Grass Roots Fly Fishing – People Making A Difference

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by Louis Cahill

Is it time you gave something back?

You can’t go to school for fly fishing. You can take some classes or workshops, here and there, but most folks learn to fly fish one of two ways. On their own or from a friend or family member. Either way it’s a tough learning curve. Information is pieced together from tips and suggestions, successes and failures. Some anglers hire guides or casting instructors to teach them but that’s not an option for everyone. What if there was a better way?

Well, there is. There are local clubs and groups that take on the mission of educating anglers and creating a community around our love of the sport. Some are better than others and some are great. At their best, these groups do more than share information. They share the passion, the ethics and the camaraderie of fly fishing. I’m going to tell you about one of them.

I didn’t know my life was about to change when I met Scott MacKenzie. We fished together, and hit it off right away but I had no idea what a positive influence he would be, for me and others. Scott is just one of those guys who radiates positive energy. He came along at a time when things were pretty tough at G&G world headquarters. It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no Gink and Gasoline today, if not for Scott.

He and I fished together in the Bahamas, on one of my bonefish schools. Scott had been a fly fisherman for many years but had never tied flies. I taught him to tie a bonefish fly and when he caught fish on it the next day, he was hooked. From that point forward he was all about fly tying. I’d get a couple of text messages a day with questions or photos of flies.

Soon he asked me, “Would you teach me to tie?”

“Of course!” I answered. 

“While you’re at it, would you mind teaching six or eight other guys?” He followed up. 

I agreed and Atlanta Fly Tying was born.

Scott threw down his own money and bought eight complete tying setups. Eight Regal Revolution vises, eight sets of Rising tying tools, thread and materials all in lots of eight and scheduled the first class. We met at Scott’s office. He reached out to The Atlanta Fly Fishing Club, another great organization, and they spread the word that there would be free tying classes, open to anyone.

That first night we had about six guys show up. We sat around Scott’s conference table to tie redfish flies, because Scott and I were going redfishing in a couple of weeks. I dove right in to the instruction. We were cranking along when Scott brought up G&G.

“Here comes the pitch!” One of the guys blurted out. 

I was floored. “I’m sorry man,” I told him, “I don’t have a pitch. I just run a fly fishing web site, and it’s free.”

It never occurred to me that these guys were sitting around that table thinking we had something to sell them. I should have realized. That is the kind of world we live in, where any act of generosity, no matter how small, is suspect. Maybe I’m stupid for not having something to sell them. If I had a fly shop or a guide service, maybe I would, but all Scott and I had to offer was knowledge and enthusiasm. Those guys wound up chipping in for the beer and food Scott had brought and about half of them went on that redfishing trip with us. They all still come for tying nights.

_DSC6043Atlanta Fly Tying grew quickly. Scott’s office got small in a hurry. Before long, monthly tying nights were being held at the Orvis Store and The Fish Hawk. I still teach a class once in a while but Scott now brings in tyers and guides from all over. It’s turned into quite a community. Some guys are really on fire about fly tying and some just show up to hang out and talk about fishing. Scott brings his eight vises for those who don’t have them but most guys now bring their own. Sometimes folks passing by the fly shop come in and tie. It really is amazing.

Oct 28th at The Fish Hawk, AFT is hosting Chip Drozenski and Gonzalo Flego of Andes Drifters for a night of wine tasting and tying flies for Trout and Golden Dorado.

I will be teaching bonefish flies again soon and the G&G Bonefish School will be at the Abaco Lodge,  March 15-22. Email me for details.

Atlanta Fly Tying is just one example. There are people giving back to fly fishing just about everywhere there are fish. If you are involved in or know of a great group for anglers in your area, share it in the comments so that folks can find out what’s happening near them. 

Use this format.

Atlanta GA- Atlanta Fly Tying. Free tying classes open to all anglers.


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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8 thoughts on “Grass Roots Fly Fishing – People Making A Difference

  1. St. Joe River Valley Fly Fishers has been hosting their annual Tie A Thon for years. Local tiers and contributors across the county donate 100 flies of a single pattern and size. Every year the group collects thousands of flies that they donate to our Michigan TU youth camp along with other fly fishing service groups that work with youth, cancer survivors and veteran groups. The program concludes every spring with a day of tying and food at the clubs hatchery. Great time, great cause and a great group of fly fishers.

  2. Here in the DC area we have tidal potomac fly rodders.

    For such a transient town having access to the wisdom of the group mind, regular local fishing reports, and a regular monthly beer tie (held at a local watering hole with usually ~100 people, a beginners table, raffle, and local sponsors) has been amazing. Some of my closest friends have come from this group, everyone is outgoing and willing to share information and for those new to fly fishing it’s a refreshing introduction that often shatters preconceptions. Whether it’s from semi regular free fly fishing lessons from FFF certified casting instructors, two handed and fiberglass demos from local fisherman, fish fries, or people contributing to help pay a fine from a wrongfully cited fisherman this group and the group described in the article are wonderful additions to any community.

  3. Your opening statement is false. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has full semester long Basic Fly fishing and Tying, and Advanced classes. So at least in Alaska, you can go to school for Fly fishing and tying. I highly recommend both classes. In fact, I’m going to be taking the Advanced class again this spring since it’s been revamped with different tying techniques, and my casting could certainly benefit from additional instruction.

    We’re also fortunate to have an excellent local fly shop, Big Ray’s, which hosts Friday Night Vices twice a month. They set up a table and chairs and anyone is welcome to bring their vices and tie what they like. Or just hang out and talk about fishing and tying. Experienced tiers give pointers to those of us who are still figuring things out. So it’s a great learning and social event.

  4. Santa Rosa CA
    Russian River Fly Fishers
    Weekly casting clinics – free and open to public at the casting pond. There are some excellent casters who give freely of their time. And a few of us that open a beer and sit and watch.
    Also, monthly fly tying, held at a member’s home usually. Open to club members.

  5. Excellent article and I agree with all your points. Here in the Piedmont of NC, we have several fly fishing clubs that are active. We have a Beer Tying every couple of weeks over zoom hopefully in person again soon.

    I’m interested in your hosted trips. The info on your web page seems like it’s not current? I’ve emailed a couple times but think it was when you were having eye surgeries…. I’ll email again to get connected.

    Thanks for sharing all you do -Preston

  6. High Plains Drifters Fly Fishing Club, Denver, CO
    We are all about “Fly Fishing, Tying and Comradery”

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