I want to introduce you to a new fly called the Bread-n-Butter Nymph. It was originated by Domenick Swentosky, creator and author behind the website “Troutbitten.” It has beautifully written articles, excellent photography, and truly embodies the soul of the fly fisherman.
Domenick describes Troutbitten by saying, “Troutbitten started as a creative framework for documenting the things that I’d like to show my sons someday: a diary of things that happened and of things learned on the water. I soon realized how deep this all would go.”
He was not kidding- this website is filled with thoughtful posts. A few of my favorites include “Two Sides to Every Fisherman“, “I want to, but I don’t want to”, “The Dirty Fisherman” and many many more.
The Bread-n-Butter Nymph caught my eye immediately. It is simple, almost too simple- and that means it is PERFECT. I’ve never been that hatch matcher in the classical sense. I don’t have boxes filled with flies realistically imitating fancy Latin insect names. I can appreciate the aesthetic of them and the people who fish them, but when I think back to my youth fishing raw pizza dough on a hook and catching so many trout my arms would tire, I can’t say it is exactly necessary. And if I can spend less money and less time on the vise and gain more time on the water, say no more.
When you see this fly, you will probably think you’ve seen it before. You haven’t, but it SEEMS that way- and that is the point. The trout know the profile,the colors, they know the fly. It might be a mayfly, a caddis, a stonefly- but what it definitely is- is a fly that will occupy space in my boxes.
You can read the rest of the post, with a tutorial on tying the fly HERE
I just wanted to give a heads up for all of those placing fly orders, or planning to place fly orders with the current turnaround time. As of right now, I am working on a few larger orders, while also traveling back and forth to care for my recently deceased Grandmother’s estate. This means my time is limited.
Any orders placed after May 4th, will not have a guaranteed ship date until I update this, but I figure to start shipping again July 1st on incoming fly orders, and they will be tied and shipped in the order they are received. Other orders through the shop (books, materials, etc) will ship normally, typically within 1-2 business days. Also note- some flies are currently in stock. They are designated by the RTS header in the description- this means Ready To Ship and they will be processed within the regular 1-2 business days.
Again-fly orders from today (May 4th) forward, will not begin shipping until July unless updated with another post. This may happen if I get a large order done faster, or if things slow down while clearing up the estate.
Hey Everyone- Debuting a new content series for the website to coincide with my Fly Tyer of the Month Series. Guide Life: 10 Questions will focus on the fishing part of the industry, and some of the guides and their philosophy in the sport. On to the show….
Ben Rogers is a fly fishing guide with a base of operations out of Pennsylvania. He previously served in the US Army and has had several industry jobs before founding his own company, Chasing Tails Fly Fishing which guides all of Pennsylvania and the Mid Atlantic.
How did you get your start as a professional in the industry?
I got my start thanks to a man named Sam Rock who had a small Flyshop in Maryland. He took me under his wing and showed me that the lifestyle could pay my bills.
At what point did guiding go from dream to reality? And when you finally made the leap, was it different than you expected?
When I first started out, I started working as a “ shop dog” for a flyshop,( shop dog is a term that describes guys that work in the shop all the time and never guide) until I proved I had what it took to start guiding. It was more of a hobby that didn’t quite pay for itself. I never really thought I could make a living at guiding until I managed and guided for an outfitter in Virginia. I realized I needed to make the leap into full time guiding and start up a guide service for my local waters. I had the skills needed, It was now time to make that leap of faith.
As a guide what is your philosophy? What are you trying to achieve for yourself, and for your clients when out on the water?
Honestly, I feel my success on a trip with clients is when they forget that they paid me. You might not have perfect chemistry with everybody, but to have the skills necessary to interact and entertain. My goal is to give you an experience and perhaps walk away with something that you didn’t have before. Knowledge on different aspects of fly fishing and a little history on the area.
When I think PA fly fishing- I immediately think brown trout. How did you get into fishing for smallmouth on the fly, and how does the preparation vary from one species to the other? Where should the angler look for a better chance at hooking up with a small jaw?
The owner of the fist fly shop I worked at was very into it. At the time it still wasn’t popular. The preparation is actually not too much different. Sure, the flies are different during certain times of year, a predator is predator.
Structure i.e. Ledges, submergered logs and tree limbs, bolder croppings, seamlines that give rest from current.
What’s your favorite piece of gear at the moment?
I have to say My 3TAND pliers. I don’t know how I got along without them.
If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Bolivia for Golden Dorado. To throw Streamers in nearly clear water and hook up with something so fierce, is there anything better?
What would you say to other fly fishermen out there that are thinking/dreaming of becoming a guide one day? What are some concrete steps to get started?
Well, first, I’d say get to know your water. The in’s and out’s of every stretch. A guide’s main goal is to translate his knowledge and understanding of a watershed to someone else. Learn your knots and equipment. These things seem simple, I can’t tell you how many guide’s I have met that don’t know basic knots. Develop your social skills. Being able to communicate and get along with multiple types of personalities, will set you on a positive path to a great guiding career.
A client just booked a trip in 3 months time, how can they best prepare for a better time on the water?
Practice your casting! It amazes me how many people dust off their rod literally the night before and just expect to hit 60 foot targets accurately.
What rivers are you currently guiding at via Chasing Tails Fly Fishing? Do you have other guides for hire other than yourself?
We guide on the Susquehanna, Juniata, Upper Delaware, Lehigh, and their many tributaries. I currently have four guides on the roster. Most are local talents including a member of the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.
Lastly, anything you would like to say to prospective clients about your fishing style or operation?
Chasing Tails Fly Fishing is not in the “ 9 to 5 “ business of guiding. We aim to bring you much more than that. We offer an adventure. A trip that is memorable and supersedes you expectations. We want to build a relationship with our clients. I like to say to my guides, we want the clients to forget they even paid for the trip. They are investing in an experience.
To book a trip with Ben or one of his guides at Chasing Tails Fly Fishing, click HERE !!!!!
Ben Rogers belongs to the following companies as a Pro Staff member or ambassador. Click the links to find out more!
Charlie Craven needs no introduction, but I’m going to introduce him anyway. Charlie is owner of his fly shop Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado which celebrated its 12th Anniversary this year. He is also well known as one of the top selling Umpqua Signature Fly Designers, a long time commercial fly tyer, guide, author, and guest speaker for events around the country.
Charlie- Having learned to tie mainly through your early books and website, this interview is a true honor-
CC: All mine, man.
“Tying Nymphs” is your third and newest fly tying book. What was the driving force behind this project, and what do you hope people take away from it?
Jay Nichols, my editor and publisher, is the guy who really keeps on me to keep writing. Jay is fantastic to work with and he and I have a great relationship. He pitches some ideas to me and we hash things out and come up with a plan and honestly, it’s never been anything but great working with him. My tying books have always been, in my mind anyway, about building a tool box of techniques. I’ve taught classes long enough to know that a technique driven curriculum on its own can be pretty boring, but if you “hide” those techniques in compelling fly patterns, you end up making better fly tyers whether they like it or not! Tying Nymphs was a book that needed to be done in a more modern version. There are so many new patterns, materials and techniques these days, the format really needed an upgrade and I love having the opportunity to do it.
On Ask About Fly Fishing Radio, you mentioned that “Tying Nymphs” was the first book in a series of future books- including Streamers, Dry Flies, Emergers, Terrestrials, and a Technique book at the end. Will those books also follow suit being more technique oriented than pattern oriented? Also what book will be released next in this series?
I finished the Streamer book this past July and handed it off to Jay Nichols, so yes; it’s the next one in line. Apparently I need to take a few more photos of materials and things like that in the meantime for that book, but I am guessing it’ll come out in the fall or early winter of 2017. All of my books are heavy on the technique and that’s one of the things that makes pattern selection a little tough sometimes; trying not to be redundant, especially with streamers. The Streamer book has got some of the latest stuff in it, but also a couple old classics because the technique is important. Streamers also are so heavily dependent on design. There are so many flies out there these days with a half zonked rabbit hide, lead eyes and a turkey worth of marabou that just aren’t cast-able. I tried to add a fair bit of what makes a good fly design into that book along with the instruction and technique. I’m sure the Dry Fly, Emerger and Terrestrial books will follow suit.
A.K. Best wrote a pretty interesting book called “Production Fly Tying”- Have you thought about writing your experiences on the subject? (If not- I encourage you).
I haven’t. But maybe now I will 😉 The commercial tying game is very different these days than it was when I was doing it. There aren’t many cheap and quick to tie patterns in high demand these days. Commercial tyers now have to have a niche of supplying something you can’t get from the big fly suppliers. Streamers definitely come to mind here and there are a few guys doing just that. I’ve always been a big fan of doing the math on anything, including tying, and in so many cases, the math just doesn’t work out that well.
Do you ever get the itch to tie 100 dozen of anything anymore? Lol. What kept you sane tying thousands of flies at a time? ?
I can’t say that I do! I don’t really miss commercial tying in bulk to be honest. I love to tie the small special orders that make up the majority of what I am tying for sale these days. Tying has become much more relaxing and thought provoking to me as I get older and I don’t have any desire to go back to sweating over a hot vise for ten hours a day.
You know, as far as what kept me sane, I’d have to say my attitude about it. Rather than approaching commercial tying as a repetitive, boring job, I really tried to think of it as an opportunity to become a better tyer and let my mind run through all the things I could alter or change or tweak in materials and techniques to make the flies better.
Have you considered doing dvds to better articulate your instruction? Do you prefer book instruction to video?
I actually have done a whole series of DVD’s with FlyFisherman Magazine. The Flyfisherman Foundation 40 series is a set of 4 DVD’s that start off pretty basic and work through a range of 40 trout flies. When they asked me to come out to Minnesota to shoot the videos a few years back I really expected a guy with some lights and a handy cam, but they have a full on TV studio with a real camera man, sound guy and even a makeup girl. The videos really came out well and part of them became, what I believe, was the first fly tying app. They must have done well because they invited me back a few years ago to shoot a warmwater and saltwater DVD as well.
From a teaching standpoint, it really depends on how a person learns best. I’m married to a pretty smart woman who also happens to be a teacher and in helping her through her Master’s Degree program like a good husband (meaning I proofread a bunch of her work), I learned about the differences in learning styles. Some folks learn from reading about it, some by doing it and some by watching it, so I think all of those genres can be important teaching tools. I am currently right in the middle of learning to edit videos to add them our shop website so, yeah…there’ll be more video coming too.
What is the current state of fly tying? What could the industry use more of, what could it use less of? Any politics or general opinions you think should change?
This is a good question, and frankly, I’m glad you asked because I just might go on a bit of a tirade here. Right now fly tying is pretty available to everyone. With so much instruction available on the web, in books and magazines, it’s not hard to find lots of information relatively easily. I’m gonna sound like an old guy right here and I make no bones about my rapid approach to Curmudgeoness, but back in my day you had to figure things out for yourself. You had the same three books to look through that everyone else did and once there you really were on your own as far as getting better. There wasn’t anywhere near the amount of “help” out there that there is today. The catch today is a guy with a bit of passion and manual dexterity can become a B grade tyer in pretty quick order and unfortunately, too many of them think it came from their own talent and brain power rather than from good quality and quantity of instruction. I think this phenomenon also contributes to so many flies looking alike these days. Facebook and Instagram makes it too easy for everyone to copy each other, sometimes without even consciously knowing it! The proliferation of ripped off fly patterns, the social media Bro-Staff nonsense and the advent of the modern day ‘commercial tyer’ working a full time job and twisting up twenty dozen a week for fun money sorta chaps my ass.
I just read an interview today with a friend of mine, Andrew Grillos, where he was asked what advice he’d give a young guide and he said something like “forget about social media and jamming yourself down people’s throats and just put in your best efforts every day, keep your head down and keep grinding”, and I think a lot of tyers out there would do well to heed that same advice. Sit quietly at your desk knocking out the best shit you can all day every day and if you have what it takes, people will notice. And if they don’t, hey, you became a better fly tyer. Rant over, for now.
You have been a big DynaKing vise fan- why DynaKing and what did you consider when choosing a vise brand and style? What do you think about rotary vises?
I bought my first Dyna-King Pro vise back in 1989 or 90. Before that I tied on a variety of lower end vises and then had moved slowly up the chain trying several before choosing the Dyna-King. I tied on a Regal for quite some time and finally just got frustrated with the jaws chipping at the absolute most inopportune times. I remember working on an order and having a hook pop out and chip the hell out of the jaws and I literally went out to the garage and got a big bastard file and smoothed the chip out myself. Frankly, that vise held better after I went to work on it than it ever did from the factory. Granted, this was way back in the day when the Regal jaws were pot metal and they had the propensity to chip. They don’t seem to be that way anymore and I would say that they’re now damn fine vises although a bit clunky for my taste.
I also bought a Renzetti vise along this path and tied on it for about a week before deciding it just wasn’t for me. Having always tied on a conventional vise, a rotary style vise is terribly un-intuitive for me. The span from the frame to the jaws is too long for supporting your material hand placement and the whole idea of using the rotary function, to me, seems almost pointless. I have two good hands and wrapping materials around the hook is the easiest move in fly tying; I don’t need the vise to do it for me. I also find the head angle to be in the way more often than not and I realize that this comes from me having tied so much on a conventional frame vise. This is not to say that one couldn’t learn to work around these things, just that it’s too late for me!
I picked the Dyna-King because it was the most well-made vise that I have found. The jaws on this vise, when adjusted correctly will hold everything from a 10/0 to a 30. The large hook holding capability is simply incredible and when placed in the corners of the jaws, small hooks are held tightly with an incredible amount of working room around the gap. I know the jaws look blocky at first glance, but they have right angles at the tips creating a corner that holds small hooks really well and leaves plenty of the hook exposed to work on. I will say that DK’s take some getting used to as the mechanism works differently than all other vises so it’s important to know what you’re doing with the adjustment, but once you figure it out there nothing smoother or more durable that I have yet seen. Back to rotary vises for a minute here, just to be fair…I do actually own a Dyna King Barracuda that I bought several years ago when working on a giant order of Kilowatts for a really good customer. In the case of these larger flies, the bodies being made of Estaz, using the vise to roll the material on in long lengths required was certainly more efficient and being able to easily and quickly flip the hook to tie the alternating top and bottom pieces to the shank made it pretty handy. That being said, I hardly ever use this vise anymore but for large patterns like this. As I said, I owe this more to my own proclivities than any liability with the vise itself. I am just really used to a conventional vise and it works best for me!
Now for a disclaimer; As I mentioned, I bought my first Dyna King way back when and have tied an absolute shit pile of flies on it and I STILL use this vise every day. Its serial number is 1609; that’s really old. I am now on the Dyna King Pro Staff as of about five years ago. Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I can’t be bought. My rule for Pro Staff acceptance is it has to be for something I already have been using and happy with. I can’t be bought off for a free vise or a bunch of stickers and frankly, I don’t want anything in return. The folks at Dyna King have always been wonderful to work with, even before I had any sort of name in fly tying, so when Shannon called and asked me to be on their Pro Staff, frankly, it was my honor.
Let’s talk fly development. From concept to finished fly, what are some changes to consider with the original, and is commercial viability a factor?
I always ask myself if there is a NEED for a new fly pattern rather than just trying to come up with a variation. I think that’s why my patterns have been commercially successful; they fill niches that were empty. The Two Bit Hooker is super heavy and slim so it gets down and stays down. Most people don‘t like using split shot and this fly is heavy enough on its own to get the job done. It solves that problem. A Dirty Hippy is a big fly that doesn‘t cast like a big fly. The Jujubaetis is a perfect baetis (or nearly any mayfly nymph) silhouette and it’s much tougher than other flies and at the time I came up with it, it was unlike anything anyone had seen before. These days there‘s several knock offs that are pretty obvious but that’s a different subject. Flies that solve problems are the ones that catch fish and the ones that catch fish are the ones that sell. As far as commercial viability goes, I always seem to be more concerned with that then Umpqua does. They don’t shy away from complicated flies and I really appreciate that. Some of my stuff can be pretty tricky to tie and they’ve done a wonderful job replicating it.
You are a very well known signature fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants. What is your most commercially successful pattern?
I think officially it’s the Jujubaetis, but the Two Bit Hooker is an awfully strong contender. Umpqua does an amazing job with my flies and I am honestly blown away by the success of them. Nearly every pattern I have with them does really, really well. It’s astonishing and humbling when I think about it.
Where did you originally find Super Hair material, and what was the Ah-ha moment that created the JuJu series?
Super Hair has been around for a long time. It was originally used as a synthetic bucktail substitute on saltwater flies. Way back when, I was tying up some barracuda flies for a trip to Belize and had a big chunk of chartreuse Super Hair lashed to a big hook. As I wrapped my thread up the shank to cover the tie down, my bobbin caught a strand of the Super Hair and it wound around the hook. I looked at it and said, “that looks just like a midge”. I shoved all the salt stuff off my desk and started developing what became the Jujubee Midge right then.
Do you ever apply UV Resin to the Super Hair bodies? Or isn’t there a need?
The Jujubaetis, Jumbo Juju and a couple new patterns I’m working on all have Super Hair bodies with a dorsal coat of resin. The resin really helps to finish out the shape of the fly, toughens it and adds a bit of weight. The Jujubaetis existed for a long time before I ever put epoxy, then UV resin on it, and the second I did it I knew I was on to something.
For all of those wannabe/hopeful/seriously delusional commercial fly tyers such as myself- what tips can you summon from your production days to improve speed or efficiency?
The first thing I would say is, don’t ever try to tie fast. Tie at a comfortable rate. Hurrying usually leads to mistakes and anxiousness and speed comes from familiarity. Learn the pattern inside and out at whatever rate or speed it takes to get the job done well. Speed comes from knowing the pattern and not having to re-do steps or struggle with any piece. Prepping materials always seems like a good idea but the folks who do too much of it seem to forget that that time counts too. If you prep for an hour and tie for three hours, you still have four hours in the job.
I do find myself doing a fair bit of stage tying…all the abdomens for Jujubees and Jujubaetis then coming back and doing the thorax separately, or tying the tail section of a Double Gonga then the articulations and eyes, then the front section and finally the heads, all separately but that’s mostly for continuity of tying. Doing a dozen heads in a row makes them much more consistent than doing them fifteen minutes apart.
The hardest part about commercial tying seems to be the discipline to sit down and go to work every day. It all sounds like great fun until you have a hundred dozen to do and a week to do it. It’s real work and needs to be approached as such.
How did you decide on the name for your fly shop when you decided to open one?
Every time I’d go to deliver flies to shops back in the day, the shop guys and guides were always asking to look in my fly box. When I guided I could never leave my fly boxes out on the tailgate of the truck while rigging up because the other guides would always grab them and start digging in, so when it came time to open a shop I just thought about where everyone always wanted to be and that was in Charlie’s Fly Box.
When a customer walks into Charlie’s Fly Box, what can they expect, what would they be surprised by?
I would hope that people can expect a really well stocked, friendly fly shop with expert advice. The shop is a huge point of pride for me and was a life-long dream and never for a moment do I forget that. I hope it shows. I think most folks are surprised by just how much inventory we have. Our tying selection is twice that of anything else I have ever seen in a shop and it’s fairly unusual to not find what you are looking for. Obviously, I am into tying and I think the shop reflects that.
Another thing some folks are surprised by is that I am actually in the shop. I answer the phone and take orders and help customers and people sometimes talk about my books or articles and me in third person and are then surprised that’ “yes, I know exactly what you are talking about, I wrote the article you’re referencing”. I always get a kick out of that.
What type of bench do you keep while tying- clean or messy?
Clean. I always work better in a clean work area. This is not to say that when I really get to hammering some stuff out that my desk doesn’t get out of hand, but I clean it up again right away. I think my flies reflect my work area and vise versa so I try to keep things tight. I am a Type A, Introvert Capricorn and I like things the way I like them, period.
What is the 1 fly pattern you wish you would have thought of?
Copper John, duh. But I’m glad it was JB.
Are there any tying materials you wish were still around that have gone off of the market?
Christ…I’m like the kiss of death for fly tying materials. Seems like anytime I find something I really, really like it gets discontinued. Tiemco 16/0 thread and TMC Hair Stackers went away shortly after I wrote about them. Gray Flouro Fiber just got discontinued. Lagartun Wire, although I hear that is coming back. Overton’s Wax too, but it’s magically appeared once again recently as well. I am becoming big fan of Veevus 14/0 thread recently so, you might want to stock up given my track record.
What are your biggest fly tying pet peeves?
You’re really trying to stir me up, aren’t you? Pet Peeves…hmmm. I might say the phrase “It’s good enough to catch a fish” might be my biggest pet peeve, or maybe, “the fish don’t care”. Fish eat fucking marshmallows; Tie Nice Flies.
What’s the one pattern (or two) that you feel really defines a tyer’s ability and skill set? What would you look for if you were to grade it?
This is a great question and the answer is NOT any single fly. To define a tyer’s ability and skill set, I would ask to see a range of flies. Dries, nymphs, streamers, wet flies, salt stuff, hair bugs; the whole gamut. So many guys today specialize themselves into a corner. They can tie a beautiful hair bug but their Hares Ears look like something your cat coughed up. Streamer Tyer Pro but can’t tie a damn parachute. The measure of a tyer’s ability and skill set is the range of mastery. This one trick pony nonsense…pshhhh. I’d love to see a tying contest where you lined up a bunch of these hot shots and made them tie a Hare’s Ear, an Adams, a quill wing wet and a tarpon fly or something like that.
What are your thoughts on this current streamer-craze the last few years? What is your favorite streamer design- classical or modern and why that particular pattern?
Honestly, I love seeing other folks’ ideas, but I really try to ignore most of it. Let me put it this way. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a fly and maybe scroll around the web looking at other flies and before I know it, my pure idea has been polluted with what I see other people doing. Rather than working out an original idea and process, it’s really easy to take the most obvious route to get to the end. I try not to dig too much into other folk’s stuff just for that reason. That being said, there are a couple really good streamer concepts out there these days…and a million variations on the theme. I love that guys are getting so into the streamer game and there are a few who are doing truly great, original work. Blane Chocklette comes immediately to mind. Totally out of the box and unique. I love it.
As far as favorite streamer design…I love the old feather wing stuff. It’s just so elegant and beautiful and complicated, it really appeals to me. As far as fishing flies go, my Baby Gonga is, right now, my favorite streamer to throw. While everyone else is going big, big, bigger, this little articulated fly is getting a lot of attention. Those smaller hooks stay stuck a lot better than the big wire stuff and the fly gets eaten way more often than followed like the really big stuff does so much, and it’s also super easy to cast. The Double Dirty Hippy is another fly that I have really come to enjoy fishing as well. It’s meant to be fished slower, jigged and danced rather than ripped and stripped. It’s a different application than a Gonga.
It was nice watching your “Designed to Deceive” youtube clip this year of you out drifting chuckin the Double Gonga. Any consideration to do a fly fishing book or dvd? Maybe a fly fishing dvd compliment to a tying book?
I suppose that’s always a possibility but for me, fishing is pretty close to my heart and when I am out, the last thing on my mind is an audience or instruction. It’s part of my creative process and I keep it pretty close. I don’t fish with a ton of different people anymore; the time is too precious to waste. As I mentioned, I like what I like…lol
Do you have any new fly designs you are working on or testing at the moment?
I have a list in my phone of new fly ideas (and new fly names too). I keep it there because they pop up at all sorts of different times and rarely when I am sitting at the vise. A lot of them come on the way home from fishing, some just float around in my head and some are things that people ask me for. So yeah, there are always new patterns in the works. Some of them come easily and some have been being developed for a looong time and still aren’t right. But there’s always something to work on and I have sort of been pacing myself to dial them all in over time. I don’t let anything out to Umpqua, the internet or the public in general until I have fished it for a bit and really dialed it in.
As far as the pet peeves you asked about earlier, you can add “guys who come up with a stonefly adult pattern in December and immediately put it out on the web before it’s even had a chance to see water”. No matter how good a fly comes out from an idea, there are almost always some tweaks that need to be done to really dial it in and there’s no way to do that without fishing it.
What are the 3 things the casual tyer can do to be more competent behind the vise?
Practice, pay attention and think about it. There is no substitute for flies falling out of the vise, but tying poorly over and over again ain’t gonna make you any better. Pay attention to the details of the flies you are tying and make an effort to make every one perfect. You can be fast later. Be good first. Think about the fly and the dynamics and design behind it, even when you’re not at the bench. I have a long drive in to the shop every day and I use that time to think all kinds of things through at the start of my day, fly patterns included. Some of my best ideas have come to me behind the wheel of my truck. I’ll also add in Don’t Be Afraid to Use Logic and Reason too. If you tie your tails too long consistently, what do you think you ought to do about it?
Jujubeatis, Jujubee Midge, and the Charlie Boy Hopper. What is the 1 thing beginning tyers get wrong with each of those patterns?
On the Juju’s, almost everyone makes the bodies too fat. I try to keep the thread underbody as thin and as flat as I can to match up better with the real thing. Also, people use Fluoro Fiber like it’s going out of style. I use, at most, a dozen strands to make a wingcase. I see a lot of these flies tied with something like thirty strands and it’s just too much. Restraint goes a long way.
On the Charlie Boy, I’d say the number one issue folks have is not butting the foam strip up on top of the hook bend at the end of the binder strip. This causes the foam to fill in the hook gap and creates a straight body that doesn’t lend itself well to the important razor cut to form the shape of the fly. Also, I’ll add that that cut has to be done with a razor, not scissors. Scissors distort the foam by pinching it as you cut it where the razor maintains the shape and slices right through.
I have spent a lot of time writing and photographing really good instructions for all of these flies and I can’t say I don’t find it a bit annoying when people don’t follow them and wonder why things don’t come out right!
What’s the fly you’ve personally tied the most?
Probably Pheasant Tails. Pheasant Tails, RS2’s and Bead Head Prince Nymphs. I’ve seen more than my share of those run through my vise back in the day.
What are your thoughts on fly box organization? Do you organize by fly type, by season, or some other criteria?
I carry one big Wheatley swing leaf box for most of my nymphs and it weighs about five pounds. I have several other nymph boxes with more specific stuff in them, but the Wheatley is the one I always make sure I have on me. As for dries, I have a whole box of baetis that I haul around, although I find I almost always use the Mole Fly these days. I have a box for PMD’s, a box for caddis, a box for midges and one for tricos, a couple boxes of hoppers and attractor dries…so I guess I’d say by species of insect and type of fly is how I “organize”. I have a couple of suitcases worth of streamers too. It’s an issue.
Having done so many things in your decades of experience, do you have any goals left to accomplish either as an angler, tyer, or steward of the sport?
There are always goals. There’s always a new place to go, a new species, learning more about the old ones etc. I’ve been trying to branch out and fish more different waters locally here in Colorado as well as in the surrounding states as time allows. I love saltwater fishing and bonefishing is as close to heaven as I think I can get.
I’m not sure if those are goals, but I want to do more of all of that. As a tyer, I don’t per se set goals, but there are accomplishments that come along the way with new patterns and designs that really solve problems. One of my goals over the last several years is to become a better teacher and make more good, thinking fly tyers. I think I am getting there and I still love teaching classes and doing demos.
Are you an ambassador or pro staff member for any companies?
Obviously, Umpqua Feather Merchants, but also Dyna-King and Dr. Slick, and as I mentioned, it’s all stuff I used for years before accepting any pro staff position.
Anything new and exciting happening in 2017?
Head down, work hard, keep grinding.
Any final thoughts? Rants? Universal truths?
Haven’t you had enough yet??
Lastly- I just want to encourage all of the beginning tyers, and really anyone purchasing Charlie’s books, to not be so impatient like I was early on where I read or glanced only at the minimum to get the fly tied- rather to slow down read through the pattern, and then tie through the pattern the way it is presented. I was very impatient and just wanted to get the fly done, but ended up disappointed because the fly didn’t match the photo. It was no wonder- I never learned the nuanced technique that went into material placement, selection, etc.
The depth of instruction that goes into your books is unsurpassed. I usually picke one book in fall and I’ll tie through it again just to get ready for the winter tying season. This way my game is sharp, and I’ve practiced some techniques that I might not have used in a few weeks or months. It just clarifies some finer points, and I usually find something neweach year, that I”ve somehow missed previously. It not only helps whatever tying whatever fly is presented in the book, but you can apply it infinitely where it fits in the future. To me, that is why your books will truly stand the test of time as classic- mandatory curriculum so to speak, while some pattern books will fade as the popularity of those flies do.
Thanks man…this is all I can hope for and exactly what I planned.
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview with Charlie. The guy is funny as hell, and the most well rounded fly tyer that I know. Below is his contact information, and where you can find his recent ties plus a link to his pro staff companies to check out.
Lastly, Charlie and I are going to be giving away a copy of his newest book Tying Nymphs to 1 lucky person and there may be another surprise coming. More on this will be posted to my Instagram page @inpursuitoftrout.
Please let me know what you thought of this interview, and check out the links below!
Charlie’s Fly Box: HERE Charlie’s Fly Box on Facebook: HERE Charlie’s Instagram: HERE Dyna King Vises: HERE
Dr. Slick Tools: HERE Umpqua Feather Merchants: HERE
Lastly- Can you tie a 2 minute Parachute Adams? Charlie can…
Spring is almost here, and boxes are looking a little stingy. Time to stock up on supplies to get those boxes filled!
15% off all fly tying materials through March 31st plus FREE SHIPPING!
25% off all books and dvds when you buy any 2, plus FREE SHIPPING!
I have some incredible titles in stock including Keystone Fly Fishing and Hunting Musky With a Fly. Both of these titles are very popular right, as well as Fleye Design by Bob Popovics and Stripe Set by George Daniels.
All Trout Unlimited Members also receive 20% off all tying materials with proof of membership. Email me for a coupon code- firstname.lastname@example.org
For 1 week only- Sale on Custom Fly Sets-
1 Dozen Streamers- 15% off
2 Dozen Nymphs- 15% off.
email@example.com- email me and we’ll discuss what you need.
Lastly- more flies by featured tyers Matty Baranowski and Rich Ferrara are on their way for Spring!
Kicking off the Fly Tyer of the Month series for 2017 (a month late shhh) is Gunnar Brammer! Gunnar is a custom fly tyer living in Minnesota, and is owner of his website/online store Brammer’s Custom Flies. He has amassed a very healthy YouTube and Instagram following in a very short period of time. He has multiple videos nearing 10,000 views, and for the fly fishing genre that is pretty darn good-especially since his videos are quite a bit longer than most tutorials on youtube these days. For a young tyer he has technique and skill sets beyond his years and his ever expanding list of patterns prove that.
As an early tyer, who were some of your influences?
Early on, I was completely lost. I really wanted to figure stuff out on my own, and without having anyone to learn from I struggled. I took my first ever fly tying class through The Northern Angler in Traverse City, MI from Alex Lafkas. Alex really helped me to connect the dots and showed me the ropes. From there I started to dive pretty deep into all of Kelly’s articulated designs by following along to Streamers on Steroids (DVD), which I still watch annually and learn something new every time. After that I fell in love with Pike flies and found guys like Niklaus Bauer, Andreas Andersson, Norbert Renaud, and Daniel Holm. Those four guys have likely had the biggest impact on my recent designs and my overall style.
My favorite fly tier is actually Norbert Renaud. Honestly, I think he is without a doubt the most creative person I have ever seen behind the vice. I often think of Norbert as the “Synthetic Fiber – guy”. I have always struggled with synthetics, especially stacking and shaping them. Norbert is like the king of stacking and trimming fibers. He is truly an artist at it, and I really admire his ability to shape flies.
Speaking of Kelly Galloup, it is well known that you spent some time at the Slide Inn. What was the KG/Slide Inn experience like? What were some things you learned, and how has it changed you as an angler and fly designer?
When I arrived at Kelly’s, I honestly did not know anything, and I was upfront with Kelly about that over the phone. My knowledge of fly fishing didn’t seem to concern him; he was honestly just looking for a kid who was going to treat every person who walked through his door with respect and as an equal. The fly fishing industry is often saturated with pride and arrogance, elitist that seem to only greet you based on the appearance of how big your check book is. Kelly’s is the farthest thing from that I have ever experienced. He is without a doubt one of the most generous, kind hearted and nicest people I have ever met, unless you plan to use his shop as a rest stop, and then you better watch out! Yes, sometimes he has an inappropriate comment….or two, or three…..but Kelly is a man. Someone who takes responsibility, and cares for his employees and friends, and it was a humbling opportunity to get to know him and share in his knowledge.
When I was out there, I did my best to learn it all. Every day I had to give advice and perspective, and I felt responsible for the quality of that advice. I didn’t want to just be a messenger boy, telling customers what fly did it yesterday for one of our guides. I wanted to experience it myself. I wanted to understand the ins and outs, the order of the hatches and what time of day they occurred, in what sections of the river they were most prevalent. So, I went fishing; weekends, before work, after work, and sometime even during work. I tried it all, dries, nymphs and streamers. When a customer came in, I wanted to be able to say “this is what I saw yesterday, at this location, and this time”. I wanted to pass along firsthand information.
Most days I worked a simple 8 hour shift, but even after my shift was up, it was hard to leave the shop. I’d stick around to listen to Kelly tell stories. When the shop was slow he’d often entertain from his tying bench while I manned the counter. He’d give one on one tying tutorials, explain techniques, and give information to anyone who asked. I just hung out, and absorbed as much as possible. What was exciting for me was to take those stories and examples back to the trailer and try for myself. Succeed or failure, it ingrained the ideas and principles into my mind. For the next week I’d often regurgitate these ideas when talking to people, and they slowly began to become my own. The ideas would stop being foreign and would become naturalized as to how I understood fishing.
I can honestly say fishing is no longer the same. Every decision is conscious and informed by three serious years of observation. I learned to read the confluences of multiple surface currents congregating above a cyclical riser and the impact of my shadow, the rods, and my line. Learning to be able to control your leader as you stalk into position of a perfect 17” Madison Brown. Beginning to see through the kinetic surface tension to another dimension, picking a stream apart seam by seam as your hare’s ear finds the nose of a rainbow. Seeing a bank and knowing when and where the brown is going to bust a move and crack your dungeon. I finally learned how to read water. I will never see water the same way again. Fish where fish are…… I don’t think there is any substitute to learning to read water aside from being on the water and failing miserably day after day. Trying new things until you find success, and then cataloging that information until it become subconscious. I went in to work for Kelly not knowing anything, but left a completely different angler.
How has the opening of Brammer’s Custom Flies been thus far? I see a pretty good wait time on the website, so it must be going well?
The truth is that it is hit or miss. I am beginning to figure out the cyclical nature of the streamer industry. It seems when someone needs a few bugs, almost everyone does, and you end up getting slammed. Likewise there are definite slow periods. I do my best to be productive throughout. The slow periods are my excuse to go fishing, test flies, and film tutorials. I am certainly more of a custom tier than a commercial one. I do a large quantity of smaller orders for individuals which always keeps thing interesting and fresh.
What were your goals when you opened up Brammer’s Custom Flies?
The purpose behind Brammer’s Custom Flies has always been to have my foot in the door. I needed a way into the industry, a way to build credibility and establish myself, as well as giving myself the opportunity to work on perfecting something I love. I have always hoped to pass the torch to a commercial outfit someday, certainly not entirely, but enough to lighten the load and to make way for other ventures. Aside from fishing and designing flies, I love to teach. I have wanted to be a fishing guide from the moment I first stepped aboard a drift boat, and would love nothing more than to transition my tying outfit into a guide service as well. That is the plan at least. I hope some of which will come to fruition as summer approaches.
I noticed you prefer GSP thread for streamers, and in the one youtube video you said you tested out different threads for a while- what didn’t you like about the other threads compared to the GSP?
The first fly I ever tried to tie was Kelly’s Zoo Cougar, and I used GSP from the start. I didn’t realize it at the time, and after running out, I replaced it with whatever my local shop had. I was immediately frustrated because I would basically break my thread 2-3 times per fly. I will literally break any thread on the market under normal circumstances, except GSP. I only tie streamers, I have only ever tied streamers (not entirely true, but mostly), and I think for that reason I have really been drawn to threads I can place a ton of tension on. It is simply because I don’t have the perspective of tying with 8/0, I have just always tied thing down as hard as I can, haha.
Going from recreational to professional fly tyer certainly has its challenges- inventory management, day to day operations- how do you do it?
One fly….at….a….time. As I said earlier, I am much more of a custom tier than a commercial one. For me, the biggest problem I have is feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t happen often, but sometime orders land just right, and my lead time goes from 1-2 days to 3 weeks. The truth is, is that I am new to this, and I really struggled with the commercial aspect of it the first few months. I used to spend as much time prepping materials as I did tying, most of which could have been done on the spot. Basically I prepped unnecessary material, and ended up costing myself time instead of saving it. For the record, I don’t actually tie one fly at a time…..haha. Typically I do all the tails, then articulations, then front hooks. That way each section is fresh in your mind and you can increase your consistency. I previously split the front hook into multiple steps, but sometimes just finishing a fly is more motivating than adding yet another step.
As far as inventory, it is far easier to prep for large orders than small ones. Large orders usually have a bigger lead time, and are more understanding of the timing of things. But, I’m also a small time guy. I want people to be able to “check out” a pattern or two without having to order more than what they signed up for. It’s these small orders however that I typically find out I’m low on a material or two, and usually to my surprise.
Let us talk fly development- Where have the ideas come from?
A good example is my MEGA-Jerk. It was thanksgiving morning, and I was drinking coffee at the island drooling over the dinner my wife was preparing. In the middle of our conversation, I stood up, ran downstairs and grabbed some computer paper, and started drawing. Most times, the ideas just kinda pop into my head, and if I don’t right them down, they pop back out. They are definitely problem-solving based…..mostly surrounding a specific scenario.
It wasn’t inspired by the Super Jerk, yet it is identical. Obviously not literally identical, but concept wise and execution wise…identical. It wasn’t until I had fished and finished the third fly, having tweaked the hooks and wing materials to get the right silhouette, that it occurred to me it was a “Super”-MEGA-Jerk.
Honestly, most of my ideas come out of thin air. For me, fly design is not typically a conscious decision. I’ll simply be on the water and say to myself, “Wow, I could really use a 5” weightless baitfish pattern right now.” The need for the ideas comes on the water, and a specific scenario I’m faced with as an angler, and then my mind starts subconsciously grinding to solve that problem. For me, the joy comes from designing it myself, and the excitement of bringing that idea back to the situation that inspired it is often the motivation that keeps me fishing and designing.
I have spent the past 5 years or so watching YouTube videos, reading books, and imitating other tiers. All those techniques, silhouettes, and designs are in my head, jumbled around somewhere. Then the pieces fall into place, typically falling around a keystone idea if you will. For me, the keystone for the Hollow Point was the double wing…. Marabou tail wing, bucktail/craft fur fore wing, basically building an intruder that is very much so, not an intruder. I borrowed the tail from John McClure’s Kill Whitey, and the front from Kelly’s Pearl Necklace, and made it weightless through Andreas Andersson’s reverse craft fur head from his Aino, Wolftrap, and Delivery Man patterns.
These borrowed techniques typically aren’t intentional; I don’t often realize where the inspiration comes from until I look back and reflect on it. They are just a means to accomplish my goal. Andreas’ head was the means to make it weightless; the Kill Whitey tail gave me the proportions, and movement, while the Necklace created a light weight bucktail wing support for bulk. The composition of these three designs resulted in what is likely my most popular pattern, yet none of the ideas are my own. I just brought them all together in one fly.
From idea to finished fly ready for sale- what is your revision process like? Have you ever had a design you really thought was interesting fail, or not be as successful as you had hoped?
Not sure how most guys do it, but my revision process is usually subconscious. The ideas come and go, usually re-appearing every other month. Most times I’m not aware that the ideas are related until I look back at my old pictures. My Monster Craw started 8 months before I released it. I had an instagramer ask if I tied any shrimp patterns for the salt, having never tried it I thought it would be cool to give it a go. I had watched many variations of Danish coastal shrimp flies from one of my favorite YouTubers – Daniel Holm. I tied a fly using some of the techniques and was quite pleased with myself, but it ended sitting on my tying desk until spring. Once spring came I had an articulated crawfish idea with Flymen’s new Shrimp/Cray tails and Chocklett’s Body Tubing. The pattern, though cool and fishy, was overly complicated, so I let the idea slowly fade away. It wasn’t until 2 months later I tied a simplified single hook version, and revised the profile later that week and the Monster Craw was released. To me, the Monster Craw just happened….it was an epiphany moment, yet if I had looked back, I had had and re-had the idea multiple times. The process is rarely linear. The originals almost always fail, sometimes on the water, but just as frequently behind the vice. As the idea progresses, month by month, each variation is always a simplification of its predecessor, which is likely why I don’t always see the connection. The end result usually sticks.
My latest release the Skinny-Dipper, again just seemed to be an epiphany moment. The pattern came to me as an idea for a fly competition, held by Fly Shop of the Big Horns. One of the requirements for this competition was that the fly needed to be an original design, something that I had quite a few of. Yet, the fly could not have been posted on social media. This requirement crushed me! I had so many new patterns I had released just prior to the announcement of the competition, patterns I have 100% confidence in. I desperately began trying to combine ideas from some of my favorites. Triple Hollow Points built with Super Jerk brushes, Super Jerks with Sculp Daddy heads, Fish Skull Triple Sculp Daddy’s ect… What I began to realize was that I was coming up with variations for the sake of variations. These new patterns where not fulfilling a new purpose. I did not want to design a fly for variations sake, but it needed to come from facing a specific situation on the water. Realizing this, I began to look through my current designs. I saw weightless and light weight baitfish patterns in their various sizes…. and sculpins…..all with the same head design (expect the Trout Nugget, which is a skinny water pattern). I realized that anything I designed with the Sculp Daddy head would fish in a similar manner, in a similar section of the water column, and it wouldn’t meet a new situational need that wasn’t already being met. Then the light bulb moment happened, a weightless sculpin. With that in mind, I simplified a Super Jerk, downsized it, and stacked a Kelly Galloup Wooly Sculpin head on it, thus the Skinny-Dipper was born.
The original Skinny-Dipper however happened a year prior. The inspiration arose from a Norbert Renaud Pike sized Bunny Slider. Seeing this pattern, I immediately wanted to give it a go. I tied a pike sized version and just as quickly a downsized articulated version for smallies. This pattern came and went, and eventually resurfaced last spring for a customer who saw the original picture. Being a year wiser, I modified the head design more similar to the Wooly Sculpin to add stability to the pattern. A month later, a customer had an idea for converting this articulated slider into a single hook weedless bass fly. I was excited about the idea and gave it a shot. The action was tantalizing, and although intended as a top water fly, I could not help but see a future sculpin pattern. So… after 4 different versions, I finally, and unintentionally ended with the Skinny-Sipper.
Things would be a lot different without those ideas. Most of them I don’t share, and I’m always nervous to release a new fly. The thing about most of my streamers is that they have arisen from 3 years’ worth of failed attempts. I literally have a 1000 + streamers, sitting in my garage in a cardboard box; originals, imitations, failures, and some success stories that have been replaced. They are my memories, and my learning curve. I fear that people see a new idea as something that is simply “new”, while in reality they have been growing and evolving often times for years.
How does your thought process change when designing trout flies, to now designing predator stuff?
My thought process is identical….in fact, one of the things that really bothers me is the categorizing of streamers. Trout flies, Bass flies, Pike flies, Saltwater flies…….Even though I’m guilty of it, I really don’t get it, and I’m afraid young anglers see these titles and literally think bass flies only catch bass. In my most recent Blog for Flymen Fishing Co “The Power of Perspective”, I intentionally broke the fly category’s down into baitfish, bottom dwellers, and crawfish (for the sake of the salt community, we’ll go with crustations). The biggest thing I think people overlook is forage! It is such a simple thing, but when you look through facebook groups. People will ask, what flies are good for bass, and 80% of people say wooly buggers, 19.9% say poppers and clousers, and then I’ll pipe in and say something dumb like,” 7” articulated baitfish patterns.” I don’t care if you’re a Brown Trout, a Bass, or a Northern Pike, if your system has 6” Golden Shiners in it, you should be fishing a 6” Golden Shiner imitation! The patterns aren’t specific to the predator; they are specific to the forage! Instead of asking what catches bass, it would be more appropriate to ask what species and size range of forage can I expect to encounter in this river system, or in this part of the state, ect….
One of the best things to ever happen to me has been the move to Duluth, MN. I knew nothing of the area, and even less about chasing smallmouth and pike in a river. I didn’t ask for opinions on what to fish or where, I simply went to google maps, found river access, and went fishing. My first trip to the Cloquette, I managed about a dozen large Smallies all on an articulated 7” Kill Whitey variation. If you learn the system and understand the forage, you’ll be able to find and fool the predators, trout included.
You talk a lot about developing taper into your flies- often mentioning 70/30, 60/40 etc- for those newer tiers can you explain what you are trying to achieve by doing that? How can they improve their tapers and overall consistency in fly construction?
I am primarily trying to achieve two things. First is silhouette, the second is action. I believe silhouette plays a huge role in a predators search image, and is often a standalone triggering mechanism. Action wise, a fly built in a fusiform taper will push water around the shoulders of the fly increasing the undulation of the tail fibers.
The best way to practice taper is to draw your flies. Sketch your fly, if you can draw it, you can tie it. Understand the bulk, length, and taper of each wing material and how they lay on one another. The easiest rule to remember is the rule of half’s, where the fore wing lies halfway down the length of the rear wing. This almost always results in a 60/40 fusiform taper.
Your YouTube channel seems to be bringing back full length instructional tutorials and with your knowledge and thought process, I’m glad to see it. What made you make a decision to go longer when you started recording these?
Honestly, I do the long videos because those are the ones that I enjoy watching the most and the ones I’ve learned the most from. I don’t want my channel to be entertaining; I want it to be educational. I don’t want to simply share another take on a sculpin or baitfish pattern, but I want the concepts from those ideas to penetrate other areas of your tying. I tie flies because it adds another dimension to the sport. It is one more thing I can control, and it makes it that much more intense and rewarding when I succeed. I want others to be able to experience that! Not just catching fish on a fly you tied, but on one you designed.
I have learned a lot from the fast paced videos. As a visual learner, they helped reveal things to me I had never known or considered, but at the same time I remember feeling lost. I was able to imitate, but not innovate. I often didn’t understand why, or even how to achieve something. One of the reasons I try to explain everything I do, is because I first needed to explain it to myself. For those 1000 + streamers sitting in my garage, and for the thousands more that have come after them, I never stopped asking myself “why?” Why am I using this material, these hooks, and this technique? What purpose does it serve, why does it behave that way, and what governs that behavior? I don’t want to simply tie flies, I want to design them.
The coolest thing we can do as a community is inspire one another. I don’t want people to tie my patterns verbatim. It is seeing how people have adapted the patterns for their needs and the ideas that those patterns inspired that inspire me, and often times result in new pattern and an a new perspective.
To me, two things are evident in your YouTube videos. Talking streamer gospel, and always reaching for some coffee. It’s a cold day outside and you are on the vise- what are you reaching for?
French pressed coffee – black, from a freshly ground dark roast. Or….100% Black Tea overbrewed without sweetener…your pick.
Let’s talk streamer hooks- To me you have the big 3. Gamakatsu, Partridge, and Ahrex. What is your go to hook? Do you use all three? How do you determine hook brand/style and sizing for your flies?
I love both Ahrex and Partridge, though I have been leaning more and more towards Ahrex especially with the release of the Light Predator Stinger series, which is my favorite for single hook Pike flies. I think hooks are all about balance. The thing that I consider most important is the shank length/gap ratios. For me, the Ahrex Predator Stingers have that ratio on lock down, and are comparable to Partridge Attitude Streamer series. Those two hooks have been my favorite for trout streamers, and are what I have tied the most on in the past year.
When we talked about proportions I mentioned the importance of sketching flies. Nine times out of ten, I will simply find the hook that matches up with my drawing….haha. Again, it’s about balance. What purpose does the hook serve – weight, momentum, keel, proportionality. I need a shank long enough to build a silhouette with a given material set, and that changes per those materials. Often I rely solely on hook weight, wire size, and gap for keeling, and the mass for the momentum to effectively animate jerk style streamers. I am a big fan of thick wire front hooks, big gaps, and a shank length between a Daiichi 2461 and a B10s. For whatever reasons the Predator Stinger and Attitude Streamer hooks just fit my style.
When I hear Gunnar Brammer- I think of 3 flies- maybe not the flies some people think of- but I think of Sculp Daddy, Hollow Point, and Truttas Demise. What was the thought process of foundation for these 3 flies.
I only had bucktail, marabou, and polar chenille to work with….. haha, just kidding, but not really.
The Sculp Daddy…… My father came out West to visit me at Kelly’s shop and I was determined to show him some of the best fishing the Madison has to offer. We set out from Reynolds pass heading up river right towards Kelly’s shop – which is roughly a two mile stretch of river. About halfway, we walked down to the bank, feeling confident we had out walked most of our fellow anglers. As we approached the bank, there was a snake choking down a 6.5” sculpin, and struggling to do so. That sculpin was huge! I had never realized they grew that big, and more importantly, to that volume. The silhouette and size of the head is an image I can’t seem to forget. There are a lot of patterns that may imitate the length of a sculpin, but very few that imitate the volume of one. I set out from there to design a fly whose head truly was 1/3rd of the body, and with the appropriate silhouette to boot. I think the head design is likely what stands out the most. It was inspired by Galloup’s Dungeon and Boogie Man. I knew I wanted a massive deer hair collar, but also knew I was under equipped to consistently produce a Dungeon’s deer hair head. So I opted for the hair collar and dubbed head as a way to cheat the system. I ended up with the bulk/water push/and viscosity I needed and the rest is history.
One of the inspirations for all three of these designs is Kelly’s Pearl Necklace. The Necklace was the first fly I had ever seen whose back hook was solely a tail. The original Pearl Necklace simply had 1 stack of marabou and 2x plumes palmered as wings. It was the first time I saw the back of a fly as a tail, instead of a “fly”. I think a lot of people see a back fly, and a front fly. When you see flies this way, variations become very difficult and limited, but you can simplify further. All Streamers (most) have a tail, body, wing, and a head…… that’s it. Tail, Body, Wing -> Articulation Joint -> Tail, Body, Wing, Head. Before you could change 2 things – back fly, front fly – now you can change 7. It allowed me to be more creative, and create variations further away from the original fly. When I designed the Sculp Daddy series, the Tripple Sculp Daddy came first. I broke the triple into three parts, each part on its own hook/shank. The rear hook was solely a tail, the middle shank was the body, and the front hook….the entire front hook…. was the head. It paved the way for the proportions, bulk, and silhouette that and I have maintained for that design to this day.
Both the Hollow Point and Trutta’s Demise are variants from an old design of mine called the Craft Fur Jig n’ Jerk, which was a three step variant from Galloup’s Pearl Necklace. The Hollow Point ended up as the weightless version, while Trutta’s Demise was my attempt at increasing the movement of the forewing while being able to have a slightly “head weighted” fly with eyes. If you break the flies down they are identical except for the heads.
Dubbing Brushes- everyone is doing them, you are probably doing them in the most interesting and thought out manner- you seem to really be able to think about the full construction- from core to winging material, that no one has really done- outside of the man EP. What device are you using and what are some tips you can give to the readers to develop better brushes for their flies?
My brushes are certainly not something I deserve any credit for. My main inspiration for the brushes was actually Larry Dahlberg, in combination with Enrico Puglisi. I simply borrowed the materials and size of the brushes from Larry and combined them with the EP core/wing proportions.
I currently use the Stonfo Dubbing Brush Device and Stonfo Turbo Spinner paired with a Griffin A2 pedestal base vice. Brushes are all about the consistency of material distribution and material density. What I love about brushes is they bring synthetics to life. Natural materials are simply more lifelike. It is their natural taper that gives them this movement. I’m not a physicist or anything, but I always imagine the reduction of surface area allows the water particles to accelerate up the taper giving the tips of the natural fibers a little whiplash. When you make a dubbing brush in the EP fashion, dense core material paired with an elongated tapered wing material, you essentially imitate this taper but on a larger scale. The core containing twice the fiber density of the wing helping to push water and as the trapped water leaves the core it is able to accelerate up to the wing fibers.
Are you working on any new concepts for 2017?
My goal for 2017 is to change topics from tying to fishing. I really want to showcase the raw aggression and adrenaline rush that comes from streamer fishing, and how to handle and dissect specific situation. I am slowly but surely getting more adept at videography and editing, and want to take the discussion from the theory at the vice to the application on the water.
I believe in being a fisherman first and a fly fisherman second. Don’t think about “fly fishing” for smallmouth. Think about fishing for smallmouth, and how you can adapt fly fishing to meet that scenario. I think people get too overwhelmed with fly fishing and forget how to do the simple things like read water, and adapt your retrieve to match your environment. I have put myself out there as a fly tier, and I am, but I am equally adapted as a fisherman and pride myself as such. When I read books and try to find information on specific species or fisheries I rarely find it useful. Topics become broad and ambiguous, often times telling you more about the history than how to apply anything to your local waters. I hope to film a few shows this upcoming season highlighting specific scenarios, breaking down water, and targeting specific fish during specific seasons and sharing it anyone who wants to see it.
How have you achieved the balance between fulfilling orders and developing new patterns?
I always put new ideas first. If I have an idea, there’s a 90% chance I’ll tie it within the hour, and 100% chance it’ll be tied by the days end. Ideas are what excite me; they motivate me, and are essentially why I started tying in the first place. My customers might not love to hear that, haha, but new ideas are what keep me going and provide the platform to continue sharing ideas and building a community.
What are your favorite-
Bobbins- Currently the Mag Right Bobbin, but I’m looking forward to the release of the Karanzas FlyCo. Predator Bobbin
Thread– 100 Denier Veevus GSP
Vise– I currently tie on a Peak Rotary Vice, but have my heart set on a Renzetti or Montana Mongoose in the future.
UV Resin– Deer Creek UV Diamond Fine
Streamer Eyes– Flymen Fishing Co Living Eyes, and Deer Creek Gator Eyez
Eye Glue– Tear Mender for wool/dubbing/craft fur, Loctite Gel for Flymen Products and Deer Hair
Favorite New Material– Brammer’s Custom Flies – 7” Synthetic Dubbing Brushes 😉
Are you planning to attend any future tying shows?
I will be attending the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo in the Twin Cities on March 17-19th. I enjoy shows and always love meeting new people and talking fishing, but as a novice it can be a bit overwhelming. One day I hope to be able to attend a handful of shows each expo season, but until then I plan to keep it local.
Are you a member of any fly fishing/fly tying pro staffs? Anyone you want to shout out?
I’m honored to be a FlymenFishingCo. Ambassador, Deer Creek Pro Team Member, Hedron Flashabou Tying Team Member, Karanzas Pro Team Member, and a Friend of Ahrex Hooks.
In your Instagram profile, before any other distinguishing phrase or writing, it says “Saved by Grace”- Would you like to share any testimony?
I’m not exactly sure how to articulate my testimony, but the short story is that I’m an imperfect person with a sinful heart saved solely by the grace of God. Last spring my wife and I made the decision to be baptized, and since that moment I have not stopped pursing Him. He died for me, and he died for everyone readying this, that we might be forgiven. I believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light. And I believe that he loves you! I believe in loving God with everything I have, and loving all people. I put “Saved by Grace” first because I want to be held accountable to that. I want to be accountable to treating people with love and respect. I want that to be first, before my name, before my business, before my flies and pictures. I want Jesus to be first in everything I do, and that through any success I might find he would receive the glory.
Thank you to Gunnar for dropping some serious knowledge and allowing me to share his gorgeous flies and photography. I wish him nothing but the best in 2017 and beyond, and I’m sure he’ll do quite well going forward. As a thank you, there will be a giveaway so stay tuned to the In Pursuit of Trout Facebook page for more information. Below you can find links to Gunnar’s website, Youtube page, and Instagram page, along with an example of his videos plus a very well written Flymen Fishing Blog.
A lot has changed since the last time we spoke, and I have big news. First, I want to say that as of today, I am going to pursue this website and fly shop full time!!! I had been doing this site and tying orders on nights/weekends while working my day job and was going to start preparing to reduce day job hours for this, but after 9 years I found out my employer was secretly trying to replace me, and that was all I needed to know. I gave them my resignation notice effective immediately!! Good luck replacing someone with 9 years experience while trying to save 33% salary in the process.
Moving on from that- next order of business is the Fly Tyer of the Month Series. I have some incredible tyers confirmed for this year, and one of the interviews will go up TOMORROW night! I won’t give away the surprise, but I will give you a little teaser.
The next 3 tyers being featured are:
I am extremely humbled that they all agreed to be part of the series, I know each of them is busy with all types of jobs, engagements, commitments, etc. Quite honestly, last year I wasn’t sure how tyers were going to respond to my requests, but I have to say- each of them has been gracious with their time and I have had very few tyers say no flat out. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts which is understandable. Again- thank you to all of the tyers. It is one of my favorite parts of this website, and I can’t wait to continue growing this full time this year.
Lastly, since I am now full time I will be taking a lot more orders. Frankly I’ve had to turn some people away, which I don’t like doing but there were times working 2 full time jobs just wasn’t very fun. Working 10am-4,5, sometimes 6am was getting old fast. I will be completely revamping the somewhat peckish fly selection. I have a couple new patterns plus a bunch of others that I’m willing to tie lol.
That is also why I started carrying some fly assortments and flies by other tyers. I’m going to continue doing that so if you are a tyer with something unique and you have a wholesale, pseudo-wholesale price structure I”m always looking for new flies for the site. Photos are great, samples are better 🙂
So which interview is going up tomorrow? Just have to come back to see.
This is a bonus interview that I couldn’t get up in 2016 with everything going on. Matt Grajewski is one half of the website Fly Obsession, and is another incredible fly fisherman and fly designer from Michigan.
First off- thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I have been a big fan of your work for a long time now. Being obsessed the last few years on big trout streamers, I get pretty geeked out looking at what you come up with. The musky stuff is absolutely insane.
What would you say to someone who wants to start tying musky flies? Any words of encouragement, practical advice, any scared straight tactics?
I think the main thing someone who wants to get into tying and fishing muskie flies, is to consider the action of the fly. Muskies don’t feed often, so triggering them is difficult. The fly needs to have a triggering action. Everything that goes into the fly should consider profile and action. A fly that swims straight usually won’t get the job done.
What makes or breaks a well designed musky fly? What are the common problems?
The most common problem I see is too much material. A fly will reach a point of diminishing return if you make it too large, or add too much material. Muskie fishing is a lot of casting and retrieving practice. You must be able to cast it for hours on end, and you must be able to “fish” it. In my opinion, I will take action over pushing water any day. It is difficult to truly push water in the way double bladed buck-tails or pounders do. Why muskies absolutely use their lateral lines to detect prey, they are also quite visual. The visual aspect is what I key in on. In my experience, this is easier to achieve over the course of an eight hour day of fishing. Fishing flies with giant heads or a lot of materials take more energy to fish as they are harder to cast and retrieve. It is also more difficult to achieve a triggering action. Not impossible, but more difficult. A lot of ways to approach it. This is just my preference and how I’ve had success.
Similarly, what would you say to someone that wants to fly fish for muskies? What does it take? Is it more mental or physical?
It’s both really, but I would say it takes more mental strength. If you tie flies that won’t exhaust you both casting and fishing them, then it’s really about mentally staying in the game. Eats are usually few and far between. If you are surprised by a fish, that opportunity could be over in a second or two. If you are just retrieving your fly and not fishing it because you’re mentally exhausted, you might as well call it a day. Its a difficult thing to believe there is a muskie behind your fly on every cast, but that is how you should approach it. Even when you haven’t seen one for hours or days. Take a break if you need to take time to reset mentally. Don’t waste a possible opportunity.
How did the formation of Fly Obsession push the two of you as far as fly design is concerned- what type of working relationship do you two have?
Nick and I are like brothers from another mother. Our approach to fishing and tying is like talking to the mirror. Still, Nick’s approach to color and use of certain materials definitely inspired and pushed me as a tier. No doubt about that.
How would you describe your design process? Do you like to sketch out flies before sitting down to tie, or is something already burned in your mind- a profile, a material, a color scheme, or maybe a problem to solve in a specific scenario?
I have sketched them before, but ideas typically get burned into my brain. It could be a color scheme, a profile, an action, or all of the above. Those ideas come from a variety of places. Seeing another tier’s fly, something that happened on a previous outing, or thinking about upcoming water conditions. Other times its completely random. Especially during a sleepless night.
What what point does a fly go from “cool- I like this” to people hounding you for orders? What is your revision process like? How much can any one original design change?
I usually know the first time I fish the fly if it will get eaten. If it swims the way I want, its only a matter of time. If it doesn’t swim, then its back to the drawing board. Sometimes the idea gets scrapped all together when I don’t like how it looks in the water altogether. Its more or less a feeling based on experience. I am lucky enough to have two experienced muskie fisherman as brothers, so I have more testers. They are the same way. First time its coming back to the boat…”oh this is getting eaten.” Or, “I don’t like it. Its not kicking enough” and off it comes.
More about Fly Obsession- what would you like to see happen with the platform? Any branding thoughts? I know the two of you live pretty hectic lives in between custom orders.
I would like to see Nick and I have more free time. Life has put a lot more on our plate and FO has sat on the back burner. I would love to update the platform and provide more content. We have kicked around the idea of guest contributors to help fill the gap and provide variety.
GBGH (Go Big or Go Home)- is it a fly or a mentality?
A mentality for sure. You have to be willing to stick to your guns as long as it takes. GBGH is more “go big and go hard”. Going big is chasing muskie on a fly, and you have to put in the time and effort. Probably the biggest challenge for a freshwater fly fisherman.
You guys wrote a piece called “Streamer Architecture” back in 2013. It was a tremendous help to me as I was tying big flies like crazy. I had the bug, but the designs lacked specific purpose- I was tying flies to tie flies- and that is okay, but when it comes to thinking about pattern development- that article really gave me focus. It gave me a list of questions to answer.
One question really stood out- “What water conditions do I want to fish this fly in”- that is brilliant. For the average angler, he has his box of flies- and regardless what water condition he faces, he’s going to throw one of those flies- for one inconsequential reason or another.
Tell me more about this concept- how do you round out a box facing this task?
Think about where the fish will be, and how will you get a fly they can see into the strike zone. This could fishing a weighted fly to reach depth in high water river conditions, a dark fly to be fished in low visibility water conditions, or fly that really pauses during post frontal conditions…just to name a few examples. I always make sure I have flies that can be fished in any part of the water column I think the fish will be in, and whatever mood they may be in. Do I need to fish a fly that swims well with quick erratic strips because the fish are aggressive, or do I want fly that fishes will on long strips with long pauses because they are passive? Do I want a dark fly for low visibility water, or natural colors in clearer water? You should always carry at least a few flies for every possible water condition and fish mood.
Matt- you seem to be pretty focused on fly fishing for muskies right now. Do you still chase big browns around? Which is more difficult to target consistently- monster browns or monster muskies? Why?
I haven’t fished for big browns in a few years. Mostly due to the proximity in which those waters are to where I live. Those waters are further than muskie waters. I’m sure I will still get after them here and there.
While big browns (2’ or bigger) are definitely difficult to catch, muskies are still tougher in most fisheries. It really comes down to two things, numbers and metabolism. Muskies, by nature’s design, are a low density fish with slow metabolisms. This way they can’t wipe out other species. Big browns are typically low density as well in most rivers, but most waters can still support more big browns than muskies. And an adult muskie typically goes longer periods of time without feeding.
Are you guys doing any tying shows or fishing shows this year?
The only thing I have on my schedule right now is Bar Flies with Schultz Outfitters on March 22nd. I will hopefully be tying at my brother’s booth (Musk-E Fly Fishing Adventures) at the Midwest Tying Expo.
What is in store for 2017 and beyond for each of you? Any aspirations fly fishing/life/ other?
2017 will be an interesting year for me. As many know, I’m still adapting to an above knee amputation of my left leg earlier this year. It has definitely given me a different approach to life and fishing. 2017 will definitely be a wild card year for me.
Fly Obsession is one of favorite websites to reference. The design aspect and the tutorials for a predator noob- are truly appreciated. For a relatively small, understated website- it packs a TON of relevant content. With the catalog of patterns you both have- have you entertained the idea on collaborating on a tying book? You could probably print money if you did.
We have discussed what ways can produce more content. Not sure that would ever mean a book or not. Unfortunately, we both don’t have the time to produce the content we would like, as often as we would like. Thankfully there are a number of other great tiers putting out great stuff, as well.
Matt Grajewski- Thank you for taking the time for this interview. I can’t imagine the challenges you have been faced with but I am extremely impressed with how you have responded to meet these challenges as you continue to produce some of the best flies out there right now. There aren’t many tyers I can name that have a better mind when it comes to applying a color palette to a pattern than you. You have come up with some incredibly unique one off flies. Before I wrap up this post, here are a few more flies that I couldn’t help but post. Pure inspiration- enjoy!
Alright- well I hoped you enjoyed this bonus interview from 2016. You can follow more of Matt’s work through the following links, and please- get in touch with him for some incredible one off orders. Trout, Musky- whatever- he’ll tie you up a trophy box.
2016 was an amazing year at In Pursuit of Trout. I want to thank all of the customers who have visited the shop, and those who were satisfied to reorder time and time again. If there is anything I can do to improve my customer service, I am all ears. Please take the time to leave feedback via email or in any of the reviews. I value each and every order that comes through to my end, and I am the person doing all tasks here. If you ordered flies- I tied them, I packed them, I shipped them etc.
It was truly a banner year as far as fly production goes. 2016 was the year I tied my best and most flies of any year before. If you are a guide, and want to order flies, please- don’t just order off of the website, message me to get discount codes. I offer discounts for those in the industry as a courtesy, something we should all do to support each other. Email me guides@inpursuitoftrout. If you are a tyer looking for fill in materials and have a business, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So far my flies have been purchased in 16 states and 4 countries, something I never would have dreamed up heading into this venture, especially at this point. I have seen so many gorgeous fish pics that I am working on a Testimonial page for those of you who have purchased from me, can share your experience with me and hopefully some more sweet fish pics. There is one guy in particular up in Canada absolutely putting in work with my flies. I hope to tie for more of you this year. If you need any flies tied, custom or run of the mill stuff- reach out to me. I’ll be happy to. I’m looking to take this full time in 2018 so don’t think I’m too big for it. I can tie Pheasant Tails until my eyes bleed and love every minute of it. Speaking of- all of you shops out there- If you need fill in fly orders, or would like to stock a few of my flies- or to test out some of my flies- reach out to me and I’ll be happy to do what I can.
With that said, the only negative to my year in 2016 was a lack of consistent content. The daily struggle working two full time jobs. With that said, there were some tremendous interviews and flies showcased in 2016. Sadly, I did not get around to all 12 months. That is a resolution that I”m going to be sticking to this year. Without further ado, I would like to thank each of the following tyers for taking time out of their lives to answer some questions and share some flies for everyone reading this website.
Before I share my thoughts on this project “Modern Nymphing”, let me give you some background. About seven or eight years ago I was introduced to the concept of European nymphing through the internet via a fly fishing forum. Before then, I had never heard much about nymphing techniques, and my first conversations about European nymphing led me to believe they were complicated and required very expensive specialized equipment. None of this sounded appealing to me as I was freshly in debt with 90k in college loans. In fact, fly fishing- which I had been doing for about 6 years off and on at that point, wasn’t THAT appealing to me to begin with. Having found the sport by accident with a friend, my success was nominal. It was a way to get outside, maybe catch a fish, but on a nice Spring day it was hard to beat just being out. Once I began hearing of the catch rates possible with these new revolutionary systems, I became VERY interested and began researching.
Another year went by and my time on the forums increased, and more information was coming back from overseas on the effectiveness of this European methodology. Competitive fly fishing was gaining in popularity through the increasing success of Team USA in the World Fly Fishing Championships and the initial complications referred to earlier were mostly misunderstandings of these systems. As their application of these new techniques took place, a foundation book exposing the concepts was released titled “Dynamic Nymphing” by George Daniel. This book was exactly what I was looking for, and throughout 2012-2013 I began to practice and implement these techniques and found more success than I had ever found previously. I was hooked, I got it. Finally, I knew WHY people loved fly fishing. It was an Aha moment that has pushed my fly fishing and what developed my love for the sport and my proficiency increased.
Since then, Team USA has continued to see improved success as they won a team best silver medal at the 35th World Championships where Devin Olsen took an individual bronze medal, also a USA best at that point. This year at the World Championships the team did great again and placed Bronze as a team, with Lance Egan winning individual Bronze. Two incredible years for Team USA.
With everyone chucking streamers or pursuing musky on the fly the last few years, I hadn’t heard or given much thought to the current state of European Nymphing in the US. Then I saw t Devin Olsen and Lance Egan, two guys who are at the top of their competitive fly fishing craft, were setting out to break down the barriers and reduce the complications of European inspired techniques in a project called “Modern Nymphing”. Having been familiar with their pedigree I was immediately interested and knew something groundbreaking would come about from it. With the help of Gilbert Rowley of Capture Adventure Media they have combined two elements in which most instruction titles fail at-cinematic expression and proper pace of instruction.
From the foundation of the film and the H Creek Experiment it is obvious how devastating these Modern Nymphing methods can be, even on highly educated pressured fish. Despite all of the information out there, and having personally fished this method for nearly six years, I was learning, and in many cases I was re learning concepts that I had previously dismissed or ignored as unimportant or too difficult. Their usage of long leaders, typically between 18 and 22′ in length is something I have struggled with, and felt out of my comfort zone using but now it couldn’t have looked simpler.
The two featured anglers share screen time and often switch to discuss slightly different adaptions of the same basic principle that is being explained. It is refreshing to see as instruction can often come across as edict. Following this concept are the featured Keys to Success appearing on screen, visually explaining critical points being discussed so as not to get lost among the scenery and beautiful trout.
Another first by “Modern Nymphing” is showing on screen and explaining the pros and cons of both sighters and suspenders, two tools used by different groups of nymphers and showing both styles on screen. Euro-esque nymphers typically stay away from conversations about indicator nymphing and vise versa as if they are diametrically opposed. Devin and Lance clearly show why the European techniques of indicator fishing often out perform those of suspender nymphing, without dismissing the validity of the other technique all together.
The gear section was straightforward and to the point. They believe for how they fish a well balanced rod and reel combination is critical to the repetitive nature of casting. For those attempting to use heavier, tip heavy rods, lightweight reels, and heavy indicator line- I urge you to watch this segment closely. You will lose the frustration and fatigue you typically have while fishing. It was also nice to see they didn’t use this as a time to push product, they made a few critical recommendations, but the choice is ultimately yours.
The film finishes with segments on leader construction and different fly set ups, presentations, and manipulating depth plus some of their confidence flies. Having used the dropper method of fishing flies, the concept was not new to me, but even then they surprised me with a few tips to get you fishing faster including when you use your dropper tag up from multiple fly changes. For all those guys like me who are rebuilding the bottom section of your leader, pay attention.
WHAT DID I LEARN
It is clear Devin Olsen and Lance Egan have an understanding of fishing beyond their years from constantly practicing and pushing themselves to become the best. The competitive fly fishing environment dictates a need for catching numerous fish quickly so the methodologies are based around that premise, and who would argue about catching more fish quicker?! I walked away with a crisper foundation and learned several new techniques and an better overall understanding on how to maximize my time on the water.
The greased leader technique and the manipulation of sink rates really made me question why I never fully comprehended them earlier. The 180° presentation is extremely versatile. In this technique, Devin covers water Upstream, Up and Across, and Down and Across from his position without any complicated adjustments. It is something I will be practicing very soon.
Without question, this is the most beautifully filmed and presented fly fishing instruction DVD that I have had the pleasure of watching. Several gorgeous western trout waters are the classroom for us as Devin Olsen and Lance Egan, two of the best fly fisherman in the world, guide us through their simplication of the European Nymphing schools which they call their “Modern Nymphing” system.
This DVD is for anyone who wants to catch more fish using a versatile system that is competition proven. While the foundation was forged during competition, this is not a How To guide for competitive fly fishing. The concepts and techniques used were ironed out during their competitive careers, but this is for any nympher who wants to hook and land more trout. The devout dry fly angler can watch this and have a foundation to catch his first trout on a nymph in short time- if he can get over the flies typically used 🙂 . This dvd brought back why I got hooked on this style of fishing to begin with, ease and effectiveness. This DVD will do equally well in the library of the competitive angler or a complete beginner.
After you see the trailer, you won’t have a choice to buy it or not. So here it is- enjoy!!!
Pat Dorsey is one of the more well known personalities in the fly fishing business- and for good reason. Pat has done a lot in his 35+ years experience. He is an Orvis Endorsed Guide and won the 2001 Guide of the Year honors. He is an author of 4 books and countless articles, a signature fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, as well as being co-owner of the prestigious Blue Quill Angler fly shop in Colorado.
I am extremely appreciative of Pat taking some time out of his evenings after guiding to answer a few questions for us.
There are many paths life can take a person these days- what brought you into fly fishing, and ultimately guiding and and writing about your experiences?
I caught my first fish with my father Jim Dorsey when I was 10 years old in the Gunnsion Valley. Early on, I knew there was something special about fly fishing. My Uncle taught me how to tie my first fly shortly thereafter. My passion was fueled by catching tough trout on small flies, which ultimately led to a career in the fly fishing industry.
Pat’s latest project was Colorado Guide Flies and it is a tremendous book with the insight of countless Colorado fly tyers and guides. What was it like working with such a talented cast?
Colorado Guide Flies is the project I’m most proud of. The book is filled with stunning photography (which is another passion of mine) and a lot of great information. I fished with the best guides in Colorado whom shared their flies, tips, tactics, and techniques to catch trout on the watersheds they guide on. The book contains nearly 600 flies with recipes. It is a must-have for any angler (east or west) as these flies are proven guide flies that fish well all over the country.
Let’s talk about commercial fly tying. How did you start your commercial experience- what was the first fly that was accepted by one of the big tying houses? Also- for the new or young tyer out there reading this- what advice would you give him to get a fly into a catalog?
I was a commercial tier before I was a guide. I supplied flies for a dozen or so fly shops in Colorado. In my prime, I was tying nearly 28,000 flies a year. 25 years ago, I started guiding. For a while, I tied and guided, until my guide schedule would not allow me to tie on a large scale. That’s when I sent my flies to Umpqua Feather Merchants. The first fly they accepted was the Black Beauty, a long time proven pattern. This was followed by the Mercury series of flies, and through the years, I have submitted several patterns.
Your signature flies are extremely well known, and most are midges. Is this a result of you liking that style of fly or a byproduct of where you guide day in and day out or both?
It is a byproduct of where I guide.The South Platte in Cheesman Canyon (Deckers) is a classic tailwater fishery, loaded with lots of midges and mayflies. In most cases, you’ll be fishing with flies size 20 and smaller.
I will readily admit- midges are not my forte, I absolutely love the patterns but I don’t tie or fish them often. I know your book goes well beyond a pattern list- and talks about how to fish them effectively. What are 3 tips for better midge fishing success? And which 3 patterns of yours should be in every fly fishermen’s boxes regardless of locale?
The smaller the better. Oftentimes, fishing a size 24 (instead of a 22) is the difference between catching fish and NOT catching fish. The Mercury Midge, Top Secret Midge and Black Beauty (and its variations) are must haves for all tailwater junkies.
Let’s talk about stages of fly development. Where do your ideas come from more- seeing new materials, someone else’s flies, or being on the water and observing a certain look, behavior, or problem?
My design has always been simple yet effective. I keep my flies thin and sparse and typically use some flash as a trigger. A prime example is the silver-lined bead (Mercury Bead) on my midges. It imitates the gas bubble in the thorax prior to emergence. The realistic looking appearance helps entice trout to eat my offering….
For all those wannabe midge tyers- what are some must have materials to tie with? What tips can you give for those struggling to tie correct proportions on the smaller hooks?
Think simple, sparse and most importantly small. Start with a size 18 and move down in size as you get comfortable. Once again, practice makes perfect. I tie just about every day, some for guide trips, and some for my personal days. Fly tying is the next part of the addiction…
Being friends with you on Facebook for a while- I think everyone gets a little Fly Box Envy from seeing row after row- dozen after dozen in what I believe are Wheatley Swing Leaf boxes What are your thoughts on fly box organization? Do you bring all of your flies to the water on an outing, or do you narrow it down by hatch type, season, and river? Why do you prefer the Wheatley Swing Leaf boxes to the others?
I carry at least two Wheatleys with me at all times, sometimes three. They have all my tailwater flies and some bead head patterns that work well for larger freestones. I carry another ripple foam box with scuds, one with aquatic worms, and several dry fly boxes depending on the hatch. I only carry what I need though, for instance, I do not carry Tricos in January, just midge adults.
How many flies are in the midge box? I would guess 800……??!?!?!?!?
Some of my Wheatley’s have well over 2000 flies in them. Some of the rows have 50 flies…
For the people like myself who have yet to fish Colorado and the Rockies, give some advice on preparation. Is there any specific gear- rod size, tippet selection that you would recommend? Are there any books I should read?
The Rockies are a special place. We have 9000 miles of trout streams, of which 170 of those is gold medal. There are a lot world class tailwaters and lots of fabled freestones. You’ll find good nymphing, dry fly fishing, and streamer fishing. A 9 foot, 5 and 6 weight rod are ideal for these waters.
Are there any fly fishing websites that you like and recommend in general, or for fishing Colorado specifically?
I would recommend on checking the flows before visiting a river.
Otherwise I recommend using my fishing report on www.patdorseyflyfishing.com
Being a guide you probably see it all as far as clients are concerned. How can a client better prepare to have a successful day on the water? Is it adjusting expectations, or putting in practice on the water? What would allow you to do your best job for them?
All my guide trips begin with a discussion about their expectations. My goal is that the customer is a better angler at the day’s end.Practice makes perfect, I encourage them to get back on the water as often as they can. There is no substitution for time on the water. I make myself available via email and cell phone to help them along the way. I tell my customers… “A guide trip is never over…reach out to me anytime with any questions or concerns.”
What is your current favorite
Vise: Regal Stainless Steel
Bobbin: I use Thompson ceramic bobbins that are 30 years old.
Thread: Mostly 8/0 Uni
Hook Brand: Tiemco
Tying Book: I learned to tie flies from the Jack Dennis manuals
Fishing Book: Mike Lawson’s book on Spring Creeks is a must-have River to Fish: Cheesman Canyon
Species to Fish For: Wild trout most of the time….
Your floating your home river in the following seasons and can only use 1 fly- what are they?
For those obsessed with reading, acquiring, and rereading good fly tying, fly fishing, and books in general, this ongoing series will be for you. I have always loved a good book, and when I started fly tying books became more than a source of knowledge of materials and techniques, but it became inspiration. I recommend that any beginner tyer to tie their way through the book. It is a great way to walk in the authors shoes. The next time you read through it, it will be that much more profound, and the nuances of technique really become evident.
Each week I’m going to do a short review of 1 fly tying book, and 1 fly fishing book. There may be an extra added, but once I do the review, I will add the books on my “Book Shelf” page which will be added later for easy reference. A fly tyer can never have too many books. Some of the books that will be featured are available in the shop, although some you will have to track down through fly shops or websites.
Vince Wilcox is the owner of Wiley’s Flies Fly Shop in Ray Brook New York, an author of two books and countless magazine articles, signature fly designer for Idlywilde Flies and Umpqua Feather Merchants, and guide on several waters across the country. His style of fly tying is very unique in his early adaptations of synthetic materials to make flies both effective and durable.
This book is in spiral bound form, and should not be overlooked. Early on, these were not my favorite types of books, but it should be noted that fly tying books- especially those for beginners, should be mandatory as they lay perfectly flat and take up minimal room on the desk next to a fly tying vise. The pages open fully and you need not worry about cracking the book spine.
This book is laid out in a very efficient, easy to read manner. Each fly that is featured has a difficulty scale, the estimated time to tie by skill level, a general commentary or history of the pattern and its variants, as well as a complete break down of the materials used. The book is beautifully photographed and narrated so any level of fly tyer can tie these flies. These are very much guide style flies, there is no pomp and circumstance to these patterns. They are innovative and effective without excess polishing or fancy.
You might not necessarily know it by their names, but these flies have been sold by the thousands. Names like the Lint Bug, and Little Green Machine and Superman are equally silly and deadly. When seeing Wilcox’ designs are probably the nightmares of the naturalist fly tyer. It is not that natural materials are absent from his designs, but rather the fact that when he can substitute a synthetic material to gain durability, ease of use, consistency, or fishyness for a lack of a better word- he does so unapologetically.
This is probably the reason the only non 5 star review on Amazon is written by someone named Catskills Angler- quite frankly his flies go against the status quo. I like that. Unlike the reviewer who writes: “ Despite the inflated claims for their effectiveness, these flies are designed from the tier’s point of view rather than from the trout’s.” I completely disagree, if anything these flies are exceedingly more appealing to trout than the tier. Some of the patterns come across as too simple, but that present the absolute correct size, color, proportion, and triggers that is likely to grab a trouts attention.
Being a custom tyer myself, I have limited free time at the vise, so when I sit down to tie a fly I’m often drawn to flies that are aesthetically pleasing to me. They are often time consuming, and after time spent on the water, many times I walk away knowing I left fish in the net if I had just had a box full of simpler, fish first flies- or what I now refer to as F³. These are the types of flies everyone should have in their boxes. They are unassuming fish catchers. The Lint Bug is probably the very definition of this. Nothing more than some dubbing, a rib, and a flashback but it can imitate a midge, a baetis, a sow bug, a caddis larva, or a scud. In an hour you can tie up more than 2 dozen while sipping a bear and breaking to watch the replay. Open the book and look at these flies not as the next top Instagram fly, but the one’s in the $$$$ box you don’t show to even your best fishing buddy. “What did you catch it on?”- “Superman”.
My conclusion: This might be the best tying book you’ve never heard of, or picked it up to leaf through and walked away. You have to understand Vince’s 30 plus years experience as a guide, outfitter, fly designer, and author to start understanding the nuance of these seemingly shallow designs. There doesn’t appear to be much to them, but study them closer and you’ll start learning from someone who has tied tens of thousands of flies. Definitely deserving of a place on your book shelf, and that is why I chose this book to review as the first addition to my Book Shelf HERE.
You can get in touch with Vincent through his fly shop Wiley’s Flies HERE
You can also follow him on Instagram HERE
This book is available in the shop, click HERE to purchase.
If you would like me to review any particular favorite book of yours, or maybe a book you heard about but don’t own yet- comment below. Hopefully I’ll be doing 1-2 of these a week.
Start the tying season off with my biggest sale of the season. I know I have many things to be thankful for, and even though I am a microscopic fly shop I am thankful for every single customer that has had confidence in my flies and materials this past year. As a thank you, below are the Black Friday Sales I will be offering starting now and running through Monday, November 28th 11:59. The following sales will ring up automatically, no coupon necessary.
Flies- 15% off
Materials- 15% off
Books- 25% off
Apparel- 25% off
In addition to that, I am very excited to announce that I will be offering a guide/tyer program going forward. I have been in the industry a few years now and I have had many tyers and guides in the industry order from me. I want to encourage other tyers to order through me for fill in orders or to try out materials. Going forward, all guides and tyers with a valid business will receive 15% off all orders.
Message me your information before ordering preferably, and I will set you up with a personalized coupon code to use for all orders going forward. Any guide or tyer who spends $100 or more will receive free shipping for the rest of that calendar year. If you are interested, message me at email@example.com
Hope everyone is doing well. I just wanted to take the time to announce that I’ll be taking a short break from tying orders. I’ll resume that on 11/19 but you can email me your order requests to get in line to avoid delays once I start back up. Last year near December I was nearly at 3 week delays, and at some point it was longer. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking off- To GUARANTEE delivery for any Christmas fly orders- the cutoff date is December 6th, but December 1st would be better. That is to guarantee the flies being tied, and delivered by Christmas in the US. Regular merchandise can be ordered up through the 21st to guarantee delivery by Christmas.
I’m taking a break to accomplish several things. First is to re design/layout the workshop. As order volume has grown tremendously, the workshop in its current state is inefficient. It is crowded, and overall just not conducive to best cranking out these flies. I’ve added a significant amount of materials to my collection, and storage and inventory are all over the place.
Secondly, a big part of this break has to do with R&D- the backbone of any good commercial tying operation. I’ve been tying a large number of 2 patterns for nearly a year now, and although I’ve been doing other custom streamer orders- I haven’t had a lot of time to play with new materials, and to tie some patterns I”ve had kicking around in my head for a while. That really bugs me- I have new materials that have sat for months….
Lastly, I’ll be prepping a lot of stuff for the holiday rush. I have a lot of new materials finally hitting the web store- so please check that out. I’m getting in FrankenDub Monster Dub for building sick streamer heads, I’m also getting in streamer hair from The Laughing Fly which I’m excited about. Besides that, I’m going to be stocking a TON of new stuff from Hareline Dubbin.
Oh yea- and I’ll be taking a few mornings or evenings to bow hunt within this period as well- including a 5 day hunt on my PA farm. Hoping to get my first archery buck-
I will be posting more articles and interviews in that time- so I won’t be completely away from home base. My next interview is a fly tying duo….and their flies are quite devilish.
Brandon- Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and sharing your ideas on flies and fly tying. Introduce yourself where you grew up, current home town etc. Whats your fishing history? What drew you to fly fishing and then eventually tying your own flies?
Thanks for asking me to do this, it’s an honor! So I grew up in North Alabama and even now I live in the same general area with my wife and my 2 sons. Growing up I took for granted all the water I have surrounding me….not just the Tennessee river but mainly the small streams and creeks ( over 100 named streams in my county alone) that I loved exploring. I still remember how much fun it was when my Grandfather and I would get the old map out of his pickup truck and find a new creek to explore….and to this day I still have a lot more to visit Another great thing about my home location is I am only 1 hour both north( TN) and south(AL) of 2 trout tailwaters( yep, there’s trout in moving water in AL) and I have warmwater streams as close as 2 miles from my front door.
As far as what drew me to fly fishing, I think it was a natural progression and for the water I fish it seemed more efficient. I bought my first fly rod kit at the age of 12 and spent years catching panfish on dry flies, that I had no idea were suppose to be fished on the surface…so I guess I was swinging wet flies. Then some years later I remember buying a few flies that looked like baitfish and I took them out to a stream by my house determined to catch a bass instead of just panfish. Little did I know I was fishing a classic streamer, the Grey Ghost, and it worked extremely well on those small water bass and it started the wheels turning in my head about how these lil streamers were made.
Shortly after I found myself searching forums and youtube for videos/articles on how to tie flies and then I bought a cheap tying kit from a big box store. I had found a great outlet for my artistic background and was able to bring in aspects of my technical/engineering side. To me, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you tie something that looks and swims like you had envisioned…it really can be looked at as art in motion……and that’s where I am to this day and how I got here. Trying to make artwork that hooks fish!
Did you have a mentor when learning to tie? What type of flies did you tie early on, and how successful were you?
I know this will sound bad but Youtube got me thru the basics with my cheap vise but a man named David Darnell helped me immensely with materials, advice, and tools. He’s been a father figure to me in many ways and helped advance my tying in a short amount of time.
My first flies were the venerable Wooly buggers and they worked even though I had no hackle on the them….and come to think of it they didn’t even have a bead head. In any case, they worked and started my addiction with streamers. My next fly was the Clouser minnow, it caught my first decent Smallmouth, Brown Trout, and Carp. Now you know why I’ve been infatuated with streamers of all shapes and sizes.
About your instagram name- where did Panther Branch Bugs come from?
Any other social media links you have and want listed for people to find you? So I get asked this a lot, Panther Branch is a spring fed creek that I grew up on and learned to flyfish on and I decided on it to honor my greatest mentor, my Grandfather. He grew up on the same farm as well and he use to tell me stories about his father putting rainbows in the creek and how they would actually survive until they were all caught throughout the year. This creek is a tiny blueline on the map but my Grandfather and I spent most spring/summer Saturday afternoons exploring the water…catching redbreast sunfish, bass, crawfish, hellgrammites…you name it. Even to this day I fish it at least once a week as its only 10 minutes from my house and every time I step in the water I feel like find something new. It’s a special place for sure.
In your opinion, what makes an average fly tyer, a great fly tyer? What tips can you give to younger tyers out there to improve their progression?
To me, it boils down to one major thing and that’s “taking your time”. When you slow down you find that there’s tons of details that can be overlooked if you’re just cranking thru flies early on….for example, is your thread laying flat or twisted tight, are those rubber legs equal distant, are your eyes glued on straight..etc. A great tyer also finds a niche they fit in and works to perfect that niche whether it be the perfect parachute Adams, articulated streamer, or deer hair bass bug.
What characteristics do you look for in successful fly designs? Do you work or brainstorm with any other fly tyers to improve your stuff or get a 2nd opinion?
Well I look for 2 major things initially….1. Profile and 2. Action. Once I have these two things down pat in a design I start to tweak things such as weight and materials to see if it has any major effect to the way the fly looks or swims. I think its best to have a fly that is completely streamlined for ease of fishing but also ease of tying in bulk.
Luckily, I have some great friends that are both accomplished tyers and fishermen to help with feedback. My good friend, Adam Harman of Blueridge Custom Flies, has always been great when brainstorming on an idea or critiquing a fly and I try to do the same with him, even though I’m all thumbs when it comes to nymphs like he ties. I also have friends that aren’t interested in materials or design…they just fish, and I can hand them a few flies to use and they come back with great ideas as well, solely based on how a particular fly performed. So its great to have both ends of the spectrum and in general its nice having these friendships in a sport we all love.
I’ve never been to your home state of Alabama- whats the best fishing around you? Do you guide down there? If so, with who- and what species do you typically target?
Oh man! So many choices and so little free time! Honestly though it really depends on the time of year. If you made a summer trip I would say skinny water Smallmouth with hoppers, a spring visit would be Largemouth with 2/0 deer hair concoctions in the morning and then hit the big water for the rest of the day to catch 40-50 White bass /Hybrids on their annual spawn run, and if you visited in the fall or winter it would be throwing streamers to trout on the tailwater. There’s always something to fish for here no matter the time of year.
As for guiding, in the past I have taken people on warmwater trips for Smallmouth and White bass but at this time its not something I do on a regular basis. Although if the interest continues to grow you never know what may happen……
What’s your favorite type of fishing to do? Favorite species and method of fishing?
These days I find the most joy in fishing for small water smallmouth bass with downsized streamers on a glass rod. To me, the coolest thing is finding a watershed that looks like brookie water and being able to throw a 3” streamer into each run and see a shadow emerge to chase and eat your fly! When you do this you really do see the Alpha predators of that stream and a lot of these fish are never seen because people don’t think decent size fish live in such small water.
Are you tying commercially at this time? If so, how is business? Have you submitted any flies into the big catalogs for evaluation?
I don’t tie commercially right now, of course I tie small orders for guys quite often and spring thru summer is when I see the most orders. My future plans, once my wife finishes her Masters in the Medical field, include ramping up my business to a more professional level, which will include a website and more hours for tying.
As far as submissions go, I currently have 2 flies in the 2016 Orvis catalog….the Bailes Out minnow and the Panther Creek hopper. It’s crazy to see something you tie end up in a well known store like Orvis. I have a few other patterns that will be going in for evaluation for the 2018 season and I’m hoping they will make the cutting room floor.
One thing I really appreciate is the quality of your deerhair work. It is a definitely something I’m not comfortable with from lack of practice. How did you get into the deerhair bugs- what drew you to them and how long was the learning curve?
I think like most guys that get into deerhair bugs I started out by buying them from Pat Cohen, even though I tied for myself. Within a few months I found myself buying deerhair, a hair packer, and his DVD’s and I was at the vise trying to stack my own. For the first major learning curve, It took me about 2 months to become somewhat decent and I still find that it’s the one niche in fly tying, for me, that requires constant practice to keep a certain level of competency. I have also learned that you find something new out with each different patch of belly hair….so it’s a constant process of learning the material.
What are some of your favorite new fly tying products that you use in your flies, or that improve the quality of your flies?
I would say my favorite new material for building streamers would have to be the Hareline Micro Pulsator zonkers. The strips are great for the smaller streamers I tie but they are in no way sparse…super full and the colors are pretty endless. I seem to use them every chance I get.
Also the heads available from both Flymen fishing co and Dropjaw flies are just awesome……both provide a clean finished look to any streamer without worrying about epoxy dry time.….and did I mention they just look cool! But really I could go broke just trying to sample all the new fly tying materials that are coming out these days. Its so easy to add a fresh spin on even classic patterns with all the stuff out today.
Let me separate one thing- Drop Jaw Heads….give me the low down on these INCREDIBLY unique head designs. How do you tie with them? I haven’t pulled the trigger because of the expense and I don’t know how durable they are- so how durable are they?
The Dropjaw heads really are incredibly unique and offer a truly custom touch to any streamer. What I normally tell guys when trying to explain how detailed these heads are is that, Jason Arave and Chad Nelson are doing miniature taxidermy on fish heads! No two heads are alike and they have so much depth in the coloring, due to the guys painting them in layers and then epoxy coating. Speaking about the epoxy clear coat, the guys at Dropjaw have taken the time and invested lots of research into the best performing epoxy for the heads and it shows. I have been out fishing along rip-rap for hybrid bass and slammed my streamer into the rock jetties on my back cast, pulled the fly in expecting to see a cracked head, only to find a lil scuff mark! So whatever Jason and Chad are doing is working well.
As far as how I tie with them…I use them on any streamer I can imagine and also the inside of the head has a wide enough opening that they fit a huge range of hook sizes. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on the newest head design, the Pinhead, combined with zonker strips and stacking SF fibers for a belly ( which I learned from Gunnar Brammer) it makes a perfect skinny water streamer!
The Pinhead is the smallest offered right now and I actually throw it in an articulated streamer on a 6’6” glass 5wt with ease. My other favorite would have to be the juvenile trout head ,its quite a bit bigger than the Pinhead and once tied in correct proportions looks like it could jump out of the fly box and smim off on its on! So if you haven’t seen a Dropjaw head in person you truly are missing out and I don’t just say this because I’m an ambassador for them….I was just a regular guy wanting to splurge on a cool new material and once I get my first pack of heads in and talked to Jason on the phone I knew they had something cool going on !
What vise are you currently tying on? What are the biggest pros about that vise?
For the past 3-4yrs my main vise is a Renzetti Clouser with the brass & stainless steel upgrades. For me, it does everything well….from midges to deer hair bugs. The biggest pro to me is it’s an American made vise that has a great reputation and it’s one of those vises I can see passing down to my kids…one day……maybe 60 yrs from now
Are you currently a member of any fly fishing or fly tying pro staffs? Anyone you want to shout out?
I’m lucky enough to be an Ambassador for the guys at Dropjaw Flies and I’m also on the Tyer Program with Flymen Fishing Co., as well as a member of the Orvis Friends of the Field program. All these groups are top notch and you really can’t ask for any better!
If you could fish anywhere in the world for the next couple of days, where would you go?
Man that’s tough! But I think I would have to go simple and pick a Montana spring creek with hungry Browns that are willing to eat streamers in the morning, hoppers midday, and finish the evening with fading light and a mouse
You’ve received some other press this year- through The Fiberglass Manifesto- What did you think when they contacted you? In that article they gave mention to a fly of yours named The Bloody Fanged Bat- something I remember seeing on facebook early on when I was following you. How did that fly come about?
Yeah Cameron is a great dude and the sole reason I have more glass than graphite now He’s been nice enough to have me do a few tutorials over the past couple years but the Bat seemed to do well and get a reaction from both fly guys and gals along with everyone else. Honestly the way it came about was our Facebook Warmwater fly tyer group had a Halloween fly posting and I was in the middle of refilling my bass boat box when it hit me……if I just shorten the tail on that mouse and give it wings I can make a bat.
So tying the bat wasn’t an issue, it was the wings that gave me a hard time as I tried a few materials that either wouldn’t stay in place or just didn’t look right. Finally I just went to some 2mm foam, heated and rounded the edges, along with adding on some pieces of prepainted toothpicks, which was all put in place onto the belly after I covered the underside with UV goo. It would probably twist a 40# leader due to the wings but I carry at least one on my display to each show because it’s a something you don’t see at most fly shows
Is it true you are considered a warm water specialty tyer? I ask because you and I share the same affliction of tying some pretty big trout streamers?
I consider myself mainly a warmwater guy for the most part. I don’t tie a lot of small trout stuff other than a few standard flies…actually the smallest hook I own right now is a 20 and that’s pretty much for tailwater midges. I always say I’m not talented enough to tie small stuff but I do enjoy tying trout/bass streamers along with bass bugs. over the past year I have gotten back to streamers that fit the water and style I fish most….skinny water, sure there areas that warrant a 5-6” articulated streamer at certain times, but 95% of the time I tie and fish streamers that catch both numbers and size…which is usually in the 2-3.5” range. Now if we are talking an 8wt, floating line, and Largemouth on the lake….well then I reach for at least a 2/0 bass bug
Will you be doing any of the fly tying shows this year? If yes, where at?
As of right now I am scheduled to tie at the Smoky Mountains Hook&Hackle show in November and I usually do Orvis demo days at some point during the year as well.
What are some of your favorite materials to tie with? What materials offer you the most consistency and creativity?
Well I know I talked about the Hareline Micro Pulsator strips already and they are very consistent but I think my most favorite material, if I can call them that, are good hooks. I might be considered a hook collector by some but I really like all the solid and dependable hooks that are out there. When I first started tying a bought cheap bulk hooks and I would sit and weed thru them for rolled points and crooked or bent eyes. Then hope that they would hold during a fight with an angry Smallmouth. I quickly learned that the hook has to be a solid foundation to base any fly off of because if it doesn’t perform then the rest of the material doesn’t matter.
For the record my current favorites are the Patridge Predator series, Gamakstu SP11’s, and Ahrex Curved Shrimp…..and then of course you can never have too many Gama B10 Stingers!
One of my personal favorite questions- lets talk about fly development. You sit down at the vise, no orders to fill- just an empty box and your collection of materials. Do you sketch something out first, is the fly based on a material, a color, a specific location etc?
I have this weird habit…..i’m sitting here with 3 boat boxes and 9 other various fly boxes overflowing with streamers and bugs but what do I do…..i know I’m getting up the next morning to fish “X” location so I sit down and think” what would be a cool way to catch a fish there?” . so I usually end up tying 3-4 flies and stick them in a box that is already full of patterns that are tried and true on the water I’m going to fish…….and 9 times out of 10 I end up only fishing the 3-4 flies I tied the night before and if one of those freshly tied flies catches a fish then I feel like I’ve won the chess match that day.
How do you test your flies- when do you give them a passing grade?
I test in stages…first I tie up a prototype and test in a sink filled with water. If the fly falls, rest, or swims a short distance like I want then I move to step two. The next step is on an actual stream that will be the water type I intend to fish( slow moving, fast moving, pocket water, etc) and if it passes that test then I concentrate on catching fish. Once it catches fish I usually look the fly over and see if there is any particular area that can be trimmed away for ease of tying but still perform the same and give off the same profile……after all that’s said and done, well I usually make room in the flybox and put it into rotation.
What are your current favorites:
Bobbin- Griffin Supreme Deerhair Thread- Veevus 200D Regular Thread- UTC 140 Scissors- Dr. Slick 4” Razor Scissors Glue/UV Resin- Loon Flow….so many uses
Any favorite tools/gadget you use often- Granite vise base from thegranitefly.com…..not really a tool but it is great way to have a solid foundation to tie on and it looks good
Have any new designs you are throwing around> Any concept fly you are looking to build/perfect?
Right now I’m trying to come up with a Hellgrammite that is not overly complicated but still looks convincing and fishes well. I have a few different styles I’ve been tying up and at least one is in its finally stages of being done. So far the fish like them too!
What’s the state of fly tying right now?
I think fly tying these days is growing immensely due to material choices and the whole social media connections made. Social media is a great way to connect and share ideas but as with anything in life a few bad apples do start to stink it up on occasions but if guys will just remember that this is a platform for creativity I can only imagine the things to come in the tying world!
Who are some of your favorite fly tyers?
Wow! So much talent today….off the top of my head I would say my buddy Adam Harman, Gunnar Brammer, Andreas Andersson, Collin Carlson, Steve Yewchuck, Richard Strolis, Eric Snyder, Blane Chocklett, and of course, Tradd Little.
What do you think of the divisiveness in fly tying right now?
Man! Like I was saying in the previous question, there’s a few bad apples out there for sure and sadly a few have a professional platform in the industry that could be used in great ways instead of putting people down for their gain. You have guys that spend their days trolling the internet just find someone tying something similar and then they try to crucify the person for doing so. It’s pretty sad to see grown-ups act this way but it just has to be taken with a grain of salt. This sport of ours is meant to be fun, relaxing, and a way to show creativity….not a sport based on how many “likes” or “followers” you have. I think social media is a great venue to share our hobby but nothing beats time on the water instead in front of a screen. And if you really break it down, all we really gotta do is have fun while we’re here and make sure the fish likes our flies
To the question about People arguing over what is, or isn’t a “fly”? You know I’ve never really gotten into the whole “that’s not a fly it’s a lure” debate but I’m not a purist for certain either. My opinion, solely, if it’s marketed and sold for convention gear fishermen then I say its not a fly Growing up I also saw guys using flyrods and live worms to catch bedded bluegills in spring…not for me, but if it makes you happy and lets you escape everyday life?
Any final thoughts, rants?
Get outside and go explore those streams you drive by everyday…you could be pleasantly surprised at what you find!
A huge THANK YOU to Brandon for taking the time to answer these questions, and allowing us to see his incredible fly tying skills. His flies are beautifully crafted and the photography is top notch as well. He is a very humble man, but his work speaks for itself.
Please take this time to follow Brandon on Instagram HERE, where you can stay up to date on all of his latest creations. If you would like to get in touch to order some of his flies, you can reach him through his email@example.com
Lastly, there are going to be 3 flies tied by Brandon given away over the next week or so. To be eligible for the first fly, simply subscribe to the blog and answer this question.
What flies would you like to see available for purchase in the online store- Trout Streamers, Predator Flies, Trout Nymphs, or Saltwater Flies?
I’m expanding significantly these last few months in 2016, but even more so in 2017. New materials coming soon as well including FrankenFly Franken Dub (Monster and Nymph) as well as several The Laughing Fly materials.
For the other two giveaways make sure to check out my Instagram page HERE
Heading into the last quarter of 2016, there are a lot of new posts coming, including many more interviews to catch up.
The next Fly Tyer of the Month will be Brandon Bailes aka Panther Branch Bugs and he is an incredibly skilled and diverse fly tyer. He is probably considered a warm water/deerhair specialist but his trout streamers are pretty sick as well.
Take a peak at his Instagram page HERE, and comment below with any questions you would like asked about any of his flies- any techniques you would like discussed etc. You can also check out my page, @inpursuitoftrout as well.
As per the usual, there will be a few lucky winners once the interview is posted who will win some of his flies so stay tuned.
I haven’t done any product reviews in a long time, and I am incredibly behind so starting with this one, I’ll be trying to get one or two up a week. If you want to see any products, materials, gear etc reviewed- either in print or video- email and I’ll see what I can do via the Facebook Live tool.
If you aren’t familiar with Pat Cohen and his work, you are living under a rock. The guy is an absolute artist on the vise, his deer hair work is second to none right now (imo), and he is a true professional. I got to meet Pat and watch his demo at last year’s Somerset show and it was mesmerizing. He’s also a great guy, and more than willing to lend a hand helping a fellow tyer.
Back in May I ordered one each of his Sculptin Scissors after talking with him, and even though I didn’t need new scissors- I know enough about Pat that he isn’t pumping out new tools just to move a few units- there is some thought and purpose behind them. Combine that with the fact I had no less than 15 average pairs sitting in my foam tool organizer I could hardly resist. Scissors are absolutely critical to clean work, whether it is prepping materials or cutting thread once you whip finish the fly. Regardless how much you spend, its difficult to find one that is worth the value. These scissors are hands down the best I’ve worked with yet. Dr. Slick Razors are good, the Hareline Titanium scissors are okay- these are AWESOME. There are four different scissors he came out with.
4.5″ Straight. Price: $24.95
These scissors have 2″ long, double serrated blades which is perfect for all the nasty synthetic materials we are tying with these days. My gripe and obsession about scissors is that must suck- honestly, you drop down $25 sometimes less- and you tie a couple weeks and once they get dull- you collect them to cut wire and shit- but mostly they sit on the bench taking up valuable real estate. just take up room.
These are STILL cutting gsp thread without tension. Yeup- they CUT gsp thread. No need to stab it while pulling the thread like you are starting a stubborn lawn mower- it cuts clean.
I really like this pair of scissors for deer hair work. It is a big enough (and strong enough) scissor to cut premo strips up all day long- without being heavy or awkward.
Bonus- These can be resharpened. Contact Pat directly for more information on that.
Pros- All of the above- the best scissor in this size and price range that I’ve ever used.
Cons- Due to the blade style, I don’t feel comfortable sharpening these myself, so at some point they will have to be sharpened.
4.5″ Curved Scissor $24.95
These have 1.75″ double serrated blades. At first I didn’t want a pair of curved scissors until I thought about it. While they certainly aren’t necessary- I love mine. Shaping deerhair is much easier with these- you can clean up Sex Dungeon heads after the razor work and it looks beautiful. Would do equally well with rams wool heads, Laser Dub, etc. Also good for tapered cuts on under flash.
Cons- The curved shears work perfectly but feel slightly sticky on the curve. I don’t notice it while using them but if you open and close them slowly enough you’ll feel it. It might have to do with the double serrated blades- but then again in my day job among many other things, I sell $550 dog grooming scissors- so the comparison is slightly unfair.
4″ Straight $24.95
While not a significant decrease in overall size, the blades are only 1″ long, which is great for work on smaller flies and in closer quarters. Great for use on nymphs, dry flies, etc.
Pros- Fine point, but not superfine point. To me, this is a pro, and not a con, because most arrow point scissors dull quickly. Ignore the size, these are a workhorse bench scissor. You could tie all day long with these and lose little.
Cons- None, my favorite scissor in their size/price category.
4″ Curved $24.95
Utilizing a a blade length of just short of 1″. This little scissor will immediately clean up your tying process. My favorite task is cutting rabbit strips. When you tie a fly that utilizes a rabbit strip tail and over wing, the tie down process can be mess. Most scissors suck at trimming rabbit cleanly- but this truly is a wonder. By using the curved part, you can cut it closer, minimizing thread wraps to clean up the tie down point.
Pros- Cuts rabbit hide clean, minimizing thread waste. Would be great to tidy up elk hair caddis if things went array during the tying process.
Cons- Not completely necessary. If you are of the minimalist type, you certainly don’t want 4 scissors taking up room on your bench space. I’m the type of tyer who will take as many types of arrows in his quiver, if you know what I mean. Every tool has a purpose, find every tools perfect purpose and your tying will improve.
You can buy each of these directly through Pat’s website, www.rusuperfly.com. He also sells a set of all 4 at a discount price of $84.99 savings of over 15%.
Andreas- lets start off with the quintessential first question- what got you into fly fishing and ultimately fly tying? And how did that journey bring you into articulated streamers?
I guess you could say that fishing did bring me into fly fishing , i had been spin and bait fishing since a very young age. My curiosity with fly fishing came as a natural progression at about age 12.
My very first flies were tied at a local fishing club at the same age. Articulated streamers and bigger flies in general came when i found out just how fun catching pike on flies are. Some time after that i started trying the bigger flies for trout as well and the ball was rolling…
When did you first see an articulated streamer- if you remember, what fly was it? And what made you start tying them?
I don’t know really , maybe some fly i saw in Fly tier magazine a long time ago. Probably some of the Michigan guys flies ,Galloup or Maddin would be my guess.
The reason i started tying bigger flies originally was to catch pike and later just an ambition to catch larger trout . Looking at what the American guys were doing with articulation came naturally with that ambition.
What was the first articulated streamer you designed? How successful was it?
The first i can remember putting a name on was a fly i called ” Medium rare” , a front weighted streamer using rabbit strips in a slightly unusual way, pretty good actually especially after i put a fish skull on it, i can still remember clearly were i caught my first respectable trout on it.
It seems like you have enjoyed a lot of success around the world, and particularly here in the United States where there is a streamer explosion going on. You even had your flies featured by Brian Wise of Fly Fishing the Ozarks- what was that process like?
Yes its been crazy and it keeps being pretty crazy.
The American streamer culture is pretty cool and its surely rubbing off on the rest of the world, i see it growing a lot over here to. I have sent flies to many countries but the US is nowadays the most common destination without a doubt.
Yeah i think that’s really cool, Brian does such a great job and Ive always enjoyed watching his tying videos s. To me Brian has created a kind off modern streamer ”Hall of fame” and of course I’m very proud to have 6 fly patterns featured and also being the first non American.
The process was fairly simple , Brian contacted me that he wanted to feature some of my flies and i sent him photo and text s.b.s for the flies. You also demo’d a few flies through Fly TV including one of my favorite patterns of yours- the Delivery Man. For the US audience- what is Fly TV and how did you develop that pattern?
Fly Tv is part of the Swedish fishing film YouTube channel Kanalgratis , they produce some really nice stuff so definitely worth checking out. I was asked on to demonstrate some tying by my friend Niklaus Bauer from Flydressing. A Whitlock/Cohen style mouse and my pike fly the Delivery man.
The Delivery man pattern was developed to be a pike fly with a big side to side movement and that head was definitely crucial in getting the desired effect. The fact that it casts very light for its size and are easy to vary in color is good to. Other predatory fish as striped bass,golden dorado,taimen,musky and large browns have responded well to it to.
It seems everyone is tying great streamers right now- who are a few of your favorite tyers- and what separates them from everyone else?
Yupp, there sure is a lot of people tying streamers nowadays. I don’t know if I have any favorite tyers but there sure is a bunch that are good, i might like this or that of what i see for different reasons. Ok a few then…
Rich Strolis ,broad spectrum when it comes to tying and a he’s always been nice to me. His Ice pick streamer was a major inspiration for my Project Sushi and he even took the time to advice me via video on how he does to get those dubbing heads so nice.
I actually tied some pike flies for his trip to Alaska so hopefully I returned the favor a bit.
The Michigan guys, they are definitely some of those who started this madness. Not mentioning anyone in particular and not forgetting either.
Brian Wise and my Swedish friend Niklaus Bauer, they are some of the few guys I’m likely to juggle around ideas with. Both have real understanding of cause and effect in fly design and are nice guys with very different tying styles.
Ulf Hagstrom has been my wing man on several fly tyers rows and shows, always a great time..Andre Mieges to for his epic color combos, both really nice guys
You are fly fishing for trophy trout next week at an undisclosed river- which 6 flies do you bring?
I really would like to know the type of river. Drifting a tailwater that’s producing water or wading a shallow pocket stretch would definitely affect my choices.
But undisclosed it is..ok.
1 Ragdolly ,baby browntrout colors 6″
2 CF Baitfish, grey/white 3″
3 Sid, White 5″
4 Huck sculpin ,olive 4″
5 Aino , baby rainbow 7″
6 Sisu , firetiger 6″
My absolute favorite fly of yours is the Aino or the Aino variants- Describe that fly’s development?> What were you hoping to achieve- and how did you come up with the tying steps to complete the fly’s head?
Glad you like it! That fly might have one of the most copied head style you’ll find on the internet nowadays.
The Aino (pronounced ”I know”) has a body made as a mix of two other patterns. Namely Blane Chocklett’s Game changer or more so the shanks and hook platform it uses, the other being Kelly Galloup’s Barely legal with top and bottom stacked marabou. The Aino uses palmer and/or polar chenille to push or lift the profile a bit as well and to get some sideline flash, and some Steve Farrar synthetic fibers or Deercreek Gliss n glint as a tail.
Well i was looking to get a serpent type swim on a fly that could still shoot out sideways a bit on the pause, and it needed to cast better than a Game Changer that gets a bit heavy when wet.
The head was the thing i was sure about from the start having tested it on other flies before and it just works, but the body took way longer before i had decided i was done.
The head i use with the reversed synthetic fur came to be as a way to give a more full profile to sparsely tied flies, basically faking size. As well as to make flies that ”cuts” sideways between strips making them look injured..or high or something, either way they wont move straight for long.
The modern UV-resins along with how i place the eyes made it possible to control the shape very easily. Some other bonuses are that colors be placed and layered with control and that the finish point of the thread is hidden inside the head protecting it from teeth and it looks pretty neat to doesn’t it?
What are your thoughts on hook selection when it comes to streamer design and behavior? How do you select which hooks go on a certain fly, and what are a few of your favorite hooks right now, and why?
I would agree that hook choice and also placement of particular hooks in multi hook flies are very important. The way I choose hooks is usually pretty much old knowledge that a lot of people have heard before but lets go through some of it anyway.
Lighter and/or smaller hooks in the back making it easier for it to flutter around and articulate. Bigger and sometimes heavier wire hooks up front for keel/tracking and also to give plenty of hook gap with the big heads common on modern streamers.
I’ll often use different hook models, sizes, bends, and wire thicknesses within the same fly to get different effects. The hooks I use the most at the moment is Partridge of Redditch Predator X, Attitude Streamer, and Attitude Extra..why would take another page of writing.
Hooks are a big deal that affects what you can and can’t do with flies and their action, I definitely have a bunch of ideas for hooks I would like to see produced in the future.
Are you tying full time right now? Have you considered having your designs tied commercially?
No i do have a regular job besides tying and doing demos, but i spend several hours a day tying and have done so for years. To me its a good balance that works and i still have time for my family since most of my tying is done at night,i have never been one to require much sleep anyway.
Yes i have considered it but i haven’t sent any samples yet,don’t know why..and i don’t know if Orvis or Umpqua or similar would be interested. The flies catch fish so that part is good at least lol, we’ll see.
What are a few of your favorite materials and why?
Craft fur since i use it a lot and can apply it to many different flies to get flow and movement without paying much in terms of casting weight. Also makes decent heads as we touched upon earlier.
Bucktail..i obsess over really good bucktail, i have mountains of it and still never pass up good ones.
I think there’s a few that thinks I’m pretty handy with deerhair to and i feel comfortable working with it so that to.
Sid seems to be based off of Tommy Lynch’s D&D- a fly you also tie insanely well. What’s the key to getting that fly swimming properly, and what do you differentiate on the sid vs. the d&d- it looks like the head varies SLIGHTLY- whats your theory on that?
Yupp i definitely took a lot of inspiration for the head from Tommy Lynch’s D&Ds.
I like the dive and wiggle the flies get with the wedge cut deerhair heads as well as the slow rise on the pause , its simply a good idea .
I would say that getting any fly to swim properly is a matter of more than one factor, the angle of the jig hook bend, the width, density and thickness of the deerhair heads are certainly key on these to me.
About differentiation of those patterns i would start the other way around. They do share the wedge style head and they both are great hunting fly patterns, most of the rest is different.
Sid has a thicker or fuller profile in the water and generally less flash, and might be a little bit easier to tie, that’s good. D&D’s has a slightly wilder action due to less friction in the tail and more flash, that is also good..non of them are likely to be excluded from my fly boxes any time soon.
Sid gets a slightly more triangular cut to make it less prone to spin when stripped cross current , its noticeable if you spend a day making long presentations with jerk strips that a DD will twist up your line more, still a great fly tho. Also the triangular cut is less likely to catch on teeth and do last longer because of it.
Are you currently designing/testing any new patterns? When will we see those? Any preview you would like to debut an image of?? 🙂
Testing and tweaking is one of the most fun and important parts of tying flies…most of my ideas are not good enough to earn a spot in the box to be honest, but sometimes you get stuff right.
I let testing take time.. Nowadays with so many great patterns around not much is actually new anyway. No pics yet, top secret lol. During the design process, what kind of testing do you do- and what are you looking for during the development before you finalize the pattern and begin working on color variations?
Most testing is fishing..what i look for is –
1 Does it catch fish?
2 Does is do what i was looking for in the first place in terms of action,depth,actual size when swimming and more.
Colors are usually something that is tested simultaneously since I’m often trying to mimic a specific prey or even a specific behavior of that prey . So to me that goes together even though I’m highly likely to play around with colors later on to.
Speaking of- you seem to have the most creative and polished color schemes of anyone right now- whats your theory on color and color schemes?
Thanks a bunch! Most of the time I’m trying to make a fly look and behave like a type of prey whatever fish I’m tying for is used to eating. Preferably an injured one of those prey items ,predators do sniff out the weak individuals no doubt. Color choices follows that.
Other times I’m making flies meant to piss the fish of to get a territory/reaction strike and then i might be using more wild or highly visible colors.
Other stuff i may take into account is surrounding elements like light or the absence of light, water color, temperature, time of the year and so on.
Another thing , the only fly i might (but rarely that either) do single color is white, all others are a blend of some kind, two reasons- Nothing or close to nothing in nature is really single color is it?…and its boring to paint with a small palette.
If you could fish anywhere in the world right now- where would you go and why?
Really tough one , my bucket list isn’t exactly short. There s a ton of places i wanna go and plenty of species i have never fished for. If i were writing this earlier in the year i think my friends along The White river in Arkansas or maybe Michigan would get a call with me asking to borrow a couch to crash lol.
But right now i would be extremely happy to just get up north to my friends house close to one of my favorite brown trout rivers or to take the drift boat out with my dad, both scenarios just because i know i would have a great time…it don’t have to be more complicated than good company and a river for me most of the time.
Where is your favorite place to fish- and what makes it special for you?
Can i pick a few if i keep it short?
Stockholm archipelago going after pike, perch and sea-run brown trout..its basically a maze of thousands of island and incredibly beautiful .
The Norther part of river Dalälven. My family has a house there and just being in the area with snow on the mountains into the summer is great..the fishing isn’t bad either.
The Gim river in county Jämtland in Sweden and river Rena in Norway are both places i love to fish with my friends and both offer opportunity for some serious brown trout.
Do you see any tying trend that upsets you, or that you don’t understand? Can you tie a trout streamer TOO big?
No not really upset it usually takes a lot more than tying to get me upset…but some guys I have spent hours answering questions on how i do certain things and techniques just to get a pattern ripped without credit or thanks , that’s a bit sad because what i told might have taken years to get just right .
Credit is nice to get and i think to give it as well, i have learned tons by watching, reading and talking to other tyers through the years and I’m certainly thankful to those guys and girls for sharing their knowledge.
Getting inspiration from what others have done before and using that to achieve something specific you are looking for in a fly is different thing that i don’t mind at all, i do that all the time some times knowingly some times not since not much is new under the sun.
Yes and no, i have tied 9 and 10 inch streamers for guys chasing tail water trout and they catch monsters on them. But at the same time yes, when you step over a certain size in each watershed you will pay a price in less or no fish.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
I have a couple of events planned in Sweden and abroad, next up is Switzerland in a few weeks.
And also the fishing season is far from over here up north so there’s plenty of fishing left to be done as well.
I’ve seen you do several fly shows/fairs in Europe- do you have fun tying flies at these shows? Have you considered doing any shows in the US at some point?
Yes i enjoy teaching and demoing fly tying and i do it a lot, i have done that in 9 countries so far. Its always a good time and atmosphere and i get to meet a lot of friend on the road to.
Yupp i have certainly considered tying in the US and have gotten some invitations to.
I’m going to the states next year to fish , we’ll see if anyone wants me to do any workshops or demos while there.
For those of us striving to be a more solid production tyer- what tips can you give us? What mistakes did you make early on?
Well first of always try make every fly as good as you can and take the time to make sure you do. Might seem obvious but speed and being able to make piles of flies that all look and work the same aren’t rushed .
Speed comes from experience , good preparations and also working with good materials.
Some things i have either learned from others or from simply tying thousands of flies per year and learning by doing, here a few of them that have helped me.
-Learn to tie with scissors in hand, you use it all the time and constantly picking it up and putting it down is a waste of time.
– Learn to do half hitches and whip finishing by hand, similar scenario as with the scissor with the added bonus of stronger flies if you make it a habit of throwing a knot in there once in a while.
-Prepare materials before you start wrapping , a huge time saver that also helps you with consistency. I use thick foam strips with slots cut into then as a second pair of hands as well as plastic cups, organizing boxes, magnets for hooks and so on.
-Wrap small..picked this one up from Charlie Craven many years ago. I see a lot of people at classes and workshops with 5-6 inches of thread outside the bobbin. Not only has the bobbin a long way to travel per wrap ,it harder to place it accurately and with proper tension that way. Wrap small..
-Lastly read, take classes and listen to what others are doing. A lot of what works for others might not work for you but there’s usually a few gems of information to pick up.
Some of the people i have learned from in one way or another that curious people might want to check out from include AK Best, Al and Gretchen Beatty and Barry Ord Clarke and several of my best Swedish friends on smaller flies. On modern style streamers Kelly Galloup, Rich Strolis and Mike Schmidt and more..On deerhair the late Chris Helm as well as Mike George and Pat Cohen. Nicklaus Bauer if you are into pike flies…i could make this list longer.
I have been tying for well over 20 years now and done my 10’000 hours and learn new stuff all the time. No one is an expert at everything..we gotta remember that or stop getting better.
Ohh and about the mistakes done earlier on i probably did all of them .
What’s your favorite species to fly fish for?
Brown trout rule! Trout are special to me , always has and always will be even though i certainly enjoy fishing for other species to.
Delivery Man- what are you favorite go to color schemes.
Delivery Man- ”The Parrot” looks coolest no doubt, its a black,blue,orange combo that looks like nothing but it hunts anyway. Skinhead- tips to perfect the head clean and locked down.
Skinhead- Start with a needle for precision and then a scissor to get the hole through the rabbit strip the right size, glue and thread the eye through the bunny. Finnish with a small amount of uv-resin to get the finished head looking a little bit nicer.
Ragdolly- How should it swim- do you tend to fish it on a floating or sinking line- or does it vary?
Ragdolly- The R.D is my favorite fly, it just works. The deerhair head should be cut with flat sides and top and bottom to have the current gripping it better pushing the head around causing a chain-reaction to the rest of the fly. It will jack knife, fly out sideways and pulse on automatic , very easy to fish, cast and to make to look alive.
90% of the time its a sinking line and 10 % a short head sink tip, i cant remember ever using a floating line. You could but i don’t.
Lastly- what is your most popular fly world wide?
Popular in terms of catching big trout, Ragdolly. It just seems to work wherever i send them.
Delivery man, Sid, Aino and the little CF Baitfish all have been great to if listening to fishing reports.
And the head style of the Delivery Man/Aino has been taken on by a ton of other tyers so i guess you could call that pretty popular to on its own merits.
A huge thank you goes out to Andreas Andersson for taking his time to answer these questions, and to share his wonderfully tied and photographed flies. He gets full credit for these photographs, so please share the link- and not the images. You can see all of these and THOUSANDS more well tied and photographed flies on his social media pages.