Big Mike's streamers
Truly influential fly tyers are rare. Mike Martinek is such a tyer. He has been the initiator and a major contributor to the revival of the American streamers. Read Bob Petti's article about Mike's beautiful, classical streamer patterns.
Truly influential fly tyers are rare. By influential, I mean tyers who make us stop and think about what we are doing, who have a profound and obvious impact on what we tie, how we tie it, and often how we fish it. Their influence extends beyond our bookshelves and is most visible in our fly boxes, where it matters most. Mike Martinek, Jr. is certainly such a tyer.
As Bob Skehan's Streamers@ group began to piece together tributes to those individuals who contributed to the development of streamer fly tying, I felt there was a piece missing. The people we had paid respect to had been very influential, of course, but for the most part they have passed. Mike Martinek has unassumingly served as a bridge between the historical figures of yesterday and the tyers of today. Through writing and demonstration tying, he was on the fore of what is now rejuvenation in the realm of streamer fly tying. He has gone so far as to drive the creation of a series of hooks modelled after the old Allcock hooks that are no longer available - his Mike Martinek Rangeley streamer hooks sold under the Gaelic Supreme brand.
Mike's flies have appeared in some of the most beautiful fly tying books in print. Flip through any Schmookler and Sils book and you will certainly happen across a plate of Mike's streamers. He is one of the tyers featured in Judith Dunham's book "The Atlantic Salmon Fly - The Tyers and Their Art", one of my favorite fly tying books. Any article on the classic New England streamer style of fly tying in magazines usually draws upon Mike's expertise. In addition, he has two self-published books filled with beautiful original streamer patterns and a number of videos under the "Fly Fishing Video Magazine" label. He is regarded as the living authority on the techniques, style, and history of the streamer fly.
Mike has the uncanny ability to combine aesthetics and functionality in his fly tying. He produces flies that are at the same time incredibly beautiful yet completely practical. His art training and natural talent have obviously given him the ability to combine colors and materials in such a way that the resulting fly truly is greater than the sum of its parts. The rainbow smelt, the forage fish most often imitated with New England style streamers, lends itself to colorful streamers, and Mike makes use of color so well that his flies have life beyond their natural materials. This ability to see with the eyes of both artist and fisherman is what attracts me to the flies of tyers like Mike Martinek and Dave Whitlock.
For me personally, Mike has been a great inspiration. Sitting through one of his slide shows, the deep felt respect he holds for the founders of the streamer craft comes shining through. Such respect is contagious. His love of streamers and fly tying is contagious. His lack of pretense and ego is refreshing. The endless wise cracks and one liners serve as a reminder that fly tying is, if nothing else, about having fun. He is grounded enough to realize that a well tied fly is supposed to be tossed into the water and chewed beyond recognition by a fish. It has come to the point that any trip to one of the big fly fishing shows centers around Mike's tying table, where I try to listen and absorb his knowledge and influence. As I alluded to before, his most profound influence has been at my tying bench and in my fly boxes.
I have great respect for Mike Martinek as a fly tyer, but I have even more respect for him as a person. The heritage of the streamer fly could not have been placed in better hands.
Allow me to extend a special thanks to my friend, Chris Del Plato, for supplying scans of one of his flies as well as those tied by Mike Martinek.
Follow these links to see more of Mike's contributions to Raske's New England Streamer site
Also see Chris Del Plato's review of one of Mike's videotapes.