UNI PRODUCTS FLY TIERS CORNER
The HOSSFLY Tier
No, the HOSSFLY is not a fly pattern. Rather, it is one of the many facets of the angling career of Tom Herrington of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Over the last couple of decades, Herrington has become a pillar of the fly fishing community along the Gulf of Mexico, both as a fly tier and a founding member of the Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater Fly Fishing Club or HOSSFLY. Add to that his prowess in fishing his creations and you begin to get a sense of what sets him apart.
Tom Herrington is a native of Jones County, Mississippi, which he refers to as the Free State of Jones. That’s a reference to a group of that county’s residents who rebelled against the Confederacy during the Civil War by setting up their own “free state.” He grew up fishing the fresh and saltwater of the Gulf Coast region. Very early in that career his parents gave him a cheap bamboo fly rod, with the intent to keep him busy and out of their way while they fished with conventional tackle.
“My mentors for fly fishing and tying were my dad and my uncle Hubert Davis,” he explained, but also noted another influence. “My first hard-bound ‘adult’ book was Joe Brooks’ Salt Water Fly Fishing.” It was 1968 when he caught his first saltwater fish on a Frankee-Belle pattern that had been developed by legendary Florida Keys guide Jimmie Albright. From that start, Herrington obviously developed into a competent fly angler. In 2003 he set the Mississippi State Record for cobia taken on a fly. That fish weighed 43 pounds, 13.6 ounces. “But, it’s not my biggest cobia,” Herrington said. “Two bigger were caught, one in Destin and one before they started keeping records in Mississippi. Oh, I’ve lost monsters. Rachycentron canadum is a tough fish on the fly.”
Tom also developed an interest in fly tying while in junior high school. “Books, magazines like Field & Stream and a neighbor, Mr. Register,” Herrington pointed to in describing his early fly-tying influences. The books were the Joe Brooks’ volume mentioned earlier and Joseph Bates’ Streamer Flyfishing. “I used suggested patterns using mostly bucktail from harvested deer, feathers from abandoned nests and material from my mom’s Singer sewing machine basket. Easy, simple patterns were always the most effective, such as the aforementioned Frankee-Belle, Shrimp Fly (now called a Seaducer) and Joe Brooks’ Blonde Series.” While Tom continues to gather materials for tying his flies, he also does use commercial products. “The new materials are incredible,” he stated.
“I don’t claim to have been the originator of any fly pattern,” Herrington pointed out. “I can say that I have tied many flies, which I had not ever previously seen, only to find that ‘pattern’ in some magazine or online months or years later that someone claimed to have originated. Further, like the Brits, I really consider what I tie to be lures for a fly rod. I also tie flies for my friends, tweaking patterns that they had seen to fit our area or the area or species for which they fish. Do those flies with different colors or different materials constitute a new pattern? Only the older guys would say yes.” One example is the Chandeleur Special. “The Chandeleur Special is more of a color scheme than a particular fly – in essence, olive color with red flash.
Although, Tom does not tie commercially, he does occasionally do some custom tying, as well as teaching classes. He finished out with some advice for novice tiers. “Practice any pattern until you can tie six flies that look as close to identical as you can tie them,” he offered. “In fact, most any pattern or style of fly that I tie, I usually will tie six each in olive/red, pink/pearl, red/ yellow, pink/chartreuse, and black/purple. For me those are essential, excellent, effective saltwater fly color combinations. Then I try to match mass, motion and movement of the prey. “Tie several different patterns requiring different techniques,” Herrington added. And finally, “Always enjoy your work,” then get out there and fish with them.” For more information on the Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater Fly Fishing Club visit dwabrams.com/hossfly.