Watch Your Backcast
David A. Van Wie @DVW_VanWie
“Chicks That Tie” Bring Fun and Friendship To Fly Tying
By David A. Van Wie
They call themselves the Chicks That Tie, or CTT for short. And these Chicks are hardcore. On the cold December evening I visited with the CTT, the first indication was the license plates in the driveway. CTT-2, CTT-3 and CTT-4 were already there, but CTT-1 was running late. A small exclusive group, CTT is not really a club, more like a small cult. But a good cult. A fun cult of friendship and common interests.
These Chicks have some serious vises. Two Renzetti Traveler Pedestal Rotary Cam models, an HMH Pedestal number, and a Snowbee Waldron rotary vise ordered from England are on the table: formidable and portable gadgetry. Spools of floss, and neatly arranged trays of bodkins, hackle pliers, scissors and stackers are spread out on the dining room table at four colorful stations with each vise holding a small hook. They are ready to get started, but it is dinner time, so the seriously fun business of fly tying will have to wait.
This is the Christmas Tie-In. The chili is simmering on the stove. The wine flows. The chili and cornbread are served. Presents are exchanged. After the plates are cleared, the tying will commence.
Meet the Chicks That Tie: Vicki Koshliek, Evelyn King, Sandy Boland and Wendy Furey (who correctly predicted that I would never forget her initials, WTF!). All are a bit north of 30-something. Like the flies they tie, they are colorful and engaging. Their CTT logo adorns their shirts and sportswear.
CTT started about five years ago, but a few of the women had tied flies for several years prior to that. They are voracious students of the craft, attending fly tying classes together, and getting together every couple weeks to watch fly tying videos (really) and practice tying new patterns.
Sandy, Vicki and Wendy grew up in Maine and have known each other for many years. Evelyn (a registered Maine Guide) is new to the group, but clearly a catalyst who has helped form the chemistry of the CTT. The banter and camaraderie make this group special.
The CTT and their husbands are all accomplished fly fishers, and the friendship extends far beyond the tying bench. All four say their husbands are thrilled that they took up the craft. Their latest custom made CTT calendar includes great photos of the women and their husbands on various fishing adventures… in kayaks, standing in streams, and holding glistening trout. The husbands wear CTT Support Team T-shirts, which they must earn. More on that later.
The CTT all came to fly tying with a general knack for crafts and working with their hands. Vicki took her first fly tying class at Fly Fishing Only in Fairfield, Maine. Wendy and Evelyn met in a jewelry-making class, and later Wendy, Vicki and Evelyn all took the same fly tying class at LL Bean. The three brought a lot of “personality” to the class, so it was a natural for them to bond.
When the idea of a regular women’s fly tying group came up, Wendy and Vicki recruited their longtime friend Sandy, an accomplished fly fisher, whose husband John was the chief fisheries biologist at Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. John had tied flies for years, but Sandy had not tried her hand at it. After their first foursome tying together, the CTT have been tying, and chatting, and sharing their enthusiasm ever since.
The CTT have learned and accomplished more in 5 years than many of us do in decades. They are willing to try and tie any pattern, including woven flies, articulated streamers, and fancy salmon flies. They like to tie with a theme at each session, so they can bring certain materials, and try new methods.
The CTT have a variety of custom gadgets. Their flies are displayed on corksicles, a wine cork on a stick. Also Velcro-sicles- a small patch of Velcro on a popsicle stick- are handy for dressing or combing deer hair. They also use something called a pick scrubber… a small canister stuffed with steel wool… to clean the hardened glue off of the bodkin.
CTT flies have travelled to Alaska, to the Northwest Territory to catch Arctic char, to South Carolina for redfishing, and to Labrador for Atlantic salmon. Closer to home, they tie and cast their flies at Mooselookmeguntic Lake, the Rapid River, Upper Dam, the West Branch of the Penobscot, Kennebago Lake, and Moosehead Lake. One year they tied about 100 streamers to attach to each place-card at Wendy’s daughter’s wedding. And they tied flies to cheer up a friend’s sick daughter.
What are their favorite flies? The Wooly Bugger probably holds the top spot in terms of numbers tied, and fish caught. Also the Gurgler, which is effective for smallmouth bass. More favorite patterns include the Goddard caddis, Elk-hair caddis, soft hackle streamers, Wood Special, and Grey Ghost. But the most legendary CTT fly is the Vladi Worm.
The Vladi Worm is tied with strips of rubber or latex from, um, a condom. Vicki’s husband earned his CTT Support Team shirt by going to the condom specialty store in Portland to buy bright pink condoms. The condom is cut into narrow strips that are wrapped tightly around a nymph hook to resemble a segmented worm. Apparently the CTT custom is to drink tequila, yes- with a worm, while tying Vladi Worms, for reasons only they can explain.
All four women remember catching their first fish on a fly that they tied themselves. Evelyn caught hers on an Adams dry fly on Caribou Pond…on the back cast. Another highlight was when a photo of Wendy was on Big Ol’ Fish (a feature on a local morning TV news show) on the dock in her nightgown with the biggest bass she had ever caught. It doesn’t get any better than that.
These Chicks catch fish.
Reprinted from The Maine Sportsman, March 2014 © 2014