I started tying flies in 1981 while we were expecting our first daughter. I don’t know what prompted me to start this silliness, but it has been an obsession since day one. I knew from the time I wound my first hackle that this was something I was meant to do.
I was fortunate enough when I started to have a pretty good support group of fly tiers who were willing to share critiques, thoughts, ideas and help me along. I was also fortunate enough to run into some shop owners who thought my flies were good enough to put into their bins so I could partially pay for my “habit”. I got hooked up with
Shane Stalcup who had just started tying and A. K. Best who was looking for tiers to help him fill orders for Orvis. That experience in itself was pivotal to my development as a fly tier. Think of once weekly private lessons with one of the masters of this art and you will know what I was fortunate enough to experience. There were others as well, Larry Walker, Ray and Rhonda Sapp, Joe Lovett, Doyle Walt and John Phillips to name a few.
Today, I get to see A.K. and Shane at shows but our paths have definitely gone in different directions. Since my tying focus has changed to Salmon flies and some of the other Classic style streamers, Mary Orvis Marbury, and the older Bergman style wet flies, I tend to spend more time comparing notes and learning from John, Paul, Ronn, Muzzy, Bud and Roger.
To the newer fly tiers, all I can say is spend time at the vise. Attempt to tie something every day. I cannot tell you how much all those tens of thousands of dozens of flies have helped me get to where I am today. The techniques may be a little different but the bottom line is still the same. We are simply lashing different materials to a hook shank to achieve the look we desire. There are going to be days when you think you have ten thumbs and cannot get your tying rhythm. On those days go fishing. I think the hardest thing for me to understand after all those years of tying commercially is that the only person I have to please with my tying is me. It is still nice to be recognized for what we have done, but it is still important to ensure you are happy with the effort.
I do travel around the country doing numerous shows and tying events so if you happen to stumble across me tying somewhere, do not hesitate to stop by and say hello.