Fly-fishing: Instructional videos simplify the art of tying

The fall season brings us a couple of new fly-tying instructional videos. They couldn’t be more diff

The fall season brings us a couple of new fly-tying instructional videos. They couldn’t be more different from each other, and they’re both exceptional.

Pat Cohen of Cobleskill has released “The Stacked Deer Hair Diver,” a master class that reveals the techniques used in making his truly extraordinary deer-hair flies.

Cohen’s repertoire includes classic bass bugs, poppers, divers and sliders, along with everything from birds and ducks to fish. He also sells flies to anglers and collectors around the country and in a dozen other nations, from Sweden to Singapore.

A tattoo artist at Twisted Ink Tattoo and Body Piercing in Coble­skill, Cohen has a degree in art from Binghamton University. So maybe it’s not surprising that he’s drawn to flies that are more challenging and artistic than Adamses or Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ears.

“For me, fly-tying is like painting or sculpting with deer hair and feathers,” he said.

Making exceptionally detailed, large, 3-D flies like Cohen’s may seem daunting, but in the video, he demonstrates and explains the whole process clearly. He’s put in thousands of hours at the vise, and it shows in his sure-handedness and the economy of his movements.

Well-photographed from multiple angles, Cohen’s video reveals the secret to the most elusive aspect of deer-hair tying: how to make stripes, spots, spots on top of spots and circles around spots, exactly where you want them, all out of clumps of colored deer hair lashed to the hook.

Applying the hackle-feather tails and the many clumps of hair takes 44 minutes, and it takes another 10 minutes or so of trimming with a double-edged razor blade to transform the flared deer hair into a sculpted lure. Counting the weed guard and the application of various goos and glues, Cohen’s Stacked Deer Hair Diver takes about an hour and a quarter to make.

Cohen also sells tools and mat­erials for this kind of tying, including one tool he has developed himself — the SF Fugly Packer — a large, U-shaped band of eighth-inch steel used to pack the deer hair tightly onto the hook shank. Hair packers are nothing new, but the models available until now seem flimsy next to the Fugly.

The packer, tying materials and Cohen’s flies can be purchased at his website, “The Stacked Deer Hair Diver” will be available by the end of the month for $21.95, also at the site. Cohen also has a blog at

The other video, “Tying Tenkara Flies Volume I,” offers instruction on an entirely different category of flies — small, simple, elegant and effective wet flies (plus one dry fly) from or inspired by the world of Japanese fixed-line fly-fishing.

The DVD is produced by Brian Flemming of Bozeman, Mont., a filmmaker, playwright, social commentator and fly-fisher ever since his escape from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. An ultralight backpacker who runs barefoot, Flemming was an enthusiastic adopter of tenkara fishing and its philosophy of simplicity.

His skill as a filmmaker is evid­ent in this beautiful video, which includes very sharp closeups, a helpful look at the flies in the water so you can see how their materials move, and some beautiful footage of tenkara anglers catching hefty trout in and around Yellowstone National Park.

The prime fly-tier is Chris Stewart of New York City, who ties most of the 17 patterns. Stewart, prop­rietor of the rod, line, fly and accessory bus­iness, throws beautiful loops (even with copper wire), never makes an unnecessary wrap and always gets his proportions right. He has, after all, tied and sold thous­ands of these flies.

“Tying Tenkara Flies” also feat­ures some tying by Daniel Galhardo, who single-handedly launched the tenkara movement in the United States in April 2009 when he founded Tenkara USA, and Hisao Ishigaki, one of Galhardo’s tenkara gurus in Japan.

Tenkara purists don’t bother trying to match the hatch, they pretty much tie on any old fly, jig it in likely trout water and try to goad the trout into striking. And yet, here we have 17 different patterns, with very specific recipes and instructions.

“I was aware of that contradiction from the start,” Flemming said. “It doesn’t really bother me, because even though I know I probably only need one fly, I like trying different patterns for myself.”

“Tying Tenkara Flies” is a delight to watch and excellent instruction on a class of highly useful flies that are foreign, yet familiar to Amer­ican and European tiers. It sells for $24.95 at

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]

Categories: -Sports

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