Meet Svend, an avid fly tyer, father, husband, angler, and bbq enthusiast. Svend is not your normal fly tyer, his patterns are creative, colorful, and full of never-before-seen materials. We caught up with Svend to learn more about him and his fly tying, check out the full interview below.
Flylords: Who is Svenddiesel?
Svend: That’s easy, it’s me. It was a nickname given to me by my high school flag football team, which seems like forever ago. Since my middle name is Svend and Fast and the Furious was ever so popular at the time, Svenddiesel just clicked and stuck. I figured it would be a great fly-tying social media account name.
Flylords: How long have you been in the fly-tying game, and what inspired you to start tying?
Svend: I have been in the fly-tying game just a little over 5 years. I was inspired to start tying because I became frustrated with flies I had purchased that were falling apart after a few rising trout used them as chewing gum. I remember the exact moment, I was looking at yet another caddis fly where the hackle had come undone and I thought, “I bet I can make this, and I can make it stronger.” A few weeks later I saw Sundance Resort offering a free fly-tying night and I figured why not. I have pretty much grown up at Sundance skiing, hiking, and biking, worked there for 5 years as an instructor, why not add fly-tying to the list? I took classes as often as I could the next summer where I realized that my flies can fall apart just as easy, but I discovered that I love tying them anyway.
Flylords: Without a doubt, you’ve got quite a few tying set ups. Do you have a go-to?
Svend: I have a tool addiction. I am not afraid to admit that. Some vises make tying certain flies more enjoyable. It’s that simple. All vises have their pros and cons, but by owning one vise I would have never known that. I’m not saying tyers need multiple vises or that they need to spend a ton of money on a vise. If it holds a hook, it works; but just like any car will get you from point A to point B, some cars are more fun to drive. I have kept most of the vises I have tied on for memories sake, and it’s also fun to get out a vise you haven’t tied on in a while and see if the pros and cons are still the same. As for tools, anything that makes the tying process easier is worth a try. A few of my favorites are the Stonfo Roto Elite dubbing tool, J-Vise bobbins, and more recently the Dr. Slick angled scissors.
Flylords: You’ve created a few of your own flies at this point. What’s your creative process look like when going about creating an original design? (where do you start? How do you choose materials, etc…)
Svend: In my opinion, everything has been tied by someone, somewhere to one degree or another. As new materials become available, we can adapt and change existing patterns for better or for worse, but a leech is still just a leech no matter what material you use or how you tie it. I love new materials, though. I am drawn to taking a new material and playing around with it and then thinking how that material could improve a pattern by giving more movement, more attractiveness, or make it more irresistible to the fish I am targeting. Then I tie it and test it. There are many flies that end up dropped in the scrap pile and vacuumed up and discarded. As cliché as it sounds, you must fail a lot to succeed.
Fly patterns is a topic that many people get triggered about and I can respect that. Pattern stealing or tweaking is a thing and people who have worked hard to get the credit they deserve. I have been accused of this many times, but I am not really in the tying game for patterns or recognition and its hard to know that someone posted a “new” pattern 2 years ago in the archives of their feeds. It is all about having fun and catching fish.
As for creating a pattern, I worked on the Cray Cray for a few years. I tied and fished different crayfish or crawdad patterns until I finally combined and changed it enough that I thought it could be “original,” but still just a Crayfish/Crawdad pattern. I shipped a few off to friends to fish and give me feedback, talked to several shop managers and showed them the pattern to see if there was anything like it in their fly ordering catalogs (asking them to be discrete about it), and concluded that it was unique and felt comfortable throwing a name to it other than a crayfish/crawdad. I contacted a few fly manufactures and finally connected with MFC who is currently producing Svend’s Cray Cray. Its quite the process and takes more time than I realized. Most of the time when I think something is original, someone else has already done it, or it is so close to something else that I just tie and fish it.
Flylords: Do you have a favorite fly to tie, or more importantly, a least favorite?
Svend: I love tying streamers. I know it’s a huge category, but I love that you can take a streamer pattern and there are hundreds of different materials and substitutions that can work with that one streamer. Swapping out the body material, adding more flash, making a tail using feathers, creating a resin head with eyes, inverting the whole fly to ride hook point up, making your own dubbing brushes, or just using dubbing loops, the possibilities are endless and the only way to test it is to fish them.
My least favorite fly is not as much the fly but being rushed to tie the fly. I think that tying for me personally is a huge stress relief in my life and being rushed doesn’t make it as enjoyable.
Flylords: In terms of all the gear out there involved in the fly tying process, whats one piece of equipment you could never live without?
Svend: A vice. Many know that I am a tool junkie and tie on multiple vises. Each one serves a purpose and I enjoy tying on several different brands and models. I have tied in hand and can accept there is an appeal to it, but I prefer to have a vise holding the hook. So, if it came down to never owning a vise again, I would probably buy my flies from the shops or many of the friends I have met through social media.
Flylords: Which part do you enjoy more: fishing the flies, or tying them?
Svend: I love fishing the flies more than tying them. But, I have come to realize that I can tie a fly every day, but I can’t fish every day. Tying at times has been more fun than fishing, but it doesn’t come close to being on the water with rod in hand.
Flylords: What’s a word of advice you wished you had that you’d give someone who wants to get into fly tying?
Svend: Keep fishing. As fun as fly tying is, it has definitely taken time away from being on the water. If you do want to tie your own flies, sign up for a class at your local shop or find a local mentor or club that you can join. It makes the process a lot easier than searching YouTube for hours and googling “fly-tying slang”. If you are one who learns from books, Charlie Craven has a great beginner fly-tying book that will teach you the basics and a few go-to patterns that I had fun working through. But the best advice would be to invest your money in a good vise, scissors, and bobbin. After that, just buy the materials for flies that you fish and in the colors and sizes you fish, and then build from there. Tie a fly 3 times, a dozen times, or as long as it takes to get it how you like it. Lastly, don’t cheap out on hooks. We are often looking for good deals or sales to save a few bucks, but the foundation of every fly is the hook and if you tie a few dozen on hooks that bend out, you just wasted hours of your time not to mention losing a potential awesome fish.
Flylords: Do you sell your flies? How does the production-mindset effect your enthusiasm for tying?
Svend: I do. I had goals of having a website full of flies that I love to tie and fish. Instead, I have been so swamped with trying to get orders out the door while work and family have only got busier. I have only had time to get a handful of patterns up and I am continually trying to keep up with those orders. Many do not know that this is a hobby for me. I am on the road for a business I own around 50-70 hours a week and then try to make it to as many of my kids sports and activities as I can. I have learned that production tying is not something I love, but when you have 14 dozen clousers sitting there in a pile …. It’s a pretty good feeling of accomplishment.
Flylords: Who are some people in the fly fishing/ tying industry you’d say you look up to/ look to for inspiration?
Svend: This is an ever-changing thing for me. I am often distracted by patterns and styles and seem to go in phases. When I am tying one type of bug, there are many who specialize in that who I look to for tips and tricks. Many of the people I admire are behind the scenes and do their own thing, they do not care about what all the “cool kids” are doing, but instead remember why we tie and why we love to fish. Being active on social media does have its perks. One can connect with tyers all over the world and most of them respond to messages or questions. I find this pretty cool and amazing that one can message tyers all over the world rather than just locally at clubs and shows.
Flylords: Has any of your family gotten involved in the tying game? Think they’ll ever catch the bug (no pun intended)
Svend: My boys have shown interest over the years, it comes and goes. I learned early on that I should not force something on them or they might end up hating it. So, if they want to tie flies, I get out another vise and we do it. My daughter thinks all the drawers of tying materials are her treasures. It’s hard to tell her what bucktail really is when she keeps telling me how pretty it is. As for my wife, I actually took her on a date night up to a tying class when I was first learning. She was better than me and probably still is.
Flylords: What’s one of your favorite flies that you’ve ever shared over social media? Why is this?
Svend: I would say the Heavy Hitter or Poor Man’s Sow bug. It is fun to tie. The idea came to me to segment the body using beads and then resin over it for durability. It’s a fly that is inspired by a few different patterns out there, but combined into one really fun tie. It’s been a lot of fun watching them go viral on social media platforms such as TikTok and seeing the many people out there who like watching fly tying who are not necessarily anglers or tyers themselves.
Flylords: Do you have any tying rituals? A certain drink/ food? Music? Do you have tv or YouTube on in the background?
Svend: I would say I have some form of media going in the background. iTunes Radio, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu …. Something to help me get my mind offs the stresses of my career and lets me focus on the small things in life such as a size 18 or 20. I stopped eating and tying when I learned more about the materials, where on the animal they come from, and the processes they go through before being packaged.
Flylords: How can people get their hands on some sweet Svenddiesel merch?
Svend: www.svenddiesel.com The website makes it easy for me, at least when I can keep the correct sizes and colors in stock. I can’t ever seem to figure out what will be popular and in what sizes and colors, and sometimes they go fast. But, it has been a learning experience and I am very grateful for the support the community has given me.
Thanks to Svend for the time and be sure to check out him on Instagram at @svendiesel.
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