Fly Tying Class @ GOPC

by Rudy Hayden – Charlotte Manager

Spring is near and I was anxiously waiting for warmer temps and stellar fishing. I was overly confident in saying to others and myself, “I won’t fish any other flies but my own until I catch something”. I recently became hooked on fly tying after taking three really good classes with Sam and Scott at the good ole’ GOPC.
I had fished Helton creek just south of the Va. Border on Hwy. 16 North of West Jefferson. I was breaking ice and struggling with frozen flies and guides just to narrowly find a few lanes of water to wet the line. After much deliberation I managed to pull two small rainbows from this ice ridden stream. I was pleased with my persistence despite such harsh conditions and my novice ability. I packed it up shortly thereafter for a hot cup of coffee to warm the flesh and bones. I already envisioned my return to this beautiful stream to have several more hook ups.
Rudy - Charlotte Shop Manager
Not even a week later I was itching to get back out and go fishin’. With continued cold temps and free time on my hands I joined in the fly-tying class with Sam & Scott at the GOP. After three very informative classes I gave it a go on my own with little equipment and almost no experience. Sam set me up with just enough insight and materials to quench my appetite. Soon enough, I was tying sparkly nymphs in the morning while drinking coffee and tying more before retiring to bed. Within a matter of days I became a tying fool.


I was amazed at the simplicity and beauty of making art with some feathers and other colorful materials. My girlfriend was intrigued by this new hobby that had captured so much of my interest and leisure time. I began to show her what I had been up to and how it’s done.
I asked her to pick out three or four materials from this stack of colors that easily covered the spectrum of the rainbow. With some bright chenille, dubbing, peacock hurl and some flash, in only five minutes I tied what seemed to be a magical nymph. Now I was anxious to tie a few of Rudy’s specials for my fellow tying classmates as well as my fishin’ companions in the store.
Two days later I was well armed with a new arsenal of very special fish catchin bugs. My dries weren’t looking too spectacular but I figured that would be fine since I fish nymphs 98% of the time and evidently fish eat subsurface 99% of the time. The odds were looking good and I was getting very excited to hit some water.

It seems timing is everything sometimes and that Thursday evening everything came together full circle. Two loyal customers, Eric and Mr. Watts wandered in the store on a cold and rainy evening to buy some tying materials and talk fishing. I shared my recent passion with the two and soon enough we were talking fishing and tying, sharing stories and tricks of the trade. Tying had brought a high school student, a grandfather, and me together to share some common ground. It was a good feeling and fueled my fire even more. I got home and geared up for two days on the water. I was definitely pumped.

I woke early, tied a few and headed for the NC side of the Watagua in Vally Crucis. After about 2.25 hours of driving I had my waders on and was ready to go. Just after putting a double nymph system on my rig the Armstrong fish hatchery dump truck pulled up to let em in. Oh man. Game was on. I talked shop with the nice volunteers who were local to Foscoe and got an eye on the trout they were getting ready to find a new home for.

I headed to the water and scoped out the scene. After very heavy rain the previous day, I second-guessed not brining the kayak to make it a float trip instead. I recalled Sam and my conversation about fishing conditions after a hard rain and how it can be really good to fish heavy streamers and the fact that the low visibility can be a really good thing. Sticking to my game plan of using my own flies, I tried fishing the double nymphs for quite some time. I was having a really difficult time getting a drag free drift down with all the rushing water and getting them down deep enough to where the fish were holding. I was puzzled.

I began wandering the edges of the water, as the wading was dangerous and difficult. I began scouting calmer, smoother sections so I could get a better fly presentation. After what seemed like a few hours and with not even 1 hit I was getting a little frustrated and beginning to smell the scent of skunk around me. I began playing more fetch with my dog than I was doing fishing.
I thought to myself, “This is good experience, more challenging conditions that will ultimately make me a better fisherman”. Yeah, but I wanted to catch some darn fish. I decided to tie on a big ole flashy streamer that Jay from Tight Lines so generously gave me. I did my best to get it out there and down deep and strip it in. I was beginning to wish that I had brought the 5 weight fighting the harsh wind and raging water. I soon snagged and broke that one off. Then I threw on a wooly bugger and covered a lot of water. I switched back and forth to streamers and nymphs, but to no avail. I was bummed. It was time to take a break and grab some lunch.

Hot coffee and a sandwhich at the Ham Shoppe treated me extremely well. Then I headed to Appalachian Angler to see what tying materials they have. I could at least tie flies and dream about fish even though I wasn’t catching any. Justin and I spoke about the fishing conditions and he said the high pressure made it difficult for other anglers that day as well. That made me feel a little better. There was still about an hour of daylight left and he convinced me that the fishing was good right behind the shop. I headed to the truck and threw on the waders and vest. My dog and I headed to the water for another attempt.

After stripping a woolley bugger for 30 minutes, I still had no sight or scent of fish. Justin came down after closing down the shop and he was nice enough to show me some casting and stripping techniques, which gave me a renewed sense of competence. I headed to the calm section just downstream of a huge pool and was let the bugger drift downstream on the other side of the bank where they normally hold. A few casts later and there he was. Fish on!


I pulled in a beautiful little brookie and grinned from ear to ear. It was a long and trying day on the water but it was all worthwhile. Granted it wasn’t on a bugger I tied but I still gave it my all. I thanked Justin for his help and packed it up to head back to West Jefferson. I got home and found myself tying flies fireside, restocking for tomorrow on Helton creek.

I woke early, tied a few and waited for it to warm up and the 20mph winds to die down. Kaya and I drove the short 20 minutes to Helton. I got out of the truck and once again thought I should have brought the kayak. Wind was howling and I was the only fisherman out there. Well… Another challenging day of fishing before me. At least I’m out here right? I fished the sections I knew where fish held. I could only use heavy streams since the water was raging and the wind howling. After about 45 fruitless minutes I thought—“I can either go home and tie flies fireside or I can head back to the Watagua since the water there had already calmed yesterday evening”.

I drove south, still unsure what I was going to do. I got to the stop sign where I would turn left to home and right to Boone on 221 South. I made the right turn and never looked back. 40 minutes later I had another cup of coffee and fresh Ham Shoppe sandwhich in my stomach and I was ready for it!

I fished the smooth calm section with a woolly bugger for about 40 minutes but to no avail. I’m gonna go for broke. I tied on two on my special flashy nymphs and got a drag free drift going just beyond this down tree and the water. My indicator jerked down, I lifted the line and fish was on. I landed a beautiful little brown and I couldn’t have been more satisfied. My first fish caught on my fly!

Brown Trout

I headed up stream ready for more action. It was still slow and conditions were tough. There were only about 1.5 hours of daylight left and I had to make it back up to West Jefferson for dinner plans. I moved into this run with several different seams and got another hook up! Yesssirrreee! I had found the honey hole. Cast after cast I was pulling out rainbows, browns, and brookies. I lost count and just got lost in the moment. The sun was shining, my doggie was watching me pull fish in with excitement and I was all-alone in the best spot I could have asked for. All my efforts had paid off. The day couldn’t have finished any better. I was so well satisfied.

As I write this journal entry I think about my future experiences tying and fishing in the outdoors. I envision the day where my Dad takes up fly-fishing and I can share my passion and experience with him so that we can spend quality time together on the river. I think of teaching others this sport that has been so rewarding and fulfilling to me. My days of climbing, mountain biking, and skiing , and all the rest of my hobbies are few and far between. I’m so glad to have found this hobby that consumes a good portion of my leisure time for the rest of my life. Thanks to GOPC, and especially Sam, Gwen, Alex, and Scott for sharing their knowledge and experience with me so that I can share with others. Signing off, I’m going to tie another. Fish on!

>> Rudy Hayden is the Manager of the Charlotte Shop. Stop by, he’d love to chat about fly tying