This is a blast from the past—at least five years ago—I interviewed friend and fellow biologist/tyer/angler Dave Stewart. This is our barely edited conversation.
Dave is Doug Stewart’s son. Doug developed the Macks Canyon Special and owned Stewart’s Fly Shop for years.
Jay Nicholas – September 2016
Tyer: Dave Stewart
Year of birth: 1975
Place of birth: Portland, OR
Occupation: Fisheries Biologist
About what year did you start tying flies? 1983
Current annual fly production: 12 doz.
First fly vise: Thompson
Favorite current vise: Regal rotary
Current fly emphasis: salmon, steelhead, sea-runs.
Why did you start tying flies? Hanging around my father’s fly shop
Did you learn from books, from other tyers, classes, or —? Around the fly shop
What type of flies were you tying? Trout flies (wooly buggers/leaches)
Where did you get your materials when you started tying flies? Dad’s fly shop
Talk a little about tools and hooks you have used over the years, do you find the newer equipment an improvement?
I have used the same tools and equipment I have used since I was 8. My dad always stressed using your hands as tools. It allowed you to tie the same flies and save a little money. Basic vise, bobbin, and my hands as the whip finisher.
Do you have favorite hooks these days? I have always used Mustad, but use Gamakatsu or Owners for my egg patterns and stingers have been good.
How important do you think hooks are to the finished fly? Not very. A sharp hook is more important. I think all of the hooks do a pretty good job. If you are a good fisherman you should be able to hook some fish.
Tell a story about a memorable fish that took a memorable fly.
The largest steelhead I ever landed was on the Skeena basin. I landed a hot fish in the upper teens on a huge fly I was using because a super nice local BC fellow was giving me information and patterns to fish the rivers. His name is “Big Red” and although I never met him, he helped me out tremendously in fishing the Northern Country. I started using a Spey rod on that trip because it was the only way to cast a 3/0 hook. My dad always frowned upon using these large rods, but it got me some nice fish in Canada. I’ll call the fly Big Reds egg sucker.
Are there tyers who have particularly inspired you? My dad.
What is your current fly tying passion? Steelhead flies traditional
What is your next fly tying challenge? Articulated super large mega creations
Do you enjoy tying flies? Is it a chore to get done?
Once I sit down and start I really enjoy it.
Can you describe how you feel when you sit down and tie flies?
It’s relaxing. I usually have a goal to tie a certain number of flies. This allows me to get the flies done for the next trip. I usually end up tying more than my goal for the session.
Do your favorite patterns change much from year to year, do you see your favorites evolving, or do you stick with the flies that have worked for you in the past?
I stick with the flies that have worked in the past.
Please describe your motivations to design, develop, or experiment with new fly patterns.
I am in contact with a number of people and their influence usually inspires me to change it up a bit. I love the community I am involved with in friends and family dedicated to trying to catch fish. I’ve learned a lot from some of my good gear fishing buddies as well. They’ve caught a lot of fish and it doesn’t usually matter whether it’s a fly or spoon to learn a little about the species we are targeting.
Is fly tying a solitary practice for you, or do you tie with other folks?
When my friends are down to float the river the next day, we usually celebrate by tying a few flies for the next days fishing.
Do you ever fish commercially tied flies, or do you only fish flies you have tied?
I will usually buy a few flies from whichever fly shop I am in at the time. I always feel that I should buy something and flies are usually the ticket for me.
If you had to tie one type of fly and only one type, what would it be?
What do you consider your primary Home Waters? Is such a thing possible for you?
The Deschutes. It’s almost not possible. I consider the North Coast and the streams I fish there my home waters as well. The Hood or the Klick may become my home waters. Probably the Big D. How can you beat it?
Anything you would like to add at this time?
My tying experiences have been developed from being around the fly shop. Some great memories are of some of my best friends late at night heading down to my family fly shop late at night to tie flies for the trip the next day. My buddies and I spent more than a few nights crashing at the shop because we stayed up so late tying flies. Everyone should have their own local shop.