Recently, I have been spending time with my Uncle Fred. As the title says, I will talk about our time tying flies and baking pies. Perhaps a little backstory on my relationship with my Uncle. At around seven or eight I remember him getting me into archery, starting with suction cup arrows of course. Then probably at eleven years old, my Uncle called me while I was at my Grandma's house and he asked me if I wanted to go hunting (prior I had always had interest but no experiences) eagerly, I said "of course I would want to go!" No deer that day, but many memories gained regardless. Maybe I will write a blog about that down the road...
As time went on we became closer and closer. Early on I can remember walking through his house and seeing his "game room" where many species were on display that my family harvested over the years. This was a huge point in my youth where I knew I wanted to be an Outdoorsman. My Uncle was my mentor for playing trumpet, for the short time I did. Then we started working on different hands on projects together. Our first projects were woodworking. Most memorable might have been making kayak paddles.
From a very young age I always admired my Uncle Fred's way of life. Through my eyes I saw a man who was an Artisan and Outdoorsman, both of which I knew were roles I wanted to play as I grew up. Having a role model like that is invaluable. Despite the fifty year or so age gap, we always got along well. I never got along well with kids my age, they just didn't see the value in the things I saw and sought value in. Areas like Angling, Hunting, Gardening, Woodworking, Metalworking , Leatherworking were all things I was curious about. I truly think I have been drawn to these areas because, I know they are deeply linked with the fibers of our natural being. Now looking back I had no idea how much I was going to learn from him, especially in these areas.
The last bit of backstory before we get to the "Flies & Pies." In 2012, my Uncle Fred and his wife Nan went on an Adventure to Alaska (Nan was absolutely crucial in my leather working endeavors.) This was something of a dream, even as someone who was not going along. The stories brought back were beautiful and awe inspiring. Fishing in Alaska; what an experience. It seems the mark of being an outdoorsman comes with being well traveled. A few years later down the road my Uncle went on a Moose hunt in Quebec! Another moment in my life of inspiration.
First the flies, then the pies. Four years ago I bought a fly rod and reel setup from Orvis. I was inspired to learn. I was practice casting in my yard but never took it to the water. Some people came into my life the last year that have made me interested in catching a fish on the fly. A big thank you to Ryan Shea of Brookdog Fishing Co. As well as my amazing friend Teresa who's pure excitement for fly fishing motivated me. Now most recently spending more time with my Uncle has made the interest in fly fishing grow.
For many years my Uncle was an art teacher and naturally, where there is a teacher there will be a student. Here was another project for us, teacher and student. We decided to dust off his fly bench and both get to tying. When I arrived he had all the equipment needed laid out on the desk. We then went through several drawers of hackle and feathers. After leafing through some books and looking over flies he had made, we chose a Clouser head as our base. While we went through the materials he pulled out some elk hair and I knew that was going to be part of my first fly. My Uncle said "most of this material is older than you!"
While making the fly (shown below), it was a different level of tact than the standard marabou or buck tail jigs I make for bass. The thread was fine and thin, it felt at times I was wrapping forever compared to the thick threads I was used to. It took time to grasp, I snapped the thread a few times just from wrapping too aggressively. To keep it simple I just stuck with the elk hair, some flash and olive thread. I figured this was a solid pattern to mimic a variety of small bait. One of the most intriguing parts was using the finishing tool. With bigger jigs and thread I just use a few half hitches with my fingers, with this fine thread the whip finisher was essential.
Time for pie? In my memory there are a few desserts and meals that stand out. On the dessert side of things; my Uncle always made the best blueberry pie and short bread cookies. Over the last few years my love for cooking has grown, and I figured it was a good time to dabble in the baking side of things.
The process was a beautiful thing to watch. For teaching and eating purposes, we made two pies; one blueberry for me to make, one rhubarb for him to make. We went through the recipe loosely and he explained the reasoning for different steps. Our system was good once we got into the flow. It was so much fun because I was so drawn in and eager to learn. Every single aspect I was picking up on.
I won't go too in detail as to the whole process of making the pie. It was a great experience, and while our dough chilled, we went back to tying flies. We thought about entering a pie contest, each pie topped with a cookie cutter trout, a funny idea.
Mentors and teachers are so valuable in life, especially past graduating school. There is much to be learned from those around you, and it will be of benefit to you both. I am glad I was able to write this article and document such a great day with my Uncle Fred. Hopefully someone reading this finds inspiration to try something new and search out a teacher in person, not online.