noun leg·end \ˈle-jənd\
: a story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true
: a famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well
When I first moved to Boston a few years ago, this was Dave Skok: a legend. Over fly tying, his fishing and his fly tying skills were often discussed, in the most reverent terms. But then someone would ask the question: “Has anyone seen Skok lately?” In response, people would shake their heads, and look around the room as if waiting for someone to confirm a sighting. Like birders in search of a Whooping Crane, it was all then, a little now.
Recently, that changed — at least, for me. I saw Skok tying at Marlborough, though only fleetingly. And then a good fishing friend (often referred to in these pages as an incurable fishing junkie) set up a tying lesson for a few of us led by Skok. This was it: a front row seat with to prove the legend true.
And prove it he did. All you had to do was watch Skok’s hand movements while he demonstrated to know how skilled he is: every movement was intentional, no energy was wasted. He moved so quickly that it was instinctual. And he tied with a precision that only a few achieve.
In the tying, would pause and smell the chenille, asking: “Was this Gartside’s?” The answer, from the cigarette smoke, was often “Yes.” For me, this was one of the highlights of the evening: how local fishing history came to life; the tying of a Gurgler with Gartside materials, led through it by Boston’s most well-regarded tier, and an heir to Gartside’s territory, if not reputation.
Throughout the evening, I kept thinking of how much I love the truly original characters, and the local history, of this sport. It was a night that only confirmed my appreciation for both.