Fly fishing is an obsession itself, but with it comes another obsession that is just as contagious.
By Maxwell Westheimer
Before getting involved in the fly fishing industry through Duranglers in the Summer of 2016, I was under the impression that fly tying was difficult and time-consuming. I figured I could get more time on the water if I just bought my flies, whether that was from a fly shop or from a buddy who tied. It never occurred to me that it may be beneficial to not only my fishing, but my bug knowledge, fly identification, and stress. One day as I watched the other guys in the shop sit in the back and talk materials or funky flies, I came to a simple conclusion: if I was going to advance as a fly fisherman and in the industry, I need to plop down at the vise and see what it was all about. Between Jimmy, Andy, and Rob, they got me up and running on worms and eggs for the shop bins. Needless to say it was about a week or so before anything coming off that vise was close to being worthy of selling to a customer. Throughout the summer, all I did when it was slow or for half my lunch break was sit at that back table in the Duranglers shop and tie worms and eggs.
Summer in Durango came to an abrupt halt when the fall semester of my sophomore year in college came knocking. Going from stripping streamers on the Animas after working in the fly shop everyday, to taking 16 hours of class with homework and tests piling up was quite the wake up call. I knew that I was not going to be able to get out to fish as much as I’d like during school. Tying had given me something to turn to when I couldn’t be on the water. Progressing in my fly tying ability was something I was really determined to do. I scrounged up some materials and tools to start me off, and headed back to school.
Starting the semester brought on the stresses of school and life that had been replaced with mountains and trout for the last 3 months. I broke out the Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying, and the rest is history. I turned my L-shaped desk that was originally meant to be half school, half fly tying into a full on disaster of a fly tying area. Pheasant tails, peacock herl, hooks, beads, dubbing, thread, wire…you name it was strewn across that desk. I quickly began to realize that another obsession was setting in. Working through different patterns, I tied dozens upon dozens of each fly until I was satisfied with how it looked. Now don’t get me wrong, an ugly fly will still catch fish. You have to be fishing something you have confidence in though, and for me that meant flies that looked just as appealing to me as they did to the fish. Some great startup patterns that helped me master the basic skills I needed to excel include, but aren’t limited to: the Brassie, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Black Beauty, Wooly Booger, San Juan Worm, Annelid, and Pat’s Rubber Legs. If you can get those looking like the flies in the bins at the shop, you’re well on your way to fly tying glory.
As the year went on I just couldn’t get enough; I was at my vise, bobbin in hand, every chance I got. Learning all the basic skills took time and practice, but I was catching more fish, and bigger fish than ever. On the few trips I snuck out of school early for during the year, I was able to identify every bug and experiment with variations of flies I’d thrown together. My newly learned skills were paying off big time. The satisfaction that it gave me to fool a fish on something that came out of my vise was unreal.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find me filling boxes with flies that I may or may not ever even fish. Endless options of size, color, weight, etc. make it hard to run out of things to experiment with. The obsession that is fly tying is in full force when I’m not on the water. If you’re interested in picking up fly tying head, over to Duranglers to pick up supplies, ask the guys for advice, take a Beginner’s Fly Tying Class, or just look around at the plethora of tying equipment and material available in the shop. If you’re not in the area make sure to check out our online store, or give us call.
Get out and fish, but if you can’t, do the next best thing and tie!
Maxwell Westheimer worked in the Duranglers shop for the 2016 summer season. Thanks to his love of fly fishing and fly tying, he will be taking summer classes for the 2017 summer season. Look for more writings from Max in the future…