STEALING FLIES is an art. It helps if you’ve had experience as a card shark or street hustler, using misdirection and slight of hand to perform the three-card Monte over the fly boxes of unsuspecting marks. Right now, the El Dorado of fly boxes is sitting in Gordon van der Spuy’s possession. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and should your morals be as lax as ours), is to distract the man (some slapstick or honking noises should do) and finagle a fly or two from the box.

What’s so special about the box? Other than the fact that it may contain a few Van der Spuy originals, it currently holds the best of the best from the inaugural SA Fly Tier of the Year competition, which just concluded with the winner announced at the Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo in Johannesburg.

Entries were judged by an esteemed panel of respected crafty and crusty know-it-alls, gurus and fly tying demi-gods, including Murray Pedder, MC Coetzer (Proteas captain), Henkie Altena, Tom Sutcliffe and Expo founder and SA’s favourite traveling fly tying instructor Gordon van der Spuy.

The brief was to tie a saltwater crab pattern, a wolf spider (Peter Brigg style), a damsel fly pattern and a silicone baitfish pattern and submit two identical flies of each pattern. Entries were judged on balance and proportion, effective selection and use of materials, consistency in tying, creativity
and fishability.

Taking honours in the advanced category (and winning a bunch of prizes including a J-vice in the process) was Philip Meyer. An ex Protea fisherman, the guy behind Flytalk and the owner of Winelands Fly Fishing between Somerset West and Stellenbosch in the Cape, Philip was always going to be one of the strongest contenders for the title.

A Peter Brigg style Wolf Spider tied by Philip Meyer

A Peter Brigg style Wolf Spider tied by Philip Meyer

Philip Meyer’s crab pattern

Crab on the left wants to count your money. Crab on the right wants you to check out his balls. Tied by Philip Meyer

Silicone baitfish tied by Philip Meyer

Damsel fly pattern tied by Philip Meyer

Van der Spuy says, “I am so glad that Philip Meyer won the competition as I feel he has set the standard for years to come. Philip is an intuitive tyer who ties flies which are creatively functional. His patterns are well thought out and cleverly designed to fish in a specific way. His tying is clean and controlled . When you look at his flies you immediately get that, ‘That’ll lash fish,’ feeling. His patterns are well balanced in terms of creativity and functionality. In short – he ties a good looking fly that catches fish too. That’s a tough thing to get right.”

You can of course buy Philip’s flies at the Winelands Fly Fishing shop.

Or… (way more fun) you could steal them from Gordon.