UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner
A Family Journey
Paul DeWitte grew up in Capac, Michigan in a family that had fishing as a central focus of recreation. During his youth, that action involved conventional fishing, fly fishing and even ice fishing.
“My father and mother were avid fishermen,” DeWitte explained. “We spent every weekend ‘up North’ catching perch, bluegill, northern pike and bass. Some of my most memorable waters were on Lake St. Helen, the south branch of the Ausable River and occasional trips to Tippy Dam on the Manistee River for steelhead.”
Having both parents as mentors in the piscatorial sports offered a great base for the next step in Paul’s venture into the long-rod sport. He became a fly tier at a very young age as well. “I was 9 years old the morning my journey into tying flies began,” he recounted. “While sitting in our living room in St. Helen, I was eating cereal, waiting for cartoons to come on and an episode of what I believe was Michigan Outdoors aired. It was on fly fishing and this man found a little white feather on the ground. He busted out a hook and some thread and proceeds to tie a fly freehand and uses the fly to catch a bunch of trout. My mind was blown!”
Afterward, he had to try his hand at the art he had just witnessed on the television. “My father helped me learn to whip finish, but after that I was pretty much on my own,” DeWitte noted. Thus began his self-taught fly-tying career.
Eventually, Paul moved south to Centerville, Tennessee, where he now makes his home with wife Kandice and his boys. It also is headquarters for DeWitte Outfitters. “We’re a family-owned company specializing in small batch flies. We’re just funding our addiction,” is the way DeWitte describes the venture. “I do tie small batches and custom orders.”
As far as flies Paul most often crafts, the Drunk and Disorderly and Swimmy Jimmy are favorites. He also ties a lot of crawfish patterns. Additionally, there is one he originated. “I have developed a fly I call the Big Fluff,” he said. “I originally tied it as a crawfish pattern in many different colors. I have made a few small changes to it over the years by adding rubber legs.”
Being a life-long outdoorsman has offered another benefit to DeWitte’s tying career. “For a lot of personal flies, I do like to gather some of my own natural materials,” he said. “As an avid hunter, I am able to gather some of my own deer hair, which I use for caddis patterns and my personal spin of a Michigan fly called the North Branch Hopper.”
Paul teaches fly-tying classes as well. Those are through the family business, DeWitte Outfitters. That is also where you can see more of flies, as well as order them. “You can find us on Facebook and Instagram,” he offered. “Check out our website for products and upcoming guide trips in Middle Tennessee.”
Paul DeWitte finished up with a few simple words of encouragement for newcomers to the fly-tying arts. “Start simple,” he advised. “Do not be intimidated by joining groups or tying clubs. Enjoy the process.”