What is the link between Lego, flip flop and fly-fishing? Erik svendsen of course! And I have the pleasure to interview him, just for you!
Greg: Thanks for your time, can you introduce yourself?
Erik: Sure. I assume you would like my Fly Fishing history and what got me into the sport. I actually picked up my first fly rod while dating a girl in college. I was up meeting her parents and her dad took me fly fishing and I caught my first brookie on a dry fly on a river in Northern Utah. I was instantly hooked. I fished much of that summer, but then had an injury to my hand and I never picked up the fly rod again. About 4 years ago, my wife wanted to purchase a fly rod for me for Christmas and I said sure. The following spring after fishing with minimal success, I thought what better way to understand the bugs and the hatch cycle than to tie my own flies. It was a downward slop from there and now I more immersed in the fly tying aspect of the sport than the actual fishing. Although, I do try and get out as much as possible.
What is your favorite species to catch on a fly rod?
I wouldn’t say I have a favorite species to catch, but I do love top water fly fishing. I know that most feeding goes on sub surface, but watching a fish take a dry fly, hopper, ant, or frog is one of my favorite things to watch. Its even better when Im paying attention and remember to set the hook.
I have always been fascinated with the Vikings and their impact on the world for a few hundred years. It just kind of happened and thanks to the artist Ryan Keene, we collaborated and came up with the Viking. I have a close connection to Scandinavia, especially Denmark. My grandparents immigrated here from Denmark in the 50’s and we still have lots of family there. I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, spending two years living there serving the Danish People.
What do you like when you tie flies?
My favorite aspect of fly tying is that you can start with a hook and materials and in a matter of minutes be finished with a fly. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love that my mind drifts, stress goes away. I think about the fish that could potentially eat this fly. And always have good tunes playing or a movie in the background. Its an escape for me.
What is your favorite pattern?
To this day I still love tying and fishing woolly buggers and leeches. So many variations, a quick pattern, and the fish always seem to like them. Also, with the introduction of so many new synthetic materials it was always fun to add them into some of my go to color combos and experiment and have some fun.
What kind of fly do you love tying? Why?
I absolutely love tying anything that involves wrapping hackle and lots of them. Usually feathered gamechangers are a go to, but I have a lot to learn about that pattern. Its something that I am continually attempting and fishing and even though they take a long time to tie, its so fun to tie them. You can just keep going with shanks and feathers until you run out of big feathers. But, usually its when I get tired that I attach the front hook and finish the fly. I am not one to leave a fly on the vise and come back the next day. I have to finish it, partly to clean up so the wife is happy.
The same but do you hate?
I hate tying dry flies. My OCD nature takes over and I spend way way too much time on them. I usually purchase most of my parachute flies for this very reason, leaving the fly shop knowing I could have tied them myself.
Where do you take your inspiration to tying fly, created new patterns?
Yeah I don’t really tie to create patterns. I tie flies for fun and to fish. If I name something a “Svend Leech” its more for fun. Its just a Leech with maybe a twist. I don’t think that many flies vary too much from the original patterns from a hundred years ago. The only thing that has changed is the availability of materials and colors. It would be cool to one day walk into a fly shop somewhere and see a fly that was branded as “Mine.” But that will be down the road, and if it does ever happen, it would be cool
I think you are an artist, so what is your most beautiful fly (not for fishing)?
Well thank you, but I am no artist. I don’t know what my most beautiful fly is, and to be honest most of the flies I tie end up getting fished. I have no shadow boxes of my flies, but rather fly boxes and take them out fishing or give them to friends or people I meet on the river. People often think I have boxes and boxes of flies stockpiled at my house, but really I give away most of the ones I tie to people I meet fishing.
When I first got into the sport I met a man at a local lake I was going to fish, he was leaving and I was arriving. I asked him how he did and he said good. I asked what he was using and he said Leeches. I said what are those? He came over and said show me your box, and I opened it to show the 12 or so flies I had purchased that morning and he went over and got his boxes and gave me probably 2 dozen flies that were popular that day. I offered to give him some money and he told me it was his pleasure and he hoped I caught some fish on them. This changed my mentality of the fishing community. That it can be more that a “that’s my spot” or “I cant show you my secret patterns” but that it’s a sport for everyone and spreading positivity and good vibes goes much further than the opposite.
You have no limits with fly tying. Can you explain how the Lego Parachute Adam’s was born?
A very well known tyer posted about how these days everyone is gluing and almost piecing together flies to fish and used the image of some legos next to a hook. That this style is not fly tying in his opinion. I didn’t disagree with him at all and can see his point. But, after being sent his post by a number of friends in the industry and chatting with a very close tying friend, the thought came to my mind “Could I do it, build a lego fly.” It just so happened I found myself shortly thereafter dumping out my childrens “miscellaneous” lego bin and began thinking about how I could take a pattern and what pattern could I take that is so well known and fished that it would be completely awesome. I kept finding gray and white pieces and then a Parachute Gray Adams Fly came to mind. I started to find a way to craft it and make it look as real as possible without the use of glue or cutting legos. I wanted to build it so I could undo it and do it again. It took a lot of trial and error but I found pieces to imitate the hackle but I had to cut and glue them. The lego pieces I had otherwise didn’t make it look dense enough to truly be a parachute adams.
Overall, I had a lot of fun making it and it got some attention. I didn’t mean any disrespect by it and still totally agree with my above statement. I had fun doing it and proved to myself that I could do something. I think that’s what tying is all about, not trying to push the limits and tie a powerbait bottle to some feathers, but more can I tie this and can I make it so I could catch fish with it. That is what tying is to me.
Recently, you organized a fly tying contest. How the idea was born?
The idea was born because I am sick of all the giveaways with you have to follow all these companies and tag all your friends, or it’s a contest so go out and harass all your friends and family to go vote for you so they can get spam emails or requested follows from all the bots out there. I wanted a contest that was based on tying something new, using a new material, simply post a fly, and hopefully you win. I recruited diverse judges from around the country who I knew have credibility in the industry as a tyer, professional, fisherman, or simply an all around angler. I told them if they judged they couldn’t win and they were fine with it. The contest couldn’t have gone better. There were a lot of entries and even more messages from people thanking me for letting them have some fun on the vise, or the challenge of trying something new. Whether it was their first articulated streamer, or fun fly compared to their thousands of nymphs they tie daily to fill orders I think that everyone had fun and there was great participation. I was worried about a few complaints about the judging, but I got ZERO. It was a great competition and I am happy with the results and think the fly that won deserved to win. There were many others that I thought could have won as well, but I kept myself out of the judging for that very purpose. Who knows, down the road there could be another one similar or different.
I can’t finish this interview without saying a word of fish for garbage. It’s a nice mission. Can you explain for everybody?
So I am a volunteer that goes out to the events when I can. Fish for Garbage is a great non profit that is trying to educate the public about cleaning up our rivers and lakes. It is our responsibility and we should be picking up trash everytime we go out. I grew up in the Boy Scouts of America, where we were taught the principle of “Leave no Trace”, meaning when we are using the outdoors and upon leaving, make it look as if we were never there at all. I think the Fish for Garbage is trying to make up for what every angler or user of the outdoors is failing at, and so it’s a lot of fun to get together and pick up trash with some other anglers who care about the outdoors. They also make it fun with a BBQ and some raffle prizes for people who pick up trash. It’s a fun mission and I hope that it keeps growing and expanding. I am lucky that its focused and based out of here in my backyard. If you want more information, you can find it on their website: https://www.fishforgarbage.org/
Flip Flop Flies is your contribution, how many flies you can tie with a flip flop?
It depends on how much time I have. They gave me a week and with working fulltime, family, and church responsibilities I think it was around 40 flies. I still had some good chunks to work with and this was a kids flip flop. I could only imagine what I could do with an adult size 13. But its been fun to get messages from people about them finding flip flops and tying flies out of them. It’s a great circle to see one pick up a trashed flip flop, tie some flies with them, and return and fish them in the river they found them in. Pretty cool and easy to do in my opinion.
Less seriously, what is your favorite dish?
My favorite dish is good food. I love anything that is prepared right. My wife is a great Chef and I love almost everything she makes, unless its too healthy.
Paddle in winter is very cool or not?
Definitely cool temperature wise. I don’t really go out and paddle on the water too much in the winter. I need to get the correct gear. However using the Paddle Boards as a sled with the kids is just like surfing in the ocean but on the snow. Lots of fun.