Welcome to our Featured Fly Tyers series! Each month we will be highlighting a different fly designer to learn more about what they do, how they create such beautiful and effective patterns and why they tie. This month, we spoke with Morten Hansen (a.k.a @Coastfly) a Danish fly designer and photographer who sparked a viral fly tying challenge a few years ago and has inspired countless new people to pick up the bobbin and start spinning up unique creations. We sat down the Morten to chat about his process, fly photography and passion for creating fly patterns.
Flylords: When did you tie your first fly? What pattern was it?
Coastfly: I tied my very first fly 6 years ago, it was a pattern called “the White Prince”. It’s basically a white woolly bugger sort of fly.
Flylords: What was the first fish you caught on your own tie?
Coastfly: My first fish on my own tie and a fly rod also was an escaped, stocked Rainbow Trout on the coast in Denmark, on a pattern I dubbed the “Christmas Tree.” I guess it counts as a pseudo-steelhead then… It weighed 4 kg (~9 lbs) so it really got me hooked on fly fishing so to speak. I haven’t caught a trout over 2.7 kg (~6 lbs) since.
Flylords: What is your favorite pattern to tie these days?
Coastfly: I love tying shrimp flies. Mostly because I fish for sea trout 80% of the time and shrimps are like little scooby snacks for our seatrout here in Denmark!
Flylords: What draws you to fly tying and fly design?
Coastfly: I guess it has become more of a meditational thing. I struggled with depression and anxiety in my mid 20´s because of a rough childhood. Fly tying gave me something I could focus my attention on and it literally helped me to learn how to deal with the thoughts you have when depression and anxiety turn your world upside down. So I would tie flies for at least a few hours every. Single. Day. for almost one year. I guess that’s how I picked up so many skills so quickly.
Flylords: What is your process while designing and testing a new pattern?
Coastfly: It’s usually pretty simple. When designing flies for my home water I Google the prey sea trout feed on, then I look for key attributes in that baitfish or shrimp. If its light tan and has a dark spot on the side I pick my materials based on that to mimic them as best as possible.
Flylords: Do you have any advice for new tiers or anglers looking to pick it up?
Coastfly: Don’t get to overwhelmed with all the stuff the shops tell you, you need. You can get far with a cheap starter kit and a few good materials. The glass shrimp was invented on a cheap vise and had only 3 materials in it. If there is any secret to nice-looking flies it lies in the quality of the materials you buy. Look at the stuff in the bags. Ask the shop owner if you may take out that gorgeous looking neck from Whiting and have a closer look.
Flylords: How do you photograph your flies? What’s your camera setup?
Coastfly: All my photos are handheld actually. In the garden on a piece of driftwood, I found on the beach on a fishing trip. I started out with cell phone pics, then upgraded to a DSLR from canon and a kit lens (18-55mm) in the mid-price range. Now I use a full-frame from Canon EOS 6D Mk ii) and the 100mm f./2.8 L macro lens. It’s a super expensive kit for just photographing flies, I know. But as I tied and started photographing my flies, I also developed an interest in photography and cinematography. Currently, I am building up my own company based on that – under the name of “Deeper Pixels”. I even have a few jobs coming up related to flyfishing, which I will share more about when I have the clearance. It’s kind of a secret still. But not for much longer.
Flylords: How did you get the idea for the #CoastFlyChallenge? What is your favorite part of it?
Coastfly: The idea for the challenge was to, well, challenge myself and others out there to step out of their comfort zone and try something different. I often find that new and exciting things happen exactly when you step out of that comfort zone, I mean, look at where it got me!
Flylords: Can you tell a difference between the European and American fly tying styles?
Coastfly: It seems to me that the European/Scandinavian style of tying is smaller and more detailed, maybe. Not that super complex flies like the “Perfect Leo Shrimp” are better than a simple woolly bugger, but I think we tend to put more attention to details in our fishing flies “over here”. And as I said they are smaller. I use hooks in size 8-12 for trouts weighing up to 6 kg´s – and Americans seem to use big articulated flies for the same size fish.
Flylords: What is next for you in 2019?
Coastfly: Build my business. Crank out more flies and create more content for my social media accounts. Not only tying tutorials but also fishing films and so on. Oh and also raise my two sons and be a good father and husband. That actually comes before any of the above – but that will be a story for another time. So lots of work ahead of me and I’m excited to share it with all of the guys following my journey out there. Hopefully what I do brings value to just a few and hopefully, I can inspire some minds to step out of their comfort zones and go with whatever comes. It could take you around the world. Like Greenland. Not saying more ;).