Thursday April 17, 2014

Franken Fly creates beastly bugs

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Welcome to Week LXXXIV of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

There is an image of fly tiers which is, well stately comes to mind.

The hobby is one steeped in traditions which reaches back a century and beyond, and as an activity there is an aura of the gentlemen of old stooped over a vice creating small feathered flies to fool even the wariest of trout.

So when I happened up the Facebook Page of Paul Beel's 'Franken Fly' I took a double take at the scared skull logo and of course stopped in for a closer look.

That Beel takes a somewhat less traditional view of fly tying, at least in terms of a logo appealed to me, since I have avoided being very traditional in many things I do. I rather like when someone keeps the square edges, refusing to shave them off to fit the usual safe round hole society might offer.

And so I popped off a few questions for Beel, a long the way finding he not only shares my passion for fishing, but also for pulp fiction, which I suppose is another indication of our non-conventional approach to things.

It was Beel's love of writimg which had him start his blog at

"A few years ago I had some experience in blogging. I'm a web developer and I had an interest in a computer operating system that I wrote a blog about. So with that experience, I knew what to do," he explained.

"However, Cameron Mortenson at The Fiberglass Manifesto really inspired me to do a blog. I would read TFM everyday and I saw how he was doing things and so that's what really made me decide to launch a blog of my own.

"Before doing so, I emailed Cameron and Jason Tucker at Fontinalis Rising and told them the idea I had for FrankenFly and asked for their opinion and advice. When I received a good response from both of them, I decided I was ready to go ahead and start. I began FrankenFly back in October of 2012.

"One of the other reasons I chose to start FrankenFly was because I really enjoy writing and I had written a few magazine articles, but I wanted to do more about fly fishing. I have a real passion for fly tying, so it was the obvious choice for me and I was excited to start something like FrankenFly."

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It is something I can relate to. I actually got my start in the newspaper business agreeing to write a sports column, since I am a sports fan, and was even more so one in my younger years, for my hometown newspaper in Tisdale. It was a 1000-words a week which I would pound out for just short of a decade for the whopping big fee of $10/week. The money helped defray the costs of 'Hockey News' in the day it was still a weekly paper worth reading, but the real reason for doing it was that I found I enjoyed writing. I suppose that is largely why I do this particular column weekly even now.

Beel said he has modest hopes for the site.

"I guess the goal for the site would be to create a site that people would like to visit and read about fly tying and other fly tiers," he replied. "I had also hoped FrankenFly would become The Fiberglass Manifesto of the fly tying world. There is no doubt it is achieving what I had hoped. The site has become well known and I've had a lot of great compliments about the site in the seven months that it's been live."

But even here it goes back to a love of writing and what that writing can accomplish.

"Probably the best thing I love about the site is being able to communicate with and get to know the other fly tiers," offered Beel. "I've met some great guys that are very talented fly tiers and fly fishermen. Several have become good friends and I really enjoy being in touch with them.

"I love all the feedback I've been receiving on the site. I haven't received any negative feedback at this point, which is a good thing. What did surprise me was when I was at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in Michigan and when I would mention FrankenFly, I had many say, 'Oh you write FrankenFly, I've visited that site, that is an awesome site!' I was thrilled to hear that!"

Before the blog though, was an interest in fly tying itself.

"My grandpa showed me how to fish when I was about 10-years-old," said Beel. "He wasn't a fly fishermen though. We would fish for bass and bluegill because that's the species closest to me in this area of Indiana. Grandpa was a skilled handy man and he would make his own lures. He would carve the wood, use metal from various junk lying around and make his own."

And that planted a seed in Beel.

"I always wanted to do this myself, but my grandpa came down with Parkinson's disease and I never had the chance to learn that part from him," he said.

"About three-years ago I was reading fishing information online and ran into a fly fishing story. I don't remember what the story was about, but it made me research more on the subject and I started reading about stuff I had never heard of, like Woolly Buggers, Blue Winged Olives, and nymphs.

"This went on for weeks and I found myself reading more fly fishing information than my normal bait fishing information. I realized in my research that I could actually tie my own flies and learn how to tie classic flies that had been around for a long time.

"I started fly tying before actually fly fishing. I bought a cheap beginner's vise and began reading everything I could get my hands on about fly tying and tying everyday. By that time, I knew I wanted to stick with fly fishing, so I had an instructor show me how to cast with a fly rod. I've been in the fly fishing world ever since."

Like many who sit at a tying vice, Beel has worked at being creative, coming up with his own design creations to entice fish.

"I think the two I'm most proud of are Bernard's Green Bomber and the Bearded Biscuit," he said he wrote about the Bernard's Green Bomber on his website;

"Bernard's Green Bomber was designed to be similar to one of my grandpa's old lures that he made. This lure was green with red eyes and was articulated. So I wanted to design a fly version of this lure and that's how I arrived at the streamer called Bernard's Green Bomber. It has terrific action in the water and is designed to catch bass. It could also be used for trout.

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"The Bearded Biscuit is a streamer I had been playing with for awhile. With its lead eyes, it has a nice up and down flowing action in the water. Spirit River Inc. is in the process of accepting this fly for their catalog. So I'm extremely excited about that! This fly was also designed for bass, but could be used for trout.

"I tie a lot of streamers, but I also tie nymphs and dry flies too. I love the history behind old fly patterns and tyers, so I get into tying old classic trout flies that aren't around anymore."

While fly tiers tend to gravitate to trout, Beel said he fishes for what the water offers.

"I fish for bass and bluegill here at home, but I head up to Michigan every year to fish for trout," he said.

"With that said, my favorite fishing spot has to be the Au Sable River up near Grayling, Michigan. I love the beauty of the Au Sable and the wonderful history behind the legends that used to fish there. I would live there if I could."

Not surprisingly Beel now prefers a fly rod.

"Well I think the biggest difference for me is being able to catch a fish on a fly I tied," he said. "That is an amazing feeling. But I also like the challenge and the elegance of a fly cast. I get inspired when watching a talented caster throw their line out with a perfect loop. What a sight!"

I'll interject here that there is indeed something special about catching fish with something you have created. I am in no way suggesting a bottle cap lure made by my hand is a skillful creation like a fly, but when a pike hits the lure I made, it most certainly heightens the experience of that catch.

Interestingly, when I asked Beel to recall a single fish, it was not a trout, but the bass his grandfather taught him to love first.

"Since bass are my main species here in Indiana, I have a soft spot for them," he said. "I love that type of fish. The one that stands out to me right now would be a four-pounder I caught at St. Joseph's Lake. I was using a streamer designed by Mike Schmidt called Mike's Meal Ticket. I was watching my fly as I stripped it up. I was almost ready to pull it up out of the water when this monster came up from the deep and gulped the entire fly in one bite! It was awesome."

And that is an image we can all dream on as we look out on the drifts of snow waiting for spring still months away.



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