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.
The following interview features high levels of synthetic materials on extremely original, progressive fly designs. Viewer Discretion Advised.
All jokes aside, there is still this archaic group of fly tyers out there that feels that synthetic materials somehow dilutes the purity of fly tying. Johnathan Kiley is one of the most progressively minded, creative, out of the box fly tyers in the business today. His designs are outright gaudy at times, but they catch fish. I’ve never seen one of his flies posted and thought that it was or could have been tied by anyone other than himself. Johnathan Kiley created his material business, Fly Skinz, a few years ago, and he is already shaking up the global material market with his innovative products. Without further ado, here is our interview.
First, for the people that are unfamiliar with you or your company Fly Skinz, give them some background. Who you are, and what your company is about.
Fly Skinz was created because as I was making up new materials most of the flies were names with “Skinz” in them. It was a brainstorming effort between myself and a mentor within the fly fishing community. What I really needed was a website or source where people could go and see how to use a lot of the products…the www.flyskinz.com was born. The best part about this whole experience so far is the people I have met along the way and the professional relationships I’ve created with them. I consider a lot of them good friends. Yes it is business but I really feel “old school” so to speak with having a relationship with people I do business with on a daily basis. I share a lot of information with them which can be very risky but I feel they will be honest with me in return.
Fly Skinz to me is something of an evolution…I started the business or the thought of a business several years ago. I was tying for guides and friends a lot. I was pretty apt to customizing flies in which ways people could not purchase them. I was always inventing new ways to work with existing materials and even making new ones to help people catch fish. At some point along the way I felt I could use my talents of coming up with new materials and maybe make a living on it.
There is no doubt that the fly tying or fly fishing community is a very saturated industry. It’s actually extremely difficult to make people break the traditions of it. I’m not really worried about the “in-the-box” folks…I want to create something new and revolutionize things. There are a few people pushing those boundaries right there with me and I really feel it is a good thing. Think of traditional archery, or anything else that has evolved over the years…why not fly fishing?
The first product created was actually my Scud Skinz…I was tying a scud pattern to fish the waters of CO below the many reservoirs. These fish here are extremely pressured so I thought I needed to make a more realistic pattern to combat the fish identifying the norm. Literally you will hear people say the fish know fly patterns by name here. Long story short I made my own shell out of vinyl which not only made it appear realistic but was a lot faster to tie than using a plastic bag.
It seems like you’ve come pretty far in a relatively short period of time. Getting your materials into Hareline is obviously huge. How has the overall industry reception been? Any haters? We all know the purists that exist within this niche industries.
I would agree with you…I am really excited what I have done in a short period of time. With that comes a lot of pressure. I might be the one putting the pressure on myself, but either way I feel it. How do you stand out from so much tradition? How do you create something new in a saturated market? My answer is….thinking, strategy, research and development, and just plain old hard work.
With being new there are always going to be “haters” out there. I say, let haters hate. I’ve already been exposed to folks talking crap about what I am doing. It’s no surprise and honestly it’s more disappointing hearing it from someone that is very well known. The thing is, I’m not in this industry to make people mad, or step on toes…I just want to do something where I am free to think on my own. With that, the end goal is to one day work with a team or have a team of people that want to do the same with me. I want to be happy as I’m working hard day in and day out. If I wasted time thinking about that kind of negativity I wouldn’t be where I am today. Fortunately I have people that believe in me and what I am about that have helped me get this far in the industry.
I owe a lot of credit to the Hareline Dubbin team and their support. They took a risk by having a guy such as myself and essentially making me part of this huge thing. I hate disappointing anyone or feeling that I have done so. So I work hard to ensure I am open about how I am running Fly Skinz. I’ve tried at the beginning to partner with people and no one seems to be “all in”. It was like I was having to be like them in order to make it happen. It also moved slow and if anyone knows me I jump all in no matter what I am doing. If I feel for a split second someone isn’t with me I start solving problems in order to make something worthwhile.
You know that I’m drinking your Kool Aid- I immediately saw the innovation when I saw the Fish Finz for the first time. Tell us about the development of the Fish Finz- what gave you the idea, and how did the initial design and manufacturing process go?
I appreciate that you have enjoyed the Fish Finz! The Fish Finz was actually something sitting in the corner of my tying bench in a few different forms for a while. It wasn’t until I was in contact with the geniuses at Fly Fish Food that helped it come to fruition. They wanted me to make a sculpin fin so they could skip the annoying parts of making fins the old way. Just to have several finz in the bank ready to rock and roll. I sent them a few samples and it blew up from there.
Along the way I ended up developing a whole new material and manufacturing them myself as you see them today. It wasn’t easy, and I basically taught myself a whole new trade. That’s how I work though…all in as I said before. With some discussion with my mentor and what would be more appealing to the market it all came together. I am very fortunate and can’t thank all the people involved in the process enough. Yes I can come up with new ideas and make it work on a fly that fishes unbelievably but if the team effort doesn’t happen between inventor, manufacturer, distributor, shops and the customer…it won’t work.
When did you start tying flies or fly fishing? What/who was the inspiration, where did you grow up fishing?
Well, I was a young lad…just kidding. I was really young (8 yrs old) when I started tying and it was my father who showed me the road to learning. At the time the painstaking process of learning the very basics of everything seemed very unnecessary I now realize why. My father was very methodical and meticulous about teaching me fundamentals. From the beginning to end…so fly fishing for instance. I wasn’t allowed to actually fish until I learned to make all my own equipment. So the flies, rod, fly boxes…you name it! As a kid this was how I spent my time at home. My father was a jack of all trades and knew a lot about everything it seemed. What motivated me today is knowing that all his life he possessed all of these skills and could have probably worked in a field he loved but didn’t. I want to be someone my own family or people can look up to and motivated them to do something they love. After all it is the American way right? I know some people might not feel it is that way anymore but I am a believer. You are your own barrier.
What are a few of your favorite flies to tie?
This is a tough one… I would have to say anything big like a streamer or a top water fly. The reason why is because I’m probably imagining what the strike or take is going to be like as I am making it. We all live for that tug!
As far as fly design goes your materials lend a unique advantage to anyone with a creative mind. Describe your fly design process Does it start with a new material, an idea, a problem to solve etc?
You nailed it…it’s usually to solve a problem. I’m always in that mode. Realistically it’s the critical thinker mindset I’ve been programmed with. I think I can thank my father for this. Knowing a ton of trades really allows a person to “connect the dots”. Over time you can just look at something and know how it is done. Like tying flies…when I did so many by the book I could just look at a picture and make it. If I didn’t have the exact materials I would improvise or make my own. I don’t mind doing it either, in fact it’s my preferred method. This allows me to be a free-thinker and less stressed:) within that there are some good life lessons.
How would you define your style of fly tying?
My style of tying is driven by my brain…ADHD. Sometimes as I tie a fly I might change it mid way through. However once I have made a great pattern I might only make a few minor changes along the way. Especially if I feel it needs refinement after fishing it.
Will you be tying at any shows this year?
I really hope so. Since I work in the aerospace industry full-time I am scheduled to make another move for work. The benefit though is it is somewhere warm and my fishing throughout the year is going to increase dramatically.
I heard you grew up back east, where did you grow up and what made you move west?
I grew up in PA, and fished a lot growing up all over the state. I moved west due to work, but with my job I have fished in places people would have to pay a lot of money to go where I have been. My job is a blessing in disguise for fly fishing. In general I have loved every place I’ve been as far as fishing. This might be because I use it as a stress relief.
What is on the horizon for you and Fly Skinz in 2016. Are you currently developing any new materials?
I have a lot of new ideas I am trying to make come to fruition for next season. I feel ahead of the game but along the way the new ideas keep flowing. These are some new materials coming out that I am really excited about and really think the tying community will be as well. I think this is the basis on how companies either thrive or die. If I could work in an R&D department for a fly company it would be a job come true. The “Brain Train” is what I call it, and never stops.
I saw that you got involved with Project Healing Waters. How did you get involved with them, and how has your experience been?
I’ve worked with PHWFF for the last 3+ years in many capacities. First I volunteered as a mentor and tied during the tying classes. As I sat in and helped out I wanted to do more. It just so happens one of the leads was stepping out of the tying/training chair position. I immediately volunteered because I had a lot of ideas. So I developed a class that taught more skill sets than flies. I knew that most of the veterans moved a lot after the program so I wanted the to feel confident in more areas than trout fishing in CO. It only seemed fair. Not to mention the had some amazing trips in saltwater and more. So with the help of my good friend Bill Kirk, we developed curriculum for 4 levels of classes. Each one progressively showed the skills where they could eventually tie anything and everything.
Here is a short list of my favorite flies/materials of yours for each one list how difficult they are to tie for an average fly tyer- from a scale of 1 to 10. One being easy, ten being very difficult. And then any tips you can give them.
1. Articulated Sculpinz using the Fish Finz:
I really feel this fly can be a 3-6 depending on how crazy you want to get with it. It can be easy like a wooly bugger, some zonker material and finz if you want. Tips for finz…easy as can be. If you want them to stick out simply tie some dubbing dos first and let the material get squeezed in between to help it pop. From there the fish will love the action.
2. Spiked Slow Rolla Tail- favorite type of fly to use them on:
The Swamp Thing… It’s a fly I created to attract the most unsuspecting fish. The slow rolla tails themselves are so universal…you can make worms, bait fish, bugs, your imagination is the only limit.
Back to the fly though…it’s an easy 2. However it catches fish like no other. The action it makes in the water is nothing like any tail out there. You can drag it on the bottom slow as can be and the fish will chomp away. I love that fly!
3. Your Foam “Flures”:
So these are a recent obsession and take me back to when I was building lures. I also used to make handmade wood lures. These join the two together in ways that make any traditionalist cringe. That’s maybe why I love it 🙂
5. Mini Craw:
The mini craw is surprisingly a little complicated…however it is a very effective fly. I will do a video soon I hope…it’s probably a 6-7.
What is your favorite type of:
Vise: …now it is a Peak Vise Bobbins: Rite Bobbins Thread: veevus, mono, and Kevlar Glue/UV: gorilla superglue & Loon Fly Box: I love Cliff Boxes but also like tacky boxes for my small stuff Fly Rod…I’m not a snob when it comes to rods or reels. A lot of manufactures use the same blanks but put their name on it. I have to experience before I buy. With that I have several I love. I’m looking into some glass ones again though. Fly Reel… Same with reels as rods:) Vest/Pack:I love Simms gear, and what they stand for. All around great gear. Other Tool/gadget: hmmm , what can’t leave home without? A good camera…I’ve been sponsored by GoPro since I did triathlons a while back so definitely that. I’ve also just purchased an Olympus TG-4 camera that I’m starting to really enjoy.
Are you a member of any pro staff teams? If so- what teams. What are your thoughts about the social media pro staff craze in fly fishing?
I think I could consider myself a member of Harline Dubbin 🙂 and a few others but nothing like “pro staffers” you hear of these days. I’m planning a huge project over the next few years that maybe gets several entities involved.
Any one you want to give a shout out too?
Hareline is at the top of this list, along with Loon as they have also helped me out…of course my local Fly shop “The Peak Fly Shop”.
Any parting thoughts?
Not much on this except it’d be nice if everyone could just be happy for one another. Do your thing and if something doesn’t go along with your set of rules, as long as it’s not breaking rules…worry about yourself. Not everyone needs to hear your opinions. Appreciate and move on. As for the tying industry itself…there is not much out there that is really new any more unless you invent it yourself. There are those who preach to give credit where credit is due when it comes to patterns. Truth is there are so many patterns out there you could easily associate it back to someone else. I probably don’t know half the amount of tyers out there. Not because I don’t want to but it’s the way it is. Take a stroll at a show in different regions…there is no way to avoid the overlap. So get over yourselves and press on. Some of these “well-known” tyers do the same thing. Trying to preach for credit when they have modified one simple step on an existing pattern. It’s silly really, and I don’t have time for that kind of stuff.
Many thanks to Jonathan Kiley for taking time out of his busy schedule for this interview. He is a great guy, and an extremely talented fly designer. I’ve been using his products in my own flies, and to help spread the message I am going to give away quite a few of his products over the next week or so via Facebook and Instagram. Scroll to the bottom for links and information.
To end the interview, here are a few more pictures of sick fish and sick flies.
Michal Zapal is a fly tyer from Poland who is becoming increasingly well known and popular for his style of fly tying. Michal is skilled in all aspects of fly tying, but is probably most well known for his style of simple but perfect competition style jig nymphs. I’ve been following Michal’s work for several years, and he has been very generous with his time answering the following, plus quite a few extra over the years for me when I needed help with a technique on one of his flies. His work has been featured on many websites across the globe, including FrankenFly, The Limp Cobra, plus many tying forums in the US. He is also the creator behind the brand Live 4 Fly Fishing where has several different fly tying and fly fishing products, and a line of apparel.
Michal, for those that have not followed your work, introduce yourself and your fly fishing brand and business Live 4 Fly Fishing. When did you get started fly fishing and fly tying, and how did that evolve into you starting Live 4 Fly Fishing? What are some of your fly tying accomplishments?
My adventure with fishing started in the 80’s when, with my Grandfather, I took my first steps by the river of Wisła (Vistula), trying to outsmart barbels, chubs, breams and wels catfish. As the time passed by, my passion and interests slowly turned into something else – I changed spinning and float rods to fly fishing set and started to chase after trouts and graylings using my first home-made flies.
I had that luck, that near the place where I lived in, there were a few small rivers flowing, where the trouts and graylings are majority species. I spent hundreds of hours on fishing escapades and, by this, had a chance to carefully observe aquatic environment which along with having tied thousands of flies, has given me the knowledge to create new patterns of flies and modify these old ones (still classic patterns of course).
I also had an episode, that I took part in fly fishing competitions, I managed to win, but I don’t take this as a success, because I had poor competitors. LOL
From the moment when the idea to create Live 4 Fly Fishing appeared, I tie comercially, mainly for individual orders, and I have less and less time for fishing trips. But I am trying to use all my free time to spend it by the water for fly fishing and testing new patterns of flies.
Live 4 Fly Fishing was created on the beginning of 2013. Lot of people who tried my flies persuaded me to create a company which will offer good quality flies. I like to experiment with blending various materials for dubbings. Now I am proud to have created two original kinds of blends on my own and I am selling them known as Live 4 Fly Fishing Special Blends. They are blends of natural fibers, some of them are with addition of synthetic fibers like SLF.
I am member of two Pro Teams: Competitive Angler (US) and Deer Creek (UK).
When you started tying flies, who were some of your earlier influences, and who are your current influences?
I tied my first flies when I was about 17. It coincided with the time when I started fly fishing. I always thought that fly fishing and fly tying are inseparable. And I still can’t imagine my fly fishing without tying flies. I remember that my beginnings in fly tying were difficult. There wasn’t all this information on the internet which is available now. Knowledge about fly tying was passed by anglers at variuos fishing meetings in Poland. Sometimes getting information about the flies, fly tying materials, etc. bordered on the miraculuous. Those were difficult times for fly tying and fly fishing, but so interesting. As I mentioned when I first started fly tying, there wasn’t much information available everywhere. There were also difficulties with getting materials. I cannot also say that I had a guru in the subject of fly tying. I had a few older friends, who tied a good flies.
Nowadays, there’s so many good tyers, that it’s difficult to enumerate them all. Part of them are specialist in tying streamers, other tying great dry flies, others – beautiful salmon flies. I think that among so many great tyers, you can get some inspiration, but the most important thing is to create your own style based on a solid foundation of experienced colleagues.
You seem equally skilled at tying nymphs, dry flies, and streamers, what are some of the patterns you are most well known for? What are some of your favorite flies to tie?
From the moment when I started tying flies commercially, 60% of flies which I am tying are nymphs. In Europe nymphing is very popular, so that’s why this is the majority of my tying. I am tying also dry flies and streamers. No matter whether dry flies, nymphs or streamers, these are categories of flies, which are very complex. That’s why I can discover them all the time and develop myself. And this is what I like the most in my fly tying. If I will add experiments with new materials and testing flies by the water to this, then I can say that I am in heaven.
When sitting down to design a new fly, what is your thought process? You seem to have a very creative side with some of the nymphs using very bright, flashy materials and different color combinations.
I assume that a good nymph is one that can induce fish on many associations. When I fish, very often I reach for patterns that do not imitate anything specific living in the aquatic environment. Very often those fishcatchers turn out to be very effective baits. As I mentioned, I love experiments with tying materials, so that’s why I’m using all these flashes, different color combinations of dubbings etc.
I see a lot of your flies (nymphs, emergers) feature significant color changes in the bodies. It’s a great effect- lets take your multi colored Catgut Nymph- how are you getting the color change in the body? Do you think these color changes are a trigger for the fish?
Exactly as you say. I change threads to get this effect. When I build a shaded body I use UTC threads, and they are my favourite for this kind of flies. Visually, they are definitely more interesting. I caught a lot of fish on the design of catgut you mentioned,
What advice would you give to fly tyers out there that want to tie flies as cleanly (perfectly) as you do? What tips do you have for tying large numbers of flies?
Answers for these two questions are very simple. Tie, tie and once again tie. Strive for perfection. And if you want to tie huge amounts of flies you need to have all materials grouped, order in workshop and Facebook turned off lol.
Fly tying is becoming a global market, with products being readily available. I know some of the US tyers struggle at times to get some european materials, are there any materials you struggle to get in Poland?
I’ve heard, that you are looking for European tying materials which are especially appreciated on American market. But just as you’re looking for materials in Europe which are hardly available in the US, I am looking for materials in the US which are hardly available in Europe. Nowadays, it’s not a problem to make an order for materials from every part of the world in stores like Competitive Angler or Casters Fly Shop, which are stores where I usually make orders for fly tying materials.
I usually buy Whiting capes in US. In Poland they are available, but there’s not as much choice as I would expect. When I’m not tying flies with my own dubbing I am using sensational blends from Jack Mickievicz. I also buy a lot of synthetic materials in US like Crinkled zelon, and Arizona Synthetic Dubbings, which you have in your store for sale, as I remember. So I see only positives flowing from this, that fly tying market is global. Through this exchange of materials, all of us can feel like a member of the great family of fly tying.
Speaking of materials, you launched two material lines this year through Live 4 Fly Fishing. A line of dubbing and a line of metalic tinsel. How did you decide to launch some materials of your own, and what did you learn during the process of making them and testing the batches?
When it comes to dubbings, producing them is a long process. My dubbings are blends of natural furs, which need to be properly prepared, dyed, cleaned etc. Dubbings made of hare are hand made, without using any machines. I can tell that fur which I am using to produce my dubbings is hand shorn and selected. These values are what makes these blends unique and desired by fly tyers who tie mainly nymphs and wet flies.
I don’t produce these blends in huge quantities, and they are available only in some stores, including yours.
Metallic Ribbing is a material that can be used in many designs. I usually use it as a ribbing in tying buzzers. After this, as it will be covered by a layer of Deer Creek UV Resin, it gives a very interesting effect. I use them also as a metallic accent in the smallest dry flies, nymphs and wet flies.
From the photos, you have an extensive material collection and workshop. How do you organize some of your more common materials – such as hooks, beads, wire/tinsel etc?
Yeah, I am fly tying junkie. I still buy new materials, and I don’t use them lol. I like this – my fly tying materials collecting. There’s only one problem. I don’t have more space for storing. All of my materials are sorted in described boxes. These, which I use most often I have at hand. I work at home and I created a special place which I still modernize.
You tie a lot of nymphs using stripped peacock quills – I love tying with them but I find those that are chemically stripped are VERY brittle. Do you have any tips on tying with stripped peacock quills?
I agree with you. Those quills which are stripped chemically are really brittle. That’s why I prepare quills for myself by my own. They are hand stripped. I don’t tie nymphs only. Wets and dries look also great with quilled body. If your quills are very fragile, you can try to soak them before tie. It should help a little.
At this point on the website, you have hundreds of patterns available for sale. If you had to guess, how many flies did you tie in 2015?
All of orders which I realized are archived. So flies from orders, flies for myself and flies for my clients for whom I was a guide will give us a number about 10,000.
What are some of your favorite hooks and materials when tying nymphs?
Most of flies I am tying on barbless hooks. My favorite hooks for nymphs are Hanak hooks. But I am also using Partridge and Akita for some nymphs patterns. As I mentioned I am using my own blends of dubbings to tie nymphs, and 200 others which are available on market
Do I have some favorite materials? Let me think. Generally, each pattern of fly requires using other fly tying materials. But I definitely like combination of Sparkle Braid with Hare’s blends. It always gives interesting visual effect and is always deadly.
What are your thoughts about investing in quality hooks and materials and their overall effect in your ability to tie a good fly? I see a lot of US tyers trying to use cheaper hooks and materials to minimize their investment and they struggle tying some of the flies they are attempting.
I always use high quality hooks of known brands. I don’t know how to use something what pretends to be a hook, lol. Now there are a lot of hooks on the market, which I wouldn’t recommend. Good hook is a half of the battle. I always try to use best materials, because it makes my work more pleasant. I set my bar high.Flies which I tie for my clients should be liked by me, in the first review. So using all those good quality materials, allows them to go through the complicated, internal quality control, before they go to my clients.
Back to hooks – do you tie the same fly on a few different hooks to see what works best, or through prior experience do you kind of know what style of hook you need for that fly to work properly?
At this stage I know what model of hook will be best for pattern which I want to tie. But I don’t limit myself only to checked models of hooks. I am trying to be open for novelties. Actually each pattern of fly can be tied in various ways. But thinking about the ultimate look of the fly forces us to use certain shapes of hooks, which dictate all the proportions.
Which tools could you not live without in your tying workshop?
All of tools which I am using in my wokshop are necessary for me. I can’t imagine my tying without bobbins. I am using Tiemco and C&F. I also have a set of necessary tools, which was produced especially for me by my buddy Grobôcz Mésterk . I have brushes, bodkins and finisher. You can check him on FB, he makes really beautiful stuff from wood.
Your Facebook page for Live 4 Fly Fishing is absolutely incredible. It is pure motivation for fly tyers, but one of the best things is the beautiful fly tying photography. What is your set up, and what tips can you give to those struggling to get clean shots of their flies on camera?
Thank you very much. I am glad that you like my pictures. It is true that a good picture, allows for good presentation of the fly. I am an amateur and I use probably semi-professional cacacacamera. For shooting my flies I use body Canon 70D and lens Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC.
One of my favorite videos in the past few years was yours for your Demon Death Ghoul Streamer. For those that haven’t seen it- it is NOT your typical tying video- in a good way. How did you come up with the fly, and what made you go outside the box with the video?
Thanks. I am glad that you like it. I suppose that there are not a lot people who share your opinion. Music, which was used in that movie is devilish lol, but I can’t imagine to create this movie with different soundtrack. I wanted to make something different, something with humour. The story of a monk, who at night turns into a demon, and tie flies in ruins of monastery seemed to be perfect to connect it with pattern of streamer which I called Demon Death Ghoul. It was our Halloween joke. I didn’t get Oscar for that movie (I don’t know why?!) but I cheer myself that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t get it so far, lol (maybe he will in a few days on 88th Academy Awards ceremony. I keep my fingers crossed for him).
As for the fly. for quite some time I have been using zonkers streamers for keeping the colors and using the same materials, which I showed in the movie. These are excellent baits everywhere, where trouts live. Demon Death Ghoul Streamer is a modified version of my old pattern Demon Streamer. This new version is very popular nowadays articulated streamer.
I’ve seen you do a few more tying videos since then, have you considered doing them more regularly – and have you considered writing articles or even a book at some point?
Making movies is a great fun and excellent complement of rod trips. I would continue creating them in that way that I started, I mean connecting SBS’s with second part by the water, what ultimately makes a fly a main character of the movie.I think that it is more pleasant to watch than a regular SBS video. Together with my girlfriend, who helps me with creating all these videos, we are totally amateurs. So all our productions leave a lot to be desired. I would make movies regularly, but I never have enough time to do that. As I mentioned, I tie flies commercially, I have a lot of work by the vise.
Honestly, you are first who asks me about my fly tying and all of stuff which is connected with it so widely. I am glad that my work is becoming noticed. It is very fortifying and motivating.
As for the articles and book, I didn’t think about it, until the moment when you asked me about it. I believe that I could make a valid and meaningful opinion on several issues related to fly tying.
During all these years of tying flies I’ve got some experience, and it would be helpful in writing some articles. In my opinion writing a book is a culmination of fly tyer’s career. Now I don’t feel strong enough to write a book, I still learn, and I am glad that I can learn, because it allows me to develop.
It looks like you had a booth at at fly fishing show somewhere in Europe. What show was it- and what was that experience like? Did you enjoy tying in front of a crowd and answering questions? What questions did the audience ask you most often?
Yes, I was invited by my friend who is Varivas distributor in Poland for Rybomania Trades last year. They are the biggest fishing trades in Europe. Every year they organize trades in few cities in Poland. I participated in this edition which was in city where I live. It isn’t stricte fly fishing event, but there were a few companies from fly fishing environment who participated in these trades. I received invitation for Nordic Fly Fair this year, which will be 7-8th May in Elverum, Norway. I hope that it will be great time spent with Vikings. I would also love to take part in big fly tying fest in autumn, but it is not sure, so I don’t want to spoil anything. A lot of people visited our booth during two days of trades. People asked for various things. Very often for materials which I use to tie my flies, but actually they asked for everything what is related to fly tying: what vise I can recommend for beginner what hooks I prefer to tie my patterns on etc. I spend most of the time at home where I am working, so my contact with people is limited. So every conversation with people in real is a big pleasure for me. I am this kind of person who likes help to others, and I am tyer who doesn’t keep secrets about my fly tying.
If you were designing a box of confidence flies to fish an unknown river to fish for trout and grayling, which 6 flies would you have in your box?
I would take for sure: Olive-Beige Scud, Black Ant, BWO Emerger, Caddis Pupa (my pattern), Peacock Sedge, White-Gray Zonker Streamer.
If you could go fly fish right now, anywhere in the world- where would it be and why?
Iceland and fishing huge brown trout in lakes there has been in my head for quite some time now.
What are your favorites:
Vise – Through all these years of my fly tying I have used different vises, but for a long time I am faithful Snowbee Waldron which I use to tie the majority of flies. This is great vise, but I have a feeling that it is underrated by tyers. I can tie on it flies #26 and also fly on hook #6/0.
Bobbin – To be honest, I have three favorite: CFT-61 and CFT-60SW and TIEMCO Standard Ceramic Bobbin
Thread – I probably use all of threads which are available on the market. To different type of flies I use different threads. So I don’t have any favorite, but I like Nano Silk from Semperfli and Giorgio Benecchi’s threads.
Glue/UV – I would say that LOON but I think that Deer Creek Pro Team Member shouldn’t say that lol. Now for serious. I think that Deer Creek UV Resin is the best. I am using it with all my quilled nymphs, buzzers, some streamers. You can check out the product on their website, HERE (For those in the US, I would recommend contacting Caster’s Fly Shop or go on their website HERE tell them IPT sent you)
Fly Box – For few years I have been using C&F boxes, but now I am waiting for package from US with my new Tacky Fly Boxes. They look like they may become my favorites soon.
Here is a short list (VERY short) of my favorite flies of yours- for each one list how difficult they are to tie for an average fly tyer- from a scale of 1 to 10- 1 being easy, 10 being extremely difficult. And then a tip or two for anyone wanting to tie that fly. (I’ll post a picture of each one)
1. Bunny Vis Quilled Emerger
Difficulty: 7– Most difficult thing here is tying the quill and hackle evenly. We can obtain precise alignment of quill by using right thread. The best will be easily separating fibers.
2. Caddis Catgut Nymph
Difficulty: 3– The most important thing to tie this nymph is using threads which are easy to split for separate fibers. It’s really easy to tie.
3. Jig Nymph #129
Difficulty: 4– I think the important thing here is matching the length of hackle to the size of fly, and trying to put those Holo Tinsel stripes quite evenly on both sides of the body. Deer Creek UV Resin should be put on in thin layers. If it is needed, put two layers on, if not- just one.
4. Streamer #S20
Difficulty: 4– Shouldn’t use very long zonkers to tie this fly. This one on my fly is a little bit too long lol.
5. Caddis Dry Fly
Difficulty: 5– This kind of caddis should be very subtle, it shouldn’t be tied with too many materials.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your patterns for the interview Michal! You are extremely humble and I appreciate you taking the time out of your day, away from the vise to answer some questions for this interview.
For those reading, we want to hear from you- comment to tell us your thoughts about this interview and Michal’s flies. There will be a prize package given away. To be entered to win, comment on this post with your favorite fly featured today, or comment through the In Pursuit of Trout Instagram page (@inpursuitoftrout)
Links and Information:
Buy Michal’s materials and apparel on his website Live 4 Fly Fishing HERE
Like Michal’s Facebook page HERE
Check out his Instagram page HERE Watch his fly tying tutorial for the Demon Death Ghoul Streamer HERE
You can also buy his dubbing blends through my shop HERE
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