I am John McLain and FeathersMc is or was my retirement hobby. It has developed into a full time labor of love. I’ve tied flies for close to 50 years and have been hooked on classic Atlantic Salmon Flies since 1978. That is when Paul Jorgensen’s book on tying the Atlantic Salmon flies first came out. Unfortunately, his methods and lessons did not produce the finished product that I wanted.
A few years later, I crossed paths with Eugene Sunday. Gene had just been to Chicago and taken part in a Classic Salmon Fly class taught by Wayne Luallen. The event was put together by Don Colman, with whom I became very close to 20 years later. Gene was locked into “The Group”, as he called it, due to his hook making skills. Gene explained “you had to bring something to the table in order to be invited to join”.
This is really when I started FeathersMc. At least, this is when I began to create substitute feathers for the feathers I couldn’t acquire or afford. I had been experimenting with color processing feathers and fur for some time with various methods such as hair dye/bleach, and immersion dyeing with Rit and Veniard Dyes.
My first success, in my opinion, was a Florican Bustard sub using “Blue Taloose” goose shoulders. These goose shoulders were so dark that they were almost black. When I bleached lines using hair bleach, brushed on to resemble the original pattern, they made an acceptable substitute for the Florican Bustard. I shared the idea and process with anyone interested, and the following years—that type of substitute was available from a few sources. I also worked out an Indian Crow sub by pinching feathers between rubber washers, held by vice grip pliers. In spite of my efforts, I never received an invitation to join “The Group”. I did my best to share my knowledge with anyone interested.
I retired in January 2001 after 26 years with the Waterford Township Michigan, Police Department. I enjoyed my career but it left little time to expand on my lust for salmon fly materials. My first post retirement job was with a brand new fly shop in the Detroit area, Westbank Anglers. It was a beautiful store in a prime location. Unfortunately, the location was perfect for Starbucks or high end womens clothing—but not a fishing store (as we were called by the local gentry). It closed in less than a year. I then went to work for a fairly local store in Grand Blanc MI called Anglers Den. It lasted about 2 years but I hadn’t gotten any closer to my goal of being accepted into “The Group” I had become friends with many notables in the salmon fly community, but hadn’t really offered much in the way of anything meaningful.
I can’t say that I’ve accomplished my goal, but I feel I am getting closer. With the Internet, I have been able to realize “The Group” is really all of us—now that we can communicate so easily. If you have read this far, I guess you are a member of “The Group”.