Tying for me has always been about more than the flies; it’s also about the inspiration and the relationships that surround them. The first classic salmon fly I remember seeing in person was a Green Highlander, tied by Bill Hunter on a 3/0 double hook. Everything about it was majestic. The fly was a gift from Bill to my father, who tied flies (primarily hairwings) for Bill’s shops for over 30 years. The fly was mounted under a glass dome, and as a 12-year-old, I stared at it endlessly. Someday, I’d make something that beautiful.
Dad introduced me to fly fishing at age 6, and got my first vise at age 8. He started me with trout flies; salmon flies were intriguing, but the materials were way too exotic and expensive to dabble in at that point. At age 13, I received a copy of Poul Jorgensen’s “Salmon Flies”; I wore out the binder on that poor book in short order, staring at those black-and-white photos from cover to cover. Dad provided tutelage as my tying progressed, and occasionally I’d bring an example down to Hunter for critique. He took notice, and I tied for his shop for a short time in my later teens. I quickly realized commercial tyers are a special breed, and I wasn’t cut out to be one of them – I took a break from tying in my 20s after moving to San Diego, California, but I kept my vise, tools, and materials safely secured.
In San Diego, my fishing (and tying) is primarily focused on saltwater species; yet it’s still the classic and creative salmon patterns that inspire me to tie, and the skills I’ve learned in tying classics make my tying better, regardless of genre. Be it an established pattern or something I create on my own, sitting down at the vise with envelopes of woodduck, floss, and colorful feathers strewn about allows me to tune out the outside world like nothing else.
As I’m getting older (54 at the time of the event), it’s also more rewarding to give back to the tying community. I’ve been running the tying program for Golden State Flycasters for the past 10 years. For the past 2, I’ve been developing a tying pedestal with a suite of accessories that (I hope) make tying a more pleasurable experience for tyers of all skill and productivity levels.
I’d also like to say I’m thankful for the willingness of so many salmon fly dressers (many of whom are tying at this event) who share their knowledge, thoughts, and opinions on multiple subjects through social media forums and websites. Your contributions to this art are most helpful, and inspiring.