Tim Flagler is a legendary fly tyer, YouTube content creator, presenter, guide, and instructor. His work on the Tightline Video YouTube channel is how many of us have found his company, Tightline Productions, but his influence in the industry goes far beyond the digital world. Tim is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to techniques and tips and it was a pleasure getting the chance to pick his brain about just what gets his creative juices flowing.
Flylords: Let’s start off with a little bit about yourself, who is Tim Flagler?
Tim: My wife Joan & I are the owners of a video production company called Tightline Productions. In the past, we have done a wide variety of video work, but in recent years have focused more and more on fly tying and the fly fishing industry as a whole. I started fly fishing and tying flies while in college in the early 80s.
Flylords: Is there a favorite fly that comes to your mind?
Tim: Yes, it’s a pattern I developed about six years ago, called the Evil Olive that’s based on Spencer Higa’s SOS, with a few key variations. The reason I really like it is that it has worked for me pretty much throughout the year and just about wherever I go. I may have caught more fish on it than any other single pattern.
Flylords: What gets your creative juices flowing? How are new flies born? Where do you start? How do you choose materials? Etc…?
Tim: That’s a great question. For me, inspiration comes from two very different things. The first is that I do regular stream sampling and shoot close-up videos of the naturals in a series of fish tanks. This allows me to see details and behaviors that I feel are very important in fly design. The other source of inspiration is a number of fly tying materials that have been around for centuries: Hungarian Partridge, Wood Duck, Brahma Hen, Peacock Herl, Pine Squirrel, and Hackle, to name a few. These can be mixed and matched in so many different ways and I like experimenting with unique combinations of some or all of them.
Flylords: In terms of all the gear out there involved in the fly tying process, what’s one piece of equipment you could never live without?
A quality vise. I tie with a lot of thread tension and, to me, there’s nothing worse or more dangerous than a vise that doesn’t totally secure a hook. I’ve been a Regal
guy for years.
Flylords: Which part do you enjoy more: Fishing the flies, or tying them?
Tim: Honestly, it depends on the day. There are times when I’m extremely excited and motivated to tie, and others when I simply have to get on the water, no matter what.
Flylords: Why did you start tying on YouTube? Has that impacted your passion for tying as a whole?
Tim: Tying on YouTube was kind of a happy accident but over time I came to realize just how effective video was for teaching people how to tie flies. I learned to tie from books and magazines, which are ok, but fly tying is a very dynamic thing and, when done correctly, video can capture nearly every detail and nuance. My true passion has now kind of drifted from tying flies for myself to teaching others how to tie.
Flylords: What is the process of creating a fly and then selling it? When do you know that it’s ready for production?
Tim: I’m constantly tweaking patterns, shooting videos of how they look and behave underwater in the environment where they’ll be fished, making sure they’re durable and of course, that they catch fish. I’ll also strip anything that isn’t absolutely essential off a pattern. I don’t like extras if they don’t have something significant to contribute to the pattern. I know a fly’s ready for production when I’ve gone at least a few months of fishing it effectively without wanting to make any changes to it. I feel very fortunate that Fulling Mill carries some of my favorites.
Flylords: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get started fly tying? Tips or tricks?
Tim: I’m obviously biased here, but YouTube has a wealth of tying videos. Pick a video tier that ties patterns that you’re interested in and plan to use, and follow them. Do watch videos of the same pattern but from different video tiers to find the techniques that work well for you, the tier. I’m liable to catch some flak here, but I really believe that there is no right or wrong way to tie a fly. Again, it’s what works best for you. Probably the biggest actual tying tip I can give anybody is to be able to see your work well. This requires good, quality light and, for many of us, some type of magnification.
Flylords: How valuable do you think a resource like YouTube is for teaching people how to tie/fly fish? Have you found any downsides?
Tim: The only downside that I see to YouTube videos is that just because you’ve watched the video doesn’t mean you can actually tie the fly. You really need to sit down and crank out a few on your own.
Flylords: How do you keep finding ways to be creative on the vise?
Tim: Instagram is really good for this. There are some exceptional tiers out there tying pretty wild and inventive stuff. Many of them also happen to be excellent photographers. It’s a great place to pick up new ideas.
Flylords: What is next for Tim Flagler?
Tim: The next big thing for Tim Flagler and Tightline Productions is a series on fly fishing tips and techniques, not just fly tying. It’s just a whole slew of things that I’ve picked up from others over the years or developed myself.
Thank you to Tim and his wife Joan for making the time in his busy schedule to answer these questions! It was a genuine pleasure being able to converse with such down-to-Earth, passionate people. Be sure to check out Tim’s work on YouTube
and his website