Wednesday, March 2, 2016

a night at the museum

Yesterday I had the privilege of tying at the American Museum of Fly Fishing “Fit to be Tyed” program and talking with folks about saltwater flies. Being in the heart of trout territory I didn’t think there would be a lot of interest in striper, albie, redfish and tarpon flies or my explanation that bass, pike and browns will eat them as well. I was wrong. I had a lot of conversations with some great people about the tying process and applications in both the salt and freshwater environs and learned a few things to carry into my own tying.
Photo by Mud Dog Saltwater Flies
As darkness fell over the mountains of southwestern Vermont we all made our way upstairs where everyone mingled and talked over pizza and beverages. I talked with guys about throwing some of my saltwater flies for pike, listened to people new to fly fishing talk with people who have been “in the business” for a long time and watched as people who had just met at the event exchanged contact info and made plans to share some water this season. For a few hours, shielded by the walls of the museum and the history inside them, we all escaped from the insane world outside. Sharing stories, access information and fly patterns, offering places to stay and help in learning new water and planning future events…Americans being Americans…it was nice to see.

The second half of the event was an Iron Fly contest put on by Pigfarmink Nor’eastah and the Vermont Fly Guys. For the uninitiated, Iron Fly is based on the same theme as Iron Chef. Fly tiers are given a bag of miscellaneous materials and are told to tie a specific pattern with what they have. Blindfolds may be used to increase the difficulty factor, instructions midway through the tie such as move to the vise across the table or tie with your opposite hand may be given. I could write pages about what went on during the event, and perhaps I will soon, but as I stood watching nearly two dozen fly tiers jammed into the library at the museum I saw something that intrigued me.

Seated at one of the tables in the back corner was a young girl flanked on either side by who I assumed were her mother and father. The first round of the night was going to be a San Juan Worm tied with a blindfold on. I watched the girl’s face as her parents helped her get the vise and blindfold set. Her eyes were bright with excitement and her expression determined and confident. Once the instruction to start was given I watched the girl quickly and aptly spin up the worm. The kid knew her away around a vise.
Photo courtesy American Museum of Fly Fishing
While the first round of flies were being judged I went over and introduced myself and asked if I could talk with them after the next round about the event for this piece. They happily agreed and then put on game faces for the next fly of the night, a Wooly Bugger. Nell twisted a great looking Bugger with ease.

While the Wooly Buggers were being judged I talked with Nell and her parents, Kim and Reid Bryant of Dorset, Vermont. I learned that Nell is nine, went fishing for the first time at age two and began learning to cast when she was four. About this time I recognized Kim from an article by Kristyn Brady in Field & Stream entitled “The Real Fly Girls” and from the Women’s Fly Fishing Showcase held recently at The Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. Kim is a New York guide, a fly fishing instructor for Orvis, does some affiliate guiding on Vermont and Massachusetts water and has fished and hosted travel trips in the US and abroad for a multitude of species in fresh and saltwater. Nell’s skills at the vise have obviously been learned at home.

As Nell prepared for the final round of Iron Fly I asked her what her favorite part of fly tying is. Her answer was the same as my daughter’s; the colors. I had time for one more question before the winners of Round 2 were announced. I asked her if she had any favorite fly patterns or if she liked to tie freestyle with whatever she felt like tying. Without hesitation her answer was, “Freestyle. Definitely.”
Photo by Mud Dog Saltwater Flies
The winners of Round 2 were announced after some deliberation. In a room of older people, some who are guides, some who tie commercially and many with more years of tying under their thread, Nell’s Wooly Bugger took second place. The smile on her face was out shined only by those on the faces of her parents.
Photo courtesy of American Museum of Fly Fishing
The final round was right in Nell’s wheelhouse. A mixed bag of materials and no specific pattern…total freestyle.

She totally freestyled it.
Photo by Mud Dog Saltwater Flies
I’d fish that.

History and tradition. Being made, taught, learned and lived.
Keep at it, Nell!

Bob's Diner, Manchester, VT
28 February 2016

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Mike! Wish I could have joined the event.