Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Pat Cohen

Pat with some of his deer hair magic
I haven't met Pat Cohen (yet). I was introduced to him thanks to my buddy Ken Capsey (redneck pike nut extraordinaire) through his blog then I found him on Facebook. Social media being social, who woulda thunk it? It didn't take me long to see how talented this guy is. He whips up deer hair flies like nobody else. As a matter of fact, this year one of his deer hair bugs took down all the competition and Pat was declared the 2010 Fly Tyer of the Year on (take that you classic Atlantic salmon fly guys!). Pat is definitely one of those guys that really loves what he does and is pretty damned good at it. Ok, that is an understatement- the guy ties like nobody's business! 

Without further adieu, Mr. Pat Cohen, ladies and gentlemen!

How did you get your start with fly fishing?

Honestly it was a total accident. I have always fished, unsuccessfully most of the time. My Dad, Brother and I would always drown worms chasing the local bass. The only thing I ever caught was sunnies. I would go to the local tackle shop regularly, in search of that magic lure. I bought everything I could traditional gear wise, scents, special soaps to get rid of human smell...whatever they said I needed. I was the favorite sucker of a customer I'm sure, desperate to catch a trophy. One day while fishing in the Schoharie Creek I remembered that my brother had an Eagle Claw combo rod in his trunk. I grabbed it and went to town whipping that thing around, totally out of control until I managed to get line out. I had no idea what I was doing. I felt as though I needed to be in the water to do this as well, so for the first time I left the comforts of the dry bank and wet waded into a stream. I caught nothing, but something clicked and it all felt right. Then the obsession began.

It seems like warm water fly fishing is the name of the game for you (most of the time). What is it about warm water fish that gets you going?
Pat in his 'yak chasing bucketmouth bass

I wish I had a great philisophical answer for this, but I don't. Warm water species offer the same unique challenges that cold water species do. One of the things that I really like about warm water fishing is the lack of conceit and ego that goes with it. There are no warm water snobs in the fly shop, but it is filled with trout snobs. The world of warm water fly fishing is still fresh and new, it's just beginning to be accepeted by fly anglers. Look at the craze over carp that has sprung up recently. What an awesome fish on the fly. The flies for warm water species are still developing and there is so much to be invented and tied. They can be artful and functional. The places that warm water fishing puts me is another thing I love. I have pictures of otters, bald eagles, fields of wild flowers, beautiful scenery and some beautfiul fish as well. Things that I would have never discovered unless I was floating my kayak down a warm water stream or lake.

Do you have a favorite species (I will take a guess that it might be a Micropterus species) and why do you like that fish so much?
Nice smallie Pat!

The first time I caught a smallmouth bass it was like magic, an awakening. I had never caught a fish that fought so hard. I fell in love immediately. Smallmouth have become my main choice of fly target, but I catch anything with gills. They grow to trophy sizes and can be relentlessly finicky when it comes to eating a fly. They fight all the way in and continue to let you know how they feel about the situation until you finally let them go, usually splashing you in the face with one last flick of their tail, like they are getting the last word in. What a pretty fish to.

What other species do you like to target?
Big pickerel Pat

I enjoy largemouth bass, perch, bluegills, and crappie. I have a passion for walleye on the fly. I am infatuated with pickerel on the fly. Carp, thanks to my buddy Alex Cerviniak, have become an obsession. I target some cold water fish as well. I do enjoy going to small streams and catching brookies. I was crazed this winter with steelhead and lake run browns.

Are there warm water species that you haven’t caught yet that you want to try to get sometime soon?

I am beginning to target pike and tiger muskie this year. I have yet to get either on the fly.

I noticed you really got into metalheads over the winter. How did you do this past season?
The man even carries fly tying materials on his head!

Oh man...what a winter. I went into this winter knowing nothing in the beginning about these fish. I bought some books, talked to some friends and hooked my first one thanks to my friend Brian Price. He showed me the methods that got me started with steel. I love my warm water, but I find myself thinking about next winter from time to time. I caught a ton of fish, including my first few on the swing. I bought a switch rod and learned to spey cast. I learned high stich nymphing techniques. I learned how to tie new flies. I actually broke my first rod this winter on a big buck. Exciting stuff man...I have definitely been bitten by the steelhead bug...I will be back...

Would you be willing to share your magic fly with my readers….
Schoharie Specials

My magic fly...that would depend on where I am fishing. I have a fly that I tied for a Smallmouth stream not far from me. This fly...oh man...the first time I got the colors down I went out with this fly alone. I caught 40 smallmouth, ranging from 13-18 inches and two walleye 18 and 25 inches...All in 4 hours. It's a take off from a Half and Half, but this fly is deadly on the smallies. I call them Fleeing Bucktails. I tie them in multiple colors now, but that blue is the go buddy Steve named it separate from the rest...The Schoharie Special...He caught his first walleye with that fly, something like 28 inches.
Do you ever target trout besides steelies?

I do target the monster lake run browns that Ontario has to offer.

On top of your angling exploits you have been getting a lot of attention for the flies you tie. I think that you are a total Gandalf-class wizard with deer hair. What is your secret?
The fly that got Pat the Fly Tyer of the Year- congrats!

My secret....practice...Top water fishing has become a passion for me. I tie a ton of top water flies, I constantly experiement with design and color patterns. The main thing I would tell people new to working with deer hair...Use the right thread, GSP is the answer. Use the right hair, you want the belly hair of whitetail deer or elk hair. One big mistake I see people making is not using enough hair in each clump when you apply it to the hook. You want to use as much as you can handle to make sure the bug will be dense.

Do you have any plans on writing any articles to help out folks like me that seem to have nothing but trouble with deer hair?
some of Pat's gorgeous divers!

Actually yes, there are some things in the works. I have an article coming out very soon in a German magazine called Fly and Tie on how to tie a deer hair mouse. There were 36 step by step photos going with that. I have some other little projects in the works, I will keep you informed. There are some video step by steps on my blog site that can help as well.

You have some pretty innovative ideas in fly design. Where do you get your inspiration for your flies? 
Topwater- the hair is packed tight!

A lot of my ideas come from experience on the water. What I enjoy about fly tying and fishing flies is that we make the fly move. We give it life, as if it is an extension of ourselves. When I set out to design a fly, I try to make the fly fluid, I want movement, even when the fly is at rest I want it to have life. In order for a fly to be successful it needs to get the attention of the fish. That may mean color, movement or shape and size. These are all things I take into consideration when tying. I also will on occassion look to spin gear and try to mimic some of the movements that a lure will make. I tie a top water fly called The Crank. You need to see this fly to believe it. Cast it out, utilize a two handed retrieve, this fly dives under water and wiggles back and forth like a crank bait. Let the tension go, it pops back to the surface...Deadly.....It's made from stacked deer hair...

The flies you tie are not always to be fished with. Can you tell me about a few of the patterns that you tie up for display?
A Punk Rocker with its natural prey in its mouth.

I tie a fly called the Punk Rocker. It is a bluegill imitation with a giant peacock herl Mohawk. People seem to respond very well to that fly. I have actually fished with it as well. It's deadly on largemouth. There needs to be adjustments made to fish with it though. I also tie a hummingbird for display. Both of those flies are stacked deer hair bodies.

How much demand do you have for display flies?

The demand for the Punk Rockers is pretty high. When I tie at shows I can't make enough of them ahead of time or enough when I'm there to meet all of the demand. It's pretty exciting that people like my flies that much.

Do you think that the artistic flair that you have with your flies come from your "real job"? (check out some of Pat's work here)
Pat at work, inflicting pain. real job...Well...I think that my abilities in art have definetly helped me along the way in fly tying. Being a Tattoo Artist makes you think about things a little different then most people. You are constanly hit with problems, visual problems. People will come in with horrible cover ups or impossible design ideas. Everything has limits, including flies and tattoos. My job as an Artist is to look past those limits and solve the problem at hand. Fly tying is the same to me. We are presented with situations that may be out of our control. We all think we understand fish behavior, but the fact is they are animals. We can only assume, but never be certain. As a fly tyer I need to realize those situations and prepare for them. I try to include multiple solutions to multiple problems in every fly that I make. My abilities in art make that visually possible for me.

Let’s get back to some fishing… if you had the chance to fish anywhere for anything where would it be and what for (and why)?
We need to get you into some big boys...

Man that's a tough question. I respect all fish and never get tired of catching any of them. I have an obsession with fish that have teeth. I watch Jeremy Wade on River Monsters and Larry Dahlberg on The Hunt for Big fish and get excited every time they fish in South America. I would love to catch a tiger fish or a wolf fish. Canada for monster pike has always been an exciting idea. Or giant muskies in Musky Country. Or bowfin, longnosed gar, alligator gar....I would love to catch a peacock bass...There are so many fresh water species that I want to catch. That being said...My first love of fly fishing is smallmouth bass and the Schoharie Creek...If it was my dying day and I had one last chance to fish, it would be there. My family and friends know the run I would want to be on, with the Eagles in my yak.

Any big fishing plans for this year?

I'm going to Cape Cod in three weeks to fling flies at stripers for the first time. I've got some paddling trips planned locally for pike and tigers....unfortunately no exotic destinations planned...

Thanks a million Pat! Looking forward to getting together with you this season some time...

Drew thanks a ton....I can't wait to get together and rip some lips....

Check out Pat's blog- Super Fly- you won't be sorry you did!


  1. Great interview!! Pat is the deer hair god!!

  2. I've been a big fan of Pat's tying since I started blogging and only now do we get a glimpse of who the guy behind the flies really is. Thanks Drew

  3. Thanks for sharing with us Pat and great interview Drew.

    Pat, the local boards are reporting the schoolies are in, being caught from RI to the North Shore in MA. I too want to get out and target some strippers for the first time this season.

    Your ties, Pat, are truly unique and beautiful. It is individuals like you that inspire and keep the sport of fly fishing special for us. Hope we can cross paths and fish together some day.

  4. Just read you interview with Pat. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us what a great fly tier he is and not to mention a great fly fishing individual. I have fished one of his flies and it is a killer for the Kentucky Spots I fish for on Smith Lake in Alabama.

  5. Great post, blog, and interview! "Gandalf-class wizard with deer hair." -- and, great writing to boot! Glad I found both yours and Pat's blogs...Cheers!

  6. Pat, just got home from chatting with you at the shop. I went to your site and read the interview. Hope you chat again soon and fish sooner. I love Schoharie and love the area we live in, the diverse fishing it offers, and the wildlife we run into fishing. It is pretty cool to see someone else feel this way, it's even cooler that on your "dying day" you would pick The Creek, your yak and your run as the last place you fish. Can't wait to fish your flies and keep improving as a fisherman. fish for life. -Mark