MANCHESTER >> Angling communities are typically active and close-knit.
But the people at the American Museum of Fly Fishing decided several years ago to organize its annual Fit to be Tyed program to bring together anglers in what is considered the sport's off-season. The museum is mixing things up this year, announcing the event at 4104 Main St. in Manchester will be held over two non-consecutive weekends in February, culminating with a fly-tying competition.
AMFF Communications Coordinator Peter Nardini said the annual favorite will be split this year because the museum has the resources to do so and to give people a chance to participate even if they are away for Presidents Day weekend.
Brian Price of the retail shop Vermont Fly Guys, Mike Hulvey of Central Vermont Trout Unlimited, Kelly Bedford, Paul Sinicki, and others will demonstrate the ways in vise mastery from noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 13. This event is family-friendly and AMFF staff will also have a craft table set up to teach young children how to make clown flies. The staff at Green Mountain Troutfitters has donated fly-tying materials for the event.
The courses will continue from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 27, with the same instructors returning from the first event. From 6 p.m. until around 8 p.m. the AMFF and Pig Farm Ink will host the Iron Fly and Classic Tie, with free pizza and a cash bar serving beer provided by Otter Creek Brewing of Middlebury. Nardini explained the Iron Fly is a fly-tying sensation that is sweeping the nation and follows the format of Food Network's "Iron Chef America," except participants are given a mystery bag of ingredients to craft creative flies, instead of meals. This event is open to experienced tiers and novices alike.
"Besides the fact that we have a pretty passionate group of anglers working at the brewery here in Middlebury, it was a pretty easy decision for us to get involved with the American Museum of Fly Fishing given the similarities between fly-tying and brewing," Drew Vetere of Otter Creek Brewing told the Reformer in an email. "Both are celebrated Vermont crafts that require an attention to detail and a commitment to artisanship. Fly-tying is a lot like brewing in that, in some respects, it's as much about the journey as it is the destination. That's definitely a mantra that resonates throughout our brewery."
For the Classic Tie, contestants will examine three flies from the AMFF's collection — the Quill Gordon, Adams, and Royal Coachman — and try to beat the original. They will have to tie by what they see in front of them and the contestants' patterns will be judged to declare the cleanest and closest to the original.
Winners of the Iron Fly and Historical Tie tournaments will take home bragging rights and prizes contributed by The Fly Pack, Mud Dog Saltwater Flies, Scientific Anglers, and others.
Nardini said the people who will lead the Fit to be Tyed demonstrations are experts in the industry.
"These guys are pretty good. So they can take on anyone — from very, very beginning tiers, or if you've been tying for years and just need a new way of doing it," he said, adding that fly fishing is different than other types of fishing. "Instead of casting the lure that is weighted, you're casting the weighted line, and the fly weighs next to nothing."
Nardini explained there are numerous types of tying techniques and early flies resembled the insects they were named after. The shape and style of the fly that is hand-tied to the end of the line should vary based on the food source of the specific fish desired. Nardini said saltwater fishing typically requires bigger, stronger flies.
AMFF collects, preserves, exhibits, studies, and interprets the artifacts, art, and literature of fly fishing. It publishes a quarterly journal, The American Fly Fisher, and boasts collections of reels and flies, in addition to rods that belonged to people such as Babe Ruth, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Williams, President Herbert Hoover, Winslow Homer, Glenn Miller and President Dwight Eisenhower.