Ernie MacDonald looks for the perfect feather while tying flies at the Penobscot Fly Fishers' Fly Tying Symposium in Brewer on Saturday. Credit: John Holyoke

Steven Mogul of Bangor is an avid — some would say diehard — fly fisherman. Even when rivers are clogged with ice, you’re likely to find Mogul wading among the ice, fighting frostbite and trying to fool one more fish.

On Saturday morning, however, Mogul joined some like-minded individuals for some indoor fishing-related fun at the 20th edition of the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ Fly Tying Symposium at the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s clubhouse in Brewer.

The show is known for its relaxed pace, and attendees are encouraged to pick the brains of the tiers scattered around the large room.

After an hour at the symposium, Mogul hadn’t progressed all that far from the front door, instead choosing to pay close attention to everything his new mentors were saying. Most of the tables had a tier sitting on one side and empty chairs on the other, where visitors were welcome to sit, watch, and ask questions.

That format was just what Mogul was looking for.

“A cardiologist just gave me some really great tips on tying up some caddis larvae,” Mogul said, referring to one of the show’s featured tiers. “Most times when you go to a fly-tying class, you’ve got one guy teaching you. Here you’ve got a couple of dozen different tiers that you can go around to and see the techniques that they’re using, and the tools.”

In that hour, Mogul said he’d only been able to visit two tiers, but he was eager to put his new lessons to the test.

“I’m sure it’s great for the fly shops, because everybody’s going straight from here to the fly shops. At least I am,” Mogul said.

That congenial, cooperative mood is a hallmark of the symposium, and one reason it has survived for two decades.

“It’s as much a social event as it is a tying event,” longtime Penobscot Fly Fishers member Don Corey told one attendee.

Many of the tiers in attendance were in their 60s and 70s, but some — Noah Tibbetts of Brewer and Sam Kenney of Dismont, for instance — represent a new generation of avid fly tiers. Tibbetts is a high school student who donates the proceeds from his fly sales to the Children’s Miracle Network, while Kenney is now a college junior who has been selling flies for a decade.

Club member Rob Dunnett said the symposium offers people the chance to brush up on what’s new in the hobby, but can also be a way for prospective tiers to decide if they want to take up tying.

“We get people who come in from the general public that want to learn a new fly-tying technique or want to know what fly tying is all about, and we get to share our passion [for tying] with them,” Dunnett said.

But the attendees aren’t the only people who end up leaving with some new tricks to try out, he said.

“We [exhibitors] also get to go around to all the other fly tiers who we might only see once or twice a year and see what they’re doing,” he said.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...