Muzzy’s the Master
by David Klausmeyer

Edward Muzeroll is building a reputation for dressing beautiful classic salmon flies, but he ties nice “fish” flies, too.

This is an article about a master fly maker. He can do things with feathers, floss, and fur that are beyond my comprehension. I tie nymphs, wet flies, dry flies, bass bugs, and saltwater patterns—you know, stuff for real fishing. I even wrote a book about how to tie traditional freshwater streamers. But making full-dress Atlantic salmon flies—I just can’t do it.

My bookshelf is brimming with volumes devoted to tying salmon flies. I’ve spent hours at fly-fishing shows watching the tiers who specialize in dressing fancy salmon patterns, and I’ve spent many evenings trying to recreate their flies. Happily, I do occasionally produce a decent fly that I’ll place in my fishing vest. I have a small Wheatley box containing a motley gang of salmon flies—Jock Scotts, Durham Rangers, and a few patterns of my own design—but only the fish will see them.

Edward “Muzzy” Muzeroll is one of the elite tiers who creates jaw-dropping beautiful Atlantic salmon flies. Whether it’s tying established patterns or designing his own, he has a knack for selecting and preparing materials—and getting them to set just so on a piece of bent black wire—that defies description. Muzzy also has a great sense of humor, and he freely shares credit with other tiers who have helped him learn his craft.

“Sometimes the materials are your enemy,” Muzzy said with a laugh near the beginning of our interview. “I mean, they won’t do what you want them to do. They want to roll around the hook and not lay right. It’s like they have a mind of their own. You have to develop the right touch—how much thread pressure to apply and when, and what to do with your free hand—to get things under control. It takes a lot of practice.”

Muzzy has lived in Maine his entire life. Today, he has a job that requires as much precision and attention to detail as he brings to fly tying.

“I work at Bath Iron Works. I’ve been there almost twenty-five years. I work in the planning yard as a designer with the Aegis destroyer program. As a naval designer, it’s considered a premier place to work.

“When I started working there, we had the frigates and also the cruiser-class program, but for the past few years we’ve had the Aegis destroyers, which are some of the most advanced warships in the world. I’ve been on ships all over the world, from the Turkish Sea to Pearl Harbor, and, of course, all the homeports.”

How long have you been tying flies?

“I been tying for about twenty years. I got into it for the same reason most people start tying flies: to save money. I thought I was spending too much money on flies, and I thought that learn- ing to tie would be a good way to save a few bucks, which we know really isn’t. But tying flies is fun, and it’s more fun to catch fish using your own flies.

Okay, you’re talking about “fish” flies. How did you get into tying your remarkable salmon flies?

“It’s a progression. You tying the basic patterns: caddisflies, nymphs, and streamers. If you stick with it and get the bug, you might progress into some of the other areas. Some guys progress into tying realistic flies, but I migrated into tying full-dress salmon patterns.

“I got interested in salmon flies when I saw Charlie Chute’s patterns in the Atlantic Salmon Journal. I was simply blown away by them, and said that I wanted to learn how to tie them. They were so beautiful and ornate, and I saw a challenge; I wondered if I could get to that height with my own tying. That was about fifteen years ago.”

Over the years, Charlie Chute, an accomplished tier who lives in Mass-achusetts, has been a sort of mentor to Muzzy. In addition to Charlie, Muzzy explored the work of other tiers to gain inspiration and knowledge.

“Poul Jorgenseon’s book [Salmon Flies: Their Character, Style and Dressing] was very important; we all read that one. And Michael Radencich’s book [Tying the Classic Salmon Fly] was also very important. That’s what we had when I started tying salmon flies.”

Some folks take classes to learn how to tie classic salmon flies. Did you ever take a class?

“I took my first class around 1993. That was at Hunters Angling Supplies in New Hampshire. It was a two-day course taught by Ron Alcott. Ron is a great tier, but I didn’t learn as much as I thought I would. That wasn’t Ron’s fault. The problem was that I wanted my flies to look more like Charlie Chute’s, and using Ron’s methods wasn’t going to get me there. I’ve learned more at fly-fishing shows watching Charlie tie for eight or ten hours.”

Is Charlie really that good?

“Not to take anything away from anyone else, but Charlie really is one of the best fly tiers I know. He can sit at a show with twenty people watching him and tie a better full-dress Jock Scott in a couple of hours than most people can at home alone in twenty hours. When it comes to tying the classics, an awful lot of tiers say Charlie is ‘the man.’”

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to a class on making salmon flies. Is it possible to learn how to tie classic salmon flies from just books?

“Sure, there are some tiers who can work through the books and learn to tie classic salmon flies. But not every tier can do this. Taking a class can be a big help; it’s a great place to find solutions to some of the toughest problems of tying these flies. But even then, the classic patterns are a real challenge and some guys have a very hard time getting the hang of it.”

Hooks and Materials
The hooks used to tie classic salmon flies are their own works of art. And, like with almost every aspect of dressing classic salmon flies, tiers have strong opinions about choosing hooks for making these flies.

“We used to have the great Gene Sunday,” Muzzy said as we discussed his favorite hooks. “Gene made hooks in Michigan, but he was killed in an automobile accident. At the time, Gene was the premier exhibition-hook maker in the world. Fortunately, Gene was working with Ron Reinhold, who took over the business. Reinhold, of course, sold the hook-making business to Ronn Lucas a few years ago.”

A lot of tiers are now buying hooks from Lucas, but Muzzy has decided to make his own hooks.

“Today, I re-bend and re-file the Partridge Adlington and Hutchinson hooks into the shapes of some of the Ron Reinhold hooks that I have. I use his hooks as my models. I even have the powder-coating equipment to refinish the hooks.”

Are there any other commonly available hooks that you can recommend?

“The blind-eye presentation hooks by Gaelic Supreme are very good. And the blind-eye Partridge Bartleet Traditional hooks are too; they’ve come out with some hooks that are tickling everyone’s fancy. There are several blind-eye hook makers, and they’re leaning toward offering exhibition-style hooks. There are a lot of suppliers offering very nice hooks.”

Obviously, you can’t talk about salmon flies with discussing feathers—lots of feathers. And, like everyone who specializes in dressing classic flies—any type of old classic fly—Muzzy has amassed a large stock of feathers.

“The size of my collection is kind of sick. I’m always buying more materials—usually full skins. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on materials.”

Do you use only the authentic materials specified in the original recipes, or do you ever use substitutes?
“I try to use authentic materials. But look, I learned very early that you can’t just go out and collect something like blue jay feathers. Or if you see a dead cardinal on the side of the road, you just can’t pluck a few feathers. Those are federally protected birds. Herons are another good example. There are plenty of herons, but they are protected. We do, however, have excellent substitutes for the feathers that come from all these birds. No one needs to get caught up trading illegal materials.”

The Flies
Check out the photos of Muzzy’s flies; they’re some of the best examples of the fly-tier’s art that have ever graced the pages of this magazine. In addition to tying the classics, he also develops his own patterns based on classic design. One of his flies may even be coming to a liquor store near you.

“Well, you know how the shows are: the tiers all hang out in their little groups,” Muzzy said as he told the story of a pattern he calls the Johnnie Walker. “My group is anyone who wants to hang out in the bar. I used to hang out in the bar with Charlie Chute and he would have a little Johnnie Walker Red. He’s the one who turned me onto Johnnie Walker.

“One day, I was sitting at home in my fly-tying area, and there was this bottle of Johnnie Walker on my bench. I just happened to look at it, and decided to tie a fly to commemorate it. I looked at the red-label and green-label varieties, and I poured some in a glass and looked at the color of the liquor and came up with a color scheme that I thought matched. I sent a photo of the fly to the people at Johnnie Walker, and there was talk that they would do some sort of commemorative bottle with the fly on the label, but I’m still waiting to hear back from them.”

What about the other flies you sent?

“The Sean Synon is one of Charlie Chute’s patterns, but of course I tied the example you’re holding. Sean Synon was one of Charlie’s fishing friends in Ireland. Sean passed away, and Charlie tied a fly in his memory. There was just something about the fly that I loved: the use of the dubbing and color scheme. I think it’s beautiful.

“Northumbria is an area of Scotland that I really enjoyed back when I traveled throughout England. It’s a very rugged, stoic place. I had already tied that fly, and was trying to come up with a name, so I called it the Northumbrian.

“The Quinchat was one of patterns devised by Major John Popkin Traherne, who was an important fly designer at the end of the nineteenth century. And the Murat is one of tier Paul Schmookler’s patterns. That’s another very beautiful pattern.”

In addition to tying full-dress classics, Muzzy is also an ardent angler and ties wonderful flies for fishing, not for hanging on the wall. He has a following of fishermen who commission him to prepare the flies for their most important trips.

“Sure, I sell a flies through my Web site. I’ll do what anybody wants, but I won’t tie fifty dozen flies of the same size and pattern for a shop. I do have a lot of guys going on fishing trips who ask me to tie flies for them. They tell me where they’re going and what they need, and I’ll tie the flies. Sometimes they send photos of the salmon they catch with my flies. There are even two mounted fish with my flies in their mouths, which is kind of fun.”

To see more of Edward Muzeroll’s flies, check out his Web site at .

David Klausmeyer is the editor of this magazine.

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