Eric Hillerns

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.

The Art of Fly fishing— A Workshop with Eric Hillerns

Photo by: Clifton Burt

Photo by: Clifton Burt

The beautiful and meditative sport of fly fishing has captured our hearts at WeMake and we are so excited to be hosting a fly fishing and tying workshop with the seemingly omnipresent Eric Hillerns

During this 3-hour workshop, Hillerns will teach you the basic components of the cast, a little about the equipment and more about the life in and of the rivers he fishes and how the craft of making artificial flies defines more than the aquatic insects they aim to represent. 

Together, we will tie a true fly box staple—the classic Wooly Bugger (best read in a British accent). While simple to tie, this classic pattern is both a great lesson for first-timers and a timeless go-to fly for seasoned pros. The Wooly Bugger is a little bit of everything and nothing in particular; active hatching insect or forage fish. Yet its proven design charms nearly every brand of Oregon's favorite game fish — from brown and rainbow trout to carp, and it's been known to rouse many a healthy steelhead or salmon. 

Plan to get heads-down in front of your vice and tie a Wooly Bugger and receive fundamentals that makes casting a fly rod and fishing with flies the ideal confluence of art, design and science. Not only is Hillerns an avid fly angler, he has also spearheaded several design initiatives, from Designspeaks with Ace Hotel, AIGA and The Long Table, to Design Week Portland. When he’s not on one of the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest, Hillerns is the senior brand strategist at OVO and a part-time river guide and host with Holm, his personal project dedicated to designing product, content and experience. 

Date: Saturday, March 5th
Place: Tillamook Station
Cost: $40
All Materials included. Continental breakfast and snacks provided!