In January I had my regular fly tying table at The Fly Fishing Show in Marlboro, MA. It's pretty much the same routine as tying at home except that I bring my things to a show and tye flies for the viewing public and talk with folks. Just need to set up and I am good to go. Ah, but what's different than my usual home routine is that I am sharing the large (larger than my office) room with a slew of other tyers and vendors of various fly fishing and tying items. Very nice.
One of the days of the show was even more intriguing and different than a usual tying day at the show. On Sunday I brought my thirteen-year-old fly tying student, Ben, to the show with me to stay the day. He came to the show with his allowance money and a little extra loot from his father. He was beside himself with excitement. Probably like many of us are as we pull open the door to a show. Think kid in a candy store. Very nice.
Ben has been an enthusiastic student of fly tying now for about 9 months. He really enjoys it and our time together. He has progressed at a rocket pace from his first woolly bugger. He found it tough and foreign in the beginning, but he has become a natural, having moved into the world of woven nymphs. Each week I introduce him to new materials and techniques, most of them my tried and true techniques. Ben has been to fly shops, read books and discovered his own particular way of executing tying maneuvers. Good. He is thinking on his own and not just always doing things the way I show him. Very nice.
It was a slow Sunday at the show and Ben and I had time to walk around. We had lunch, bought tying materials and fly boxes, which he loves to fill for the anticipated spring fishing season. Of course, I introduced him to a bunch of my cronies at the show. I told Ben to go to the tyers, watch them tye and ask questions about technique and materials. Later in the day, I took a break from my tying table and we walked around a bit more. I suggested that we take some time to stop and investigate a few particular tyers. Very nice.
What happened for Ben was exciting for me to watch. He was very focused on Dave Brandt as he demonstrated the figure-eight method of tying wings on a classic Catskill dry fly. Ben and I had been setting the wings one way, with which Ben struggled. Ben was asking Dave about finesse, thread control and the proper handling of the wings when performing the figure-eight. He looked at me with a very pleased look and said, “I like this way better than yours.” Very nice.
Ben was getting the maximum out of his show experience. He absorbed all like a sponge, discovering new ways of working at the vise. He compared what I had taught him with what he was newly learning, creating his own arsenal of skills. His fly tying was becoming his own, not just what I had taught him. He was becoming his own man. Very nice.
It was also rather eye-opening for me to watch the tyers. Usually at a show, I don't have a lot of time to look at the techniques of others. After all, I have my table to manage and my work to show people. I realized that when I sit at my table I do miss out on what is going on at other tables. I had the chance to watch the show and the tyers through the eyes of Ben, a new fly tyer, and I liked it. So, the moral of the story is take time to bring a kid into fly tying; it will be good for both of you. Very nice.