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Me tying.Over the years, I have asked many tiers to write a short bio about themselves for Salmonfly.Net, but after thinking for a a long while about this one, I realize what a daunting task I have given them. It is not an easy thing to do. How do you condense a lifetime into a few short paragraphs? I can't do it myself, so if you are interested at all, you will have to put up with my long-windedness. First and foremost, I must tell you that I am a a religious man and a family man, so my love for my faith and family come first. That is a long story, best left for another forum, but it does explain why I cannot devote all my time to fishing and fly tying and perhaps why I have never mastered those crafts. There are other more important things in this life. I didn't always know that, though...

I was born in Maine and lived a small country village in So. Portland for the first years of my life. It was there, I know, where I grew to love the outdoors and eventually to love fishing. I was a middle child, kind of a loner, so I wandered quite a bit, exploring the fields and the woods behind my house, the muddy stream and the dammed pond on the other side of the development. In those days you could wander for hours and discover things without parents worrying about who might be looking for an opportunity to make you their victim.

I spent countless hours catching Garter Snakes, lifting rocks for Red-Backed Salamanders, wading to my chest with a net to snare Painted Turtles, or testing my reflexes to snatch a Green Frog attempting its escape. But the most wonderful experiences that I ever had were when I caught my first fish. Those early years were with a throw line, a weight, and a worm hook, the rig I could afford with the little change we got from my parents or from picking strawberries at the local farm. They were the only way I knew of to catch fish because my world did not include tackle stores and fishing literature. My father didn't fish. No one ever brought me. I discovered it on my own. The pond at the end of the stream, the one with the dam, was stocked with trout and catfish. With a worm for bait, I caught quite a few, the first step to a lifelong love. Many of you have probably begun with similar roots.

That is the beginning. In the middle years I took up an interest in fly-fishing that bloomed when I started to pick up the literature. By that time my family had moved to upstate New York. The Adirondack Mountain streams beckoned from the north and the famed Catskill Streams lured me to the south. First Ray Bergman, then later Dave McLain, Art Flick, Poul Jorgensen, Eric Leiser, Dave Whitlock, Doug Swisher and Carl Richards, Ernest Schwiebert and a host of others, convinced me that the only worthy pursuit was the trout caught on a fly. I never really did just buy flies. I knew from the beginning that the only way to truly feel the great accomplishment of having a trout strike the fly was to have it be one that I constructed myself. I slowly invested in the tools and materials I needed to make the imitations that mimicked the mayflies, stoneflies, and terrestrial insects of the streams I loved. That was the real challenge to me. That is why I was so attracted to the fly-fishing lore. Trout, unlike other species were truly selective in their eating habits and you couldn't just throw anything in front of them. You not only had to  match the hatch, you had to match the one the trout were feeding on. I spent many hours, studying the insects of the streams I fished, the stomach contents of the fish I caught, the details of the hatches, and tying flies those tiny flies.

Now-a-days things have changed. I went through a period of several years, as my family grew, when I didn't do much fly fishing at all. I took my children to ponds and streams to fish with worms and bait. I wanted them to start as I had started, but with a father who at least introduced them to this great sport. Sometimes I wonder if I should not have let them discover it on their own as I did. Then we moved to Washington.

I had for many years wanted to experience catching larger game fish on hook and line, and my first experience was not a disappointment. They say that hooking the first salmon is something one will never forget. I certainly will not.

The feeling of might against might, rod pumping, giving, pumping, line and rod straining; the anxiety that the fish will take you for everything you have, your line, your rig, but most of all the fish, that huge, huge fish will jump and throw the hook, break the line, take all your line and your backing, get away.

That is the excitement I felt and still do with every fish I hook. At first I was afraid to try this on fly fishing tackle, but I came to realize that I was missing something. My roots were enmeshed in the fly fishing lore and I had to go back to it. If salmon could be taken on a bit of yarn with a corky, they could just as easily be taken on a fly. All you had to do was match the colors, size and weight and get it to the salmon. That was the key thing. Even with trout, presentation is often as important as matching the hatch. With salmon, presentation and color would be the most important things.

So I started tying flies and catching the big fish on a fly and have never turned back. I belong behind fly rod and a fly tying bench. My tying has never been perfected. I tie to catch fish and when I try to tie a really nice looking fly, I usually goof it up in one way or another. That's why I am grateful to have contributing fly tyers that tie so much better than me. They are the people that make this site something that I think is worthwhile. I started this site as a place for tyers to share flies with other tyers because I think that is what it should be all about. I hope that you get as much out of this site as I do working on it. Please feel free to write me with your comments and suggestions.

If you would like take a look at some of the many flies, I've tied for this site, you can view My Fly Photo Album , or visit my fly tying page at The Flies of Steve Burke .

Steve Burke (SPB)


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