With a fresh oil change and a new EZ Pass account, I was ready for the trek to Edison, NJ where I would spend 3 days tying flies at one of the biggest and best fly fishing shows in the US. The drive was relatively painless – gotta love breezing through those tolls with the EZ Pass! And, I arrived at the convention center early Friday morning with just enough time to set up my table and to prepare for the hoards of passionate anglers wanting to observe the many fly tying styles and techniques on display. I had a blast talking to all kinds of folks about all kinds of fly fishing and fly tying techniques, and it was an awesome opportunity to help people get started tying their own flies.
My table was situated between 2 of the best fly tiers I have ever seen. To my left was Jason Taylor, a young guy from the Philadelphia area (Fly Eagles Fly!) whose saltwater patterns are truly amazing! Utilizing some of latest saltwater tying techniques, such as Bob Popovics’ hollow tying method, and incorporating his own, original methods of preparing and wrapping materials, Jason creates large saltwater flies that are beautiful and functional. While most of the saltwater guys are playing around with piles of synthetic materials and UV resins, Jason relies mostly on natural bucktail, ostrich, fox, and other furs that move seductively through the water. His patterns contain just the right touch of synthetics to give them the perfect amount of flash, and he does like using Steve Farrar’s synthetic blend ( as do I!), but his flies are mostly natural. When the great Bob Popovics came over to Jason’s table and began asking Jason questions about how to tie like that, I knew I was sitting next to one of the best! I was very impressed to say the least! Check out Jason Taylor’s instagram page: Flyonby
To my right was Joe Ackourey, a fly tier and guide from NE Pennsylvania. This guy is truly amazing! Essentially born and raised in a fly shop, he started tying Catskill patterns for Orvis back in the 60’s – back when Orvis used real fly fishermen to tie their flies, and they would only accept flies tied to the exact dimensions that these classic dry fly patterns demand. The thing is that Joe is a young guy; well, maybe not as young as Jason, but he’s definitely a young 50. That means he was already tying some of the best patterns when he was like 6 years old! His experience and expertise is obvious when you watch him go to work on the vise. His flies are simple, effective and perfectly tied! Just as impressive as his flies and his fly tying techniques are his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm. Whether he was showing people his method for tying comparaduns, demonstrating his nymphing methods, or sharing stories about catching big PA browns, Joe was one of the first tiers each day to get a crowd, and he was the last guy tying flies all 3 nights. I pretty much had to order him to go take a break, get something to eat & drink, and go to the bathroom for crying out loud! They poor guy was starting to squirm like a 10 year old holding in his pee! Oh yeah, Joe also makes the best natural fur dubbing blends I have ever seen!
Anyway, Joe is a true gem. He’s everything you want in a guide, his flies are an inspiration, and it was a true honor to tie next to him. Check out his website: Joe Ackourey Fly Fishing Adventures
This is my first year getting involved in the shows, and I am having a blast. I don’t have the celebrity tier status like some of these other guys, but I always seemed to have someone at my table interested in learning how to tie or wanting to buy my flies. I thought that my sulphur Klinkhammer patterns would draw the most attention, but I was wrong. People were drawn to my table by the Game Changers I had on display. I know that the game changer catches fish, but what I really learned at the show is that game changers catch a lot of
fishermen! This large baitfish pattern developed by Blane Chocklett is probably the hottest pattern of the last 2 years, and everyone loves checking them out. More than a couple people told me that my game changers were the best ones they saw at the show, so that’s cool! Clearly, they didn’t see Jason’s feather game changers; those things kick butt! Most tiers at the shows tie big colorful saltwater and bass patterns, and most of the trout guys tie larger, delicate and/or realistic patterns, which I do not think are nearly as effective at catching fish as the smaller, more impressionistic patterns that I tie. Another awesome fly is one that Joe ties – a little, impressionistic hare’s ear pattern that I’m sure slays trout everywhere! My jiggy bugs are also true fish catchers, and a number of people at the show wanted to get their hands on my awesome little nymph patterns.
People at the show also noticed that I have no problem tying these patterns on a size 20 jig hook. One person who took notice of my little jiggy bugs was Misako Ishimura, captain of Japan’s national fly fishing team and master Tenkara angler.
She appreciated my passion for tenkara and really liked my sakasa kebari patterns, which are designed for tenkara fishing. But, she loved my jiggy bugs and ordered a dozen in size 18 and size 20. I’m sure these will be as effective for her and Team Japan as they are for me!
I probably tied about 30 flies over the course of 3 days, but I expected to tie many more. It was tough to tie when I always seemed to be getting into discussions with fellow fly guys or when I caught myself staring at the artful handiwork of Jason Taylor and Joe Ackourey tying to my left and right.
I really had a great time, and I can’t wait for Tie Fest on February 24-25 and for The Fly Fishing Show in Lancaster March 3-4. Thanks to Ben Furimsky for accepting me to the Fly Fishing Show and thanks to all the other tiers who made me feel right at home and who offered to help in any way they could. I need to give a huge shout out to Safet Nikocevic who ties amazing, realistic nymph patterns. When I used to come to the shows as a customer, I always stopped at his table, and Safet always gave me great advice on tying nymphs. He let me use one of his bobbins designed for smaller flies for a majority of Sunday’s show, and I can’t thank him enough. He’s a great guy, and an incredible tier. If you ever want to truly match the hatch with realistic nymph patterns, he is definitely your go-to guy.
See ya’ at the shows! – Adam Wilner