The authors are best friends, on and off the water, at the keyboard, or working side by side. They make their home in Boise, Idaho; Gretchen’s hometown. Al often remarks that his home will be anywhere Gretchen is so you all know where his heart is. There they operate the family business (BT’s Fly Fishing Products), write, and operate a video production company (fly fishing and tying videos, of course). They got married on April Fool’s Day in 1993 and are as much in love today as when they walked down the aisle together. You might ask, “Why April Fool’s Day?” That’s so Al won’t forget his wedding anniversary, anyone should know that!
Their lives came together with starts at opposite ends of the country; Oregon for Gretchen and Arkansas for Al. Born a war baby in 1943 in Fort Smith, Arkansas Al’s journey to recognition within the fly-fishing community had very meager beginnings on a dairy farm in north-western Iowa, his mother’s home state. Milking cows at four-o-clock, morning and evening seven days a week, did not leave much time for fishing. But he was bit by the fishing bug at an early age and did manage several times a week to hitch a ride to a near by lake to fish for crappie with worms and a bobber. There Al observed his first fly fisher catch a crappie right next to his location on the bank and he was hooked! Fly-fishing was the sport for him. He just needed to figure out how to get started.
At the start of all of his fly tying or casting clinics, Al describes himself as “a fly-tier who fly-fishes.” That proclamation is a reflection on his early years in Iowa. He received a Herter’s fly tying kit for his fourteenth birthday and a month later was selling flies to a local hardware store. Since that start as a commercial fly tier, Al has sold flies every year for the past forty-plus years. That includes 1968 spent with the US Army in Vietnam, his least profitable commercial tying year when he only tied three dozen flies for an officer who wanted to fly fish the Mekong River. Other years your authors have produced near 3000 dozen flies but today tend keep the amount to around 500 dozen per year.
It was more than a year after Al started selling flies that he finally put the money together to buy a fly rod, reel, and line. Al often pokes fun at him self by saying, “It took me a year to get that first fly rod and another twenty to learn how to cast it.” There weren’t any casting instructors or fly-fishing clubs in the Iowa farm country in the mid 1950’s.
After twenty-plus years struggling to learn fly-casting Al encountered a life altering experience when in the early 80’s he discovered the Federation of Fly Fishers at their Conclave in Spokane, Washington. Al learned more at that one show about fly casting and tying than he had acquired teaching himself during the previous years. From that day forward Al has dedicated himself to the Federation of Fly Fisher’s goals, Conserving—Restoring—Educating Through Fly Fishing. At first he learned from the best of the best; Dave Whitlock, Lefty Kreh, and Mel Krieger just to name a few. In time he graduated from the roll of student to that of an instructor.
Al and Gretchen generously share their skills with people the world over. Today they are sought after instructors/demonstrators for organizations on a local, regional, national, and inter-national basis. Both of your authors have been recognized for their contribution. Al has received the Buz Buszek Memorial Award & the Man of the Year Award and Gretchen was recognized with the Woman of the Year Award in 2001.
Though both of your authors are recognized today in the small world of fly-fishing, Gretchen’s start along this path was much different from Al’s. She was born in 1944 in Klamath Falls, Oregon to the fly-fishing Evans family. Her father Dub worked in various locations during the war years on “critical construction” as a plumbing and heating contractor for the US Government.
At the end of the war the Evans family returned home to Boise to resume life. Besides keeping busy with his plumbing& heating business Dub made certain to find time to fly fish and tie flies on a commercial basis. Gretchen fondly remembers sitting next to him at the tender age of six sorting hackle/materials for him as he constructed flies in the “rotary fashion” on a converted treadle sewing machine. Years later when Gretchen started tying with Al she asked, “What’s all this?” when he introduced to her tying tools like hackle pliers, a bodkin, and a bobbin. The only tools she had needed up to that time was a pair of scissors and the rotating-treadle vise she got from her father.
Gretchen also well remembers Dub carrying her across the steam on his shoulders so she could fish her Royal Coachman on the other side. In the early years her rod of choice (what dad gave her) was a trimmed willow stick and a section of leader. With that rig she terrorized the fish in the central Idaho streams near her home.
The years passed and Gretchen became a young lady who still loved to fly fish with the family and down hill ski with her brother Bill. Eventually college, marriage, a career, and a family placed demands on her time so fly-fishing and tying went on a back burner for several years. They remained on that back burner until…!
In the late 1970’s both Al and Gretchen went to work as managers for GTE (later to become Verizon). Their careers bounced around each other for the next fifteen years. Often while at a meeting or working on a project, Gretchen would speak of her early years as a fly fisher and fly tier. At those times the soft, far away look in her eyes reached out to him. Al learned the tough manager really had a heart of gold. In time, their passion for a sport developed into a love for each other.
In 1993 they married, retired from GTE, and entered the full time fly-fishing world. They are now writing their eighth book and hope it won’t be their last.
Al and Gretchen have many beautiful flies and I have included a pdf with recipes and photos sent to me by Al and Gretchen. You will notice those amazing wonder wings on several of their patterns. To read more about those amazing wings, check out this informative article written by the dynamic duo themselves.
Al and Gretchen are definitely a class act and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.