Number Two Hundred

By: Val Kropiwnicki

4056 days ago today, 11 years, and 37 days ago, some time ago, a long time ago, in what seems like yesterday I started on this creative fly tying journey. With a fly named “the Lethe.310.SP” I jumped in, I jumped on the idea of tying 200 original patterns.


Along the way I tied flies, I made art. I tied flies about religion, about sex, about politics, about people who pissed me off, people I love, people I miss dearly in this life.

I tied a fly on a hook that my wife’s father used when he took her fishing as a kid. I never met the man, he died before I was in the picture but in a way we talked, one night over a hook.

I tied flies for therapy, for conservation, for people who were sick, I tied flies to hark the history of this sport and to mimic Victorian chaps who tied flies to catch fishermen not fish.

Along the way, I tied flies inspired by bugs, flies inspired by fish, inspired by geography, inspired by space, inspired by guns, inspired by cars, and inspired by a bull named “Bodacious”, and I tied flies because of songs, so many songs.

I tied fly #1 as I ran back and forth to the hospital as my mom lay dying from congestive heart failure and I tied a fly with leather from my dead father’s wallet, and from the fur from my dead dog, Bowie. I was tying a fly when he crawled under my tying bench and pawed at my shin. I noticed the gesture but missed his grand signal – he died the next day. I’ll never sell those flies. So yes, death is fly tying to me, and in times of death, I tied flies but to equalize life I tied flies as gifts to my friends to celebrate the birth of their children as well.

I tied flies at shows and saying that reminds me of the great people and good friends tying flies has brought me. I tied the seasons, I tied weeds and I tied on trees, a cherry tree if I’m dropping names now. I tied blue, I tied white, and I tied orange, I tied Mondrian and Klimt and I marked years in my children’s lives by flies. That one is from when you had the lead in the school play and that one is University of Rochester Blue and Yellow.

For 11 years I tied my life.

This fly is No.200, the grande Lethe.421.SSSP. My intent, simply a dolled-up version No. 1.

So I’m through now, I’m finished but not done because there are a couple of things I’ve learned from all this. The first is that being lost in the macro world of stacking threads and layering floss and materials is a soothing foil to the frenetic, the hectic, the backstabbing and greed, the monetized and politicized and misinformed, the entitled and the sloth. The second is that tying frail floss with work-worn hands requires slowing down, and slowing down means actually slowing down, and actually slowing down is, well, kinda hard in these times, this life, and that tying flies is at its least, and also at its best, a good calm in a good storm.

Featured Fly Tyer: VK Steelworks

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