Recap: The Art Of Fly Fishing— A Workshop With Eric Hillerns

“Overcast days like this are the best for casting on the river,” said Eric Hillerns as he flicked a fishing rod back and forth across NE TIllamook Street. A group of twenty fly fishing novices had gathered for a workshop on the sport and a lesson on tying flies by hand. Eric HIllerns, a brand strategist at Ovo, shared over 30-years of fishing experience with the group over the three-hour workshop held on Saturday, March 5.

The morning session started with a thorough overview of the sport’s nearly 2,000 year-old-history. Hillerns shared Claudius Aelians writing from 175 AD, which touched on the Ancient Greek’s use of red wool lures. Next we heard about Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, which was updated over a 25-year stretch as the sport quickly evolved in 15th century England. Finally, Hillerns shared modern wisdom from Bernard ‘Lefty’ Kreh, the American fisherman who took the sport into saltwater in the 1950s.

Using flies instead of bait helps anglers catch as many different species as possible with a beautiful artificial lure. Dry flies appeared in the 18th century, and drastically changed the game. Unlike baited hooks, the fly sits on top of the water, allowing the fisherman to see the line at all times. It allows them to focus on the fish that prey on winged insects by presenting and imitating a meal right where the fish expects it.

Oregon is a mecca for the fly fisherman, and the spring season marks the hatchings of insects such as the stonefly, mayfly, caddisfly, and an assortment of midges. Hatches will ignite on the surface waters of the rivers across the state, attracting fish as well as anglers. Hillerns noted that the Deschutes River in Central Oregon is good for catching trout and steelhead. Around the same area, the Metolius is known for rainbow and brown trout alike. The McKenzie River near Eugene is where hatching mayflies attract local trout. Springing down from Mt. Hood, the Sandy River also has trout and steelhead that feed on surface-grazing stoneflies. On the Clackamas River, closest to Portland, you may find salmon and steelhead.

After understanding the duties of a fly, Hillerns showed us the art of tying one by hand. Selecting a fly depends on your location and target fish. These animals are use to seeing particular bugs on their waters, and Hillerns pointed out particular tools and resources to help ensure you come to the waters equipped with what the fish are hungry for. Just like any art form, HIllerns suggested focusing perfecting a few patterns first. The Woolly Bugger is a classic catch-all type of fly. Participants hunkered down on their vices, threaded their bobbins, and within 25 minutes had tied their very first fly.

Check out more photos here. All photos by Daniel Cole.