Remembering a Professional Fly-Tyer
Tie your own flies.
I really love stories about how people got involved in fly-fishing and fly-tying.
Not all fishermen are fly-tyers and not all fly-tyers are fishermen, but both seem to go hand-in-hand for most. I got involved in fly tying many years ago when I lived in Spokane. I was not a great tier at the time and would have called myself a little above average. I got involved because one of the older men in our church died suddenly and his wife wanted to sell his business.
Walt was a great tyer and made his extra money tying and selling his flies to the fly shops and businesses that catered to tourists on the local lakes. His particular interest and expertise was tying flies that worked better than any others on lakes. He was not much of a river or stream fisherman, but he would spend his entire winter tying in his basement room and then when spring came he would load up his pickup with the flies, hook on his boat and spend the next month traveling from lake to lake in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington selling the flies.
He would spend at least three days on each of these lakes fishing from his aluminum boat, coaxing the fish to his fly. Walt always had several new patterns that he would try out while fishing on these lakes, and found that some new fly patterns would work better than the old ones from previous years. Once he was confident in new pattern, he would give a few to the owners of the shops for them to give to their customers to try out. They would always call him after about a week and order these new patterns for his next trip.
When Walt returned home from his spring trip, he would begin to tie the new patterns and make another trip around the first of July once again fishing and delivering the flies that had been ordered.
After Walt died, his wife called to ask me if I was interested in his business. I took a serious look at his inventory and patterns and decided that it was not a good time for me to buy it. I had small children and could barely keep up with tying for myself and having a full-time job. I took some of Walt's patterns that he shared with me and tied a few for one owner at a local lake. Our family would spend a lot of time on this lake and it was fun to keep tying at this level.
I can't claim that I am an expert tyer at this time, but I sure enjoy what I do and have learned a lot over the past 30 years of tying. I fish only rivers and streams now, and enjoy the Bitterroot over and over again each year. It is one of the best-kept secrets in Montana and we are lucky to live as close to it as we do.
Billy Bean for the Ravali Republic