Fly Tying: It’s the Season to Prepare and Dream of Summer Fishing

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
Warren Sorenson and his wife Donna added two rooms to their home when they retired.

On the ground floor, Donna has a spacious sewing and craft room. Upstairs is Warren’s den. Warren built it himself. It’s all part of a do-it-yourself kind of attitude that the Sorenson’s have cultivated over the years.

Warren Sorenson holds up one of his handmade flies in his Chehalis home Thursday. (Brandon Swanson /

Donna is a canner; Warren plows the garden. Donna captures the beauty of fine handwork; Warren captures the beauty of the outdoors with a camera. Donna sews quilts for their family to dream beneath; and Warren builds fisherman’s dreams.

Warren’s den consists of four main stations: fly tying, rod-building, computer research and reading.

At the fly tying station, a 1920s era roll top desk holds a fly tying vise and a few simple tools. An antique dental supply cabinet standing next to the desk holds his fly tying materials: feathers, fur, synthetic yarns, hooks and thread.

At the rod-building station, a fly rod is in progress. Warren works with Wayne and Diana Anderson of North Fork Custom Rods (as featured in The Chronicle, Outdoors, March 8) to design and build his own rods.

On the computer, Warren organizes and stores hundreds of photographs he has taken while on the river, lake or shore in his travels across the county, searching out new and interesting places to camp and fish.

A comfortable chair in the corner provides a cozy place to sit and read. Warren loves history, the outdoors, fishing, his family, wife, God and his dog — and not necessarily in that order.

There is a new addition to the family, Arctic, a 6-month-old Alaskan malamute, who sends an inquiring “Arooo?” up the stairs when her master is working. Her puppyish chewing ways keep her from being allowed entrance into the man kingdom, as of yet.

Warren shared names of his favorite lakes and showed photographs of the fish he has caught in recent years — images of silver and rainbow-colored beauties, held briefly in a net, then returned to the water.

The winter and early spring is a time of preparation for Warren Sorenson.

Like a gardener thumbing through seed catalogs, Warren shuffles through his fly tying materials, chooses a combination of thread, yarn and feather and dreams of the fish that will see the fly on the move and grab it.

“It’s really cool to do a great cast and have a fish rise up and grab it,” said Warren.

But it’s not about catching, Warren said, it’s about time on the water, fishing.

“I love being outdoors, sightseeing, finding new lakes,” he said, “getting out for the day, enjoying time with my children and grandchildren. And it’s all the preparation that goes along with the sport.”

A Time to Prepare
Warren does his homework before he hits the lake.

“Every lake as a little bit different population of bugs,” he said. “Only about 5 percent of fishing is on the surface with the fish rising. The rest of it is underneath the surface, under the water.”

Floating line, sinking line, moderately sinking line — just a few of the choices Warren has to make before he hits the water with his fly rod.

“You always have your ‘go-to’ flies, common attractor patterns for most lakes at a certain time of year,” Warren said, “I usually start with those.”

If Warren and Donna are camping lakeside, they have an opportunity to talk to other camping fishermen and women and compare notes.

“Or go to the local bait shop,” he advised, “for five or 10 dollars of business, most of them will be happy to tell you everything you need to know to fish the lakes or rivers in the area.”

Warren said Google is also a great resource.

“And if all else fails, when you see someone catching fish, say ‘Hey, Buddy, what are you using?’” Warren added. “Most people are happy to share.”

What about the fancy technique of fly fisherman we’ve all seen on television and in movies like “A River Runs Through It?”
Warren laughed, “There are a lot of fly fishing techniques that have nothing to do with that casting you see on TV or in the movies.”

You don’t always have to use flies with fly rod gear either, said Warren.

“I’ve caught salmon with herring on a fly rod. There are all sorts of techniques,” he said.

Beginning Fly Fishing
“Start with a smaller rod,” he said. “I learned by walking the bank of the Yakima River with my dad and granddad, letting the line out, letting it drift downstream. Make small casts, work up to making larger ones. Take small steps, learn a little at a time.”

Take kids trolling, he said.

“They don’t have to do anything but hang on to it,” Warren said. “I didn’t really learn to cast until I was a teenager.”
And remember, it’s not about the expensive rod or the fancy clothes, he said.

“If I’m not catching fish, I have the wrong fly or I’m not moving it in the right way to attract the fish,” he said.

There are about 25 variables on any particular day that will help or hurt your fishing success, he said, “that’s just part of the fun of fishing, figuring it out.”

“It’s the day, the timing, and if they don’t want to bite, you can’t make them,” Warren said. “Big fish are very particular about what they’ll go for — that’s how they got to be that size.”

If you want to get your start in tying your own flies, Warren said, there are “plain Jane” starter kits available at around $25, but you can pay $150 or more.

He makes 200 or 300 flies each winter, he said, and uses or loses about seven or eight on each day’s fishing.

But Remember
It’s not about catching a fish, taking it home and eating. It’s about being outdoors, enjoying a day on the water and knowing you’ve done the best you can to prepare for a successful outing that makes for a good day’s fishing.

“What is it that makes life worth living? God’s creation. That’s it,” said Warren. “It can make the day to catch a lot of fish or to catch a big fish. I have a lot of memories of really good days. But just being outdoors, seeing the other game and animals, the sunset, the challenge of the wind, the conditions — that’s what it’s all about. It’s a positive experience that can change your thinking.”
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at