Fly fisher people tie one on


Last updated 4/2/2024 at 11:48am

Photo by Valarie Anderson

There is nothing quite like sitting across the table from a fisherperson. There is genuine happiness in their eyes, laughter, and pats on the back. Their faces light up like a warm campfire when they start spinning yarns with hands outstretched ("It was that big!").

We eavesdropped as the older guys shared the location of their favorite fishing holes. Some kids from a middle school fly tying club sparkled with anticipation and awe as they took in every word. Best of all, there was the shared love of fly fishing and the art of fly tying with all its glorious gear.

I was honored to join this enclave of dedicated men and women at the 2024 Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo in Albany, Oregon March 8 and 9. They invited me to tie a commemorative fly I'd created to celebrate Pearl Harbor's anniversary. I named it "Pearl Harbor Remembrance."

I crafted several variations of "Remembrance," and finally settled on an adaptation of a classic salmon fly pattern. Like my book, "Pearl Harbor's Final Warning," it took me years to perfect it since I'm an intermediate tyer who leans more to the beginner's side of tying.

Before the show, I'd set up a card table in the family room and practiced and practiced, making sure my thread was flat like Jerry Criss taught me, watching my proportions as Sherry Steele had explained, and guiding my wraps John Kreft style so they didn't overlap. Expert tyers, all; wonderfully patient people who teach and share their knowledge with anyone who asks as long as it doesn't interfere with their fishing time.

As I sat tying my fly at the Expo, the guy beside me did a finish knot and parachute loop I'd never seen before. I stopped tying when my audience left to watch him. He'd gone back to some old tyers' books to learn his "new" methods. It's always nice to hear that some people still use books. And he had some great tools. Really great.

Fly fishing and tying is the ultimate sport for gearheads. There is not just one type of hackle plier; there are dozens. His hackle pliers were engineering perfection: flexible, precise, small, and handy. I grabbed my notepad and noted the South Dakota fly shop that carried them. By the time my shift ended, I was sure the new tools I coveted were well over a hundred bucks.

Someone interrupted my lustful reverie about new pliers and a magnetic material holder and asked, "Are you the lady that's tying the mouse pattern that catches trout?"

"No, but let me know when you find her," I said.

A trout eating a mouse - how fabulous is that? It'd have to be a big one, for sure.

And so the day went. People stopped and chatted, asked questions, and shared stories. Some had their dogs with them, others had their children or partner in tow. My favorite encounter was with a seven-and-a-half-year-old girl and her dad. She was enthralled with fly fishing and tying. She told me, "I make pink flies that sparkle." And her dad's eyes smiled.

At the banquet and live auction that evening, I sat next to Jeff Perin, our local fly shop owner and resident fly fisherman extraordinaire. I gulped down his words like a trout during a salmon fly hatch. He was leading a trip to Belize soon. If only I had the money! He'd just gotten back from Argentina. Holy cow, Argentina! And yes, the fly tyers in his shop still use my long-deceased father-in-law's table. I felt like I was in the presence of the water master himself.

I am so fortunate. The richness of fly tying and fishing came into my life after I retired, thanks to one magnificent woman, Sherry Steele. I would never have met Jerry, John, or Jeff without her. She has done more to keep fly fishing alive than anyone I know. She organizes Expos, holds Zoom tying meetings, founded our fly-tying guild, and teaches fly-tying whenever possible. The MC at the dinner announced her name at least four times.

Sherry has been my mentor and guide. She has never charged me a dime and is always there when I need a helping hand. She is a rare gift to Sisters Country. Like our fabulous sunrises, she brightens the fly fishing community with her light and generosity, for which I will always be grateful.

Thanks to Sherry, I've started two of my grandkids fly-tying. Iden is learning the art of taking a break as we progress to ever-smaller hooks. His eight-year-old sister, Harley, loves to tie pink sparkle flies, too. They eagerly await summer and dream of tight lines and "fish that big" slurping up their flies on the crystal clear waters of the Metolius River. So do I.

Valarie J. Anderson is an award winning author and a member of the FFI since 2009. She is also a founding member of the Central Oregon Fly Tyers Guild in Sisters.


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