When avid angler Bob Johnson wets a hook, not many fish get away. They are caught by special flies — those that Johnson has hand-tied in an upstairs room of his house.
He has fished for trout in 14 states in the United States; smallmouth bass in Oklahoma; steelhead trout in British Columbia; sea-run brown trout in Argentina and New Zealand; silver salmon in Alaska and Canada; tarpon and bonefish in Florida, the Bahamas, Belize and Mexico; and snook and redfish in Florida and Louisiana. He studied the fishes’ natural prey in these areas. The flies that he tied to his line draw those fish out of hiding, and they bite the barbed hook. Johnson knows that the fish really like his brightly colored Midnight Special, Purple Passion or Pink Cadillac flies (he has a name for each one of his creations.) You have heard of fish stories, but Johnson’s biggest catch (with a photo to prove it) is a 111-pound Atlantic tarpon. It liked the fly embellished with red and white feathers. The picture he has displayed in his room also features that original fly that hooked the large fish. Johnson’s room in the home where he and his wife, Gennie Johnson, live has lots of pictures of him and his fish. There is an antique desk where he sits with his vise (a tool that holds an object for tying) and spotlight. Stuck in the cubbyholes of the desk are colorful feathers, quills and spools of thread. He uses the colors yellow, purple, teal, red, orange, blue, lime, brown, gray, black and even pink for those wily fish to choose from. There also are some sparkly feathers and yarns that he uses in his flies for contrasting colors. Different waters, weather conditions and changing seasons affect the type of lure needed. He makes dry flies, wet flies (these float gently in the current, following the movement of the water), nymphs and bass flies. He also creates shrimp and crab lures. He uses feathers from turkey, golden pheasant, guinea, jungle cock and rooster, and he has five or six types of knots that he ties. "It takes me about 45 minutes per fly,” he said. He creates most of the flies before he travels to an area since carrying all the equipment to make them causes extra luggage weight. He does carry a small case with him with extra feathers and hooks.