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The Flies of Ard Stetts

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Ard and Nancy's Alaskan Bush CampWhen Ard emailed me back in December he was getting ready to break trail to the rustic bush camp that he and his wife Nancy own 80 miles off the road system in the wilds of Alaska. "Internet is not in the vocabulary there" he declared, and I wistfully thought, if only it could be me. Ard lives the sort of lifestyle that many of us dreamed of many moons ago. And "yes, there are salmon there" he stated emphatically putting the nail in the proverbial coffin.  Seriously, though, Ard's lifestyle is not what I meant to write about. It is, of course his flies which make him unique. His classic Salmon, Landlocked Salmon and Featherwing Trout Streamers are a pleasure to view and even more so to fish with as you soon shall see. First, though, I asked him to say a few words about himself.

Ard StettsI was born in 1954 at Williamsport Pennsylvania. I remember the sixties and I was fascinated by the television program “The American Sportsman”.  Lee Wulff and Curt Gowdy were often featured fly fishing all over North America.  I started fishing when I was nine years old in the West Branch of The Susquehanna River with a throw line and used stones as sinkers with red worms for bait. A throw line (if you’ve never seen one used) works along the same principal as the sling that David used on Goliath. The difference is that the axis of the spinning rock is to the vertical and the stone has a fishing line attached.  By the time I was twelve I owned a spin casting rod and reel. As my father was not a fisherman, my friends Dad took me trout fishing and I loved it.  I hooked a stocked Rainbow on my first cast, and like that fish I was hooked.

Holding Rod, Reel, and FlyBy the time I turned fourteen I had a fly tying kit and a very cheap rod & reel. My sister’s employer, C.W. ‘Bill’ O’Connor, a prominent angler, and the owner of “E. Hillie’s Angler’s Supply House” of Williamsport Pa. became my fly tying mentor.  It is to him that I owe my tying skills.  Bill taught me how to create a good wing whether it were quill for a dry fly, saddle feathers for a streamer, or marrying swan, turkey, and pheasant for the wing of a classic Salmon fly.  He always had time for me. It was from him that I learned how to select the best when I was shopping for materials for tying.

Classic Featherwing StreamerI enjoyed tying featherwing streamers because they set me apart from anyone I knew. Other fishermen I came to know avoided them as being too difficult to tie.  They acknowledged that streamers were said to be quite effective but most didn’t tie any. I eventually adopted the streamer as more than a “default fly” to use when other means of catching fish failed. I made streamer fishing my primary plan and only changed strategy when the rising fish made it obvious that dry fly fishing was certainly at hand. My success with the “Big Wets” has been great and I continue tying and fishing them even here in Alaska where I catch Trout, Char, Grayling and Pacific Silver Salmon on them.

Like my childhood inspiration the late Mr. Wulff, I have traveled and fished from the far northwest shores of Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains and finally here to Alaska. I have spent a lifetime fishing, floating, and walking beside the waters of this continent. 

I am very flattered that the administration and publishers at have extended an opportunity for this short autobiography and images of the flies I tie to be published on their wonderful site. I make no claim of origination of these patterns. I am however the craftsman who produced these current versions.

Ard Stetts

The Flies

Ard's Nine ThreeBrook Trout Minnow Cains River Miramichi
DazzlerGrizzly PrinceThe Supervisor

Flies From "How Bout Them Kings"

Alaska Claret QueenDouble DareHewitt Creek Hologram
Red & Black CohoRail BirdSkykomish Sunrise

Flies From "Lying in Wait"

Anchor Demon; Cain’s River StyleThe Big DipperFitch TailOrange Tip
Western Doctor

Flies from "It Isn’t Always Pretty"

Orange Bunny Fur CometRainy Day SpecialThe Bush Doctor The Cross Fitch

The Doctor MummyCanadian Killer

Also see these articles written by Ard Stetts

Feather Wing Streamer Flies - A Brief History by Ard Stetts

The Evolution of the Answer

Fishing with the Bears

Bargain Cave 468x60

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