Owen Ward ’19 has a hobby that is hooking people’s attention.
Ward makes flies, the colorful and extravagantly decorated hooks used for fly fishing. Among his Kenyon friends, Ward’s craft is starting to become a catch.
Ward started fly fishing four years ago on a family trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo. when his parents surprised him and his brother with a guided fly fishing trip. Fly fishing immediately captured their interest, so much so that they ordered their own rods before the trip was over.
Ward began making his own flies after several years of the sport. “It’s a lot more satisfying to actually catch something on something you’ve made,” Ward said.
Ward taught himself how to tie his own flies with the help of YouTube videos, friends, teachers and plenty of practice. He sold the products to fishing enthusiasts at his high school, Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and at a convenience store near his family’s lake house in Vermont.
At Kenyon, Ward has 14 boxes of fly-tying materials in his room. He buys supplies online, and materials include feathers from roosters and chickens and real or synthetic furs; most of it is deer fur.
These diverse materials, combined with the motions of fly fishing, allow Ward to imitate a wider variety of food sources, like aquatic insects and small fish, instead of the smaller, less appetizing insects that skirt along the water’s surface.
It takes Ward 15 to 25 minutes to tie the majority of his flies, which he uses for larger fish like bass. He estimates that he spends about four to six hours making flies each week. Even so, Ward said he still hasn’t mastered the art of fly-making.
“It was pretty rough in the beginning,” Ward said. “You’d be surprised how ugly the flies would be that the fish would still take, so I wasn’t too disheartened.”
While at school, Ward fly fishes in the Gambier area. A maintenance worker told him about a pond beyond the wastewater treatment plant near the Maintenance Facilities.
Ward now frequents the spot for its wealth of fish. For him, fishing is recreational, and he throws back everything he catches.
Some of Ward’s friends at Kenyon now want to learn how to make flies. Late on Saturday nights, he teaches them the craft. His friends are taking the bait: They want to learn fly fishing next.
“It’s been funny to watch for me, but I know I started from humble beginnings, too,” Ward said.
Purchasing materials to make flies is pricier than buying premade ones, but Ward doesn’t mind.
“I’ll be broke for happiness, but that’s okay,” he said.