UNI PRODUCTS FLY TIERS CORNER
From Cane Poles & Road Kill
Douglas Miller got his start in fly fishing and tying in the most basic of ways. He grew up in a small oilfield town in northeast Texas. The family owned a cabin on a small lake, where his father first introduced him to fly fishing – well, sort of. “It began with a cane pole, line and popper,” Miller explained. “I caught a ton of panfish with it. He would loan me his fiberglass fly rod from time to time and I would fish for freshwater species. Rarely he would loan me his bamboo rod.”
Today his fly fishing is a bit more conventional. “My wife and I live in Holiday Island, Arkansas, a great place to live,” he said. “In less than 30 minutes, I can fish either the Beaver tailwater (of the White River) or Roaring River. I am close to some really great smallmouth water: King River, Little Sugar Creek and Crooked Creek.”
Miller’s interest in trout fishing stems from having visited Philmont Scout Ranch during his Boy Scout days. “While at bas camp, called Rayado, I caught and ate fresh trout,” he recalled. “From that moment on, I have been totally hooked on fishing for trout.”
It was some time later that his attention turned to tying flies. “On a trip to Buena Vista, Colorado – where we camped with our kids every summer for 10 years – it dawned on me that I could tie my own flies and save some money. Little I know at the time what that would lead to!” he mused. “So, I bought a cheap tying kit and a kit to tie Adams flies. I also got a kit for Renegades. Those were the two flies I used almost exclusively in Taylor, Gunnison and Spring Creek.”
As with many tiers, the road to proficiency was learning experience. “I am pretty much self-taught,” Miller said. “Anytime I fished with a guide, at least part of the trip was spent tying a pattern or two. I bought several books and followed the directions. This was long before anything on the Web.”
He did point out, however, that he later he aquired Tony Spezio as a mentor for tying. “Tony and I met through an online chat room: Virtual Fly Box (virtualflybox.com). It’s a group of guys from across the U.S. and several from Europe.
Miller with his mentor Tony Spezio.
“Tony invited us all to the 2003 North Arkansas Fly Fishers Sowbug Round Up,” the tier recounted. “Tony introduced me to exposition tying and it began a long an enjoyable hobby. I have attended Sowbug and several others since then. Along the way, tony shared many tips and many recipes with me. I own him a lot for his kind friendship and patience.”
It did take Miller a while to expand his range of flies. “For a long time, I was dry fly purist,” he noted. “As mentioned, I started with the Adams and Renegade. As I expanded both knowledge and territory, I began tying streams and nymphs.”
Like most tiers, he does use commercially available materials, but is not adverse to finding his own. “When I first began, I harvested road-kill almost exclusively,” he said. “I carried a little plastic tackle box with wire cutters, scissors and plastic bags wherever I went. In the early days, I tied a lot with raccoon and squirrel fur. During that time, any dog that come across my yard was subject to a snip or two of hair. I stopped doing that when my neighbor took her dog to the vet because of bare patches.
“I’ve chased down a rooster or two from a farmer neighbor,” Miller continued, “traded for parrot, cockatiel and peacock feathers. I also discovered that a taxidermist was a great supplier for fur and feathers. I have harvested my own goose, turkey and pheasant feathers.”
Although Miller does not have a signature fly that he ties, he continues to broaden his spectrum. “Lately, I have been doing a lot of smallmouth fishing from a kayak,” he pointe out. “I am tying a lot of streamers, articulated streamers and baitfish patterns.”
Doug Miller also now does some instructing. “I teach a fly-tying class locally each year in order to introduce folks to the sport,” he explained. “I really enjoy watching someone go from ‘all thumbs’ to tying flies they are really proud of and that produce for them.”
He closed out with a few works for newbies to the sport. “Two favorite phrases I use with my students are first, don’t crowd the head. Most beginners tie too close to the head and run out of room. Take a razor blade, cut everything off and start over. The hook is the most expensive part of the fly.”
Secondly, “It will fish. It may not look like a prize-winning fly, the proportions may be wrong and it may look terrible, but it will fish.”
To follow Doug Miller online visit his blog, Galilean Fisherman.