UNI PRODUCTS FLY TIERS CORNER
Striving for Realism!
When Fred Hannie sits down at the vise, he has two goals. Those are to tie a fly that fish will eat, but also one that realistically portrays the forage species it immitates. Those twin passions have worked well for him.
A decade ago, he was named Fly Tying Forum.com’s Fly Tier of the Year and in 2012 won Fly Fishing & Tying Journal’s tying competition. Also, among his accolades is the prestigious Charles E. Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award from Fly Fishers International.
“I was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I have traveled extensively and found nowhere else I would rather call home,” Hannie explained. “The outdoor opportunities, food and Cajun culture ae unlike anywhere else.”
Fred Hannie, Sr.
That love of place also figures into his tying, with most of the patterns created for targeting warm-water or saltwater species of fish found in his region. “When I was young, fly fishing was considered an oddity,” Hannie pointed out, “something people who moved here from up north would do because they didn’t know better. Or something the old timers would do to catch bluegills.
“My father was given a fly rod and offered it to me. I think I was 10 or 11 years old,” he explained. “It was a 9-foot, 5-weight fiberglass rod with an automatic reel. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally hit the retrieve and planted some poor little bluegill on the eye of that rod!”
Having a fly rod soon proved beneficial to the young Hannie. “We lived a few hundred yards from Contraband Bayou and my friends and I spent a lot time on that bayou, a lot of it fishing,” he said. “Fly fishing gave me an advantage when it came to catching schooling mullet. Most of my friends would throw a tiny plastic bobber an inch above a tiny hook with a piece of worm or bread to try and catch a mullet, but often they would spook the entire school. With a floating fly line, I could forgo the bobber and not scare the fish. We were getting a nickel a piece for the fish at the bait shop.”
A Hannie fly and the real thing.
Eventually Hannie’s interest in fly fishing expanded, mostly out of necessity, to include tying flies. “It wasn’t until much later that I wanted to tie my own flies,” he said. “There were only a couple of fly selections to choose from at the local sporting goods store – poppers or generic dry flies from Japan and Taiwan.
“I knew there had to be more to fly tying and wondered if it was something I could do,” Hannie continued. “I did some research and found there were pattern books, and I purchased through the mail the Index of Orvis Fly Patters, Volume 1A by John Harder. It was a three-ring binder full of color fly photos with recipes and a section on tying instruction. It became my Bible. I spent hours and hours poring over this book, tying and fishing the patterns.”
Thus began his career in fly tying. “My first patterns were a simple Deer-Hair Beetle on a size No. 14 or 12 dry-fly hook and a Conehead Micro Wooly Bugger tied on a size No. 12 or 10 dry-fly hook,” the tier said. “With these two patterns in various colors I could fill and ice chest full of panfish on most any day. I used the Deer-Hair Beetle in place of a hard-bodied popper. The Beetle did have advantages over the poppers, such as it was smaller and it didn’t have rubber legs, which it could be pulled under by. Both attributes gave me a higher hookup-to-strike ratio over my friends using poppers. The Micro Wooly Bugger pattern fit my needs when the fish didn’t want a surface fly.”
Next came an eye-opener for his tying career. “Once day I received a fly-tying catalog with some flies that actually looked like the insect they were supposed to mimic,” he recalled. “That set me on the path I’m on today.”
Those early flies and tying efforts got a boost from some later mentoring as well. “I am self-taught as far as the basics of fly tying are concerned,” Hannie noted, “but David R. Martin was my friend and mentor. He is responsible for where my tying has gone and will go. David was an artist in many genres – sculpting, painting and fly tying. He developed a system of techniques to create the different parts of insects, so that if you made the head of a grasshopper, you could use the same technique to make the head of wasp, bee, ant or cricket. By using this system, you knew how you were going to make each part and only had to worry with how it would change in size and color.”
Soon his flies were gaining a bit of notoriety. “I’ve had numerous flies appear in publications and because of this, I’ve been forced to name them,” he explained. “My first pattern that I tied entirely out of monofilament was named the Hannie’s Grass Shrimp, because I turned in the article with the heading Grass Shrimp, instead of Mono Grass Shrimp. It started a trend, so now there’s Hannie’s Flats Crab, Hannie’s Crawfish and more. Those are basically flies tied with monofilament and thread and were the basis for my book Fly Tying with Monofilament that was published in 2015.”
Fred Hannie concluded with a bit of advice for new fly tiers. “Get a mentor or a fly-tying adversary or both,” he offered. “A mentor can lessen the learning curve with his knowledge and experience. An adversary can push your talents to their limits. With either one you can be good, with both you can be great.”
To see more of Fred Hannie’s flies you can visit his Facebook or Instagram pages. His book Fly Tying with Monofilament is available through Amazon.com.