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The Gift by Scott Thompson

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Last year as I was sitting at my fly-tying desk spinning up some bugs for the next day’s trip I got to thinking about all that went into what I was doing at the vise. Not just the tools in my hand, or the ridiculous amount of materials hanging from the pegboard on the wall, but more a reflection on the gift that was given to me by my father.

When I was 7 years old, my father Joe brought home a vise and some tools that he had made by hand in the machine shop at Gates Rubber Company.

The workshop at Gates 1970's

He was working the graveyard shift as a pipe-fitter and by way of marrying my mom, had been baptized as a fly fisher 10 years previous by my late grandfather Hank.

Joe studied a fly-tying book to come up with a design and enlisted a co-worker to help him do it. In those days many of the guys on the night shift would use raw materials laying around and make stuff like knives, hitches, log splitters, and even boat trailers on their time off and smuggle them home.

His first challenge was the vice. After machining the stem out of solid brass, he turned the head in the shape of a cigar and made a single cut down the middle to form two jaws. Then a hole was drilled, and a single screw inserted to tighten the jaws and hold the hook. The stem was then threaded into a clamp to attach to the table.

For the bobbin he took two dissimilar diameters of copper tubing and slipped one inside the other after tempering them both to the right pliability

I remember that my younger sister had seen my dad tying in the evenings and because she was so tiny, had crawled up into his lap and learned how to tie thread ants by tapering the body into an hourglass shape with endless turns of black sewing thread stolen from my mom’s sewing basket.

I sat down for the first time when no one was around and started wrapping turn after turn and watching the body grow and then begin to unravel when the steepness of the angle got to be too much.

Me age 7

My father taught me a half hitch and this seemed to solve the problem. I smiled and would go on and on tying the fore, then the aft of #14 ants until I would use up almost an entire spool. I eventually got bored with black ant