I was minding the booth, walking dealers through the latest and greatest books and DVDs, when I heard someone yelling my name. My giant carrot-topped boss was waving me over, with a devious grin on his face. His wife, Joy, ran up to me, grabbed my arm, and pulled me to the front stage.
“Here’s your guy!” she yelled. Then to me, “Rob, there’s an open seat in the fly tying competition! You have to do it!”
Resistance was futile. None of my weak arguments found purchase. And before I knew it I was pushed into a chair, smack in the middle of an international string of tyers, with fair crowd looking on.
Similar to Iron Chef competitions, contestants had a limited time to create a masterpiece, using selected materials and a couple of “secret” ingredients. For the first round, tyers were given 15 minutes to tie a fly.
As the clock started, I found myself shaking nervously. My bobbin was strung way too tight, and my thread broke repeatedly. I looked to my right and to my left, relieved to see that my neighbors’ hands were also shaking wildly. One poor fellow was so nervous, he resorted to a desperate lashing of odd materials to his hook. I took a deep breath and opened the bag containing the secret material: beautifully dyed ostrich herl! I looked backward at Bill Black, whose Spirit River was sponsoring the event. He had supplied the materials.
“Thanks, Bill!” I said with a smile.
“You like that?” he replied, with a knowing smile and a wink.
I tied a funky little shrimp/crawfish fly, which I was sure would be cast off by the judges. But no dice. The final round came down to myself and a young man from London. This time we had 10 minutes to finish our fly, and my rival struggled for several minutes just threading his bobbin. I cranked out a simple summer steelhead fly, stripping and hackling the tip of a blue-dyed ostrich plume to radical effect.
When it was all over, Bill presented me with the trophy, and Jon Bauer handed me a brand new Rogue reel.
Let the teasing begin…