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A Rubber Leg Stimulator fly made by Charlie Craven. Photo by Sarah Boyum

The Story Behind a Local Fly-Tying Legend

How Charlie Craven was inspired to start creating false fish food.

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When he was seven, Charlie Craven lost all of his father’s fishing tackle during a single day of staggeringly wayward casts. The elder Craven punished young Charlie by buying him a fly-tying kit and telling him to replace the equipment. Thus began the career of “maybe the most versatile, productive tier ever,” according to Dave Student, a fly specialist at Louisville’s Umpqua Feather Merchants, the Nike of fly sellers. Craven got his first job tying in middle school, and the Northglenn native started inventing his own designs while working as a fishing guide in college. His creations often repurpose materials in surprising ways. For example, Craven mimicked the ribs of a midge fly—a favorite autumn snack of lake-dwelling trout—with Super Hair, a crinkled nylon filament mostly used to snag saltwater fish. He sold his first tie to Umpqua at the age of 28, and in the 20 years since, he’s created a bevy of originals (many with evocative names, such as the Dirty Hippy). Craven even opened his own Arvada shop, Charlie’s Fly Box, in 2004—proving that sometimes punishment can be its own reward.

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