Jonathan Farmer is a man of many talents, and fly tying happens to be at the top of that list. He is a passionate career fly tyer and fly fisherman who lives in Alaska. His flies mainly consist of spey flies and streamers made for giant rainbow trout and steelhead! Read below to hear more about Jonathan’s flies and his inspiration for Midnight Sun Custom Flies.
Flylords: Who is Jonathan Farmer?
Jonathan: I grew up fishing bass tournaments and that initiated my love for fishing. When I was 17 I went to a Young Life camp in Colorado. They taught me to fish in the San Juan river and it was incredible. It had me sold on fly fishing, but I didn’t get insanely into it until I moved to Alaska many years later. I lived all over and got really into skiing, that was my thing for a long while. When I came to Alaska I became a ski patroller at Alyeska Resort and ended up doing that for eight years. I found some good friends that were into fishing on the Kenai Peninsula and I absorbed whatever they would teach me. I started tying flies to save money, and now I own my own fly tying company, Midnight Sun Custom Flies.
Flylords: When did you start tying flies?
Jonathan: Seven years ago I started tying flies and I’ve been doing it for a living for about six. I guess you get pretty decent at it pretty quick when you tie 500 dry flies over the course of one winter. I originally started tying flies because I thought I would save money, haha I now know how untrue that is. One summer I spent almost every day fishing and I would buy a couple of dry flies a day, and it added up. That’s when I decided to start tying my own, and I was feeling amazing. There were some 100 plus fish days and of course, my first flies were horrible but I started figuring it out and it was working. I still look back on my first flies and cannot believe how they even worked because they looked so bad!
Flylords: How did you decide to pursue fly tying as a career?
Jonathan: The first flies I ever sold were at Alyeska resort, I was a ski patroller there and during the summers they had a small fly shop in the resort. I also harassed the owner of Mossy’s Fly Shop to let me put some flies out on consignment. Over 100 intruders sold in one day along with some other trout flies and I was stoked. My flies continued to be on consignment for a couple of years. An OPST rep bought some of my flies from Mossy’s and a few days later I got a call from OPST in Washington. They asked me if I would be interested in tying commercially, and I enthusiastically said yes. I ended up parting ways with OPST a few years ago, but I am incredibly grateful to them for everything they did for me. I decided to take a break from large wholesale orders and started selling more on my website.
Flylords: What’s your favorite fly to tie?
Jonathan: Some of my most popular flies I really am sick of tying, but I still fish them and they sell great. The Beast of Burden and Shuresock are both super fun to tie. The Beast of Burden is probably my favorite because it has a unique story behind it. The first day I fished it, I caught a really nice steelhead and I realized the potential it had. It’s been fished in Alaska, Washington, and all over.
Flylords: What are your flies made for?
Jonathan: My flies are mainly made for swinging, they are big and made for steelhead, rainbows, and salmon. I make my flies extremely durable, and I believe that is a necessity for any fly fishing, but especially Skagit and Spey fishing. Some of my customers purchase my flies just because of how durable they are, I build them to last. I do occasionally make special orders of saltwater flies for tarpon, bonefish, and other tropical species. Although I am picky with what special orders I pick, it is fun to change it up now and then to different fly styles.
Flylords: What is your favorite species to fish for?
Jonathan: Steelhead are without a doubt my favorite species to fish for. It has really bummed me out to see so many people on the Kenai Peninsula fishing at the crack of dawn to get a spot, but nothing beats steelhead fishing. I also really enjoy king and silver salmon fishing. I feel like silver are like lesser steelhead, they still fight insanely hard.
Flylords: What advice would you give to a beginning fly tyer?
Jonathan: Keep it simple. Start small and work up from there. Size 10, 12, or 14 are good places to start. I think learning to manage the size of a shank and calculating how to wrap thread is very important. There is a space for the body, hackle, thread head, and finding what goes where is helpful. Crowding the head is a common mistake that I make now and then, just take your time and make the effort to get it right. Wooly buggers are always a solid place to start, play around with tying them and then work your way up to streamers and such.
Flylords: Can people take fly tying lessons with you?
Jonathan: Yes, I do online classes that are available on my website. There are some instructional videos I have on youtube that you can watch for free. For more advanced fly tyers I do offer one on one fly tying, where we focus on a certain skill or fly. Interested people can purchase classes on my website or reach out to me via email, phone, or Instagram.