Many years ago, while hunkered down in my family cabin after a day of fishing I remember my Dad pulling out a shiny red toolbox. The contents of this toolbox were quite a mystery to me. Clueless to the passion I would find later in life, I now wish I had been able to take advantage of the opportunity this day presented.
I had a friend at the time who was far more passionate about fly fishing than I. Me, a preteen, who could hardly stick to a goal and wanted to explore anything and everything as quickly as possible and then move on to the next. Fly fishing was no exception. I was mostly entertained at the time while fly fishing by exploring the different waters we went to and whatever distractions were presented. However, with my friend so interested I began to want to follow along.
My Dad proceeded to open the toolbox and reveal the strange contents inside, his fly-tying kit. We sat there for a few hours setting up our vises and learning about some of the basic materials including but not limited to threads, wires, and chenille. From there we began a quick break down of the tools and how you begin to tie a fly. I shot right in with confidence and thought a bee pattern would be best to tie. Using mainly chenille I messily strapped some material to a hook and called it good. It was less than a masterpiece. One fly and that was enough tying for me. I didn’t touch a vice again for years.
Growing up fly fishing continued to be a part of my life as my dad, brother and I would frequent different Colorado lakes and streams. I enjoyed the time in the mountains and felt very fortunate for the experiences that came along with the journey of fly fishing, even though I was never a very good fly fisherman. I spent time making knots for my dad to undo, splashing across a run that I had no idea held fish or presenting flies in ways that made no sense according to the insects the pattern was intended to imitate. This was just how I created a lasting bond with the ones I shared time fly fishing. Fly tying never a thought for me. Flies out of the bins were the ticket!
It wasn’t until years later, in my early twenties that I dove deeper into fly fishing. Thanks to my brother I was lucky enough to get a job in the warehouse at AvidMax. An excellent place to consume yourself in fly fishing. I began spending as much time as I could on the water exploring the different techniques and strategies that fly fishing offered. My dad and I began to hit the water again giving us something to help keep us in touch following his divorce from my mom and my growth into independence.
We spent a few years doing this sporadically until very suddenly my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His illness was so far along when we found out that there was no chance in recovery and within a few weeks he passed. My brother, sister and I spent the following months going through his things and settling his affairs as you typically do. In deciding what items we wanted to keep in memory of my father, we decided I would inherit his fly fishing gear. Rods in PVC piping and other cases, reels, vests, flies, and other tackle, but then, that red toolbox from years ago.
I got all the fly gear organized in my basement at home. I set the toolbox on my old glass table that had traveled with me from my mom’s house, through bachelorhood and remains currently in my basement. It didn’t take me long to find the itch to open that toolbox once again to see what was inside. Materials from hackle, herl and hair to tools like bobbins, threaders, bodkins, and wing burners. (Admittedly I had no idea what the wing burners were until years later). There were a few vises, so I picked the one that seemed the best to me at the time and put it out for action. This was a great start.
Contrary to my behavior as a youth I was overwhelmed with the drive to explore and practice all the possible details and avenues of fly tying. Fortunately for me, AvidMax offers a world of fly-tying materials, meaning along with YouTube tying videos and tying books, I had the tools I needed to really take off and begin to learn the art/science of fly tying. I would sit in that basement tying fly after fly until the early morning hours forced me to bed.
Sitting here now, at my fly-tying desk that has grown ten times over and been promoted from the basement so that my wife can see my face from time to time. I find myself thankful for my father. Although his attempt to directly influence me when I was young into something that he was passionate about failed, due to my lack of dedication at the time. Years later his gift of fly tying and all the joy it brings me in my life was waiting for me in that red toolbox.