How long does it take to tie 6,000 flies? Grab a calculator and run the numbers: tying at a sustained rate of 10 flies per hour for 15 hours a day, you would need 40 days to tie that many flies. If you bumped production to 15 flies an hour, you could shave almost two weeks off the timeline. No problem, just take a month off from work, family, and fishing; and hope all three are still there when you reemerge. Needless to say, 6,000 flies is a tall order for even the most enthusiastic tier. " />


Six Thousand Flies by Russ Forney and Tim Scott

Articles — By on April 14, 2009 11:09 am

How long does it take to tie 6,000 flies? Grab a calculator and run the numbers: tying at a sustained rate of 10 flies per hour for 15 hours a day, you would need 40 days to tie that many flies. If you bumped production to 15 flies an hour, you could shave almost two weeks off the timeline. No problem, just take a month off from work, family, and fishing; and hope all three are still there when you reemerge. Needless to say, 6,000 flies is a tall order for even the most enthusiastic tier.

The Saint Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers (SJRVFF) and Kalamazoo Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (KVCTU) formed a partnership three years ago – to tie flies for good causes. The clubs merge their collective tying talents every spring in the form of a Tie-a-Thon and thousands of flies tumble from their vises. When these guys from northern Indiana and southwest Michigan get together to tie flies, nothing is impossible.

Similar to an old-fashioned barn raising, a Tie-a-Thon is a community effort of fly tiers to raise flies for organizations that use fly fishing in their service to others. Educational venues and cancer recovery programs were recognized the first three years of the program, 7,200 flies were donated in 2007 and 2008. Flies from the 2009 Tie-a-Thon were dedicated to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing; a national non-profit dedicated to assisting the physical recovery and emotional healing of wounded military service members through fly fishing and tying programs.


Joe Mitchell (left) offers SGT Kevin Price some tying tips. Photo by Tim Scott

The Tie-a-Thon organizers, Tim Scott and Terry Wittorp, began raising flies in 2007 to support a local Trout Unlimited youth camp. They asked club members to pledge flies and attend a Saturday tying session to complete their donations. Flies could also be mailed to the organizers, allowing a larger audience to participate. The Tie-a-Thon continued the following year, with even more flies raised through a multi-club initiative. The 2009 Tie-a-Thon was held at the Elkhart Conservation Club on March 14 and the event witnessed a record number of pledges, 6,400 flies were donated by participating fly tiers.

Four soldiers from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing programs joined the tiers in Elkhart, IN: SGT David Walker and SPC Christine Weng from Fort Belvoir, VA and SGTs Kevin Price and Christopher Mazander from Fort Carson, CO. Russ Forney, a trustee for Project Healing Waters, joined the soldiers in Elkhart and spent the day tying flies with the hosting clubs. Fur, feathers, and every manner of fuzz covered the tying tables and tiers worked the next seven hours to satisfy their pledged fly donations. Flies mailed to Tim and Terry earlier in the week seeded fly boxes on the head table, providing a visual prompt to the 40 tiers scattered around the room. Rotary vises hummed as tiers cranked out flies for the wounded warriors.


SGT Christopher Mazander (left) and Don Squires of Kalamazoo Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited adding to the flies raised at the Tie-a-Thon. Photo by Russ Forney

The crowd enjoyed an excellent lunch, courtesy of Terry and his culinary crew. Tim provided a video set-up and projection screen for demonstration tiers. Not to be outdone, Russ added comic relief, breaking his thread four times while demonstrating a woven emerger pattern – overcome by the pressure of the big screen.


Right to left, Eric Graham, Erik Gilbert, and Eric Wroblewski finishing up their fly donation. It was the Eric side of the table! Photo by Russ Forney

The soldiers were warmly welcomed by the St. Joseph and Kalamazoo fly tiers. It is always interesting to see the years melt away as older military veterans talk with younger troops; every soldier enjoys a bond, a universal experience that transcends generations.

The SJRVFF and KVCTU fly tying communities are a diverse group: engineers, artists, police officers, medical practitioners, real estate agents, students, chefs, strategic planners, construction workers, and retirees. Yet they unite each year with a single-minded purpose – to raise flies, and awareness, for the benefit of others. It is amazing to witness seemingly distinct lives become intricately woven in a common thread, tying thread in this instance. Midwestern fly tiers and wounded soldiers are now linked through a mutual expression of gratitude and service; the healing power of handfuls of flies will be felt across the country. To the fly tiers attending the 2009 Tie-Thon and to the soldiers they honored – thank you both for your service.


Tiers from SJRVFF and KVCTU join forces for the 2009 Tie-a-Thon, honoring Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Photo by Tim Scott

See the website for Saint Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers (http://www.sjrvff.com/) and Kalamazoo Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (http://www.kvctu.com/) to find out more about their annual Tie-a-Thon. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing welcomes visitors to their website at http://www.projecthealingwaters.org/.

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