The Global FlyFisher
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The Streamers 365 project has delighted streamer aficionados worldwide by delivering a new and beautiful streamer photo online every day. We have talked to Darren MacEachern, the man behind the project.
The idea of one thing a day, be it drawings, photos, poems or whatnot isn't an uncommon one, and you will find 365-projects many places on the web.
It's often referred to as 365-blogging, and Canadian Darren MacEachern has been running such 365-blog called Streamers 365 for all 2012, displaying a new, beautiful streamer every day for a year. The streamers have been tied by various tyers - well known tyers as well as lesser known people. It has amassed to 366 streamers presented, one for each day of the year, and has also spawned spin-off products such as books and calendars. The project continues in 2013, although at a slightly slower pace.
We have talked to Darren and asked him a few questions about the project.
How did you come to think of a one streamer a day project?
I'm a streamer junkie. I had been wanting to start a streamer book project for some time. It has always been a fascination of my fly tying. In particular, the storied streamers that originated from the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada have caught my eye and taken a good deal of my time.
The idea for a 365 project came from my friend Jeff Kennedy and his own 365 project called Drawing Flies 365.
It was fun to follow the blog over the course of a year and see what would be posted each day. I thought it would be great to do the same with streamers. One of the frustrating aspects of tying streamers is that books on the subject are hard to get your hands on. They are released in limited numbers and often self-published. I'm hoping that with the Streamers 365 project, we have a resource that tyers can access for a long time to come be it on the website, electronic books or hard copies.
Who is the typical contributor?
I'm not sure I would say anyone was typical. We had people from eight countries take part (Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Ireland, Scotland and the United States), young and old, men and women, amateurs and professionals tying streamers for the project.
Some tyers tied the classics of Carrie Stevens, Lew Oatman, Herb Welch and the like or variations of them, some tied their own creations and some created conversions of wet flies and salmon flies. The tyers had varied backgrounds in salmon, steelhead, trout, pike and bass. One thing that did unite all of the tyers was their desire to share, and make a contribution to something they love.
One thing that did unite all of the tyers was their desire to share, and make a contribution to something they love.
Do people contact you or do you urge them to participate? You have both well known and lesser known tyers on your list.
When I started the project, I had a list of tyers I wanted to have take part in the project. I started out early in 2011 contacting tyers and seeing whether or not they would be interested in tying for the project. My list consisted of tyers who tied feather-wing streamers, but grew quickly. I was fortunate in that pretty much every tyer I had asked was happy to take part. I was also contacted throughout the year by quite a few people interested in taking part in the project. In the end, there was a mix of both which included about 50 tyers.
While it was a great honor to be able to include the work of tyers I think of as mentors, it is equally encouraging to share the streamers of tyers who do not get the same exposure. I was really excited to be able to give some of these less experienced tyers a platform to showcase their work, and they were eager to have it shared with a broad audience.
It was a real pleasure to get to know all of the tyers on a more personal level. Some of the people who took part are going through some really difficult life changes be it their health or situations with loved ones. It means a lot that they were able to take some time away from hectic lives to take part.
Do you photograph all the flies yourself? Run us through the routine.
I do photograph all the flies myself.
As a part of the preparation for the project, I had been collecting interesting rocks, driftwood, beach glass, papers, and anything else I figured might make a nice back drop for the streamers. Many of these backdrops came out of the drawers of my tying room and included silver fox tails, chicken capes, feathers, kangaroo and sheep hair. The idea is to keep the fly the focus of the image. I tried many backdrops that just didn't work, and so the simplest things usually work best. Busy backgrounds took away too much from the fly, so light textures and bold colors worked best.
I am as amateur as they come when it comes to photography. Most of my "skills" come from trial and error. It's kind of awkward, but flattering to receive compliments on the photographs. I use a small set-up for photographing the flies which consists of a 4 light system. I use daylight adjusted bulbs, and mix a couple different types in order to get a blend of warm and cool lights. This is an ever evolving process and is always being changed as I learn more and play around with different set-ups.
I start by dressing the scene, say a flat rock set into some fine gravel. I place the fly and then move the lights around to get rid of shadows, or highlight parts. I use a tripod to shoot and a timed capture to eliminate any camera shake. I also use an aperture priority mode on my camera to get a deeper depth of field. This (usually) keeps the head and the rest of the fly in focus. I take 3-6 images of each fly and select the one I like best. I edit these in Photoshop to adjust the color and sharpness, then add the frame with the tyer, originator and the fly name for the blog image. I save an original for use in the book.
It was a bit of a challenge to keep everything organized.
You get the flies, photograph them, publish the online and off... and then what? You must have one impressing fly collection!
It was a bit of a challenge to keep everything organized.
365 flies may not sound like a lot, but when they are all sitting in front of you, believe me, it is. Early on I decided to put the streamers into cases to keep them from getting damaged, make them easy to handle and to make a nice presentation.
I purchased a number of 10 card slider cases, which are the prefect size for the streamers. I bought a few bins to keep the flies separated by month. I put all the streamers on a spreadsheet for the year to keep tabs on any gaps there may be.
Unfortunately, for my own collection, all of the streamers except for a few were auctioned off as a part of the fund raising effort.
There were some I wished I could have kept.
The first book is out. How are sales going?
This was a big unknown for me when I was getting into the project. I really didn't know if a book would sell 5 or 500 copies.
I had initially contacted several of the big publishers in the fly tying industry in the hopes of getting some support for putting together the books. Sadly, out of all the publishers I contacted, none of them replied. I was at least hoping for a rejection form letter or something. I didn't get discouraged by this, but not having a publisher meant that I had a lot of work to do.
My plan B was to use the Blurb book publishing company to make the books. It is a Print on Demand (PoD) service that has several printing and distributions centers around the world. I had used the service before to create a few family books, and I was quite happy with the whole process and most importantly the finished product. The first volume of the book was launched on November 12th, 2012. The sales have been better than expected actually. My Initial goal was to sell about 100 copies of each of the volumes, and if volume 1 is any indication, we should meet that goal with all 3 over the next year.
Along with the hard copies, Blurb offers a number of electronic book formats and submission to the iTunes store. This makes it accessible to everyone with an interest in streamers. The electronic version have been quite popular, but most have opted for hard copies.
I find the electronic books great, and if I had a tablet, it would be a nice compliment to have for tying at the bench.
You have a lot of activity going on: book sales, an auction, a donation. What's the plan?
2012 was an extremely busy year. 2013 is a much more relaxed pace, and has given me time to work on the remaining pattern books. Volume 2 is in print now for those who took advantage of the pre-order and will be available publicly around the middle of February 2013.
Volume 3 is now being put together and should be completed around April 2013.
In addition to the 3 smaller volumes, I'm also offering a limited edition which includes all 366+ streamers in one volume that should also be out in April.
The auctions were quite a lot of fun, but a lot of work to put on each month. We used two auctions to raise funds to be donated to Trout Unlimited, Atlantic Salmon Federation, The Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters and The Streamer List. As for the 2013 streamers, I haven't made any plans on what to do with them yet. I'd like to keep the collection together and perhaps have them mounted into a frame.
I also put together a 2013 calendar of a few of my favorite photos. I'll be looking to do this again for 2014. It's a nice reminder for me of the year that was. I would also like to be able to find a publisher for the series in order to bring down the book cost and make it available to a wider audience.
What's in the future for S365? More books obviously, with "only" 122 covered in the first volume. But will the project continue?
I was initially just planning to run the project over 1 year, but I had a ton of people asking to be part of another project, and many of the tyers who took part in the initial project wanted to keep it going.
I have kept the project going through 2013 with a streamer theme of hairwings. I decided to scale things back and post 2 or 3 streamers a week. It was really a challenge to keep up the tenacity of posting each day throughout the year. Depending on the interest I'd like to extend it even further into 2014 (Steelhead) and 2015 (Big Trout).
- Find the Streamers 365 page here
- The project is also on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
- Volume 1 and 2 of the Streamers 365 books can be bought here
- Volume 3 will be available April 2013
- The books are also available as e-books and may be purchase through Blurb or ITunes
A lot of it will depend on the interest in the project and if I can recruit some of my favorite tyers into the project. If tyers are interested in taking part and have some patterns that they have developed, I would be interested in hearing from them.
It was nice to see a resurgence of feather-wing streamers over the past year. I received many emails from tyers who started tying along with the patterns. I could see this happening on Facebook with patterns I had just posted, tied by other fly tyers, popping up in my feed. It was also quite a learning experience for myself.