My experience in fly tying began in college in the 1970’s. I began tying in order to have the necessary flies to fish during summer vacations out west, when visiting friends. Having limited access to fly shops near our fishing and even more limited funds, it seemed like a practical venture.
Eventually, I was tying more trout flies than I ever thought I could use, at least at the rate I was fishing. By that time however, I was enjoying the creative aspect of the hobby, as much or more than the anticipation of fishing. Subsequently, I began tying bass and panfish flies, as these were the prevalent species near home. This style of fly offered variety in color, size and materials.
One day while visiting one of our local fly shops, I saw Poul Jorgensen’s book on tying salmon flies. Being a rather avid “bibliophile”, I purchased the book. That was the true birth of a genuine passion. I knew from that point on that traditional salmon fly tying was what I wanted to pursue. Fishing for Atlantic salmon would have to wait, and it has!
The Atlantic Salmon Fly, The Tyers and Their Art by Judith Dunham was another resource which showed me what could be done with feathers, tinsel, and silk. It also introduced me to the concept of “artistic” flies; flies tied more for their symmetry, colors and textures as an expression of the tier as an artist. The inspiration of these books led me to read and research.
This research eventually led to my chapter contribution in Mike Radencich’s seminal work, Tying the Classic Salmon Fly. Fortunately for me, Mike was generous enough to teach me some of his methods and techniques. Subsequently, I have taken lessons with Bob Veverka and Mark Waslick, of Vermont, Ron Alcot, of Massachusetts, and Wayne Luallen, of California. I have attended salmon fly tying workshops lead by Marvin Nolte and Paul Little. I have attended fly tying symposia and watched for hours while Charlie Chute, Paul Rossman, Paul Ptalis, Roger Plourde, and worked at their tying vises. These people have truly been an inspiration and driving force in the development of my own style of tying classic Atlantic salmon flies. More importantly, it was their generosity in sharing their knowledge that has inspired me to share with others what I have been shown and the little which I have had to discover on my own.
However, before all of us were Dame Juliana Behrners, Isaac Walton, Alfred Ronalds, James Blacker, Francis Francis, George M. Kelson, John Popkin Traherne, Eric Taverner, T.E. Pryce-Tannat, Rube Cross, Edward R. Hewitt, John James Hardy, Frederic M. Halford, G.E.M. Skues, Preston Jennings, Mary Orvis Marbury, Carrie Stevens, Ray Bergman, Charles DeFeo, Syd Glasso, Helen Shaw and many, many other tiers, both famous and anonymous. It is their tradition that we all carry forward, hopefully for centuries to come.