are throwaway items, disposable. When we go fishing, having the right flies or enough flies is not a concern. We have them. Our fishing partners have them. If I need a fly I'll just grab one that you have handy instead of digging through my cole slaw container where I have my daily arsenal. I won't even ask you for it, I'll demand it. I'm sure you would do the same. Just gimme a fucking fly real quick. For a typical outing, fly stock for the group or individual is way less important than beer or weed or sandwich inventory. If we run out of stimulants or depressants or sustenance, the day is over. If we don't have the right fly we will just fish whatever the fuck we have, which is often the MO anyway. And if we don't have any flies at all, or no rods even, then we will sit on the bank and indulge in whatever we have in our packs or in the boat. We're still fishing.
But, those 8 flies in your box. Do you remember those days? It was so different back then. The flies were neatly arranged in one corner of your ripple foam (no offense to you anal retentives that still do that) and each and every one was a precious ticket to your salvation on the stream, in your neoprene waders in July. I hardly ever buy flies any more. It's usually just out of courtesy if I buy an out of state license and hit up the local shop rat for some info that I already knew anyway. I don't buy anything from the local shops, ever. I don't go in there for anything. I know all those guys and they know I'm not their target market. Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure where my flies come from. I don't buy them, and I don't tie all that much. I get some from you losers, but those are mostly novelties. I threw Phil some cash for a grip of streamers this year, but that was not the norm and they should last me a couple years.
I think about my fly stash a lot. It's huge. I give or throw away a few hundred every year. But it's hard to give them up sometimes, even though I know I will never use them. I'm still in touch with the kid that I once was, organizing my box of 8 flies in anticipation for the next day's fishing. Every bug is still important to me. The coolest part is that I can remember individual flies out of the thousands that I have handled. Flies that I tied, or were given to me by a special person, or that caught a special fish or no fish. In the giant mess of my fly supply, each one is special.
There is one fly that I have that brings this home for me every time I see it. It's an albino stone nymph with a latex abdomen and biot tails and legs. I've had this fly for 23 years and never fished it. My dad bought it for me in Lake Placid when I was 13. We were on a ski trip and wandered into a fly shop after dinner one night. That was also the night that I got my first fly fishing vest. I begged and pleaded for it. My dad tried his best to teach me a life lesson that night, thinking that this fly fishing thing was a brief indulgence in my young life, and tried to convince me that the vest was a frivolous purchase. In the end, I won. We talk about that night often, and how things have turned out differently than he thought they would. I walked out of there with a vest and a couple flies, the albino stone among them. It was an early stepping stone of a long, long road. It freaks me out that this one fly has so much meaning for me, and I've never even fished it. It's just one random memory in the tomes of my mind.
I forgot about that fly for a long time, then stumbled upon it several years ago. Since then I've kept it regular rotation in my pack, not to be fished but as a reminder of where I came from and the possibilities that are sometimes unforeseen. I'd love to catch a fish on it someday, but I can't bring myself to tie it on. The memory is more important than any fish it would catch.