Fly Tiers the Unsung Heroes of Fly Fishing Shows

There are a lot that go into putting on a fly fishing show.  The venue, the vendors, the programs, the workshops and the fly tiers and more.  All are very important to the success of the show. The big names and the programs and workshops are what draws the crowds, and everyone want to see the great new products that the vendors have.
            But there is a group of folks that are, in my opinion, the heart of any fly fishing show– the demonstration fly tiers. Don’t get me wrong- every one of these groups are very important to a good show. You have to have the Programs and Workshops to draw in the crowds- these are usually folks that are local heroes or folks that are paid for their time (“star” of the show”/etc.), or vendors that are already there with a booth.  Many are local, but some come from a ways away to sell their wares.  The vendors pay for booth space and/or donate to the clubs in exchange for their space. 
            Then there are the demonstration fly tiers. Britt has been in charge of getting tiers and organizing that portion of the show here in Lewiston for three years now.  The first time she organized the tiers, we were amazed that these folks come all the way to a show and did their demo tying without compensation!  That’s right– these folks travel to different shows and are not paid for doing it. We have had folks come from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Canada and Utah to tie here in Lewiston. Some do sell their flies, some sell DVD’s or some other items to help offset the cost but these folks are not paid travel expenses or lodging or for their time, so why in the hell do they do it?
            These folks drive from their homes, stay for two days to tie flies for two to four hours or more, with their own materials and don’t get any pay for it (and often donate their flies to interested show-goers!).  So why do they do it?  The answer is simple- for the love of what they do and the chance to teach someone about fly tying, or to get someone interested in this part of the sport of fly fishing.
            These folks, I say folks because it is not just men, there are some damn fine women tiers. They take time away from their day jobs, travel for hours to get to a show just so they can set up their vice and tie flies- hoping that there will be lots of people come thru and sit down in front of them and ask “What are you tying” or “That looks good , how do you do that”. Believe it or not that, is the reward these folks are looking for- just someone to sit down in front of them and ask questions, someone to show interest in what they are doing.
            This year Britt and I were invited to tie at the Western Rocky Mountain Council of the International Fly Fishing Federation show in Coeur d’Alene. We packed up our vices and materials and went up on Saturday to tie. Britt and I have tied at a couple of shows this year really just getting started in the Demo tying. We saw some of our fly tying friends there, and had a great time!  That is one other thing I have learned about this group of folks “the demo fly tiers”- they are like a big family.
It was a good show! I had a few people sit down to watch, but Britt was in 7th heaven when a young man of about 15 and his mother sat down and started asking questions about what she was tying and how to do this and that at the tying bench. After the show, as we were driving home, she looked at me and said “I finally get it! It was amazing to have someone sit down that was egger to learn about the sport and what we do!” I see us going to a lot more shows as demo tiers in our future.
            So the next time you attend a fly fishing show and your walking around and you see the folks at the tables tying up flies, take a few minutes to sit down and ask questions.  That is why these folks are there, and believe me you won’t be bothering them! That’s what they came to the show to do, is to tie flies and share what they are doing. If you do you might be rewarded with a fly or two of your very own–you never know.
Till next time tight lines and screaming drags,
Brian D.

4 thoughts on “Fly Tiers the Unsung Heroes of Fly Fishing Shows

  1. Your wife’s conclusion at the end of this blog post is very accurate! I get it too. I’ve been a demo fly tyer at some shows in the south central states – OK, MO, AR. The Sowbug Roundup is the annual show in Mountain Home AR and there’s a mid-summer show in Branson MO. I am planning on tying at both of those events again this year (2022).


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