I love building full dress classic salmon flies, and consider them to be the pinnacle of the fly dresser’s art. That said, the road for me has been a rocky one at best. Like many tiers I started young, fishing and tying flies during my adolescence in the Adirondack mountains of Upstate N.Y.
I always liked the tying better than the fishing, and I love the fishing. Tying for tying’s sake, in other words tying for the sheer challenge and joy of it, ultimately led me straight to the fancy flies. Unhappily, I’m not the kind of person who takes lessons, plots a course, studies for a couple of years, works with a mentor, and slowly and methodically masters a discipline. No, not me, I jump in with both feet. I “just do it” as the Nike folks would say. I like to work in relative seclusion and obscurity. I’m the guy who NEVER asks for directions.
Well, seventy-five Silver Doctors later I was despondent, and almost gave up full dress flies for good. There were things I just couldn’t work out on my own. I had few contacts, but fortunately, I had Ronn Lucas. Even though Ronn tied in a more free form, artistic vein than I did, he was always there with a suggestion, or a word of encouragement, help with materials, or a technique. I also eventually came to my senses, and sought out advise from whomever would talk to me. Some of the more famous tiers wouldn’t, or didn’t have time, but others would, notably Alice Conba, Hans Weilenmann, Marvin Nolte, Don Bastian, Alex Koper and of course, Ronn. I bought books, and read them all. When I returned to the full dress flies after my Silver Doctor debacle I took a more systematic approach, starting with fancy wet flies and Mary Orvis Marbury vintage flies, ones that lead to the more complicated flies naturally. I developed a couple of fundamental skills along the way, and it all helped. You can’t become a good fly tier in a vacuum, no matter how hard you try.
I currently write a little column each week for flyanglersonline.com, called “Just Old Flies”. I love the old flies and their histories, and the column provides me with a reason to tie. Not that I really need a reason, but it’s part of the discipline I’m now trying to bring to this pursuit. I’m a work in progress, and have yet to be happy with a fly for more than about ten minutes. It’s a great honor for me to be asked to be on this site, and I’d like to thank Ronn Lucas for all the help he’s given me over the years, both personally and via his tutorials.