At the end of this month Swoyersville resident Mike Romanowski will find himself seated at a table in the Garden State Convention Center in New Jersey doing what he loves.
And he'll be sitting next to some of the legends in the field.
Romanowski, 50, was invited to be one of featured fly tiers at the upcoming Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, N.J. – one of the largest fly fishing shows in the world.
Each year show organizers invite those who they consider to be among the best fly tyers in the world to demonstrate their techniques on virtually all fly patterns.
To tie with them will be a great honor for me, Romanowski said. These are the fly tyers that you read about.
Romanowski will join the likes of Beau Beasley, Barry and Cathy Beck, Joe Humphreys and Lefty Kreh. He'll be tying a dozen of his favorite Delaware River trout flies, including his own Hendrickson Emerger.
Although he has been tying flies for 30 years, Romanowksi – who is also one of the founders of the Stanley Cooper Sr. Chapter of Trout Unlimited – wasn't sure if he would get invited to join the prestigious group of tyers.
They invited me to tie at a show they run in Danbury, Conn., and I did that for the last six years. They told me to send some pictures of my flies to see about tying at the big show, but they said it's hard to get into, Romanowski said. I sent the pictures in and last week I was accepted.
Romanowski's works as an algebra teacher for the Wyoming Area school district and ties flies during his spare time. His first taste of the craft was in 1975 when, at the age of 13, his father bought him a fly tying kit.
Soon after Romanowski was a frequent visitor to Dick Ackourey's fly fishing shop in Forty Fort where he learned more about fly tying.
In 1982, Romanowski went to college at Penn State's main campus and signed up for a fly tying course offered by Humphreys.
He also met George Harvey, another legend of the field, and his skills began to blossom.
When I got out of college I hoped to be a professional fly tyer, like Stan Cooper, but I soon realized how hard it is to make a living doing it, Romanowski said.
Today Romanowski ties flies for his own customers as well as AA Outfitters in Blakeslee. He said he averages about 500 dozen each year, and his flies do resemble works of art.
But art isn't the real reason behind his passion.
I like the history and tradition of the sport, Romanowski said. When I tie, I am tying specific flies on patterns that are 100 years old, and I purchase period hooks and thread. I want to reproduce flies that may have been used decades ago.
Not only are they historically correct, but they also catch fish. Romanowski fishes for trout in the upper Delaware River, a place where the fish have seen virtually every fly on the market and are pretty selective as a result.
These are wild trout and the normal patterns don't work well there, Romanowski said.
Trying to tie a natural fly or find a pattern that will fool these fish is the biggest thrill of the sport.
The Fly Fishing Show at Somerset, N.J. will be held on Jan. 25-27 at the Garden State Convention Center. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday. In addition to Romanowski and other top fly tyers, the show will feature demonstrations from various celebrities, an International Fly Fishing Film Festival and free fly fishing instructions. For more, visit www.flyfishingshow.com.
The Stanley Cooper Sr. Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold an eight-week fly tying class this winter. The classes will begin on Feb. 4 at the West Side Vo-Tech School in Pringle from 7-9 p.m. and will continue for eight consecutive school Mondays (no class on holidays or snow days).
The course is an eight-week journey into the realm of the artificial fly. Although the course is a basic introductory course (most students have no tying experience), intermediate and advanced tyers will benefit from the instructors' experience and will learn new techniques.
The course begins with an introduction to hooks and materials. The first fly, a Woolly Bugger, will be tied on the first night. From there students proceed on to wet flies and nymphs, then streamers, and finally on to dry flies and terrestrial patterns.
The cost of the course is $50 and includes instruction and all materials. All students need to bring is tools. A set of tools can be provided by the chapter for an additional fee.
The course has historically been one of Trout Unlimited's most popular functions. Enrollment is limited to 20 students and always fills fast. To register or for more information, call course chairman Mike Romanowski at 287-3981 (evenings), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tentative course schedule
Class 1 – Whip Finish, Wooly Bugger
Class 2 – Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph, Gray Nymph
Class 3 – Dark Cahill Wet Fly, Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear Wet Fly
Class 4 – Royal Coachman Bucktail, Review
Class 5 – Mayfly Spinner, Glo-Bug
Class 6 – Elk Wing Caddis, Comparadun
Class 7 – Light Cahill Dry Fly, Adams Dry Fly
Class 8 – Foam Beetle, Review