Bob Stephan

UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner

November 2021

Norris, Tennessee

Bob Stephan at the vise.

Bob Stephan came to the craft of fly tying as a form of therapy and over the years has extended that to others. Back in 1997, while confined to home recovering from a heart attack, he realized he had watched all the television he could stand. To break that cycle, he picked up the phone, called Cabela’s and ordered a fly-tying kit.

That was the beginning, but not long afterward, he was off to the local fly shop to buy more materials and pick up some fly-tying books. More recently he has extended that form of therapy by tying for and with the military veterans at Project Healing Waters.

Born in Oak Ridge, Stephan grew up  in Norris, Tennessee, where he did more hunting than fishing in his youth. He still resides in Norris, near the shores of the Clinch River. Today he serves as the president of the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

His introduction to fly fishing was less than a stellar one. “A friend took me to the Smoky Mountains and pointed up the stream for me to go, and he went the other direction,” Bob described. “Some how I managed to not fall in, but caught no fish that day. Later I got the hang of it and also started fishing the Clinch River, which is just down the road from my house.”

Once he was into the fly tying, he also had no mentor. “I am self-taught,” he pointed out, “but, like most other tiers, I have picked up little things from watching other as they tie.”

His tying has taken a practical pathway, as well, concentrating on patterns that work in the southern region. He regularly ties the Smoky Mountains favorite dry fly, the Thunderhead. Others are March Brown, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail Nymph.

When it comes to obtaining his tying materials, Bob is not a road-kill guy. “I have friends that bring we feathers and such, but other than that, I purchase what I need.”

Stephan admits that he does not have a signature pattern, but does tweak his ties with small changes here and there. His tying also is not a commercial venture. “I have given a lot of flies away, but do not charge anyone,’ he said.

“My greatest reward has been tying for Project Healing Waters,” he continued. “I have led or co-led fly-tying for Project Healing Water Fly Fishing in Knoxville and for Trout Unlimited. During Covid-19, I taught classes online on the PHWFF Facebook home page for over a year.”  Stephan continues to be available to lead classes today.

As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding!

Some of the patterns tied during his classes can be seen on the PHWFF Knoxville Facebook page, as well as on the Clinch River Trout Unlimited Facebook page.

In closing, Bob offered a bit of advice to new tiers. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” he offered. “The fish doesn’t know if the tail is off a little or the ribbing is not spaced just so. Sometimes the ‘buggier’ the better!”

Bob Stephan can be contacted through his Facebook page.

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