Fly Fish Food Q&A
Have you heard of Fly Fish Food? Yeah, we thought so. They began as a blog in 2012, worked out of Curtis’ basement, then his garage, and then they opened an 1,100 square foot shop in 2016. Now, they’ve truly taken off and operate out of a 5,500 square foot shop in Orem, Utah. While they have everything you could ever want in their shop, they’re known for having one of the best selections of fly tying materials in the country.
Both Clark “Cheech” Pierce and Curtis Fry are prolific tiers, and they’re responsible for hundreds of new and innovative fly patterns in the Fulling Mill Catalog. Whether you’re new to fly tying, or have been tying for 50 years, you won’t want to miss this one.
When did you start fly fishing? Tell us about how you got into the sport.
Cheech: I got a late start in the fly fishing game relatively speaking. I loved to fish, but I didn’t really cast a fly rod until my future father in law had me cast an old fiberglass stick in his back yard when I was 22. That Christmas my wife gave me a fly tying kit and a fly rod combo, and little did she know what that would do to me. I immediately started tying flies, but it took me over a year to catch a fish on a fly (before the days of YouTube etc.). I’m the only one in my family who even likes to fish, so go figure.
Curtis: I started fly fishing in high school when a friend of a friend tied us some flies to fish on high mountain lakes with a bubble on my spinning rod. With this “hybrid” technique I did really well on the alpine lakes we fished. I ended up really enjoying the aspect of catching fish on homemade flies. So, I ended up learning to tie from instructional VCR tapes I checked out at my local library and an inexpensive little tying kit my Mom bought for me at the local sporting goods store. I eventually ended up getting a fly rod a year or so later to come full circle, but the fly tying aspect of it has always been a core part of my fly fishing passion.
What is your favorite style of fishing, and why?
Cheech: I think it goes in stages for me, but I’m really digging fishing out of a drift boat or raft. There is something about rowing into position, technical casting, and the team effort of drift fishing that really does it for me. That said, I like fishing for stuff that swims.
Curtis: It’s hard to nail down a favorite style but I’d have to say dry fly fishing on lakes is one of my favorites. I also like getting techie with midge and mayfly dry fly fishing on rivers as well.
As Signature Tiers, you’ve designed some of our most popular flies. Which two designs are you most proud of and why?
Tell us the story behind the Cheech Leech.
Cheech: The Cheech Leech was one of my very first commercial fly offerings. It was kind of intimidating going through the process of trying to design something that would meet the standards of people who aren’t going to love the pattern as much as me. It had to be durable, fishy, and it also had to sell from a bin perspective. The very first outing with a Cheech Leech was pretty memorable because I was fishing cleanup behind two of my friends. They threw dry dropper rigs through the first hole and had moved on when I hooked two very nice fish out of the same hole. I clipped off that original Cheech Leech and called the testing a success.
Are you interested in learning more about fishing streamers like the Cheech Leech? Have a look at this piece by Sean Platt about five tips for better streamer fishing.
Tell us the story behind the Baby Fat Minnow.
Cheech: The Baby Fat Minnow came almost as an accident right before a fishing trip. The Low Fat Minnow (also an EXCELLENT pattern) was a little too bulky for the minnows that I wanted to try. So, I just tied it a little bit smaller and with a little bit of weight in the body. That fishing trip was pretty eye opening for me. Needless to say, the Baby Fat Minnow has been a staple in my box ever since. It has been fished all over the world for many, many different species with great success.
Tell us the story behind the Moodah Poodah.
Curtis: The Moodah Poodah is probably one of my favorites in terms of the story behind the name (long story but hilarious) and because it was developed out of a need to throw smaller dry flies that could support the weight of droppers. It’s been a well performing fly and it’s fun to tie.
Tell us the story behind the Foamerger.
Curtis: The Foamerger is my favorite midge pattern. It was developed about 20 years ago to fish for finicky midging fish on the Green River in Utah. The vertical orientation style combined with the simplicity of the fly make it a must-have pattern. During midge season, it’s one of the most popular midge patterns in the shop and it’s insanely easy to tie.
Tell us about the design process. When you want to design a new fly, how do you approach the process?
Cheech: Sometimes it’s a long process like the Project Hopper. Other times it’s kind of a quick process and the first test fly works really well. Most of the time it’s because you are trying to solve a problem that matches something you are trying to accomplish on the water. For example, tying a fly that could work as a hopper or a stonefly like the Stoneflopper. Usually I’ll tie some prototypes and send them out with other people that will fish it hard and tell me if they suck.
Curtis: My designs are usually born out of a specific functional need. It may be simplicity, it may be presentation or it may be imitation-based. My background as commercial jet designer (i.e. propeller head mega nerd) makes me a weird combo of analytical plus a dash of creative when needed. I usually start out with a fly that is complicated, then I pare it down over time until I dial in the bare minimum materials to balance the functional need.
Designing a fly can take many years. How do you determine when a fly is “finished?”
Cheech: In my opinion, the fly really isn’t ever “finished.” For example, the Grumpy Frumpy is a production fly that is great, but I’ve made a few tweaks here and there over the years. I view my flies always as “concepts” and I’m always up for a change or a tweak to make them more effective.
Curtis: It’s never finished. We always tweak flies and that will probably never change.
You’re well known for some of your larger streamer patterns like the Cheech Leech. Do you have any tips for fishing larger streamers like that?
Cheech: Large flies are always fun to fish with because you can see them move through the water and watch the fish eat them. This being said, you should also always have smaller bugs in your arsenal and make sure you cover all of the size profiles. The Cheech Leech in today’s world is more of a medium sized fly, and it’s a great size to trick any size trout. I like to vary my depth when fishing it by choosing a variety of sinking lines. From there I’ll vary my retrieve until the fish start cooperating.
What is your all-time favorite fly?
Cheech: The Grumpy Frumpy. Any day that the fish are eating the Grumpy Frumpy is a memorable day in my book. I have fished it in hatch matching sizes and colors, and I’ve fished it in crazy unnatural colors. They all catch fish, and my favorite color is the yellow/red flavor.
Curtis: The Foamerger is probably my best-performing and confirmed by lots of people all over the place.
Do you have any tying or fishing tricks you’d like to share?
Cheech: First, have fun. If you aren’t having fun, find something else to do! Aside from that, I always like to try to learn from everyone that I see tie and fish. Regardless of how good you think you are at something, there is always someone better – and they might be a lot younger than you.
Curtis: Two words: Pay Attention. Whether it’s tying flies and looking at proportions, colors, sizes etc or watching your drift closely when fishing dry flies, a lot of what we do boils down to paying attention to the details. That’s the only way to up your game consistently over time.
What are your best tips for fishing with dogs?
Cheech: I’m kind of a dog fishing rookie, but early socialization has worked really well with Squatch (a MAJESTIC one year old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.) If you wade with your dog, you better have all the basic obedience dialed in as well. You will be much more patient with your dog than other anglers will be.
Curtis: Leave them home.
What are your must-have snacks?
Cheech: Right now I really like the Major Melon flavored Mt. Dew Zero. You can never go wrong with good ole Doritos.
Curtis: Jerky and Cheese.
Did you teach Lance Egan everything he knows?
Cheech: I tried to teach him how to be tall. It didn’t work.
Curtis: Yes and did it twice.