Salmonfly.Net Salmon and Steelhead Fly Tying Guide  In Memory of Yuri Shumakov

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The Flies of Clifford J. Carstens

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Bob FrandsenWhen I began corresponding with British Columbia fly tyer Cliff Carstens, who has been tying now for 30 plus years, he told me that he had to learn his skills through a lot of trial and error. All I can say to that is that he certainly learned a lot along the way and I wish I could be half as successful through all of my trials and errors. I sure am happy that Cliff decided to join the Salmonfly.Net Contributing Fly tyer community and share some samples of his skillfully tied Speys, Dees, Classics, and Originals. By the way, Cliff also offered his services as a resource for viewers planning trips to the south western portion of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. As he put it, “As I've said many times to myself and others, I would have really appreciated any help I could have gotten in the early years, rather than stumbling and bumbling and muddling my way through many misinterpreted and mistied flies.” Read on now about what Cliff has to say about himself but don't forget to take a look at his flies.

I was born in 1964 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The first 4 years or so of my life were spent in the small pulp mill town of Ocean Falls , located on the central coast of BC. My father had an old 19 foot cabin cruiser and he used to take me fishing with him when I was just a toddler. So I guess you could say I’ve been fishing all my life. When the economy of the town started to wane, we moved to Port Alice. Port Alice is another mill town located towards the north end of Vancouver Island. That stay however, only lasted 8 months before we moved to the Lower Mainland. Vancouver was our next stop, then Burnaby, and finally, Surrey, where I still live today.

I started tying flies very early, around the age of 8 or 9. I had no tools so I taught myself how to tie “in hand”. My materials consisted of what ever I could pilfer from my mom’s knitting bag and feathers I found on the ground or scrounged out of the bottom of our budgie’s cage. The only instruction I had was the information I could glean from books that I was able to sign out from the local public library. These books, by Roderick Haig-Brown, Helen Shaw, and others, were my foundation and introduction to fly tying. I got my first fly tying kit for my tenth birthday. Soon after that I caught my first fish on a fly, a pretty little…. and dumb Cutthroat trout of around 9 inches in length. It succumbed to my motley assemblage of wool and feathers and started me on my way. I (pardon the pun) was hooked!

In 1977, we made a trip as family to Europe where my parents are from and I was fortunate enough to be able to do some fishing in the canals of Amsterdam and The Hague, in Holland. It wasn’t fly-fishing, but at 13 years of age, I didn’t really care. I was fishing! The following years have been spent traipsing around British Columbia chasing after salmon, trout and my passion, steelhead. I wander the banks of Fraser Valley Rivers and streams hoping to feel the often-violent pull of my quarry O. Mykiss. These trips have been supplemented by pilgrimages to the mighty Thompson River which some may consider steelheading heaven and Interior lakes for Rainbow trout.

After much prodding from a tackle storeowner and friend, Tony Nootebos, I started tying commercially around 1996 and haven’t looked back. Tony has given up his tackle store but still guides for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon on the mighty Fraser River and other waters. Of all the flies I tie, I find tying Spey and Dee style flies the most rewarding. There is something about their profile and lines I find quite appealing. Maybe it’s their wispy hackles or their sometimes-brilliant colours. What ever it is, they’re the stuff for me! Inspired by the likes of Syd Glasso, Bob Veverka, Art Lingren, John Shewey and too many others to list, I continue to learn and hone my craft, striving always to get better.

Clifford J Carstens

The Flies

AckroydLady Caroline Thunder and Lightning

Canadian GirlPink Guinea Fancy Sweet Irish Lass

Peacock and Orange DeeTaylors Golden SpeyWine Marabou Spey

Bead Head Rolled Muddler

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