Photos: Learning to Tie Flies at Work

Written by: Haley Pinsonneault

Orvis associate Haley Pinsonneault shows off the first two Woolly Buggers she ever tied, with a little help.
Photo by Tom Rosenbauer

While fly-fishing is a major part of the Orvis culture, I have never felt much of an urge to pursue it in any way during the almost two years that I have worked at the company. That is until Tom Rosenbauer sent out an invitation looking for employees that wanted to learn the art of fly-tying. This seemed like something related to fly-fishing that I might really enjoy and I was right.

I have worked for Orvis for a little less than 2 years, and before the fly-tying class, my only exposure to Orvis’s oldest business was a day-long fly-fishing school. There I learned about different types of flies, how to cast, knot-tying, and rod familiarity. However, tying my own flies seemed like a daunting task that I was not ready to tackle. (Sad attempt at a pun intended.)

Orvis’s Chad Walz explains how to attach the thread to the hook.
Photo by Tom Rosenbauer

On a lunch hour last Tuesday, I went to my beginner fly-tying class with five other Orvis employees and three instructors. They had vises all set up for us, along with the other materials needed to start to make our first Woolly Bugger. I learned about bobbins, marabou, chenille, hackle, and was warned that breaking thread and swearing may occur. . . and that it was perfectly acceptable. Tom Rosenbauer first demonstrated tying a fly from beginning to end. I was surprised at how quickly they can be tied, for I had envisioned it being a much more difficult and time-consuming task. Granted, we were tying the fly for beginners, so I am sure they get more difficult.

Now it was our turn to give it a try with the help of Tom, Chad Walz, and Pete Kutzer. My first Woolly Bugger was tied with green chenille, with some help with every step, as I was hesitant to make a mistake. The second one I used orange chenille and completed it with much less help. I was happy that I did not break the thread or feel any urge to swear during the process.

Peter Kutzer explains the process to three Orvis associates trying fly tying for the first time.
Photo by Tom Rosenbauer

While the experience has not awakened any desire to fish, tying flies is truly an art and it was a lot of fun to try. It was definitely great to have some experienced co-workers showing us the process, as well. It made it a lot more relaxing and not frustrating at all. I could definitely see myself borrowing the kits and trying different flies at home. I would encourage everyone to try fly tying if they get the chance; even kids enjoy it so I’m told.

As you may imagine Orvis can be one of those dream companies to work for, especially if fly-fishing is a passion of yours. My reasons for loving Orvis do not include a fly-fishing passion but do include my love for preserving nature, supporting communities and for dogs. Orvis donates 5% of pre-tax profits every year to help protect nature, support communities, and advance canine health and well-being.

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