UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner
Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania
Had Keiran Frye listened to his older brother, he might never have fly fished or taken up fly tying. Fortunately, it turned out differently.
“I grew up bait fishing with my older brother,” he pointed out. “We would go fish at local places. But watching Curt Gowdy’s American Sportsman, I was intrigued with the fly-fishing segments. I mentioned it to my brother that we should fly fish for trout and he said no, that it was too hard.”
Eventually, his brother did come around though. “He did find a local guy that tied flies and he bought two dozen flies for panfish,” Frye said. “We would go to a local farm pond and fish for bluegills. That was the start of my interest in fly fishing.”
That action took place in southwestern Pennsylvania near where Keiran still makes his home in Mount Pleasant at the base of the Laurel Mountains.
“Fast forward to 1981 after I got married,” Frye resumed. “I told my wife I wanted to learn to tie flies. So, I saw an ad for fly-tying classes at a local fly shop called The Fishing Post in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I signed up and it was a five-week class on Monday nights, and that was it, I was hooked.”
Most of Kieran’s early inspiration at the vise came from watching Curt Gowdy’s show and the guests that appeared, like Lee Wulff. Also, the guys at The Fishing Post were influential, but one in particular stood out – John McAdams. “He taught me a lot about fly tying, fly fishing and rod building,” Frye noted.
As he progressed the art of fly-tying, Kieran began to find his focus. “I am an all-around tier,” he offered. “Mostly trout, steelhead and salmon, with a little warm and saltwater flies thrown in for good measure. But mostly trout and I do a lot of bead head nymphs with metal, glass and plastic beads, CDC and soft hackles.”
When it comes to acquiring his tying materials, he also diversifies. “Mostly I buy my materials,” he said, then added, “but I do hunt and have friends that hunt and supply me with feathers.”
Frye then turns those materials into some favorite patterns. “I have personal patterns that I have created and worked well for me,” he confirmed. “My favorite species are caddis, so most of the pattern are caddis related.”
His proficiency at the vise even led to trying commercial tying. “I tried,” he said. “My first order was for 40 dozen Light Cahills. I was bored after about two or three dozen.” That experience did not end his commercial tying, but it did send it in a different direction.
“What I did for years was, if The Fishing Post ran out of say Royal Wulffs and needed a dozen, then I would tie them,” Frye explained. “Otherwise, it was special orders or unique patterns. But the large quantities never interested me.”
His time at the vise has paid dividends other than money over the years. “I have won a lot of regional contests here in the United States,” Kieran admitted, “but my most notable was in the 1994 Mustad Scandinavian Open in Oslo, Norway. I won first place in the dry fly category on a biot-body Slate Drake dry fly.
Although Frye has done in person demonstrations and classes, more recently the Covid panic has curtailed those. “I may try to do virtual sessions, but haven’t tried that yet,” he said. If you want to see more of his work, you can search The Weekly Fly website for videos of him tying a variety of patterns.
Kieran finished out with some tips he has picked up over the years that can make a novice tier’s venture into the art easier.
“Take a class at a local shop, sportsman’s club or Trout Unlimited group,” he began. “While being self-taught provides a sense of great accomplishment, you can miss so many small tips or hand movements that could make it easier.”
Don’t scrimp on gear. “Get a decent vise, like a Renzetti or Regal,” Frye said. “You can get a good vise for around $100 to $200. Make sure it is rotary and it can hold a wide range of hook sizes. Get what you can afford, but a $10 vise is a $10 vise!”
The same logic applies to the material you acquire for tying. “Use good materials,” he emphasized. “Trust me, spending a little extra on good hackle, like Whiting, will help you out. For me, when UNI Products came on the market, I tried them and loved them. They are strong, versatile and wonderful to work with.
“Don’t tie every pattern that you see,” Kieran cautioned. That can lead to having a lot of relatively unused materials and the waste of a lot of money. “Learn to tie basic flies, like Wooly Buggers, Elk Hair Caddis, Gold-ribbed Hair’s Ears and Adams,” he added. “Patterns that work not only in your backyard, but Montana, British Columbia, Austria or wherever you plan to fish.
“Keep your patterns simple, but effective,” Frye continued. “The more time you sit at the vise, the less time you have to fish! Save your first fly that you tie. A month later tie the same fly, compare it to the first one and look at your progress. Repeat that every couple of months and you will be pleased with your progress.”
Frye had one final thought to share. “Keep it fun! Learn to tie and fish with a friend. You can share ideas with each other. But most importantly, you are making memories for bragging rights around the campfire,” he concluded.
Keiran Frye can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.