Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friends Flies (& Shitty Handshakes)

He didn’t start off on the right foot—parking sideways in the fly shop parking lot. It was a slow Sunday so the sloppy parking wasn’t really an inconvenience to anyone, but there was something about it that stunk of a deep seated entitlement that those born rich will sometimes have. Then the handshake. I offer my hand to everyone who comes in—that and a proper how are ya? It’s what I do…have done it for years. I feel a fly shop should have that sort of atmosphere. Like a home town bar. You know, like Cheers. So I get all sorts of people and all sorts of handshakes. The limp handed Dead Fish that never fails to take you by surprise, the Four Fingered Curtsy (come on man…let the thumbs lock before you bear down!) that leaves you feeling like you ought to lift your dress and dip…and the Little Pecker Gonzo Squeeze that leaves you with unnecessarily broken phalanges all because Gonzo is feeling inadequate (and apparently spending hours throttling stress balls at the office). But this one was new to me…one pump of the hand, a turn of the back and a dismissive yank out of the man grip. What the hell?
“Got any UFOs?” he asks with his back still to me. Face down in the fly bins.
My smart ass streak had already kicked in. “Haven’t been abducted since I left the rural Midwest,” I say.
He doesn’t appear to appreciate my attempt at humor. Whatever.
“You know the UFO, don’t you?”
“No,” I say. “What is it?”
“Are you serious?” He seems incredulous.
Again, whatever…

I guess being a guy who tends to be hyper-sensitive to body language and tone of voice makes my line of work unnecessarily stressful at times. I don’t like being snarky. In fact, long before I ever worked in the fly fishing industry, my most memorably negative experiences were in fly shops—some over-egoed D-Bag dripping condescending tone like…well, condensation off a cold canteen. I swore I would never become that guy. But, being in a fly shop most days is a double edged sword. It puts me in contact with some of the most interesting and animated members of my community (that would be you, dear reader! Lookin’ good today, btw!) the down side is that I have to suffer the fools…with a cheesy smile on my face. Suffering fools is not on the list of things I do well. So, I suppose I should stop whining about my job. I may have one of the best gigs imaginable (which, however, is why my whining invariably falls on deaf ears!) So what if some of the most enthusiastic story tellers have the worst breath? So what if the worst story tellers usually speak the slowest? So what if occasionally some pompous ass face gives me a shitty hand shake? All things considered, I should not care at all…and I will try not to. 

But…I will never have every silly name of every silly fly ever tied committed to memory (or stocked in our shop bins for that matter). I don’t keep track of what some dude who guided you once on the San Juan is hacking out on his vice between packing himself a fresh bowl and telling the stiffs on the river how awesome he is. Nope. Not paying attention. I fish only three types of flies: My Own Designs (because that is what Umpqua contracts me to do) Old Staples (because I have to know how mine stand up to the existing standard) and Friends Flies (because I know how important other discerning opinions are to the development of a new fly pattern). Also, I am lucky enough to be fairly close friends with some of the best fly tiers in the country.  I ain’t gonna start name dropping, but this allows me to stick pretty tightly to my three-tiered mantra on fly selection! 

I don’t just pander to the big names out there in the tying world…some of the more enjoyable ventures have been involving young fly tiers. I love seeing what they are coming up with, whom or what their influences are, and how much just a little encouragement and feed back can do. I have a good friend, Justin who is 13 and will occasionally get dropped off at the fly shop on Sundays by his mother. Justin is one of these uber-sharp young teens who will inevitably make you look back to when you were 13…and cringe. Bare foot in a mud puddle, a two-inch Ewok in one hand and a rusty machete in the other? No? Sorry…just me I guess.  Anyway, Justin is a fly designer, too. Not just a fly tier. He comes up with his own stuff. And I admire that. And when he left a plastic cup for me at the shop the other day with some new carp flies…I could not wait to try them out!

(After Action Review: Justin, thanks for the flies! They worked! First carp to get a proper look at it hopped on like a hobo on a flat car! My only major critique is the weight. Too heavy for the flats style fishing I like. Too hard to control on short casts and too loud of plop entering the water. That size dumbell would work better in a river, moving water like the South Platte. Try scaling down to a 1/8th Dazel-Eye at the head. Also, give me some other color combos. The one you gave me had the “shad” thing doing (will be sweet later in the summer!) but let’s see some leech and crayfish versions! 


  1. You should be happy for customers like that; it lets you have a little fun. "I'm telling you, the hot pink woolly bugger with the flashing LED eyes is killer right now."

  2. are too right! Ha ha hahahaha!

  3. "Oh, the UFOs? They're right over there by the GFYs"

  4. I love your blog and have been a lurker for several months now. I will note to always brush my teeth before coming into the shop! Hehe.
    Today my issue of "Field and Stream" came today and there in the middle was a your name and the "Backstabber" Carp fly. My personal favorite. The Clown Shoe is also another of my favorites.
    Because of your blog I decided to start my own.

    I made a variation of your "Backstabber" and made sure to give you credit as is proper. I hope to meet you one day in your shop or on the Big T up here in Loveland.
    May I ask what type of camera you use? I enjoy your photography just as much.


  5. Yeah, the UFOs are right next to the get the F out of here!

  6. Do you have pants that go over pants that keep your pants dry?

    You mean waders?

    No, I already have a pair of those.

  7. Lonny, Wow...first, I love your blog! Second, also loved the Backstabber rendition! The camera I use is an Olympus Stylis Tough...or something like that. But I have been finding that Erin's takes better has a better lense. I will have to ask what she has. Again, your blog is looking great, brother! Hope to see ya on the river!

  8. Lonny - My camera is a digital Sony 7.2 mega pixel "Cyber-Shot" with a 3x optical zoom. Got it used on Craigslist years ago. It's nothing fancy, but like Jay said, it works really well!

  9. Just wanted to post that you have some incredibly interesting similes in your writing. Beyond that, I agree, it seems kids are getting pretty good at fly tying these days. I have a nephew who's interested in it and when he's ready I'm going to put him on the bench and let him crank me out wooly buggers all day long.

  10. I read your book Jay and I loved it!!

  11. Well, shit...thanks, brother! That means alot comming from a fellow writer...again, thanks!

  12. Hey Jay!
    First of all, thanks for the advice and kudos! I've been tying that fly in an olive/black color with smaller eyes, and it looks awesome. Second, don't worry, I found myself in a local ditch with a rope swing, butt naked, in the middle of a blizzard. We all have those moments ;)

    Justin S

  13. HA! This post is Hilarious. Thank you for not being "that guy" Jay… In fact thank you for being the opposite of "that guy". It is comforting having pros at the shop who don’t condescend the public for not knowing as much as they do. I have been fly fishing for about 25 years and going to FRA for almost 10 of that now and can honestly say, you guys do a great job at not making me feel like an idiot. Don’t know how many times I’ve come in needing a fly selection, tying technique, approach pointer, terrain beta, you name it never felt like I could not ask a stupid question. Still haven't landed any grass carp yet...but having a blast trying.

    I've never heard of a UFO either...
    Harrison Steeves’s UFO

  14. Thanks, brother! Hope to see you in the shop soon! fyi...FRA has gone to shit. The entire old crew is now off by an owner intimidated by staff more knowledgeable than he is. D-bag only fishes six times a year, but wants to own a fly shop. Lame. So, naturally I have moved over to Rocky Mountain Anglers on Arapahoe! You will love the guys in here! Very tight little family over here. Great guys and an owner who actually appreciates his staff as well as the local customer me, you will like the vibe here!