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Zoo Cougars and other acceptable flies

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at my fly tying bench tying up streamers, which are a type of fly that can imitate a baitfish, sculpin, leech, crayfish or large aquatic bug such as a dragon fly nymph – but, who am I kidding, you already knew that. As you also probably know, there are a large variety of streamer patterns for a bored fly tyer to fill a fly box or two with – and each of them serves a purpose. That purpose is, supposedly, to catch big fish.

The problem, as I see it, is every one of these patterns seems to have the kind of name that will get a person (more importantly this person) into trouble, if they utter them just as the wrong person walks into the conversation. Here’s a case in point: the most famous streamer name is perhaps the Wooly Bugger.

I think you see where I am going with this.

To an angler, they are simply known as buggers – and they are an exceedingly effective streamer fly for bass and trout. Having said that, they are not the kind of fly you would want to talk about in any tone above a whisper at a church picnic or within earshot of your mother. The same goes for other famous streamers such as the Booby fly, Butt Monkey and the Sex Dungeon – all of which, I want to stress, I had no part in naming.  None whatsoever. Nada.

I think that’s one of the reasons why, yesterday, I chose to tie Zoo Cougars. They were a safe choice as far as names are concerned. It’s far less complicated to say I am holding a Zoo Cougar in my vise than, say, a Butt Monkey or a Booby.

Even if someone doesn’t understand I am talking about fishing flies, at least tying up a few Zoo Cougars makes me sound a little braver and possibly even dangerous. Conversely, the mere mention of a Butt Monkey makes me sound like I am an immature third grader, especially since I giggle each time I say it. Don’t judge me.

The good news is that Zoo Cougars are an excellent fish-catching pattern, too, and meant for deep water as well, which is good because my fly box has too few deep water patterns. Also, they are not too hard to tie so I will soon be able to go out in public and say I have tied at least a dozen Zoo Cougars this week alone.  And, if someone calls me on this, I will be able to pass a lie detector test.

I will admit, prior to this, I had never given much thought to the importance of naming a fly. It just seemed to be part of a common frame of reference that fly anglers have, so that when someone asks what you are catching them on, they’ll at least be able to tie on the pattern you lied to them about.

All this is to say that, although a rose by any other name is still a rose, their sales on Valentine’s Day would probably plummet if they were renamed a scoot flower or a fart violet. Maybe that’s why you don’t run into many Sex Dungeons on the river.

My advice is, if you do, you should probably keep it to yourself.

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