4/02/2009

A.K. Best & Vince Marinaro


I was very inspired at around age 29 by a man who I thought really had a honest and contemporary perspective on fly tying. He used a lot of traditional materials but used them in a way that was innovative and thoughtful. Not only did he resurface some of the forgotten materials but he taught how to use them in a highly functional way. A.K. Best has since then been very inspirational when it comes to my own personal tying experience. The use of quills is something that now riddles my patterns as well as the use of hen hackle wings, and silk dubbing. I still dye my own rooster and pullet capes myself as well as strip and bleach my own quills. His hands on approach allows me to get exactly what I want when it comes to color, proportion, and profile. Back when e-mail was not as accessible I wrote back and forth to him quite a bit and he sent me some feathers in the mail. He introduced me to Coq de Leon feathers and their many uses especially when it came to tailing. I did not like artificial tailing for duns or spinners so he enlightened me on the many uses of this highly prized feather. Now I still get my Coq de Leon from Argentina and employ the use of this feather in a myriad of ways. I have used many of A.K.’s dun patterns over the years and they have always proved themselves time and time again. I never quite warmed up to post or cut wings but fell in love with his winging techniques using pullet, which once learned, these wings are actually quite easy and fast to execute. Most of the dry fly’s that I tie are A.K. inspired with the exception of my terrestrial patterns. A.K. seems to be a blend of Catskill, British, and good ole’ Yankee know how when it comes to fly tying techniques and patterns.

A Modern Dry-Fly Code by Vince Marinaro is book that I have read from cover to cover about thirty times and much of his dry fly perspectives are similar to A.K.’s. Both definitely hold a certain conviction when it comes to profiles of fly’s, color, and proportion. Again they are more inclined to use natural materials and do some very creative improvisation to manipulate these materials. Hackling duns for example Marinaro style is very intriguing and also very difficult. If you’ve ever tried the “x” criss-crossing manipulation while winding hackle it can be very fickle. A.K.’s method of creating a uniform and sparsely hackled fly is much more obtainable, and fast. Although the thought behind Marinaro’s technique is spot on. I personally tie it both ways depending on what kind of water I am fishing and the size of the fly. I was able to obtain a lifetime supply of porcupine quills from a veterinarian and tie Marinaro’s hopper pattern that floats perfectly with the two outrigger-style quills. A.K. uses quills the same way, for buoyancy, and layers them on larger fly’s creating a kind of life-preserver making them float like corks. Traditional Catskill-style fly’s that use quills are so thin that you cannot see any contrast to create the illusion of segmentation. A.K. uses a thicker section of Chinese Rooster quill and overlaps the quill on itself to create a more profiled abdomen.

Both of these men were and are very giving when it comes to sharing their perspectives and craft with the world. I feel blessed that I was inspired by them so long ago and still employ and evolve their techniques today.

Recommended Reading:
Production Fly Tying by A.K. Best
Fly Tying with A.K. by A.K. Best
A Modern Dry-Fly Code by Vincent Marinaro