Tying and Designing Better Flies with Matt Bennett
Author’s note: this is the first installment of an ongoing blog series titled “Tying and Designing Better Flies” where I will be interviewing professional guides and fly tiers from all over to get their input on how to create better bugs.
Matt Bennett, owner and operator of http://www.flygeek.net/ is an Austin, TX based fly fisher and fly designer who has made a name for himself in the fly tying world over the past year. Quitting a full time job to take on fly tying full time is a pretty big leap, one that Matt dared to take March of last year. As a professional tier, he has signed on as a signature tier with Umpqua Feather Merchants, who just released his first signature fly: the Lunch Money streamer. If you are a follower of all things fly fishing on Instagram, some of his creations may have graced the screen of your smartphone at some point (If not go follow him right now https://www.instagram.com/flygeekmatt/).
Guadeloupe River trout and Texas bass are often the target species that Matt has in mind when crafting his bugs. Matt’s flies may be developed on Texas waters, but his bugs find their place in fly boxes all over the country. His Lunch Money streamer, for instance, was created with selective bass as the target; but has been used to catch trout, redfish, sea trout, and numerous other species. The inspiration for the Lunch Money came in 2011 from Charlie Craven’s Gonga, later incorporating Senyo’s Laser Dub after seeing some of Michael Schmidt’s patterns like the Voodoo Squatch and Red Rocket. Matt wanted a fly that he could crawl along the bottom when bass were being selective and hard to catch, which is why the fly is designed to ride hook-up. He found it to work very well for trout as well, including the predatory browns of the lower Dolores River (which is pretty exciting to us).
Duranglers will be carrying the Lunch Money streamer for the 2016 season. If you are not a fly tier and you are looking for custom flies for your next trip, you may want give Matt a shout.
I was able to talk to Matt on the phone for a bit and discuss his accomplishments as well as how he likes to come up with his fly patterns.
Time fishing and fly tying: Started fly fishing and fly tying in high school after being guided by Duranglers own Josh Grounds and later Rob Coddington on the San Juan River. However Matt didn’t start fly fishing and fly tying seriously until after he moved to Austin, TX in 2009.
Professional Fly Fishing/Tying Accomplishments: Current full time professional fly tier and part-time manager of an outdoor marketing company representing Umpqua, TFO, Winston, Hatch, and several other brands. Signature tier for Umpqua Feather Merchants with the Lunch Money Streamer. Involved with Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited and current president of the Austin Fly Fishers, who where awarded the McKenzie Cup by the International Federation of Fly Fishers in 2015. Individually Matt was presented with the Charles E Brooks Memorial Life Award last year as well. (Kelly Galloup also won this award for some perspective). Previous fly shop employee for 3 years.
Process of designing flies:
- The first thing I ask myself is: “What am I trying to imitate? What fish forage am I trying to recreate?”
- Secondly, I ask: “How does this forage item behave? What is its action?” The action will determine what materials I use.
- Then I look at color. Color is a big thing for fish and AK Best is quoted to say something similar to “nothing in nature is one singular color.” I like to mix colors and materials to get a desired look and action and then I like to go back and hit my patterns with waterproof markers to give it the look I want.
- I tie the fly (or prototype), take it out and fish it, see what I like and see what needs changed, and then go back and make tweaks. Sometimes I scrap it and go back to the drawing board. Designing an effective fly is more than just tying something pretty and posting it on Instagram. Get the action, profile, and color right first. Nothing else matters if the fish don’t like it.
Favorite fly and why: I really love streamer fishing for bigger trout, so my favorite fly would have to be Mike Schmidt’s Double Deceiver in olive/yellow and cotton candy colorations. For bass I really like Galloup’s Peanut Envy and Sex Dungeon in crawfish, black/red, and purple colors.
Advice for aspiring fly tiers and designers: Invest in quality tools and materials, especially a vise and scissors. My very first vise was terrible so spend a little money and get a good vise. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or do something a different way.
What new materials do you like? Hareline Dubbin continues to push the envelope when it comes to fly tying materials. This year, off the top of my head, I’m using Greg Senyo’s Fusion Foil Legs, Hareline’s Double Pupil Eyes, Hedron’s Grizzly Barred Flashabou a good bit, which are all new for 2016. I continue to be impressed with the Living Eyes and various sizes and colors of Fish Skulls/Sculpin Helmets/Fish Masks from Flymen Fishing Compay, as well as the hooks Partridge is cooking up. The brains behind the birds at Whiting Farms and the pigment powders and UV Products from Loon Outdoors are also fantastic. It’s a great time to be a fly tier with all of these companies pushing the boundaries.
For old favorites, Senyo’s Laser Dub and Fusion Dub, as well as Hareline Dubbin’s Barred Rabbit strips are staples in the various Lunch Money colors I tie the most. Pat Cohen’s Carp Dub finds it’s way into a ton of my patterns, and his new line of Creature Tails are pretty sweet also. And of course, the reliable Gamakatsu B10S is what I have clamped in my Regal vise the most – such a solid hook.