Monday, May 4, 2015

The Monoplanes Of Stuart Hardy

The various social media platforms have certainly made it easier to come across talent from around the world and I was blown away when I started following Stuart Hardy on Facebook.  His talent on the vise is clearly evident and the Monoplanes that he's tying are genius.

Stuart was kind enough to send along a stack of photographs and some very interesting narrative to share in this post giving the background on these very striking flies.  

 Click on the images to view in a larger format.  Enjoy.

Stuart wrote...  "Fly Tying has been a journey for me – a journey of discovery, joy, frustration and fulfillment. As a 14 year old boy scout I tied little dry flies and fished with silk, and bamboo on the delicate Mid-Wales upland rivers under the austere eye of my Scoutmaster. Those years were whimsical and yet formative, and were to lead ultimately, to half my life spent in the outdoors, and the World of Adventure. As a mountain guide, kayaker and expedition leader - my office was the wild places of the world, and a multitude of colour, texture, cultures and extreme experiences assaulted my senses on a daily basis. Move on 40 years or so, and until three and a half years ago it never occurred to me to tie a fly since those far of days. However, determined to take up a more relaxing hobby, that I could continue despite recently becoming a Grandfather, and connect with the world of creativity that I had explored as an artist in University – I considered to revisit my old hobby.
So – that was it- three and half years ago I started fishing for trout again in my local rivers and lakes, and embarked on my tying journey, which has become a passion as extreme as any I experienced as an adventurer. I started tying a few flies for fishing for trout but was rapidly  drawn into the world of Salmon flies by colorful creations made from lavish materials from  around the world. Soon I tried to imitate the creations I found on the internet and realized almost immediately this was science as well as art. Initially I sort guidance from experts around the world and struggled manfully to create Classic Patterns according to the strict instructions of the old Pattern Books ,and some fearsome mentors. I found those early days extremely daunting as my skills did not match my aspirations, and seriously considered giving up my new hobby – but an increasing interest in collecting the rare and vintage materials required for construction fueled my attention – and I stuck with it. I realized that many of the vintage flies I had come to collect were not perfect, and were not tied exactly to pattern, rather the old tiers used the pattern as a guide and tied their own interpretations. I decided to follow suit and entered a phase of what I like to call ‘Classic’ freestyle tying – that is to say tying variations of original patterns using my own interpretations.  For me this was a cathartic period and totally transformed my attitude to the hobby and the quality of my tying. I felt free to experiment and explore outside the confines of ‘correctness’ and although my approach clearly upset a number of the ‘old guard’ in the fly tying world, I discovered a new found enthusiasm. I soon found my technique, abilities, and confidence grew rapidly and I discovered on those rare occasions I returned to tie traditional patterns –they were also much easier to tie. 

I have always been a collector, and so in parallel to my tying, I developed a growing love of all things old and interesting related to the history of fly tying, initially intrigued by the characters involved in this dance of life, and started to derive further insight and ideas from my growing collection of vintage items and materials. Somehow I found these nostalgic possessions of the early artists inspirational too, and have always tried to collect items that are not only interesting but also belonged to interesting people. In the last three years I have been privileged to gather together one of the most significant collections of vintage salmon hooks in the UK included a large number of GM Kellson and Pryce-Tannat’s personal hooks and my hope is that one day they will find their way into the Redditch Hook Museum. In addition I have over 3000 vintage flies contained in an array of intriguing and charming storage devices from the period…some of which are unique. I experienced adrenalin rushes in auction houses, as strong as any whitewater or cliff edge much to the amusement of my friends and family. 

Jump to the present and my tying is now something I am completely obsessed with, and I like to think that - just like some of my early inspirers, I am pushing the boundaries of contemporary tying. I discovered by chance that Hardy in 1940-50 experimented with horizontally mounted wings on their Salmon flies, referred to as Monoplanes. I found the idea fascinating and started to experiment with artistic versions of monoplanes tied predominantly for display. I soon realized that people began to recognize these designs and even referred to them as Stuart Hardy flies…something I found a huge incentive, and many even considered they looked like butterflies. With that trigger my latest phase has begun and I am now tying with real butterfly wings integrated into many patterns, and I often use them as the inspiration for the colors I combine together - as they drive a natural color balance. I use vintage hooks or hooks I make myself...often with real gold and silver encrusted onto the hooks in what I call an Egyptian Finish, and I use the finest quality materials I can source from around the world often up to 100 years old or more. Many people who have seen my flies refer to them as more like jewelry with their 22ct bodies which is something I consider a compliment, and it has led me to tie some patterns onto large kilt pins – so that the can be worn as brooches on people hats or clothing. 

My hobby is now funded by the popularity of my flies, and I tie commissions to order for clients all over the world – particularly Monoplanes...everyone is unique, and I never know how a pattern will end until it is finished. My current occupation requires endless air travel, and lonely stays in hotel rooms around the world, which strangely - actually provides me with the time required to invest online in searching for my many treasures. 

My journey has only just started, and I am thrilled by what the future holds, as my collection grows - and I tie at more shows around the world. The more I tie..the more I realize I have to learn and the more I sense the opportunity for growth is there.  

In the mean time – I still like to catch fish!"

If interested in discussing a commission of a Monoplane, please email Stuart at

No comments: