The first step to being successful at fly fishing is tying a fly creatively enough to make it seem real to the fish you're trying to catch.
Considered by many to be something of an art form, tying flies is an acquired skill. With hopes of learning how to tie their flies or how to get better at it, 400 to 500 anglers from Maryland and neighboring states are expected to attend the 11th annual Tiefest, which is presented by the Kent Narrows chapter of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.
Named for the first time in honor of legendary fly fisherman Lefty Kreh, a longtime outdoors columnist for The Baltimore Sun, this year's Tiefest will be held next Saturday at the Prospect Bay Country Club in Grasonville.
Kreh, 88, will be among a handful of reknowned fly fishermen who will be there to give their hands-on expertise to the Tiefest's attendees. An event that started more than a decade ago in "some guy's basement," according to CCA spokesman Lew Armistead, it has outgrown the Kent Narrows Yacht Club, where it was held for years.
Although the event has grown dramatically, the intimacy is still there.
"Anyone who walks in the door can go up to these guys and get a lesson on tying," Armistead said. "It's not like you're sitting on a chair in a big room watching from a distance."
While Kreh will be the biggest name — "There's nobody who has done more for fly fishing than Lefty," Armistead said — others who will be there to lend expertise include noted anglers Bob Popovics, Steve Farrar and Steve Silverio. According to Armistead, Silverio "ties some of the most artistic flies you'll ever see."
Once made almost exclusively from "feathers and buck tail," flies now typically include shiny synthetic threads, lead eyes to give them weight, and silicone, all put together in a pattern to imitate baitfish, crabs or worms.
The unofficial start to the fly fishing season typically starts in the region in April at the Susquehanna Flats — where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay — depending on the weather, moves down to the eastern Chesapeake Bay in May and June, and then on to Solomons Island and to Crisfield, as well as the rest of the Tangier area, during the summer.
The Tiefest is free to CCA members and children under 16. Those 16 and older can pay a $10 entrance fee or join the CCA that day for a $25 annual membership.