BREWER, Maine — Hugh Kelly started tying flies when he was seven. His father was a Maine guide in the Rangeley area and passed the tradition on to his son.
Kelly, a mental health counselor with the Veterans Administration, said that he learned patience, discipline and art at an early age while learning to attach thread, yarn and feathers to tiny hooks.
“All we’re doing is imitating a bigger fish or an insect,” he said, demonstrating how to make a tie he called Pretty Young Wife. “This green, sparkly material looks like the segmented body of an insect. The red feathers on the sides are designed to look like the legs of an emerging insect coming to the surface of the water.”
Now 60, Kelly, of Orono, teaches fly tying to others at classes offered by the club. He also maintains a blog at puckerbrushflies.com. On it he posts recipes for making different flies and explains how well they’ve worked for him at different fishing spots.
“It’s very therapeutic,” he said Sunday in the Brewer Auditorium during the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ annual exposition. “It’s a right brain, left brain thing. The right side is for creativity and left is where logic resides. We are meant to use the pair. Anytime someone uses their brain a bit differently, it’s a rest for the other side.”
Zack Dunnett first came to the expo five years ago. On Sunday, he was one of 17 fly tiers demonstrating his skills.
“After that, I took a class from the club,” Dunnett, 24, of Holden said. “I like the tradition of it and the fact that it is a handcraft. Some of the ties still made are more than 150 years old and others are the same style used in medieval England.”
The expo is about exposing a younger generation to the art and tradition of fly tying, but it’s also a social event for the 82 members of the club, vice president Don Corey said.
“There’s no other time of the year when we see this many tiers together,” he said.
Ed Dailide, 63, of Orland took up fly tying several years ago after 30 years in the U.S. Navy.
“It can be challenging working with some of the different materials,” he said. “The best thing about it is to catch a fish with something you’ve put together.”