The drive up to Michigan was pleasant enough, despite on-and-off rain all the way through Ohio. Perhaps my perception of the drive was colored somewhat by the treat I knew lay at the end of the trip — a visit with John McLain, perhaps the nation’s leading purveyor of Atlantic salmon fly-tying materials.
John, a retired police detective, lives in a quiet suburb beside a nice lake filled with bass and northern pike. His basement is a treasure trove of feathers and silks and tinsels and all the pretty stuff that makes classic Atlantic salmon flies so beautiful and unique.
Better yet, my wife had given me carte blanche to buy whatever I wanted — within reason, of course. I ended up buying $266 worth of materials, including some of the prettiest blue chatterer and red-ruffed fruit crow feathers I’d ever laid eyes on.Â I’d always wanted to tie a Green Highlander and a Jock Scott without having toÂ substitute dyed kingfisher forÂ chatterer andÂ dyed pheasant for the fruit crow, and now I can.
The best part of the evening, though, was swapping fly-tying and fishing stories with John. The man’s knowledge of materials and techniques is encyclopedic, and his stature within the industry has allowed him to fish with some pretty remarkable folks.
For instance, he told of the time he went fishing in Montana with Jack Morris, the former star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins. Morris offhandedly told John they were going to an adjoining ranch for dinner. The dinner was at Tom Brokaw’s, and John ended up escorting Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham in from the parking area! Cool stuff.
So now it’s off to Grand Rapids and my meeting. I’ll keep you posted.