- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Austin Wilkes dropped two hooks on the meeting room table upstairs at Bass Pro Shops on Thursday evening - one for himself, one for his student.

Roles and ages were reversed here. Wilkes, a college student, was teaching fly-tying to Brian McGuire, a father who is taking the classes with his son, Guy (absent that evening), who is about to start college at Oral Roberts University.

“Wow! What is that, a size 20?” McGuire asked as he leaned over for a closer look at the hooks that seemed - to him - exceedingly small.

“No, it’s a 14,” Wilkes said.

Cue the laughter and jokes about eyesight that fades with age and makes a fly-fishing hook appear about three sizes smaller than it really is.

McGuire was lucky as the lone student Thursday. He and his son have enjoyed the first week offered by Wilkes, a fishing department team member at Bass Pro who specializes in one-on-one fashion.

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/2vJBqsv ) reports that an Oklahoma State zoology and philosophy student who has an eye on a career in dentistry, Wilkes is taking a year off from college.

Local would-be fly tiers could benefit greatly by his decision to play hooky this year.

“Every Tuesday and Thursday night, I’ll be here,” he said. “It could go on right through winter, so if someone wants to get started now, they could learn a lot.”

The Bass Pro Shops meeting room will fit more than two people - a lot more.

“If we get enough people, I’d like to do one night for advanced tiers and the other for beginners or whatever level,” Wilkes said. “But I can work it so I can help just about anybody at any skill level in the room.”

The classes are free and all tying materials are provided. Students just need to bring a tying vise and other tying equipment - like a light, scissors, hackle pliers, that sort of thing. A basic fly-tying kit would be fine.

McGuire had a clamp-on vise at the table, a light, bobbin, a few hand tools and, of course, some containers for the flies he and Guy have been tying for their upcoming trip to the Yellowstone River.

“We’re doing a bunch of dad-and-son stuff before he flies the nest,” McGuire said.

Thursday night’s flies both were size No. 14 and standard fly-fishing staples for rainbow trout: a guide’s choice hare’s ear nymph and a bead-head prince nymph.

For a beginner, the two little flies hit a range of techniques in the two-hour session. The first hour on the hare’s ear involved use of fur for dubbing combined use of some hen saddle, wire for the gold ribs, and peacock herl and pearl Flashabou for color.

The second hour on the prince nymph delved into more feather-related techniques with more peacock, hen saddle, and white and brown goose biots for the wings and tail, plus more gold wire for ribs, but this time wrapped in the opposite direction for a different effect.

McGuire walked away with a pair of flies that are good on any trout stream - sometimes even used in tandem.

Wilkes comes by his fly-tying talent the same way as any other - with practice. Lots of practice, he said.

Born in Tulsa and raised in Owasso, he started fly-fishing at age 12 and he claims Missouri’s Roaring River is his home water. He started tying his own flies at 14, about 10 years ago.

He has read a lot of books and magazines, and actually learned a lot about tying by skimming through YouTube videos, he said.

“I’ll go home at night and sit around tying flies and listening to a fly-fishing podcast,” Wilkes said.

He doesn’t claim to be a master, “but I’m pretty good,” he said.

He proved himself a pretty good teacher Thursday with his student, who experienced his share of frustration.

“It’s just practice, practice, practice,” Wilkes said. “You learn a pattern and just repeat it until it’s almost muscle memory. These flies we tied tonight, once you really know them, you can crank them out in about five minutes.”

To begin with, though, the flies take about an hour each with one-on-one instruction.

With any luck, in weeks to come, Wilkes will be teaching those fly patterns one-on-10, or 20, or more.

___

Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com


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