I’ve read about J&M Flies over at The Fiberglass Manifesto, so I wanted to find out more about their operation. I fired off a short round of questions to Jeff and Melissa and here is what they had to say. You can find out more by going to their website or Facebook page.
Jeff and Melissa wanted to say thanks to all of their loyal fans, customers, and followers. They wanted to send many thanks to everyone who has let them sell their flies through them. A big shout-out to Cameron at The Fiberglass Manifesto for his support of J&M Flies. Last, but certainly not least, without the tutelage of Stippled Popper, who took Jeff under his wing, none of this would be possible.
When did J&M Flies get started?
On March 26, 2011 my wife and I went into the local Orivs shop searching for a particular leg material. I had some flies with me as an example of what legs I was looking for. When I pulled the flies out to show the shop owner the legs, he asked where I had bought them. We spent a lot of time talking to him that day, and my wife and I continued the conversation after we left. Thus J&M Flies was born.
What made you decide to take the leap into tying flies for a living?
A living??!! I wish we were making a living! Right now, we’re barely supporting the habit. Seriously, I had been tying off and on for almost 20 years and had gotten very into making poppers. For me, nothing beats the explosive top water strike from a smallie. I started making those poppers because I was tired of either not being able to find what I wanted in the right sizes or having them fall apart after only a few fish. Nothing is as frustrating as spending your hard-earned money on a fly and having it fall apart quickly. I was making these poppers and sharing them with fishing buddies… they were my guinea pigs. I sometimes laugh when I see some of the old ones (still being used, of course) at how different they look. We are always in the process of improving the product and streamlining the production. So, I’m making these poppers and spending all this money on materials and giving them all away… because what else am I going to do with dozens of poppers? I was pretty active on a tying website and decided to start a blog. People had been encouraging me to sell my flies and the talk at the Orvis shop convinced me to do so.
What got you excited about fly tying in the first place?
I believe fly tying is a natural extension of fly fishing. There is something magical about catching a fish not only on a fly rod but on a fly you have tied. I got excited about fly fishing because I thought it looked cool (something I WASN’T at 19). I saw a fly fisherman chasing trout in a local stream while I was spin fishing. I wasn’t having any luck so he and I started to talk. He was kind enough to share some flies with me. I still remember him holding out that box of terrestrials and giving me some grasshoppers. I asked him where he had bought them and he told me he tied them himself. That simple act of kindness has always stuck with me. To this day, I still share my flies on the stream and will teach just about anyone who wants to learn to fly fish. It wasn’t long after I got my first fly rod that I picked up my first fly tying kit. I still have the vice. I am self taught, which means I made a lot of ugly mistakes on the way. I don’t sell anything I haven’t fished with and refined to the point that I’m happy with it, although I have been known to send prototypes to customers to get their input.
What types of flies do you specialize in?
We only sell warm water flies, and only in a few sizes. Occasionally (read: rarely) I tie flies for when I chase the T word… those other fish that the purist chase, but those flies are just for me. We don’t sell a huge variety of flies because our focus is primarily on smaller, top water flies. I am a top water addict and only started tying our one subsurface pattern because I needed something to ride under the surface for when the fish refused to bite on top. We want to make sure that every fly we sell is well made and durable. We have jobs and a family which limits our time at the vice.
What patterns are your best sellers?
Ha! Melissa and I argue about this all the time. I’m convinced it’s the Fish Foolin’ Frog and the Monocacy Bee…but that might be because they’re the two patterns we started with and they were created for the Monocacy River, my home water. In speaking with the sales department (Melissa’s spreadsheet) it’s the Oriole, Fish Foolin’ Frog and Luscious Lemon, in that order. The foam we sell the most is the mixed dozen of the Panfish Persuaders.
I see poppers mentioned a lot when J&M Flies are mentioned. Why do you think everyone loves your poppers?
We spend a lot of time on our poppers and we’re very proud of them. We love the process of making them, the detail that goes into the painting of them, and the reward of seeing what others catch with them. We ask our customers to send us pictures of what they catch and we actually do want to see them! Our poppers are not only very effective to fish with, but also very beautiful to look at. We’re frequently told that our pictures don’t do them justice.
Do you have any patterns you call your own?
It’s hard to create a “brand new” pattern when people have been fly tying for hundreds of years. I based the Monocacy Bee (and Panfish Persuaders) off of the Predator, designed by Skip Morris and refined by Chris Helm. I was fishing store-bought “bee” poppers and was looking to make something that was less expensive, more durable and the right size. I started tying the Predator in yellow and added black stripes. I then tweaked it to better suit my needs and started making an assortment of colors. I really am a panfish junkie so all of my changes were geared towards enticing them. I like to secretly call myself the Panfish Whisperer.
What do you think are the most flies you have tied in one day?
Well it felt like 100 a day, I was tying roughly four dozen poppers a day at one point. I’m a very slow tier, I tend to be very meticulous, but also sometimes I’m distracted by the TV, the children, lunch, snacks, a cigar… the list goes on… wait, what was the question?
Is there anything new you are currently working on?
We are always working on new ideas, patterns and color combos. Some make it into production, some sit on the bench for a very long time. Right now, we’re trying to work on a website and some swag (who doesn’t need a new t-shirt?). We’re both excited about this new adventure and moving forward with J&M Flies.
If someone wanted to place an order at J&M Flies, what is the best way they should do that?
People don’t often know how to order from us because there is no cart and no checkout process. Send us an email– that’s how we do it for now. We’ll answer any questions you have, make suggestions and can usually do custom orders. The customer service manager (Melissa) is very friendly. She’ll send you pictures and lists of all your color options.