Bill Pollard escapes for hours at a time into a tiny, precise world that demands concentration, creativity and patience.
The retired fisheries biologist fashions thousands of fly fishing flies every year to sell at Vancouver Island markets and fairs.
Pollard’s flies are based on real insects and on patterns that he and fellow fly fishing enthusiasts have used with success. At any given time, he has about 50 patterns for sale, all designed to be irresistible to hungry fish.
The Nanoose Bay resident began tying flies as a business a decade ago. “A lot of my patterns I do a little differently from anybody else,” he said in a recent interview.
Past-president of two Vancouver Island fly fishing clubs, Pollard’s customers mainly go after trout, bass and salmon.
Pollard’s flies range from small grey-coloured mosquitos to glamorous creatures sporting colourful fringes, bright beads and iridescent shines that look more like jewelry than fish food. Many sell for $2.25, with some up to $4.50. A salmon fly goes for $8.50.
An uncle in Colorado introduced Pollard, now 71, to fly fishing 60 years ago. Kids who wanted to fish had to use trial-and-error to learn how to tie flies, swapping tips about what worked, said Pollard.
Pollard left Colorado to work in Manitoba as a regional biologist and has remained in Canada ever since. He worked throughout the coast in B.C. as a habitat protection consultant and has fished in salt and fresh water.
Even after all these years, Pollard enjoys tying flies. “You really tickle the other side of your brain with the creativity,” he said. “Every year I learn new things. If you didn’t, you’d get bored with it.”
Each fly is hand-tied using a vice. Pollard often works five or six days a week. Preparing for markets and fairs may see him tying flies for eight to 10 hours a day, with frequent breaks to walk around.
“I get tired but I enjoy it,” he said.
Materials come from a variety of sources. He’ll use wool, deer and caribou hides, and feathers from duck, pheasant, and peacock — even parrots. One customer passed on hair from his dog. Some ties use ultraviolet materials, which fish see well.
Pollard said that being a fisheries biologist helped him understand the insects he models in flies.
He chooses patterns that work on Vancouver Island and the rest of the province. His flies are suited to fishing throughout western Canada.
Pollard’s flies also go far afield. A customer this year purchased a fly to send to his father in Slovakia.
Pollard was selling flies in Duncan recently when a customer from Tibet purchased flies to take home. “I have no idea what they were going to fish for,” he said with a chuckle.
As well as doing business at markets and fairs, Pollard fills custom orders. During the winter, he sells wholesale to guides and stores. He will also work with customers to provide flies that suit their fishing plans.
Pollard urges anyone interested in learning about fly fishing and in tying flies to join one of the many clubs on the Island, including the Haig Brown Fly Fishing Association in Victoria at www.haigbrown.ca and the Island Waters Flyfishers club in Nanaimo at www.iwff1.ca
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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