Henry Cowen

UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner

Sodium-Free Striper Guru

August 2023

You might wonder how a guy from Brooklyn, New York ends up being written about in On The Fly South? One reason behind that circumstance is his move from the north down to the Atlanta metro region, with him eventually landing in Cumming, Georgia. That also put him close to Lake Sidney Lanier, which has a fishery for land-locked striped bass. He now is known as the guru of “sodium-free” striper fishing on that reservoir.  

Henry Cowen at the vise.

His pathway to fly fishing and tying, however, did not start particularly early. “I grew up fishing conventionally,” Cowen said, “and began fly fishing in 1990, My mentors were my father, Lefty Kreh, Lou Tabory, Eric Peterson and Tom Piccolo.”  

Cowen’s Baitfish

His interest in the long-rod sport quickly led him to the tying vise, as well. “I started fly tying in 1991, when I saw the need for saltwater striped bass flies in colors not available for purchase,” he explained. Another factor in his early tying was the desire to design a fly that imitated a Blakemore Roadrunner lure.  

With regard to tying, Henry also added Bob Popovics to the list of mentors that have inspired him.  

Although he spends most of his time targeting stripers and Alabama bass on Lake Lanier, or carp on local waters, his tying endeavors aren’t limited to freshwater. “I tie mostly saltwater patterns that were designed for the East Coast, including Florida,” Cowen noted. “Most of my patterns started as striped bass patterns for the Mid-Atlantic, but later designs were meant for bonefish, barracuda, freshwater stripers, bass and carp.”  

The Coyote

You won’t find Henry out cruising the back roads for road kill. “I use only commercially available materials, with an emphasis on materials distributed by Renzetti,” he said. Although he doesn’t tie commercially, that doesn’t mean his fly patterns are not readily available to anglers. “As a signature fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, I only sell my flies through their distribution. My signature patterns are currently available at shops that carry both Umpqua and Orvis flies.”  

Among those patterns you’ll find his Redfish Scampi, Cowen’s Baitfish and Magnum Baitfish, as well as the Coyote. Also, there is his Somethin’ Else, which imitates threadfin shad and is very effective for Lanier’s stripers.

The Somethin’ Else.

Henry also is available for personal appearances. “I do currently go around to shops, clubs and show to tie flies and give presentations,” he explained. To contact him, visit his website or email him at henrycowenflyfishing.com  

Cowen’s Magnum Baitfish

In closing, Cowen provided some advice for novice tiers that are just now approaching the vise, or are considering the move. “My best advice is to design flies where there is a need,” Henry offered. “Be it a new color not found or, as Bob Popovics has stated, to solve a problem.  

“Always give credit to the inspiration of where the flies roots come from,” he added. “My Somethin’ Else striper fly is clearly inspired from the Clouser Minnow. My Bonefish Scampi was inspired from a Gotcha. Don’t be embarrassed to let folks know where your flies’ inspiration comes from. Most flies are variations on something else.  

The Redfish Scampi

“We can’t all come up with a game changer,” Henry Cowen concluded.

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