The first flies I ever tied were crude to say the least, fashioned with embroidery thread I pilfered from my mother. The flies were crafted on heavy, nickel-plated hooks of unknown origin that I enthusiastically referred to as “piranha hooks.” I was six years old, swimming my flies (streamers all) in the swift, cold-water streams of southeastern Wyoming. That Christmas, my parents took pity on me, giving me a basic fly tying kit from Cabela’s (which at the time consisted of a single brick building in downtown Sidney, Nebraska). How this small gift would spark a passion that has grown and grown! Armed only with the meager black-and-white instruction book included with the kit, my father’s endless patience, and a sense of wonder, I learned by trial and error. Oh, the delight in discovering that “hackle” was created by wrapping a feather in tight succession around a hook!
My first patterns were simple wets: Renegades (brown hackle, peacock, white hackle), Black QTs (black hackle, peacock, black hackle), Gray QTs (grizzly hackle…), Wooly Worms, and Wooly Buggers. And though disproportioned and ugly, they caught fish. What immense satisfaction! With time I acquired a few more books. I held my dad’s fly box and wondered how each and every pattern was created. I saved my pennies and begged my parents for hooks, thread, feathers, and fur. My skills improved. Parachute Adams and Muddler Minnows and Elk Hair Caddis and Prince Nymphs were born at my fingers. I met others who tied, my age, and much, much older. I still recall seeing a beadhead Hare’s Ear Nymph for the first time and subsequently spending the following weeks cranking out dozens (in both natural and olive, lots in olive).
I earned gas money through high school filling orders for flies, mostly from my dad’s fishing buddies. The Humpies were a challenge, and I added all the sub-par rejects to my own box, knowing the browns up on Douglas Creek wouldn’t refuse them. When the local fly shop put all their Whiting hackle on sale, I spent what seemed at the time a small fortune stocking up (a stock that still serves me well). Getting through college pushed tying to the fringes for a few years. My time at the vise dwindled to occasional bouts of sudden need, whipping up a quick dozen of whatever was catching fish at the moment or filling a small order for beer money.
Then one day college was behind me. I escaped relatively unscathed, with a degree in civil engineering to show for my troubles. Soon thereafter, the desire for adventure (and a steady pay check) beckoned me to pack up my truck and leave the joys of Wyoming behind. Alaska was calling. From my new home base in Anchorage, I found a seemingly endless list of new opportunities, and I was committed to seizing every one that my time – and bank account – would allow. Moving to Alaska rekindled the fire for fly tying and fly fishing, fueled with the prospect of new fish and new waters and new patterns.
Nearly ten years in Alaska passed by in haze of new experiences – small airplanes, big bears, towering peaks, endless summer nights, and swift rivers – plus plenty of long days in the office. And I tied a lot of flies. And caught a lot of fish. And compiled more fly tying materials than I think I’ll ever be able to organize. Along the way I met a beautiful young women who said yes to the most important question I’ve ever asked, and who subsequently blessed me with two amazing daughters. As life’s priorities changed, it became apparent it was time to return to our roots and our families. It was time to come home. 2017 saw big change – we were Wyoming bound!
Getting settled in our new life, daddy duties, and a demanding career keep fly tying on the back burner most days, but the wealth of information now shared freely online by those with similar passions continues to inspire me to steal away time at the vise whenever I can. And to fish. And to learn.
Thank you for visiting my website. Through these posts, I hope to share with you some of what I’ve learned through nearly three decades of tying flies (and casting them to fish). Hopefully you will pick up a trick or two that will come in handy the next time you sit down at the your vise. Mostly, I hope that you find inspiration in these pages. Please stop by again.