In last Sunday’s edition, Macomb Daily Columnist Terry Drinkwine shares his thoughts on fly tying and design after attending the Michigan Fly Fishing Club’s annual banquet. As he relates in his column, the featured speaker this year was A.K. Best, production tier and familiar name to anyone who reads John Gierach‘s books and essays.
Based on what Terry relates in his article, Best apparently gave quite the talk, illustraed with detailed slides, and focusing on the intricacies of more realistic fly design and the fact that there is a world of difference between just tying flies that sell in shops (or follow the pattern sin books) and tying flies that really catch more fish. Given the remarkable number of flies that Best has tied and sold over the years, he is certainly in a position to speak with authority when it comes to distinctions such as this.
“A.K. showed slide after slide of mayflies and made it a point to ask why on earth we use dubbing to create a mayfly body when we can see in every photograph that the mayfly body is a smooth-looking segmented part of the fly. I thought about it for a minute then realized he was right. I’ve never seen a hairy non-segmented mayfly, so why do I tie them otherwise? The answer is, of course, that’s what the patterns call for and every fly shop sells them that way and we catch fish with them. The question is, could we be more productive if we tied them using quill segments or some flat material instead?” – Terry Drinkwine
Terry notes in his article that A.K.’s theories on fly design go back many years to the time that he (meaning Best) was living in Alpena — which of course sent me to the Internet for some kind of confirmation and, yes, it turns out that A.K. is a native Michigander, though of course he has made his home in Colorado for the majority of his life.
This is the second time in recent memory I got this sort of surprise as it was only recently that I came to learn that fly-tier Craig Matthews of West Yellowstone’s Blue Ribbon Flies is also a native of the Great Lakes State. I’m a big fan of his work, too, and can report that his shop in West Yellowstone is a first-class joint. Add to this list Traverse City’s Kelly Galloup and Michigan seems to have a habit of producing outstanding tiers who at some point move West.