Tim O’Niell


Getting a grip on the fly-tying business!

October 2020

Tim O’Neill may not have come quickly or naturally to fly fishing and tying, but he has steadily spread to all facets of the sport in the Mid-Atlantic region. Today his reach is into fly-fishing instruction, fly-tying demonstrations and education and most recently in working with his son Tyler and Norm Norlander with the Norvise Fly Tying System. But all that activity hasn’t taken him from his roots.

Tim O’Neill tying on using the Norvise Fly Tying System.

“I live in northern Delaware in a small town called Hockessin,” Tim explained. “We are 20 minutes west of Wilmington and about 45 minutes south of Philadelphia. This is the town I grew up in. I live about two miles from the house where I grew up – where my mother still lives today.”

Growing up there, however, did not involve fly fishing. “My dad was a saltwater bait fisherman. We did a lot of surf fishing when I was growing up. To this day, with the exception of my son Tyler, I am the only person in the family that fly fishes. The fishing bug didn’t bite me till I was in my teens.”

That left O’Neill with no mentor when he did discover fly fishing. “I learned by watching VHS videos and reading magazines and books,” he said. Among those were a series of 3M video tapes he rented from a local video store.

 His first ventures with the long rod also were close to home. “I started on the local farm ponds we could walk or ride our bikes to, catching mostly bluegills, with and occasional bass thrown in.” From that humble beginning, Tim’s fly-fishing targets have expanded to trout, salmon, pike and saltwater species like tarpon.

For Tim O’Neill, fly fishing and tying came as a package deal, as evidenced by his entry into tying. “Pretty much as soon as I started fly fishing,” he noted. “I have always been enamored with the construction of all types of flies. I love the colors, the materials and the finished product. To this day I believe there is no greater satisfaction than fooling a fish on a fly that you designed and tied.”

As with his fly fishing, the tying was a do-it-yourself effort, but he did get a bit of support. “I took a class at the local fly shop that helped me a great deal during and after the class,” Tim said. “I had some friends that helped me a great deal, especially in the saltwater arena. Now that we own the Norvise Fly Tying System, I am fortunate to be around the best tiers in the world as we travel and do the many fly-fishing expo shows.”

His immersion in the Norvise project was a natural, since Tim also is a master machinist.

When he is at the vise himself, O’Neill ties what he uses. “We do a lot of smallmouth fishing,”  he offered, “so I tend to tie a bunch of my smallmouth patterns. I really enjoy popper and slider type flies. I also really enjoy tying Intruder type flies for steelhead.”

He has a couple of lines of flies he has produced. “I have a few, nothing that has been picked up by a major manufacturer as of yet. I have a series of smallmouth flies that seem to get the job done. I also have a line of shad flies that are pretty popular with the locals.”

O’Neill is not a naturalist or scrounger when it comes to tying materials. “Pretty much everything I use is commercially available. Honestly, I just don’t have the time to tend to and prep skins, tails and the like.”

That theme holds over with regard to commercial tying as well. “I use to,” Tim said. “With the Norvise and our ramping up the O’Neill’s Fly Fishing online web store, I really don’t have the time I need to devote to commercial tying.”

On the other hand, he always has time for helping others. “Absolutely, O’Neill’s Fly Fishing is centered on education,” he said. “I have several presentations suitable for a club meeting or a large audience such as the The Fly Fishing Shows. I have taught fly-tying classes to as little as one, to as many as 20. I can also give tying demos on the Norvise and can show what the most innovative fly-tying system on the market can do.”

Tim O’Neill ended with a bit of advice for novice tiers. “Keep at it,” he admonished. “Nobody tied the perfect fly the first time they tried a new pattern. We all have some pretty poor looking flies under our belt.”

For more information, visit the web sites of O’Neill’s Fly Fishing and Norvise Fly Tying System.