Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Vince Wilcox

Vince with a nice ADK brookie
Many of you who read this blog probably already know the name Vince Wilcox- he is a signature tyer for Idylwilde Flies, a frequent contributor to Fly Tyer Magazine and others, and a damned good guy. Hailing from Saranac Lake,  New York, Vince is your go to guy for fishing the Adirondacks- his shop, Wiley's Flies, is a few miles from Saranac Lake in Rainbow Lake. He grew up fishing the waters there and few know them as well as Vince. His flies are innovative, original and work!  Vince and I share two vices- fly fishing and the Ominous Seapods- and we have been at the same shows together without realizing it. We have probably been on the same water at the same time too... With that, on to Vince-

How did you get your start in fly fishing?

Vince is a danger to all anadromous fishes!
It all began in a land far far away...:O) My father was a fanatic fisherman  (still is) and guided and tied flies. I'm not one of those BSer's saying I started at two..but I did get a start since I can remember from when he cast out for me and hooked 'em and let me pull them in. One of my first fish on my own was a landlocked salmon  when I was seven. He would sit me on the rocks in the Boquet with a life vest and some food while he went down river..landed three that day just letting line out and stripping a marabou ghost back....

We both grew up in Northern New York and the Adirondack Mountains. What is it that you love most about the North Country and it’s fishing?

Tough question...It really was the family that brought me back and the opening of the new shop. I will say that you do have an opportunity to fish just about everything within driving range. I was excited to get back and fish warm water rivers again..I grew up fishing the Saranac in town from about the time I was 11 or so, pedaling my bmx with #44 on the front plate down to the river with a box of flies, jeans and canvas shoes..

You spent a big part of your fishing career out in Colorado and the west. Can you compare the guiding there to where you are at now?
VW Hopper- this one could be your miracle...

That is very tough to compare. In Colorado we had twelve months out of the year trout fishing, outstanding trout fishing! The fishing isn't easier out there but there are far more opportunities to catch them. With the diversity of high country streams and ponds to man made reservoirs and tailwaters you had it all at your rod tip and many rivers had thousands of fish per mile.

Obviously the west is still in your blood a bit- you still put together a trip to Wyoming every year. Where do you head to and is this year all booked up already?

This year was tough and the economy seemed to play a major role. We take the trip to a private ranch in WY on the Wind. Four miles of river and a tailwater that is private at our disposal for $300/day and couldn't fill it this year..spectacular place but we are not launching the western fling this season.

Are you planning on heading out there next year too?

We are definintely going out next year. Back to Colorado. I am going to shrink the trip and take two to three anglers back to my old stomping grounds on the Front Range instead. Should be a blast, after 13 years out there you can't stay away!
Caddis anyone- Vince suggests this one...

April 1 is the opening of trout season in New York. Are you going to be out there?

I don't get to tricked up for opening day at this stage, I got used to fishing anytime I wanted out west and although we will be floating a river 4/2 with my daughter, running the shop and writing I just can't get out on 4/1. I'm sure like you, I have literally fished thousands of days in my life and I have grown older and more patient, I can wait a day.

Any advice for anglers heading to the Adirondacks hoping for some fish this early in the year?

Sure, get down deep and work it slow. The heads of pools and riffles and pocket water as the day progresses will be the most active. Buggers, stones and attractors will work best. I like the Bunny Bugger, Microstone and a Superman or Marabare to get the job done.

Float trips are part of your guiding arsenal and it doesn’t seem like many other Adirondack guides offer them. Tell me a bit about what you do on a float trip and what you target…

Oh man..I get fired up for floats. No they are not common in this area but we are working to change that. We offer 4, 6 and 8 hour floats for trout, bass, pike and we are even doing some musky and landlocked salmon trips where and when we can. The flows dictate where and what we can go after around here...obviously we need a little water so if flows get too low and warm the trout and salmon are out and we look to warm water species....we have inflatable pontoon Scadden crafts with front and rear casting decks so the angler can see the fish coming and it is a fabulous way to get away from all other anglers and fish miles and miles of river that you can't get to any other way.

You have a great selection of fly patterns available from Idylwilde. Can you give us the story of how you got involved with them and the story of a few of the flies there.

Back in 2003 I launched my operation, mainly on-line and had to what I call (excuse the expression) "whore" myself out to the shops. I would walk into a shop with a few thousand flies and show them what I had and what I could do then take orders. The orders got too big and too frequent as I was tying over 15,000 flies/season and had a couple of solid tiers helping me with specific patterns. So I signed a contract with Idylwilde at the end of 2004. They carry about 30 of my patterns now so it helps the tying load, I still do about 3 to 4,000/year but I don't even consider that commercial any more...I guess it depends on the ties but if you aren't in the 10,000+ fly category and depending on your flies to eat it just isn't the same! lol The flies are like my children so to single them out is very difficult but I can tell you the JC Special, TNT, Little Green Machine, Microstone, Superman, VW Hopper and Glo-Ants are the best sellers in their respective categories.

Ever seen this cover?
Superheroes have inspired some of your fly patterns (with great success I might add). What other weird inspirations have you had for tying?

Oh brain is active and I take most of my inspiration from the stream. I think about the fish, what they are looking for and how I can deliver it. When it comes to naming them then you get into all kinds of weird thoughts..Dingle-Berries need no further explanation...Sneaky Sally well you as a Pod head should know the answer to that! lol

Sounds like you have another book in the works. Would you be willing to share a bit about it?

The new book 'Vince Wilcox's Naturally Artificial Signature Flies" is a daunting project..I had it rattling around in my head and articles since 2004/5 and worked with three publishers before I signed a contract with Lyons Press. The book will be released early in 2012. It covers 30 of my Signature flies, how to tie them with over 1,000 color step photos, how I came up with them and why I use the materials I selected. I tend to create flies blending naturals and synthetics, hence the title, in a process I explain as synthetic synergism where the combination of the two makes them more durable and effective then acting independently. James Prosek is painting my flies which is another cool addition to the book and i will also explain how to fish them and rigging techniques for still water and streams..the rest I can't talk about because I am doing several things that have not been done yet with a fly tying book but I can say from beginner to expert there will be plenty to look at and any tier will be able to follow the very detailed images and step text..I didn't want to alienate any level of tier.

Vince, what is the fish you haven’t caught on a fly in the Adirondacks that you  are dying to get into (or is there one)?

Well...I really have about caught them all on the fly at this point...but you are a weirdo fishing for gar and bowfin..on the other side of the lake..that sounds like a blast!

Any big plans for fishing and guiding this year?

Roger Waters recommends Vince....
Well we would like to expand the shop. We have St. Croix, Winston, Hareline, Lamson, William Joseph, Wapsi, Stone Creek, Chota,Spirit River, Rio, Scientific Angler.Flies from Idylwilde, Brookside, Montana Fly, Spirit River and custom. Over 100 new patterns coming in this year and by far the best fly and fly tying selection of any shop in the area. You have to drive two hours to even come close. I love the mom and pop feel of the shop and we are looking to make it bigger and better. We are packed to the gills and basically out of space. We even have a spin fishing section. As far as guiding we are and have been working to spread our float trips and get more anglers involved in warm water species. I'm often known as a trout guy and believe me I am but I have spent thousands of hours chasing toothy critters and in July and August in the ADKS and over 90% of water now containing them...seems like a great way to go. We just want to get the word out! We are also making a new short movie on what we have to offer and centering on the float trips. Hey we have been blessed over here. God is great!

Thanks a million Vince!

Check out Vince- a great guy and definitely someone you want to support!


  1. WOW, Roger Waters and Fly Tyer Mag, Vince Wicox is my new hero!

  2. Great interview, Drew. Very nice work, Vince. My son is looking a attending Paul Smiths. We will look you up!

    2X on Roger Waters. Does he live in your neck of the woods, Vince?

  3. Hey Dean, Vince is not far from Paul Smiths! Definitely look him up!