Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beginnings

E. Fork Jemez River, NM
We all start tying flies for a reason.  When I tied my first fly, I was about 13.  I received a box full of crap with various threads, chicken feathers, some peacock herl, some patches of various dead animals and probably some deer or elk hair.  There was also a fly tying manual which I studied enough that the pages started to fall out.  I remember trying to tie some simple patterns and thinking that I couldn't get the finished product to look like the sketches in the book. It looked easy enough and I felt like I could master this project, but every pattern seemed to be worse than the previous one.  At some point, I realized that I didn't fly fish and that these furry things I twisted up were not going to work on the spinning rods and that the catfish I was chasing.  Besides, the catfish really prefer things like worms and chicken liver.   When I was able to go to the lake to try for trout, it was all about worms, corn, garlic flavored marshmallows and what I thought would work the best; the colored marshmallows from the grocery store.  None of the above worked that well for the trout since I thought the furthest cast was the best and that the lake was full of monster pike and the trout population was dwindling fast as the stocker rainbows encouraged the growth of smaller (24"-36") pike.   
It must have been after realizing that I needed to upgrade some of my crude tools and materials that I gave up tying for the first time.  The nearest fly shop was probably in Albuquerque, a 3 hour drive for us.  Not that I knew that fly shops existed at that time.  My fly tying career had been put on hold.  At that time, I was still trying to master the spinning reel and figure out what those new fish were in the lake.  They liked live minnows though and they fought hard.  The trout fishing was basically gone now, replaced by numerous small largemouth bass that were recently stocked by NM Game & Fish.  But there were still large pike in the lake and they loved big minnows and they were fun to catch.  They were a bitch to get off the hooks though with their razor sharp teeth.   
It wasn't until I was in college in Durango, CO that I pulled out the shoe box of tying material.  I think at that time, I tied a few woolly buggers.  I thought I might be able to use them on the Animas River that flowed through town.  I don't think I ever tried them, but I tied them.  I remember going to the local fly shop and getting materials to tie a few basics.  $75.00 later, I was determined to tie as many flies as possible to make up  the obscene cost of hooks, thread and a few feathers.   That was the foundation of my tying career.  I was still fishing a spinning reel at that time and was pretty darn good at it.  I remember fishing the upper Florida River above Lemon Reservoir and basically high sticking worms right at the inlet and catching fish after fish that were staged at the mouth of the inlet.  That was the best day of my fishing career.  I was well on my way to making the next leap to fly fishing.  In Montana that summer during a summer class, I tried to spin fish but was amazed at my professor and his fly rod.  I tried casting on the lawn and though, "I can master this".  I then dove into everything I could find on fly fishing.  Back in Durango, I had a river that ran right through town but was intimidated by it's size.  How the  heck do I figure this thing out?  And where the hell are all the fish?  
Along the way, there were many people that fed my desire to improve.  One person that I met was Steve Meyers, who was a local guide and author of the book " Lime Creek Odyssey".  He showed me his tying room and his fly boxes.  This was my first taste of what I thought fly fishing should be.  The numerous fly boxes he had and what he explained to me made sense.  Fish ate bugs, not corn and marshmallows,   After finishing college, I moved back with my parents in New Mexico.  With newfound purpose in my life, I headed west as often as I could to fish for rainbows, browns, bookies and Rio Grande Cutthroats.  During one of my outings, I found a little fly shop in Eagle Nest, NM.  This is where my "professional" journey begins.  It was here that I met my mentor and began tying mass quantities of flies and learning the finer points of fly fishing.  I began guiding in the area and thought it was the greatest thing ever.  And I got paid for it!   Over the last 10 years, I have improved the process of fly tying and made quite a few friends along the way.  What does it take to become a “pro” in fly fishing and fly tying?  Pretty much the same thing it takes in any profession.  A lot of hard work, and practice.  A friend once told me, “practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”  That is what I strive for every time I sit at the bench or put a fly on a rising fish.  It only takes one time to mess up something you have been working so hard to obtain, as we all know.  The fly tying has come a long way since that shoebox was handed to me.  The fly fishing never comes easy and I can’t say that I have it all figured out, but I can say that I know that trout prefer my baetis nymphs to marshmallows.  

My biggest brown trout to date.
There was a lot of carp fishing going on too. 
You see, I told you.  Rio Grande, NM
And some warmwater fishing also.  

Conejos River, CO
More Carp fishing while babysitting.  
La Junta Point, Rio Grane River, NM
One of my all time favorites.
Animas River, Durango, CO
Between Springer and Cimarron, NM. Ted Turner's herd.
An early stocked fly box.  
High country creek. 
Conejos River, CO 
Some early parachutes.
The prototype Ice Emerger. 
Some early flies. 
Upper Conejos River, CO
One of my first catches on the S. Platte River.
2008, when I started tying a lot...again
After moving to Colorado, I tied more midges. 
But I still tied some of the big stuff. 
Charette Lake, NM
Back in the day, this was the lake drifter.
I was getting noticed.
Springer Lake, NM
"Hopper Juan"
Arkansas River, CO 
MFC picked up the Hopper Juan, 2010
I need to practice!  

7 comments:

  1. Great story Juan. I have to be honest, when I first started tying I wanted to learn to tie two flies. The parachute adams and the hopper juan. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Ben

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  2. Hey Juan-Great Bio. Raffled your flies last night. A good friend of mine won and was very excited. He calls the Arkansas his home waters. He can't wait for the caddis action. Thanks again and have a great day. Jerry

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  3. Hey Juan great bio/story we (fly-people) start tying for many reason's your story is no different,but still a good tale of trial & error started tying for the need of having the right pattern,now I tye for the art form & the fact that I don't like some of the flies available. Dave

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  4. Enjoyed the read man... the beer shot is my favorite!! Glad you picked up tying man and even gladder I have been able to learn what I have from you.

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  5. Juan .. Thoroughly enjoyed your "Beginnings" post. Always fun to read about personal growth in this beautiful sport. Your striving for perfection is so obvious by the clean tight flies that you create. Thanks for sharing your gift with so m nay of us! ~ Jim

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  6. Ben,

    i am glad you started tying. i enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

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  7. Jerry, David, Rick & Jim,

    Thanks for reading and following. I enjoy hearing that what I do can benefit you and others. I enjoy sharing every and anything fly fishing and tying. Your comments keep me going!

    Thanks to all.

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