Learn what it takes to create and sell your original patterns
Profile by David Klausmeyer
Do you have any niches in your fly box you want to fill? Are you looking for a pattern to match a particular type of fishing, one that isn’t too hard to tie and doesn’t require some impossible-to-find material? For me, it has been a good dragonfly nymph.
Over the past few years, I have become passionate about fishing New England trout ponds. If I buy a new piece of tackle, it’s probably for fishing ponds. If I add a new material to my tying bench, it is because I want to make some fly for fishing ponds.
Trout ponds befuddle most anglers, so they avoid them. They wonder where to find the fish: near the surface, somewhere in the middle, or down deep? And fishing a trout pond effectively requires an assortment of sinking lines and other pieces of tackle that have limited application to moving water; it seems like an additional cost for purchasing items they will use only occasionally.
I love the solitude I find on trout ponds. Where I live—Maine—other than for a couple of rivers, the most serious study and management of trout are dedicated to ponds and lakes. Many of the ponds I visit contain native brook trout and are managed with fly-fishing-only regulations. I often catch more and larger trout when fishing these ponds, and be- cause so few anglers visit them, one or two almost seem like my private, state- managed fishing playgrounds.
While I have been satisfied with most of the contents of my fly box, I didn’t have a really good dragonfly nymph. I have tied and fished with many imitations, and some caught fish, but the teardrop- shaped body, large eyes, and active legs of a dragonfly are particularly tough to simulate. Then Paul Mason, who works for Rainy’s Flies, of Logan, Utah, showed me the dragonfly pattern he designed. I knew I’d found my missing fly!
How Paul Designs New Flies
Paul Mason manages many of the major accounts for Rainy’s, a premier supplier of fly tying materials. Check out the tying department of your local fly shop, and you’ll certainly find some of its products.
Rainy’s is also one of the largest producers of flies in the world. In addition to offering many of the standard patterns, the Rainy’s catalog is full of flies designed by its family of signature tiers, including some of Paul’s. I wanted to know how he designs a new fly.
“I kind of just tinker with flies. Working for Rainy’s, I see a lot of flies; some I like, and some I don’t. But I get inspired with what other tyers create. I am also looking for flies that aren’t already commercially available. I think about what fish I like catching, the flies I am using, and the patterns I tie but no one can purchase. I also think about using new materials and tying techniques. That’s what I enjoy doing.”
In addition to seeing lots of flies, Paul gets to experiment with almost all the new tying materials.
“Yes, I see just about everything.
What Makes a Fly Commercially Viable?
“We’re always looking for new flies,” Paul said when we talked about how Rainy’s finds the patterns in its catalog. “We have several criteria when selecting new flies. First, will a fly catch fish? That’s pretty obvious, but there’s actually more to it than that.
“The second criterion is, will the fly catch fishermen? A fly is no good if it catches fish but no one is interested in buying it; then it’s not worth putting in the catalog.
“Third, we ask if the new fly is commercially viable—does it make sense for Rainy’s to add it to our catalog? For example, it makes no sense for us to produce if it contains a material that is hard to get or is really expensive. We’re always looking for patterns that contain new materials, but we have to know that we can produce the fly so it is affordable for us and for the customer.
“Finally, we’re looking for flies that have the widest possible use. We sell flies to retailers all over the world, so a pattern designed for a super-specialized situation—even if it meets those other criteria—might not be all that useful to us. We’re looking for patterns that have the widest possible application.”
Having your flies added to a catalog such as Rainy’s sounds like fun and perhaps a little profitable, and I assumed they are swamped with potential offerings. I was mistaken.
“We love meeting new designers and seeing their flies,” Paul said, “but that’s not as many as you might think. We hear from perhaps four or five new tiers every year, and we also have our regular group of Rainy’s signature tiers. Not all of the signature tiers submit new patterns every year, but some send twenty to thirty flies.
We work with them to see what might work for us, and what should be changed to dial it in just right.”
How involved are the tiers in the final design process?
“We try keeping the tiers very involved. We’ll look at their patterns, and then send our ideas to them. They’ll tweak their flies and send them back to us; we go back and forth until we get it right. But we really leave a lot of it up to the tiers; after all, they are their flies.”
The Growth of Synthetic Materials Continues
In addition to learning how Rainy’s finds new flies, I wondered what Paul is seeing in the way of new materials. What is going on there?
“Fly tying materials are always changing and evolving,” he said. “We see a lot of new materials every year, especially dubbings and synthetics. It’s not like someone is creating new types of animals and birds for fly tying materials. We all know deer hair, elk hair, moose hair, and all the feathers; all of that is pretty standard. Synthetic materials, however, are still evolving. I’d say that remains a growing area in fly tying.”
When I’m writing a profile article, the first things I need are photos of the subject. This little magazine doesn’t have a big budget to send photographers to snap pictures of the tiers you read about; they must submit their own photos. Paul sent three photographs, two of him holding trout and a third of him hoisting a monstrous fish I didn’t recognize.
“It’s actually a carp,” he said. “There are a lot of different species of carp, and the one in that photograph is called a mirror carp. It’s like a genetic mutation of a common carp. I caught that one about ten minutes from my house from a river at the bottom of a pasture. When the river floods, the carp come up into the grass to feed. I saw it cruising through the grass and caught it. That’s a really big example of the carp we catch.”
Do you have original flies you think Rainy’s might want to add to its catalog? Contact Paul Mason or Jesse Riding through the company website, rainysflies.com.