Tim Flagler is a legendary YouTube creator, content creator, host, guide and instructor. His work on the Tightline Video YouTube channel shows how many of us have found his company, Tightline Productions, but his influence on the industry goes far beyond the digital world. Tim is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to techniques and tips and it was a pleasure to get the chance to pick his brain about what gets his creative juices flowing.
Flylords: Let’s start with a little about yourself, who is Tim Flagler?
Tim: My wife Joan and I own a video production company called Tightline Productions. In the past, we’ve done a wide variety of video work, but in recent years we’ve focused more and more on fly tying and the fly fishing industry as a whole. I started fly fishing and tying flies while in college in the early 80’s.
Flylords: Do you have a favorite fly that comes to mind?
Tim: Yes, it’s a pattern I developed about six years ago called Evil Olive that is based on Spencer Higa’s SOS, with a few major variations. The reason I like it so much is that it has worked for me almost year-round and almost everywhere I go. I may have caught more fish on it than any other single model.
Flylords: What gets your creative juices flowing? How are new flies born? Where do you start? How do you choose the materials? Etc…?
Tim: This is a big question. For me, inspiration comes from two very different things. The first is that I regularly sample the stream and shoot close-up videos of the naturals in a series of fish tanks. This allows me to see details and behavior that I think are very important in fly design. Another source of inspiration is a variety of fly tying materials that have been around for centuries: Hungarian Quail, Wood Duck, Brahma Hen, Peacock Herl, Pine Squirrel and Hackle, to name a few. These can be mixed and matched in many different ways and I love experimenting with unique combinations of some or all of them.
Flylords: Of all the gear involved in the fly tying process, what’s one piece of gear you could never live without?
Flylords: Which part do you like more: fly fishing, or tying them?
Tim: Honestly, it depends on the day. There are times when I’m extremely excited and motivated to hook up, and others when I just need to get on the water no matter what.
Flylords: Why did you start linking on YouTube? Has this affected your passion for the relationship as a whole?
Tim: The YouTube link was kind of a happy accident, but over time I realized how effective the video was in teaching people how to tie flies. I learned to tie from books and magazines, which are fine, but fly tying is a very dynamic thing and, when done right, video can capture almost every detail and nuance. My true passion has now shifted from tying flies for myself to teaching others how to tie.
Flylords: What is the process of making a fly and then selling it? When do you know it’s ready for production?
Tim: I am constantly changing the patterns, shooting videos of how they look and behave underwater in the environment they will be fished in, making sure they are stable and of course catch fish. I will also remove anything that is not absolutely essential from a model. I don’t like plugins unless they have something meaningful to contribute to the model. I know a fly is ready for production when I’ve gone at least a few months fishing it effectively without wanting to make any changes to it. I feel so lucky that Fulling Mill carries some of my favorites.
Flylords: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get started in fly-tying? Tips or tricks?
Tim: I’m obviously biased here, but YouTube has tons of related videos. Choose a video level that connects the models you are interested in and plan to use, and follow them. Watch videos of the same pattern but from different video levels to find the techniques that work well for you, level. I’m prone to catching some fire here, but I truly believe there is no right or wrong way to tie a fly. Again, it’s what works best for you. Probably the biggest actual dating tip I can give anyone is to be able to see your own work. This requires good, quality light and, for many of us, some sort of zoom.
Flylords: How valuable do you think a resource like YouTube is for teaching people how to tie/fly fish? Did you find any downsides?
Tim: The only downside I see with YouTube videos is that just because you’ve seen the video doesn’t mean you can tie the fly. You really need to sit down and figure some out yourself.
Flylords: How do you keep finding ways to be creative on the fly?
Tim: Instagram is really good for that. There are some incredible levels in there that tie in some pretty wild and inventive stuff. Many of them are also excellent photographers. It’s a great place to get new ideas.
Flylords: What’s Next for Tim Flagler?
Tim: The next big thing for Tim Flagler and Tightline Productions is a series of fly fishing tips and techniques, not just butterfly tying. It’s just a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up from others over the years or developed myself.