Jon Harrang – Get to Know a Fly Tyer

Jon Harrang

Tell us about yourself.
I am married to a beautiful red-headed woman; this year we will celebrate our 20-year anniversary! We have been blessed with 3 lovely daughters; our eldest has brown eyes, the middle kid has green eyes, and our youngest has blue eyes. I like to joke that we got the variety pack!

For the past 17 years my “day job” has been serving as a Food Safety Inspector for the State of Oregon. Not exactly an easy gig all the time, but I enjoy meeting lots of different people and helping them get new food-related businesses off the ground. This line of work has forced me to improve my people skills, communication, tact, diplomacy, negotiation skills, etc. etc. – All qualities needed to successfully navigate life!

For the past dozen years my family and I have lived in Redmond, OR, a town of about 30,000 people near the much larger and better-known town of Bend, OR. Many folks from the East Coast may be surprised to learn that most of Oregon is in fact a desert. We get 9 inches of rain per year whether we need it or not. If I don’t water the cactus, they will die!

My free time and money is mostly consumed by our little hobby farm, HorseFly Ranch. I can assure you, this place is a workaholic’s dream come true!!!

In addition to the Harrang Clan, full-time residents include a horse, a pony, numerous chickens, a cat, a dog, and a small (but ever-growing) herd of goats. We happen to live on a migration route for mule deer, raptors, and migratory songbirds, so numerous wild visitors routinely add variety to the mix. Instead of burning brush and limbs, I pile them up to serve as wildlife habitat. The quail in particular seem to really appreciate my efforts! It is on my bucket list to finally convince a pair of bluebirds that it is a good idea to raise babies here.

Gardening in this country is difficult. Poor soils, a short growing season, hot and cold temperature extremes, howling winds, and a host of critters that are keen to eat anything green in the desert all conspire against me, but I still try. Lord willing, I will finally get a greenhouse constructed in 2015.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Banks, OR, approximately 30 miles west of Portland, OR. In my youth the population held steady at around 500 people. It is still a small town, but the population has grown and the demographics have changed as it has transitioned from a logging/farming area to a bedroom community for the high-tech firms that have sprung up around the outskirts of Portland.

When and where did you tie your first fly?
I was probably about 10 years old. A friend of my father’s came over to the house to show him how to tie flies. I was captivated by what he was doing so I climbed up in my Dad’s lap there at the kitchen table and together we (mostly he) tied a Royal Coachman Bucktail. To me, it was the most beautiful thing in the world. I put that fly in a card and sent it to my Grandfather who was an avid fisherman.

Who was your mentor?
I have had several mentors over the years. As a youngster I learned about creativity from my Uncle Russ. In truth we were mostly just lashing random materials on a hook, the bigger and brighter the better! We tied some crazy stuff, mostly junk, but it was fun and lit a spark inside me which still burns today. A year or two later Lee Clark taught me about the nuts and bolts of tying trout flies. Some readers may know him as the inventor of the Clark’s Golden Stone which is a famous pattern here in the West. After borrowing Poul Jorgenson’s seminal book “Salmon Flies” from a friend in college, I knew I had to dive in to that world! I was most fortunate to sit at the feet of Dick Jones of Eugene, OR. He really took me under his wing as a budding salmon fly tier and was very generous in terms of teaching me and gifting me with hard-to-find materials. Later, Bill Chinn opened my eyes to “next level” salmon fly tying with his often caustic yet always illuminating critiques of my work. Harry Lemire showed me that it was humanly possible to dress fantastic flies without a vise, and inspired me to begin down that path. It is maddengly difficult and I am still a rookie, but I love it! In terms of dressing and designing Steelhead patterns, nobody can touch Dave McNeese. I affectionately refer to him as the “Mad Scientist” of steehead flies. His influence on my tying and the world of steelhead flies in general cannot be overemphazised.

What is your favorite pattern.
Wow, that is a really tough question to answer. There are so many wonderful patterns out there, in all different categories! The neat thing for me is that every tier has their own interpretation of a pattern and their own unique style, so even if people follow the same dressing, the flies all come out a little differently and people’s personalities show through a little bit. In terms of working steelhead flies, the White-Winged Ackroyd and the Dunt have been very good to me. Other pet patterns include Preston Jennings’ Lord Iris, Syd Glasso’s Quillayute, Megan Boyd’s Lord Mayor of London, and a simple fly I came up with called the Copper & Claret.

What do you tie?
I am partial to pretty flies. My personality is such that I am naturally drawn to things that are far more complicated than they have to be, hence my love affair with the classic Atlantic Salmon flies from Britain’s Victorian era. However, due to the chronic busyness associated with my wife/kids, a full-time+ job, and the hobby farm as described above, I mostly admire these magnificent creations from afar anymore. When I am smart enough to make time to tie, I primarily focus on dressing high-end steelhead flies, Scottish Spey and Dee flies, Irish shrimp and grub patterns, etc. Most of these patterns have a historical connection which is another aspect of angling that I very much enjoy and appreciate. When done well these flies exhibit an elegant, sometimes even wicked look.

In my opinion, the true measure of skill is a tier’s ability to make a simple fly really stand out.

Do you tie commercially or do it strictly for fun?
I just tie for fun. To charge money would take all the magic out of it; at that point it would be just one more job, one more deadline, one more source of stress. Tying and fishing is an attempt to escape from all of that monkey business, or at least to hopefully put it into better perspective. The non-tier may not fully understand this, but I really try to pour a little bit of “soul” into my flies. For me, selling them would be akin to prostituting the thing I love.

Copper and Claret
Designed and dressed by Jon Harrang

Iron: Dave McNeese Blue Heron Spey Fly Hook, size 3
Tag: Oval copper tinsel, small
Tail: Strands of Golden Pheasant red breast feather
Body: Claret seal, well picked out
Rib: Large flat copper tinsel (Note: copper-colored Saltwater Flashabou may be used as an alternative on larger patterns)
Counter-rib: Oval copper tinsel, small (to reinforce the spey hackle)
Hackle: Grey spey hackle, starting at 3rd turn of tinsel
Throat: Golden Pheasant red breast feather
Wings: 4 matching Cree neck hackles, back to back.
Head: claret or black
Note: Variations include the addition of Jungle Cock cheeks. The throat may also be varied through the use of a claret-dyed double-spotted guinea fowl feather, a claret-dyed flank feather from a green-wing teal, etc.

Jon can be reached at

Share Button