Art Led Me to Fly Fishing

Fly Tying is Art

Some colorful Arizona Princes

I grew up in Vernal, UT, which can be described as a big little city in the northeastern extreme of the state.  There is a lot of oil and gas influence in the city, and most of the people there enjoy the outdoors, but my parents were nothing of the sort.  My dad is a local Vernal kid and was a school teacher and a florist of all things (believe me... there is a LONG story there), and my mom is a hippie transplant from the bay area who has lost her mind due to raising 6 rowdy boys and being a kindergarten teacher for about 100 years.  We didn't really camp, hunt, or fish.  We didn't have guns to shoot, ATVs to ride, or animals to feed.  I really was fueled by sports, mainly soccer, through my younger years but I always had access and drive to create art.  In about 5th grade I realized that I couldn't draw anything that was realistic, so I'd draw and create caricatures and abstract stuff (like the flyfishfood logo) that would freak out my teachers.  I guess the sculpture of a figure in a hooded robe with his mouth sewn shut was the kicker for her...  Anyway, I loved art because it was a good outlet for me to create anything that I wanted.  The only thing that pissed me off about my art classes was when the stoners in ceramics class would make bongs that would blow up in the kiln and destroy my
Some of my tying mascots
latest piece.  I enjoy good art and my tying room is covered with it.  I have pictures that friends have drawn and painted, I have some old sculptures including a Bob Marley head that keeps breaking off dreads, and I have a piece of art that I highly value - a piece of old drift wood with a big foam patch stuck to it with flies that have inspired me.  They are all flies that people have given me at a show or in a trade, but they all have a story.  FLIES ARE ART.

My fly tying career began at a call center of all places.  I was the Spanish speaking agent on our team, so I got paid more, but took about 1/10 of the calls the English reps would take so I HAD time.  There were a group of us that would go out and hit some of the local bass fishing establishments in the evenings which usually consisted in throwing banjo minnows until we couldn't see anymore (yes they work.)  We would view fly fishing as a three headed monster that we might not ever catch, but we would try - unsuccessfully...  One day, one of my co-workers brought his grandpa's old tying kit and sat down to
Heathen Fishing.
"tie me some flies."  I still remember to this day that he would rub beeswax on his thread for what seemed 10 minutes before he tied any materials in...  Well, guess what habit I had for the first few months...  My first fly was a wooly bugger with a blue tail, yellow body, and red hackle.  The hackle was WAY too big so I just trimmed it down to size...  It was glorious and terrible all at the same time, and I wish that I still has that thing because I'd frame the sucker.  It was the catalyst to my obsession.  That call center was where I met my bride, so I guess that job really worked out well for me.  My Father in Law to be just so happened to be a fly fisherman, and the very first fly rod that I got my grubby mitts on was an old Fenwick fiberglass jobber with an automatic reel that I cast in his back yard.  It seemed like I was in the back yard for hours trying to figure out how to make that dang thing work.  Luckily for me, my wife bought me a high quality Pflueger Trophy Tamer and a fly tying kit for Christmas that year.  Little did she know what she started...  The rod didn't experience proper bendo for over a year due to me lugging along the fly rod kind of as an afterthought in the event that the stars would align and that three headed dragon would be attained that day.  The vise, on the other hand, was getting ABUSED...  I was burning through 50 packs of Mustads faster than I could save up
This is one of the walls in the dungeon.
to buy them.  I tied everything that the poorly illustrated book that came with my kit would show me, and then I started to just freestyle.  I had about every color of wooly bugger, hare's ear, and brassie, and they were all very poorly tied.  I also tried to tie the  Royal Coachman because it was my Father in Law's favorite pattern.  His favorite fishing phrase was "If they aren't eating a Royal Coachman or a Black Gnat you might as well just go home."  This phrase created a false sense of confidence in this fly, and one of my ugly Coachmen was the first fly I caught a fish on.  It was at Tony Grove reservoir in Northern Utah, and it was a tiny stocker rainbow.  What I remember most about that fish was that I was alone, and I was stripping a dry fly under the surface.

Fly tying started to get more serious for me once I started to try to match the hatch more.  That is where I realized that every little detail made a difference.  I remember getting together with my buddy Aaron to tie flies, and we would challenge ourselves to tie flies that looked as good as the flies in the Orvis catalog.  It was about this point that I stopped looking at pattern books for the most part.  I regularly referenced the Benchside Reference because it showed techniques instead of flies.  These techniques were what fueled the art of tying.  From there I tied crazy bass flies out of flip flops, trout streamers out of weed whacker line, and the infamous caddis pupa tied from hair from nether regions tied especially for my buddy who would raid my box and hold the fly in his mouth as he got ready to tie it on...  Yeah he was pissed.  I had found my art medium.  Tying flies had become much more than just fooling fish (which was still really important) - it became a way to express myself.  When I was angry I'd crank up Rage Against the Machine and tie big gnarly streamers, and when I just wanted to chill out I'd turn up some Reggae and tie more delicate stuff.

This IS organized
When I fish, part of it is to catch fish - but I'm really motivated to come up with flies that could be the next big thing - and once I find a fly that works I'm off to find another one.  I'm in a constant state of
creation and imagination when it comes to attaching junk to a hook.  Art still lives strong in my basement fly studio/disaster zone, and because of art; many fish have been brought to hand.  I'm good with that.

~ Cheech