Hand-tied creations lure bass, trout to the hook

Luann Lawrence wraps thread around a hook Dec. 18 2023 while crafting a fishing fly at the Bella Vista Fly Tyers weekly tying class. The group offers classes for new and experienced tyers.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Luann Lawrence wraps thread around a hook Dec. 18 2023 while crafting a fishing fly at the Bella Vista Fly Tyers weekly tying class. The group offers classes for new and experienced tyers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Beauty is in the eyes of the finned beholder that lurks in the depths inspecting a hand-tied fishing fly as its next meal.

Anglers hope to fool a wary trout, black bass or other fish when they sign up for fly tying classes offered by the Bella Vista Fly Tyers. Classes for beginner and experienced tyers take place each Monday morning from mid-September through mid-March at United Lutheran Church in Bella Vista.

Through the fall and winter, students create all types of fishing flies with guidance from experienced tyers who teach the classes. Most flies are designed to fool rainbow or brown trout, which swim in the region's trout streams such as the White River below Beaver Dam or Missouri's Roaring River State Park.

On a sunny Monday in mid-December, a room full of new tyers gave full attention to teachers showing how to tie a scud fishing fly. In the underwater world, scuds are tiny crustaceans that are like bacon to a hungry trout. Fresh water shrimp, some anglers call them.

"They're the No. 1 fly at Lake Taneycomo," fly fishing guru Gary Henderson told the beginner students, citing the popular trout fishing destination near Branson, Mo.

Classes are open to anyone. Students don't have to be Bella Vista Property Owners Association members to enroll, said Gary Rowland, who has helped teach the classes for years. Students sign up to learn the craft, all right, but the social aspect is a big reason a lot of the tyers enroll year after year, he said.

Students must first join the Bella Vista Fly Tyers by paying the $10 membership fee. Cost for the five months of classes is $25 for the manual $20 for materials and $40 for a fly tying tool kit if a student doesn't have one. This season of classes is about to wrap up, but another round will start in September. Email [email protected] for registration information.

Luann Lawrence sat at a table artfully wrapping red thread around a tiny gold hook creating a fly she hopes a fish will like.

"I'm a lady who likes to be outside," said Lawrence, who has fished all across the nation. She plays golf and does yoga, but fishing is her favorite pastime.

"I like the friendship of the classes, and I learn so much every week," she said.

Fred Limberg sort of surprised himself when he enrolled in the tying classes.

"I never thought in my life I'd ever be tying flies," he said during a class. "But I joined the club, heard about the classes and here I am. This has a real zen quality to it. It's fun."

For serious tyers, fly tying can be a profitable business. Club member Jim Hershey is a former commercial tyer who tied countless hundreds of flies over the years on nights and weekends after working his full-time job. His creations were sold at fly fishing shops and sporting goods stores.

Bella Vista Fly Tyers classes are ideal for beginners, he said.

"There are a lot of tips and tricks that the instructors can show you," he said. "There is a learning curve. You have to learn the basics like thread control and when to add more material.

Sure, each student wants his flies to look good, especially to those hard-fighting fish cruising beneath the surface.

  photo  A finished fly is projected on a screen Dec. 18 2023 during the weekly Bella Visty Fly Tyers fly tying class. Students create an array of flies during the class that runs mid September through mid March. Classes are offered for new and experience tyers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Kelly Austin works on a fishing fly. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Ron Blackwelder (left) helps Fred Limberg tie a fly. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Most experience tyers bring their own materials to class. Purchasing a basic fly tying kit is a good way for beginners to get started. (NWA

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Bella Vista Fly Tyers

The Bella Vista Fly Tyers club is a fishing, conservation and service club consisting of about 150 men and women. They share a common interest in both cold and warm water fishing found in local streams and the lakes of Bella Vista.

Club meetings are each Thursday at United Lutheran Church in Bella Vista. Social hour is at 9 a.m. Meetings are 10 to 11 a.m.

Source: Bella Vista Fly Tyers


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