@coastfly: The New Glass Aesthetic

“Shriiiiiiimp! I just love Shrimps.”

This is the first part of two similar portrait interviews, I’ve conducted with two extremely talented fly tyers. I have wanted to do this for a long time, and by adding a new dimension to this little intergalactic coastal cruiser called kystflue.com, I guess I’ve taken the very first step into a new future for the website. And I love it already!

First of all you’ve probably noticed that I am writing in English. Don’t worry; we’re not transforming kystflue.com into an all-english endavour from this day forward. But occasionally we will be writing in English.

Some evil tongued gangsters might think that we’re just trying to be international badasses, but the truth and simple reason is actually somewhat quite different. We have experienced an awesome increase in readers from the US, Germany, UK, and the rest of Scandinavia etc. during the last year, which we are really excited about. It is as simple as that; we want to share special parts of our adventure with them too. Especially if specific blog themes contain broader perspectives than just coastal fly fishing on Funen. What you are about to read, has this broader angle attached to it, so let’s take this a step further, coastal brothers.

If you have paid attention to social media types such as Instagram when looking for fly tying inspiration, you have probably noticed that there is something exciting going on in the deep southern parts of Denmark and on the west coast of Sweden simultaniously.

I have baptized the movement: “The new glass aesthetic”. This movement is in my opinion lead by two extraordinary coastal fly tyers, and this week we’ll zoom in on the danish contribution.

I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of the ‘Glass Shrimp’ by @coastfly. I instantly felt this creative fly tying urge rise deep inside of me, almost like a divine intervention. It was a new direction. What I saw was something fresh, personal and mesmerizing. Simply a new take on tradition, and it was the real deal for me.

True talent is not a question of time length, but rather the ability to create something extraordinary in the now. My good friend Morten Hansen, the man behind @coastfly, is the very realization of that concept. Since I started following Morten’s fly tying endavours, I’ve been really curious to get to know his way of thinking coastal seatrout flies to fully understand how a master perceive the very aesthetic of fly tying in regards of different techniques and material use – and how it links to the pragmatic side of fly-fishing in saltwater. What I love about Morten’s fly tying is the attention he brings to small details and how he manages to create pure awesomeness out of few materials. But one thing is how I interpret Morten’s work, a whole different level is when it comes from the mouth of the glass master himself. So here we go, folks. Let’s get into business and see what’s on Morten’s mind.

Kasper: First of all thank you so much for taking your time to chat with me about the concept of coastal fly tying and your own awesome work. Let’s start with the ground work. What are the basics or fundamentals of a good coastal seatrout fly?

Morten: Well, the basics and/or fundamentals – in my opinion – are mimicking the real deal (shrimps, baitfish etc). Not so much in color, but mainly in shape, and the way the prey looks and moves.

Kasper: How would you describe your identity as a coastal fly tyer?

Morten: I’m a so-called “late bloomer” and have only been tying flies for roughly 4 years now – But it didn’t take long for me to know in which direction I wanted to go with my flies. Modern flies with new techniques and more realism is what I like to tie – although I absolutely love a classic as well.

Kasper: In your words what defines your coastal fly aesthetic?

Morten: Tough question! I think the key thing that defines my work is my eye for small details and the fact that I use more time on each fly that drops of my vise than the average fly tier. It’s important to me to make the fly look perfect. By that, I mean some people tie fast because they don’t care about looks and they know that the fly will fish just as well as anything from my fly box – and that is absolutely fine with me. I just like my flies to look good in the box as well – and most of us choose the best looking fly in the box to strengthen our beliefs in that fly and in its capabilities in catching that dream fish.

Kasper: What is your favorite fly tying material and why that specific material?

Morten: Few. It is no secret that I love UV-resin, but that’s not really a material, I guess, more like a helpful tool as I see it. But if I would have to choose one material for every fly, I would choose craft fur. It’s cheap, it’s very soft but strong at the same time, it comes in all colors of the rainbow, and it even has “underfur” which you can use as dubbing as well. Very versatile in my opinion. Also because craft fur can be used as a substitute for spey feathers – which we all know costs a hell of a lot more!

Kasper: Take us through your work process – from idea to end result.

Morten: I’m kind of a “run and gun” type of person when it comes to designing and creating. Most of the time I will sit down and just scramble through my materials and place matching colors, feathers, flash etc. on the table in front of me and then I just tie by “feel” and intuition. I know it sounds strange, but I rarely get the ideas when I’m not sitting by my vise. Except for the ‘Glass Shrimp’. That glorious little thing came to my head in a pet store as I walked by a tank full of shrimps.

Kasper: If you could pick only one pattern, what would it be? Shrimp or baitfish?

Morten: Shrimp. Definitely Shrimp. Shrimps are always on the menu of a hungry saltwater predator. And it’s fairly an easy prey as well. So that´ll be the shrimp. Shriiiiiiimp! I just love Shrimps.

Kasper: What does tradition in the sense of fly tying mean to you – and how do you use tradition?

Morten: I respect the traditional way of tying flies and what it has done for fly tying from start to where we are today. That being said I like to do my own things in my own way – and I will choose UV-resin over epoxy any day because it’s easier, a lot faster and not so messy. But as mentioned earlier in this interview I absolutely LOVE a good well tied classic pattern. Like the “Grå Frede” or “Magnus” and so on.

Kasper: What is the most important feature or design aspect of a coastal seatrout fly?

Morten: The most important thing to me is to make the fly look like the prey I’m imitating – at least in silhouette. That is why I mentioned earlier that color isn’t the most important thing. Try taking a grey fly and hold it up against the sky looking at it from the fish´s point of view. Now do the same with a yellow one, or a red one. They all look grey from this point of view. I don’t know how to feel about the whole fluorescent hype at the moment. It looks good – yes. However, does it get me more fish? Maybe. Maybe because I have a stronger belief in that fire red fly and therefore will fish it more actively and creative. But then again – look at “Kobberbassen”. That fly fools more seatrout than almost any other fly out there – and it has no fluorescent materials in it what so ever. I think the real secret lies within the belief in the fly on my leader.

Kasper: Let’s take a look in the crystal ball: What is the next big thing in coastal fly tying?

Morten: Well, I think (and hope) that big streamers will find their way into our boxes in the future. They´ve already proven themselves in rivers and lakes for both seatrouts and salmons, so why would they not work on the coast as well?

Kasper: What is your proudest achievement up until now as a skilled fly tyer, what is your biggest invention so far?

Morten: That will be the ‘Glass Shrimp’. Hands down. End of story. That fly was a homerun so to speak. My flag ship and my proudest moment – and it really got my name “out there”. Time will test its capabilities whether it will become a “classic” in the future. But I’ve caught 6 saltwater species on it so far (seatrout, flounder, garfish, mackerel, weever, and cod). So I know it works. It eventually lead to a whole glass series, which I’m very proud of as well. There are many fly tiers out there, and they all wants to “reinvent” the wheel. I think that the ‘Glass Shrimp’ and its cousins ignited a spark in a whole new breed of fly tiers. And also creativity in what can be done with just a few materials and some UV-resin. As an example: Jonatans extremely beautiful “super shrimp”. I mean look at that thing! That is the best damn looking shrimp fly I have ever seen since Kern Lunds “Perfect Leo Shrimp”!

Kasper: Well, that was really it, Morten. You’re one hell of a nice guy, a much-talented fly tyer, and I really think you’ll be one of the front runners of the future of coastal fly tying. I really like the way you interpret various aspects of your seatrout flies, from silhouettes over color to your personal take on tradition and creativity. I’m a fan! Best of luck, buddy! 

If you want to follow Morten’s work in the future, just click on the following links:

I totally recommend the episode about ‘hook talk’ and of course all of Morten’s fly tying videos – such a priceless inspiration going on there! Or simply just watch Morten perform mad skills mastering UV-resin like a pro in this video from Ahrex:

Next week’s interview will feature none other than the great Jonatan Ternald – stay tuned, folks! There’s a real treat coming your way!

// Kasper

Photo credits: Morten Hansen