The first time I saw Charlie Craven tie was at his shop, Charlie’s Fly Box, in Arvada, CO. Several years ago on that snowy Saturday morning, people packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the limited seating being occupied by old men fisting donuts and coffee, balancing pen and paper on their knees. I stood at the back next to bins of streamers and was thankful for the video camera projecting to a big-screen TV. This, the fly-fishing-world equivalent of a jumbotron.
And Charlie… he was just as good as everyone said he would be.
But it’s funny, when you’re serious about the game, you’d rather not be part of the crowd—you’d rather stay home, put your feet up, make some ribs and have instant replay. Or at least, that’s what you tell yourself when you can’t afford season tickets (or have agoraphobia).
Nowadays, there’s a plethora of tying videos online and most people balk at the price of a pattern book. Internet connection gives the façade of authority to everything from urban legends to canning tricks our grandmothers always knew to be true (and tried to tell us; but somehow, we take it better from hipsters who’ve knitted a sweater for their mason jar tea). However, soon you come to realize that quality isn’t often free and rarely is easy. It comes from experience, hard work, and time (great camera equipment, too).
Fly Fisherman magazine has recently released two new fly tying DVDs featuring Charlie Craven. “Warmwater Fly Tying” includes Egan’s Headstand, Gartside Gurgler, Deer-hair Bass Popper, Craven’s Gonga, Barr’s Meat Whistle and the Dahlberg Diver. And “Saltwater Fly Tying” includes the EP Minnow, Sea Habit, Ragin’ Craven, Bob’s Banger, Tarpon Toad, Half & Half, Bonefish Junk, Surf Candy and Supreme Hair Shrimp.
These two videos are expertly shot (as are the previous four DVDs from Fly Fisherman and Craven, called the “Fly Fisherman Foundation 40 Fly Patterns” series), with wide table-views as well as clear close-ups and tier point-of-views (each pattern contains the option for left-handed POV as well). Craven is at his best, making spinning deer-hair and attaching weed guards look easy, while having the reassuring air that you can too, with practice.
What makes these instructional videos stand out though, is Craven’s advice along with each pattern. And you can’t get that on YouTube or even at live-demos—it gets lost in the crowd; yet these personable DVDs offer a one-on-one, private lesson atmosphere. Better than the jumbotron. Craven’s meticulous care with each bit of deer-hair, extra wraps of thread, coats of epoxy and slight deviations from the standard pattern are not without cause and he details with reasons. And that, in my opinion, is what makes a good teacher: the ability to explain vs. demonstrate.
The great ones can do both.
And in these DVDs, Charlie Craven certainly does.