I started tying flies at age seven after a childhood illness that required me to be on bed rest for three months. My Great Uncle went to Patrick’s Fly Shop and bought me an orange neck a buck tail, some strung red hackle and orange chenille, I still have the neck although it has been well picked over. I learned from Roy’s Book on How to Tie Flies and for the first few years tied in my hands as I didn’t have a vice. Once I was well enough he also bought me a 9’ Granger and taught me how to cast and fish in a local stream for Cutthroat. This has been a lifelong passion that has defined my life, at times paid my bills and brought years of memories that will always be cherished.
In 1969 I attended a collage prep course in Bellingham and met a fellow fisherman whose father gave me a copy of HL Leonard’s book on fly tying, the title page had a wood cut of a Silver Doctor which absolutely enthralled me. I spent the next ten years trying to duplicate that fly, the materials, hooks and technique were held as trade secrets at that time and there were very few individuals in my area who knew how to tie these complicated and extravagant creations, let alone shops who carried the quality of materials required to achieve consistent results.
With the help of individuals like Alec Jackson who provided access to written materials, feathers, fur and appropriate hooks as well as a network of other like-minded Salmon Fly Dressers from the east and west coast I was able to start to figure out technical details to make thing look the way I pictured them in my mind. Alec also helped with the formation of the Salmon Fly Guild, holding the first meetings in the basement of his house and making sure that both myself and my wife Karen were on the original roster.
I also received advice and exposure to the art of dying feathers with both Mordant or Natural Dyes and Acid Dyes to create my own color pallet to more closely match the eighteenth century colors on original flies. My mentor in this was a member of the Evergreen Fly Club named Karl Hoffler, Karl also supported a local tying club at his place on Friday nights where ideas were exchanged on Patterns, technique and general history, he was a wealth of information an excellent fly tier and the best colorist I ever worked with.
I have done demonstration Tying and classes in Washington Oregon California and Idaho over the years, I truly believe that to become the best you can be at your craft you must learn to teach, only then will you be able to define and understand what you are doing well or how to correct particularly stubborn problems.
I have been privileged to tie with some of the best, Walt Johnson, Bob Veverka, Mark Waslick, Mike Matenack, Joe Rosono to name a few, all have been generous with their skill, technique’s and materials over the years. They embody the generous spirit and camaraderie that defines our sport and I consider each to be part of rather extended family of Tier’s who have paved a path for all of us to follow.
I have a boxed fly of yours from 1996 that I bought at a Wild Fish Coalition banquet. Amazing tie and I enjoy it. I was wondering what it might be worth 🙂
I participated in a fly-tying class you did back in 1992 or 93 at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club in San Francisco. You guided us through a full-dress feather-winged Atlantic Salmon Fly with a mixture of our own colors. You also taught us how to straighten out the eye of a hook to make a blind eye hook with a braided Dacron loop on the front. We tied a Black King Spey Fly on it and you cautioned to be sure to attach the Dacron loop ends all the way to the bend of the hook if we were going to fish with it so it wouldn’t pull off.. Another one of the techniques you taught was counter-spinning the 6/0 thread, splitting it with your dubbing needle, inserting the dubbing into it and spinning it to make sparse body with a larger profile. When we took a break, you brought out a nodeless split bamboo rod that you had made and showed it to me in detail.
Anyhow, the reason I’m writing here is to let you know that I went Atlantic Salmon Fishing on the Umba River on the Kola Peninsula in 1993 and the very first Atlantic Salmon I caught was on that full-dressed feather-wing fly that I tied at your class. If I recall correctly it was about a 10-lb Atlantic salmon that I caught on the first day at the Umba Lodge. I also used the Black King Spey and caught three fish on that fly before I had to retire it. It was the one we tied in the class and I had only tied the Dacron half way back on the hook. The last fish I caught on it was a 16-lb. Atlantic and it almost pulled the loop off the fly. Almost the entire front half of the fly was pulled off the shank, but it held and I landed and released the fish. Good news was I had tied three more of those up later and ran the Dacron all the way to the bend of the hook on those, so I was still able to fish that pattern afterwards. I learned a lot from your class and still enjoy using your techniques on my flies.
So, Steve, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with me.
First of all thank you for leaving a comment on this page for flus and classes I have benn privileged to provide.
For pricing on my fly plates I really wouldn’t know how to give you good pricking. I am not active in the tying or fishing community anymore. It probably depends on who framed them.
For individuals who participated in various classes I was privileged to present, thank you!
It always feels good to hear that I was able to provide useful tips and techniques, I seldom hear back from either class participants or rod customers. It makes me feel good.
I still dress a few flies, both for Steelhead and trout. I make about 15 to 20 bamboo rods a year, and really don’t advertise either.
The Salmon Fly Guild has come so far since I was a regular participant. They represent some of the most talented fly dressers I have ever seen, it really amazes me to see what they produce.
Again thank you for your comments.
Steve Gobin, still kicking at 67
Hello sir, I’m trying to find information for your bamboo fly rod any info and advise will be great full.
Speaking of bamboo fly rods. You showed a few of us a “nodeless” split bamboo rod that you had made and explained using the scarf joints on it to avoid the nodes. I remember examining it closely with you outside during our lunch break and it was amazing work. There were no visible connections anywhere on it. Did you ever make more of those? It was quite an accomplishment in my opinion.
Thanks again Steve,
PS: still kicking at the ripe old age of 71 in Jan. 2022!
Pingback: Steelhead Fishing in Oregon with Brian Silvey (WFS 148) - Wet Fly Swing
I still remember as a child watching tie flys and teaching me how to fly fish. It was always a pleasure to be around you and your family.
Rick Houk Jr.
Sorry, I don’t know if you are still out there but I want you to know how much your father Ricks relationship meant to me. He was my best friend ever, and to this day I miss him so much. You were a small child than but I spent a lot of time with you. It was a special time in my life.
If your dad is still around I would love to see him again. I lost contact with him when he got remarried and I think moved to Starwood.