Mack Clark wrapped three shades of marabou feathers — olive, orange and brown — around a fish hook and then pulled out a longer chicken feather in an orange striped pattern to add on to his small creation.
It’s called a Triple Tail, and it’s pretty. But more importantly, brown trout like it too.
“We don’t know necessarily as fisherman what they take it for. They may take it for a dragonfly or a damselfly. They may take it for a minnow,” he said. “We don’t care as long as they bite it.”
Clark was one of about two dozen fly tying enthusiasts who sat behind tables displaying their artwork Saturday at the Fly Tying Festival, put on by the Umpqua Valley Fly Fishers at the Roseburg Country Club.
He said he’s been tying flies for 60 years since he was 12 or 14.
“There’s a certain feeling of accomplishment when you tie a fly,” he said.
At another table, Sara Jo Royalty was using a mix of materials — feather, chenille and thin strips called rubber legs — to create a pink, white and purple fly.
Royalty lived in Florida before moving to Bandon 12 years ago, and she used to be a commercial fisherwoman, catching tuna and swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean. These days, she works as a caddy at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and fishes for a smaller catch.
There are two ways to go about tying flies, Royalty said. One is matching the hatch. It involves overturning rocks and digging into the river soil where you plan to fish, seeing what types of bugs are there and tying flies that look like them.
Another way is to create something that looks less like what’s already in the water but has bright colors or textures that attract the fish.
The steelhead Royalty likes to fish for are sensitive to bright colors, and she had a rainbow array of the flies they like in front of her on the table.
When they enter freshwater, at first they like blues and greens and then as they become more used to the water they become sensitive to pinks and purples, she said. The rubber legs provide a texture they like to put in their mouths.
She said she’d like to see more women get involved, and she encouraged people who enjoy the hobby to reach out to women and invite them to learn how to tie flies.
“Maybe for a lot of women it would pique their interest if they had an invitation,” she said.
Karl Konecny of Glide is a member of the Steamboaters, a club that works to protect the North Umpqua River and its fly fishing. He’s been tying flies for 50 years, since he was 10 years old.
On Saturday, he was tying a fly called the Black Gordon, based on a pattern made by Clarence Gordon in the 1920s or 1930s. Gordon was the founder of the North Umpqua Lodge, a predecessor of the Steamboat Inn that was located on the other side of the river from the current inn in Idleyld Park.
“I like to tie a lot of the old traditional flies,” Konecny said.
Steelhead generally don’t eat much when they’re in freshwater, Konecny said, but they bite the flies anyway. It’s curiosity that kills the fish.
He said he got started tying flies because he thought he could make them more cheaply than he could buy them. He didn’t end up saving any money, but he did pick up a life-long hobby.
“It’s a great way to spend an evening instead of watching the boob tube,” he said.
“To me, it’s very relaxing and it’s special to get one I’ve tied and go out and catch a fish with it,” he said. “It’s one of the best ways to experience the river.”