A day in the life of a bonafide commercial fly tier isn’t very glamorous.  Inspiring to some, but once one takes the leap down this rabbit hole most quickly realize the endeavor is an exercise in futility, mental anguish and at times sheer insanity.  I guess that is why the burnout rate for this profession is rather high, as those who take part quickly realize that the overwhelming feeling of never being caught up will ring that overbearing, obnoxious voice inside your head telling you to give up, throw in the towel and do something that requires less time and effort with a higher reward.  The reward being greater monetary gain with a fraction of the effort.

For many, the notion of spinning thread and affixing objects on hooks for a living is insanity; and at times I wouldn’t argue with that idea as large time navigating orders of repetitive madness that voice has me questioning what the hell am I doing.  I sometimes ask myself this question whenever I start a very large order while several others continue to trickle in, but I quickly remind myself that the next day in the boat is only a matter of hours away and I quickly regain focus.

I choose to look at life and what I am doing daily a little differently, and now what I am about to say may not resonate with everyone, it may just let those of you who think people like me are absolutely nuts understand where the drive comes from.  Being the son of a carpenter, and a carpenter who lived through the Korean war, was involved in the Vietnam war and a person who embodies the concept of if you aren’t suffering you aren’t living, and good things come from hard work, it is easy to see where the drive to complete tasks and the satisfaction that it brings comes from.  My father turns 75 this coming February, to this day he still gets up at 4 AM Monday through Friday to pound nails for a living; a living mind you he has been taking part in now closing in on 60 years.

Throughout his long career as a tradesman, he like many other people out there has had his share of ups and downs.  A once bolstering family business dissolved leaving him with virtually nothing, having to literally start over from scratch working for someone else for a few years all the while buying all new tools along the way as he lost everything.  I can remember him telling me he had to borrow a hammer after that ordeal as he didn’t even have one to take to work.  Over time and a great deal of hardwork, he managed to slolwy restock his tool crib, save up enough money and take the plunge going back into business on his own.  Never advertising, no social media, newspaper ads, nothing, just straight up word of mouth.  On paper, this to some may sound like a recipe for disaster, but reality is he too like myself has never been caught up on work.  Even at the tender age of 74 he still has a waiting list of work that usually spans several months up to as much as 3 years.  He does this now with one working eye, eleven titanium plates underneath the skin of his face, fused vertebrae in his neck and a variety of other ailments as result of a freak tree accident that happened 19 years ago this coming Thanksgiving weekend.   On the weekends if he isn’t working in his woodshop building a piece of furniture or turning out cabinets or some other piece of miscellaneous work for the job hes currently involved in, he’s out there maintaining the 4 acre wooded property that I grew up on where he has gardens that would rival what you’d read about in any horticultural magazine.

You see, what my father embodies I try to emulate on a daily basis and although I am far from perfect I constantly am reminded of why I do things the way that I do and live my life the same way my father does.   Dad taught me to take pride in my work, always strive to be better, you may not ever reach the level of perfection but you can try your hardest to get there as it is a lifelong pursuit in whatever you truly love.  Have integrity, be not only a man of purpose but a man of your word because your word is all you have and with integrity comes the value in a positive reputation.  If you have integrity, your reputation will precede you and people will follow your lead.  Nothing comes without hard work, and although the finish line might seem far away at times, never just throw in the towel, because the feeling of accomplishment and admiration of the work that you put in when it finally gets there is second to none.  Always take on new challenges and own them, make them the fabric that builds your character.  Don’t go through life with the goal of pleasing everyone and looking for universal acceptance.  Not everyone is going to like you or agree with what you have to say, but try be the best listener and agree to disagree but respect the other persons viewpoint and move on. Lastly, cut out the bullshit in your life, and keep those people who wear on your spirit at a distance as they can truly bring you down, as life is simply too short or as my friend Steve reminds me, “This ain’t no dress rehearsal”.  Surround yourself with good people, always try to learn new things while tending to whats most important in your life, your family and that which is right in front of you.

So although I realize my current profession compared to that of my fathers is like comparing apples to oranges, his lessons along the way and how he conducts his life have had a long lasting impression on the person I am today.  And whenever I look at the stack of invoices on my desk and start to feel a little overwhelmed, I immediately think of my dad and what he would think and do.  Owning a business that relies solely on a craft manufactured by my own two hands is highly rewarding.  Having the ability to mix in some guiding on occassion and making my own schedule is in my eyes second to none, and it not only works for me it puts a smile on my face.

So as I sit here at 4 AM on a Saturday morning typing up these random thoughts I can honestly say that I have come to the realization of just why I continue to keep doing this exercise in futility.  It is without question the result of that constant pursuit of fulfillment and pride upon completing tasks small or large and admiring the work that I have just completed that I get to share with the world.  That resonates in everything in my life from the early morning training sessions to maintain some sort of fitness level, to the copious amounts of flies that turn off my vise, to getting up early every week and slipping the boat in on a piece of water in the dark before everyone else has even decided to get to the river and fish, to these aforementioned lessons in life that I am trying to instill in my two daughters.  Do great things and write your own story.

And as I close in on the anniversary of the day that changed my dads life forever, I can’t help but recognize the fact that I am constantly thinking, “what would my dad do” as I keep pushing on with life.  I hope now many of you understand what makes me tick,  and realize just where my motivation comes from.  As I sit back and look at this current pile of flies that I am about to box up and take west for a much needed week away, I can’t help but smile as I know what went into each and every one of them and I truly hope that whomever ties one on catches that fish that they’ve been after, and maybe realize that a great deal of pride went into every turn of thread.  I will see you all in a week as I am wheels up in less than 24 hours where I will be in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan chasing brown trout with a close friend who reminds me a lot of my father.

Be well and enjoy a few snippets from my last few weeks of work.