More than a decade ago, as my passion for fly fishing really began to take off, I spent an enjoyable day on the water with a friend who pulled a flybox out of his vest and offered me a few flies to try.
The flies were lined up in neat rows, and he had a half-dozen or so of each size and pattern. It was a nice selection — more impressive, I thought, because he tied all those flies himself.
In the back of my mind, I told myself that someday I’d learn how to tie flies of my own — maybe.
Complicating matters: Also lurking in the back of my mind was the knowledge that I’m not the craftiest fish in the lake. Not overly handy, either, to tell you the truth.
If I’m making confessions here, I might as well go for broke: In kindergarten, I nearly flunked our unit on “scissors.” Come to think of it, I never really mastered the art of coloring between the lines, either.
My art projects as a young kid typically turned out looking like what you’d get if a drunken baboon had stolen a pile of construction paper, a few pipe cleaners, some glitter and a bottle of glue.
Therefore, the thought of trying to create beautiful — or, for that matter, strictly functional — fishing flies was a bit daunting.
Grab some feathers, a hook, some thread and some fur? Make it into a fly? Cue the drunken baboon.
Over time, several early mentors reassured me. One — Don Corey, an accomplished fly-tier — held up his huge paws and showed off fingers that were roughly the size of kielbasa.
“If I can tie with these things, you can tie, too,” he told me.
Then he did me a huge favor — a favor I’m happy to return to you today.
He told me about the Penobscot Fly Fishers and their beginner’s fly tying classes. I enrolled in the classes, eventually joined in at a few more advanced workshops and learned he was right — more or less. Though I’m no tying artist, I can tie my own flies. They will catch fish.
And, best of all, the activity is a ton of fun.
Here’s the great thing: The Penobscot Fly Fishers aren’t alone. In many towns around the state, fish and game clubs, Trout Unlimited chapters and adult education providers offer tying classes at this time of year.
For those in Greater Bangor, the Penobscot Fly Fishers will begin their annual eight-week basic class Jan. 4. This year’s course will be staged at the Penobscot County Conservation Association in Brewer and will run from 6 to 8 p.m. on consecutive Mondays. The cost of the course is $40, and that includes the use of all equipment and supplies — you can try the activity and see how you like tying before buying equipment of your own. Students under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent.
If you’re interested, you can learn more by going to penobscotflyfishers.com/fly-tying-classes.htm.
Or, you can register — a cap of 30 students has been set — by calling Rob Dunnett at 907-9008 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An interesting fact to consider: It’s not uncommon for folks to decide to take up fly tying even though they’ve never actually fly fished. The activity itself can be relaxing and can provide a creative outlet as the snow piles up during our long Maine winters.
If you are a fly angler, the rewards are even more tangible. The first time you catch a fish on your own creation or hand a fly you tied to an angler who just doesn’t have anything similar in his vest, that time you invested at the tying vise will have paid off, with interest.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.