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How did you start tying flies? We all have a story . . .

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46 replies to this topic

#1 Triplef


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 05:58 AM

On another thread in this forum someone posted some flies they had recently tied and those flies triggered the memory about the man that taught me how to tie flies.  Bimini15 suggested I start another thread about how each of us started.  We all have a story!



Here is mine again . . .


"Your mayflies look like they were tied by the master (in my eyes!) that taught me to tie flies ~40 years ago.  A retired pro baseball player and retired dentist named "Doc Burleson" in Johnson City, TN.  He focused on thin, narrow, tightly-tied bodies.  Never a big abdomen . . . the hackle did that!  Parachute flies, CDC, or even soft hackle had not come on the scene (at least to my knowledge.)  Also Doc didn't feel like wings were necessary to catch fish.  He showed me how to tie wings but he never put any on flies he fished with . . . thought they were a waste of time.


Great memories for me!  I miss Doc!  He was the grandfather I never had!"

#2 Dave G.

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 06:32 AM

I actually started tying flies as a young adult about 30 years ago or more now. But it came about because my stepson had an interest in it and we both got hooked. We bought the Orvis Index of fly patterns book, that had several essential instructional patterns  (besides hundreds of displayed patterns and ingredients) that increased your level sequentially. The book is still available today with spiral binding. My blood son then took up tying as well and that's when we started traveling to Maine. And I've told the story here before of saving a fishing trip there one year because caddis had just turned on and the stores ( there were scarce few in the area back then) were all out of popular caddis patterns. I learned to tie caddis flies right then and there on that trip, from a few steps in that book and a little common sense, a box of hooks I picked up and a patch of elk hair I picked up, and dubbing and hackle I had in my little kit , as I recall.  But we caught fish and I tied 6 to 8 flies at a time several times over and over that week. The next year the boys brought their tying kits too and my son got to be a heck of a tyer of dry flies etc and the stepson streamers.. I'll tell you what, that really stuck in their minds, they bring their kids up there now and tying kits etc.


It's a little sad today in one way. Electronics, so many kids have their heads buried in them. I mean ALL DAY LONG. But none the less, my 13 yo grand son is after me to take him fishing. Gonna be a good summer !



John 7:38 ESV  is about "Rivers of Living Water"

#3 flytire


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 06:44 AM

free lessons back in 1980

Fly tyers sure have a way at making things difficult


Why do you look at a persons profile after they make a post?

#4 caloosa bug

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 07:15 AM

I've been throwing a fly rod since I was 8. I fished it a lot here in south Florida and every summer we would take our pop up camper to Cherokee nc. For 2 weeks every year I would trout fish daylight to dark. I've always bought my flies and would pick up old assortments at flea markets and yard sales. When I was a young teenager a local elderly man gave me all of his flies and an old bamboo fly rod. I am 32 now and it wasn't till about a year and a half ago I made the comment to my mom to look out for a fly tying vice, as she frequents yard sales around lake okeechobee. She then tells me she had picked up a kit and stashed it in my old bedroom. It had everything from tools to little boxes with an example fly and material to make that that fly with instructions. I still have a bunch of hackles, cork, deer hair, chenille, hooks, rabbit hair, squirrel tails, thread, and feathers from that box she had. I've enjoyed it so much making my own instead of buying them. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and I know I can make a better quality fly than some mass produced bugs I had in the past. It's been a fun hobby to get into and I hope it's something I can do for a long time.

#5 Hatchet Jack

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 07:47 AM

After losing all my store-bought flies to trees and snags, and seeing

no green in the wallet, it was an easy step into madness.

Always quit when you're through.

#6 Mike West

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 08:26 AM

My God Father took me to the Long Beach Casting Club in CA. in 1967, I was 8. They taught you one pattern a week and sold the materials for that weeks pattern(you had to buy them if I remember correctly) and he always bought my stuff for me. You went home tied a dozen and brought them back next week to be judged and learn the new weeks pattern. I went there for 5 years. After that it was from books and trial and error. My God parents were like my second Mom & Dad.

He had three girls and I was the son he never had.

He changed my life for sure.


Man it's so easy to learn now days with YouTube and all the other videos out there.

#7 RickZieger


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 10:16 AM

I had a person in town decide that I needed to learn to tie flies.  He gave me the stuff he had.  Had to leave for a family emergency so I taught me self several bad habits.   Got invited to SowBug and learned a ton.  Have to admit the first flies I tied only had materials on one side. 
But it looked like the picture.

Not always the brightest bulb on the string.



#8 rstaight


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 10:41 AM

I took some classes in the winter of 1998 or 1999, can't remember which. Took them just to have something to do. Then I started buying tools and materials. Told the wife with what I "planned" on tying all I would need is a large tackle box to store stuff in and a wooden TV tray for a bench.


Fast forward to today, My bench is a 1920's era roll top desk and every nook and cranny is stuffed with something. I have a 5 drawer lingerie chest that is used only for hackles and feathers.


But I must say that the satisfaction I get when I catch something on a fly I tied using a leader I made all on a rod I built, I can't describe. Worth every blessed penny.

"Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers.  Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary." - Patrick F. McManus

#9 Eddie Southgate 39-5

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 10:59 AM

Made the mistake of thinking it would be a cheaper way to have lots of flies . Found out the hard way that in the long run I could have bought all my flies from the Dettes and come out cheaper. I kept on tying because it was so much more fun than buying them and there is really nothing like catching a good fish on a fly you tied yourself.haven't made the leap to building my own rods as of yet but if I live till retirement age I may try that also.I am a natural borne tinkerer ( runs in the family ) so any little thing I can make I make. I tie my own gut leaders ,flies , and load all the ammo ( 16 cartridges ) even rolled my own cigarettes till I quit 15 years ago. I tie mostly nymphs and streamers. That's what I fish the most of so it is also a lot handier to tie them myself than to wait for someone else to ship me replacements. There is no fly shop within 100 miles of me as far as I know. I fish Bamboo, old glass , old and older reels, silk lines ( I restore all mine too ) ,gut leaders . You get the picture ! Since I never did an introduction when I joined this board I guess this will have to do.


      Eddie Southgate <*))))><

      Minor Hill, Tennessee

#10 steeldrifter


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 11:35 AM

Started fly fishing about 26 years ago. After my first year fly fishing I decided to buy a cheap Sunrise fly tying package from Meijer's. Taught myself how to tie from books and VHS tapes (no internet/youtube back then). Been tying my own flies every since.

Owner- Steve Clark

Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doin, than a long life spent in a miserable way- Alan Watts




#11 Hazathor


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 12:02 PM

I started tying last winter when I found out a fly tying class was held in the evenings at the school I teach at. I had been a long time fisherman and had always been interested in fly fishing, but had never dove in. When that tying class needed a new/bigger room to hold sessions in, I gladly volunteered mine. I tied flies for three months before I ever picked up a rod (water is a little hard during an Iowa winter). Been tying and fishing for over a year now. I've found a great local community of tyers and fisherman, and am thoroughly hooked.





-Nick H.

#12 zip


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 12:03 PM

I started at 12 or 13 years old tying and fly fishing in the Smokey Mountains.I found a Bluejays feather in my yard and tied it to a cheap Eagle claw hook with some sewing thread and glue.Well I was hooked!(Pun intended lol) I found this Web page still in its infantsy and a gentleman named Carl Bowman took me under his wing.He sent me a little book by Eric Leiser,basic tools,basic materials,some flies and made a video of how to tie a wooly bugger!I was so excited!I blew throw those materials so damn fast it made my head spin!The flies are in a frame in my dining room,the bobbin is the only one I have and will ever use and the book is now antique.His lessons though stuck with me!I miss Ol' Carl.
"They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that's not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they're just not such a big deal anymore."
John Gierach
Sgt.Steve Bell USMC/Ret
Once a Marine,Always a Marine-Semper Fidelis

#13 rstout


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 01:15 PM

My Grandfather received a fly tying kit for his 50th birthday.  His hands were massive from logging his entire life and he said there was no way in hell he could tie something so small.  I was interested so he gave the kit to me.  The kit wasn't much but I tied some sorry looking mosquitoes and wooley worms and headed to the trout pond.  Caught a lot of fish.  Leroy Hyatt wrote a weekly article in the local paper featuring information about a fly, materials needed to tie it and a picture of the fly.  I couldn't wait to get the Thursday paper.  I would cut out the article and try and produce the same fly.  I was 14 at the time and have been tying for 36 years.  Over those 36 years, I became friends with Leroy and returned the newspaper clippings to him.


As I grew older, anytime I went fly fishing with my Grandfather, he always said he was low on flies, so I would give him a bunch.  When my grandfather passed he had hundreds and hundreds of flies that I tied.  Best gift ever.

Somebody just back of you while you are flyfishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl. Ernest Hemingway

#14 Triplef


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 01:24 PM

Great stories!  Guess I need to tell all of mine.  My first time fly fishing I was 5 years of (51 years ago!!) when I neighbor too me with he and his son.  But I didn't really start until 1968 while in college.  Fished almost every day in the small streams of eastern Tennessee.  So to "save money" I decided I needed to learn how to tie flies.  A local hardware store carried a few fly on a rack and the owner told me about  a guy named "Doc Burlson" who tied flies and he gave me his number.  I call Doc up, introduced myself and ask if he could get me started.  Doc was a gruff buzzard on the outside and told me he didn't have time for any "college boys."  But he did take my phone number.


Two day later I got a call for "Doc Anderson" who offered to start me out.  A month later Doc Anderson took me over to Doc Burleson's house and turned my instruction over to him.


The three of us became fast friends and fished together at least once a week until I moved away.


I sure loved those two buzzards!

#15 Jaydub


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Posted 27 June 2016 - 01:52 PM

When I arrived at college in 1979, they offered a series of fly fishing classes for PE credit. Fall term was fly casting, winter term was fly tying and spring term was fly fishing. I took all three and actually took fly tying twice. The first fly tying class was taught by a physics professor, who was a good self taught tier. Our flies were graded on how well we followed the pattern, proportions and general neatness. This taught me to scrutinize the details of my flies and strive to improve. While the professor was a good tier, being self taught, he lacked certain skills. My sophomore year the class was taken over by the owner of the local fly shop. It was immediately apparent that he was more of a pro. We learned all sorts of little tips and tricks to tie better. We learned traditional patterns, local patterns and some that were cutting edge at the time. That second class broadened my skill set and greatly improved my tying.