Pattern designer, commercial tier, author, photographer, and instructor. If you haven’t heard of Drew Chicone, you will.
[by David Klausmeyer]
Since the 1970’s, Fly Tyer magazine has been home to some of fly fishing’s brightest stars. This is the place they have turned to introduce new patterns, tying techniques, and materials. One of our greatest pleasures is introducing you to new tiers, those innovative people who are developing fresh flies and tying methods. Drew Chicone recently joined the Fly Tyer family of authors. I met Drew during a trip to Orlando, Florida, and immediately recognized he was someone who would make important contributions to fly fishing and tying. In fact, he is already making his mark in our sport as a fly designer, commercial tier, instructor, and author.
Drew’s first contribution to this magazine, which was about a pattern he calls the Detonator Crab, appeared in the Winter 2014 issue. This Spring 2015 issue contains his feature article about a fly he calls the Tuscan Bunny. And, Drew has more assignments to write articles that will appear in future issues of Fly Tyer.
A Family Affair
We all follow a different path to fly fishing and tying. Many of us learn the sport from our parents—usually our fathers—but Drew’s dad and mom played an instrumental role in his development as a fly tier.
“Both of my parents tied,” Drew said as we began talking about his fly-tying career. “They started back in the 1970’s for something to do. There was a big fly-tying bench in our basement. We lived in Upstate New York, which is basically frozen eight months out of the year, so they tied flies. They got me into it when I was six or seven years old.”
Your mother tied flies too?
“Yes, she did. I actually have a book of her notes that is full of her illustrations showing how to do things like palmer-wrap feathers. It’s pretty neat.”
How did your parents get into fly tying?
“My father had an older cousin who was into tying trout flies. I think that was probably the connection. He introduced my father to fly tying, and then they started taking classes to beat the four feet of snow in the front yard.”
Your parents tied mostly trout flies?
“Yes, they tied trout flies, so that’s what I started tying. I think a mosquito was my first fly; it was the world’s largest mosquito. I still have it. It’s pretty funny to look at now. We were tying flies for fishing the small trout streams in Upstate New York.”
Although Drew cut his teeth tying flies and fishing for trout, he developed a desire to fish salt water. When presented with the opportunity, he moved to Florida.
“I lived in Florida for about ten years, but now I live in Arizona. We moved here for my wife’s work. It’s a whole different flavor over here, but it hasn’t slowed down my saltwater fishing because I get to travel so much. I always wanted to live in Florida, and I got a job opportunity there. I was right out of college, and I took the job.
“Today, I tie several thousand flies a year. I tie for a lot of guides around the planet, mostly for bonefish, permit, tarpon, redfish, and snook. I don’t make too many striped bass flies, but I do get requests for some offshore flies for sailfish. I also tie flies for roosterfish. I have a pretty broad pallet.”
Drew’s Thoughts on Fly Design
When I look at Drew’s flies, they are terrific but simple. He creates his original patterns using a combination of natural and synthetic materials.
“Yes, I incorporate both types of materials, but to be honest, it’s easier tying with synthetics because the quality of the ingredients is always the same. That’s the limiting factor when using natural ingredients: it’s hard to control the quality. If someone wants fifty of the same pattern, and you run out of feathers in the middle of tying the order and have to get more material, the flies might not all look the same. That’s not good if you’re a commercial tier.”
What are the most important considerations when designing a new pattern?
“I concentrate on how a fly moves in the water, but I also emphasize the sink rate. The sink rate is a huge factor of a successful fly.
“The sink rate—where it rides in the water column—is probably the biggest consideration when I design a fly. For bonefish, permit, tarpon, and even snook, you want them to stumble upon the fly like they found it themselves; you don’t want to drop it on their heads. You need to lead the fish to the fly, and to do this you have to know how fast the fly is moving through the water column to put it on the dinner plate in front of them.