I unwrapped an LL Bean fly tying kit on Christmas Day of 1988 and haven’t looked back for 25 years. Before this, I tried using a bench vise and mickey-moused tools to ill effect. With the kit, I was able to do something presentable (or at least I thought, it takes a while when you’re a distracted 10 year old).
A local Polish-American club put on free tying lessons on Tuesday nights and my Dad and I attended. Dabbling through middle school, I got serious in high school and tied trout flies and hairwing salmon flies commercially for Hunter’s and American Angling. It was also at this time I discovered classic Atlantic salmon flies and I knew my interest was permanent.
Living in a hotbed of salmon fly tiers, I met Paul Schmookler, Bob Warren, Mike Martinek, Bill Wilbur, Charlie Chute and a host of others that influenced me over the years. I was fortunate to work for Phil Castleman of Fisherman’s Furs and Feathers/Heritage Fly Rods while I attended college and graduate school, and he introduced me to fly tiers far and wide.
When I befriended Jon Harrang of Oregon, he told me about the Northwest Fly Tying Expo. I always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest, and worked my way into that show in 2004. Winning the gold medal in the 2005 Irish Open Creative Classic Salmon Fly category led to me being asked to demonstrate at the Northwest Atlantic Salmon Fly Guild in Seattle, Washington. In Oregon and Washington I met Rocky Hammond, Dave McNeese, Aaron Ostoj, John Shewey, the late Harry Lemire and a host of other friends and influences.
In the Northwest I also developed a healthy hiking and backpacking habit, which has slowly gotten me back into fly fishing. Along the way I won various other gold and bronze medals in the Irish Open and won first place in the 2010 Helsinki Spey Clave competition; have found myself in various books by John Shewey, Mike Radencich and others, and writing articles for various fly magazines.
Being social by nature, I always enjoy travelling to give classes or tie at shows. I was thrilled in 2011 to meet European friends at the Loch’s Agency Show in Belfast who I otherwise knew only through email or letters. I am excited to finally put some faces on names and establish new friendships at my first British Fly Fair International. Come and say hello!