"Fly tier mixes his business, charity"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 1:19 PM
"The job of a fly tier is not exactly what it seems. Before images flash of tiny winged insects being captured and knotted, talk to Don Johnson. It's a form of angling, said Johnson. Flies are lures that represent bugs, worms, anything to get the fish to bite.Johnson is a professional fly tier who runs a business called Canyon Creek Angling Co. He started this business five years ago from experience he got when he was an Orvis-endorsed fishing guide in Idaho. It's not really a retail establishment, said Johnson, who has sole proprietorship of the business and is its only employee. There is no physical address for the business, but Johnson does his fly-tying, article writing and guiding through the name.You can turn your hobby into a money making venture, said Johnson, who tied his first fly when he was 12 years old. There's a lot more to it than just catching fish. During the day, Johnson is a chemist for Lockheed Martin Technology Services in Port Orchard.I didn't get serious about it until about 10 years ago, said Johnson, considering his last five years of tying to be semi-professional.The flies are used by fly fisherman, which is different than the average lure fisherman (who uses lures such as worms or other bait) in the area of casting. In lure fishing, the weight of the lure enables the cast to be made, whereas in fly fishing, the weight of the line makes the cast and the fly is in tow. It's a very different technique, Johnson said. Fly fishing is a sport that is extremely rich in history.Fly fishing has two arenas, freshwater (when fishing in lakes, rivers and streams) and saltwater (such as the Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean), and the flies are different for each style. Freshwater flies are modeled after insects and small bait fish. Saltwater flies are modeled after larger bait fish and shrimp, and are usually made with stainless steel or nickel-plated hooks so they don't rust out as fast.The fish are different, so there are different sized flies for different fish, said Johnson.On average, flies cost usually between $1.50 and $3, but Don Johnson said that making flies yourself actually does save money.It makes tying your own even that much more appealing, said Johnson.Flies are made from a variety of materials such as chicken and partridge feathers, rabbit and mink fur, proparpaline, tinsels, wire, polyester threads, silk, flosses, and epoxy. The time needed to make a fly is primarily dependent on the pattern. Sometimes it can be three hours on one tie, Johnson said, or sometimes you can make three dozen in an hour.He will have the opportunity to test his fly-tying skills on March 23-24, during Caddis for Kids, a 24-hour fly tie-a-thon that Johnson himself came up with the idea for.I thought it would be a pretty cool way to raise funds, said Johnson. It's a pretty worthwhile cause. The proceeds from Caddis for Kids will go to the Children's Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that supports 170 hospitals throughout North America and assists over 14 million kids a year.Johnson plans to sit at a bench for 24 hours and tie flies in the pattern of the Miracle Caddis, a pattern that was designed and tied specially for the Caddis for Kids event. The amount of money pledged per fly are up to those who participate and fill out respective pledge sheets.With all of the fly tying that Don Johnson does, one wonders how often he goes fishing.When I get a chance to get out, laughs Johnson. I do get out once in awhile. There's still a lot of good fish around here. The Northwest has a lot of angling opportunities. Whether I catch anything or not, it's fun out there fishing with a fly.Johnson, the 2000-2001 president of the Kitsap Fly Anglers club, has a lot to say about flies, and even more to say about the positive aspects of fly fishing.It's easily learned, says Johnson. Anyone can do it who wants to. It's a fun sport, it's been very rewarding, and anyone interested in learning has many avenues around Kitsap County. "