and Gretchen Beatty have become the “first couple” of the fly tying world.
Active on many on-line forums and ubiquitous in their written
contributions to the fly fishing and fly tying magazine industry, Al and
Gretchen are a veritable fountain of fly tying knowledge. They’ve earned
that knowledge; Gretchen learned the art of fly tying at her father’s knee
at the tender age of six and Al began at age fourteen. Together they are a
formidable commercial fly tying team with thousands of dozens of flies to
their credit. In a world where off-shore commercial fly tying is the rule,
the ability to compete and succeed domestically speaks volumes about this
couples efficiency, creativity and quality.
A bit more than a decade ago Johnny Fisker, the creator of the
Danvise, approached the Beatty’s about distributing that remarkable tool
in the United States. An agreement was reached, the Danvise hit the
market, and the Beatty’s quickly found that they had to become experts in
rotary fly tying techniques to properly and effectively promote the new
tool. Since Gretchen had learned to tie on a treadle machine – a Rube
Goldberg-like adaptation of a foot-operated sewing machine – and Al had
had considerable experience with a variety of rotary vises it appeared to
be a relatively simple task. As with so many things in life, the Beatty’s
found that rotary fly tying was rich in new techniques and demanding of
new skills. A small project became a driving fascination and the rest, as
they say, is history.
Rotary Fly-Tying Techniques is a new book by the Beatty’s. It is
the first of its kind and, judged by any conceivable standards it’s
destined to become one of the classics. Anyone who owns, or plans to own,
a rotary fly tying vise of any kind owes it to themselves to get this
book. In fact, I believe this book is one which should be included in even
a modest fly tying library. With its detailed examination of fly tying
history, its inclusion of a number of simple and useful patterns, and its
clearly presented demonstration of tying principles, this is a book that
will help anyone become a better crafter of fishing flies. It’s a book
that can (and should) stand beside the likes of Art Flick’s Master
Fly-Tying Guide, Eric Lieser’s Fly Tying Materials, A.K. Best’s
Fly Tying, and Mastering the Art of Fly-Tying by Dick Talleur.
Rotary Fly-Tying Techniques starts with an exploration of the
history of rotary fly tying. I was flabbergasted to find out that rotary
tying can be dated to a pre World War II time frame. According to the authors,
Gretchen’s aunt, Ms. Lois Coon, tied commercially on a treadle machine for
the Glen L. Evans Company at that time. The Beatty’s personal history with
this esoteric technology is astonishing! Chapter Three is a photo-rich
essay on tying with these antique machines. The treadle vise, the Dean
Pollard vise (a strange hybrid reminiscent of an electric can-opener and
lathe, adorned with a jaw to hold the hook) and the Universal manual vise are all
featured as the techniques used in a rotary environment are demonstrated
on three fishable patterns.
Subsequent chapters demonstrate several different patterns and
tying techniques on each of the Nor-Vise, the Dyna-King Barracuda, the
Abel Supreme, the amazing Danvise, the Griffin Montana Mongoose, the Peak
and Renzetti vises. This is quite a treasure trove of information because
the reader can look at this from the point of view of a vise model
comparison, a demonstration of pure technique, a tutorial on the creative
freedom and efficiency of rotary tying, and a series of rotary tying
exercises that will build a basic skill set. I am constantly amazed, being
a self-taught tier who’s refined his bad habits for nearly four decades,
at how different using the full ability of a rotary vise makes the tying
experience and, even more surprisingly, how poorly my modest abilities translated to this realm
without proper instruction! I learned a lot, and that’s the highest
compliment I can pay to a how-to book.
Rotary Fly-Tying Techniques (ISBN 978-1-57118-418-3) is available
from Frank Amato Publications for $24.95.
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