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Catskill Fly Tying: the Art of Artifice

The exhibit, Catskill Fly Tying the Art of Artifice, will be displayed in the Catskill Center’s Erpf Gallery (43355 State Highway 28, Arkville, NY 12406) January 28 through March 18, 2017. Almost 40 macro photographs of flies will be on display. The images, captured by photographer Mark Loete, show some of the man-made flies local fishermen find success fishing in Catskill streams.

Two special programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibit. An Artist’s Reception and fly tying demonstration will be held on Saturday, February 11, from 2-4 PM. Saturday, March 4 at 1pm, photographer Mark Loete will give a talk sharing the history and insights into the creation of the exhibit. Both programs will take place at the Erpf Center in Arkville, NY

The relationship between trout and man is a primordial one. It is the artificial fly that is the tenuous connection between us and that mysterious, elusive, watery creature. The artificial fishing fly is an artifice — a clever deception.  Fur, feather, and sometimes man-made materials are lashed to steel with thread in such a fashion as to mimic the size, shape, color, and natural behavior of the aquatic insects trout depend on for their main food source. The selection, manner and method in which these materials are deployed on the hook — the fly “pattern” — draws upon a deep body of generational wisdom, regional diversity, and folk art.  Some patterns are deceptively simple to tie and fish.  Others are complex architectural constructs built to exacting specifications.  When these beautiful miniature sculptures are photographed at high resolution and enlarged, the art behind the artifice is revealed.

The idea for a gallery exhibit of trout fly photographs was born of a project completed for the Jerry Bartlett Memorial Angling Collection, a collection of angling books, art and memorabilia, housed at the Phoenicia Library. Stephanie Blackman Design was commissioned to create a web based digital “hatch chart” for the Collection — an informational matrix that shows what insect species an angler might encounter on the Esopus Creek at a given time of year, and what artificial fly best imitates that insect. Thirty-four aquatic insects we felt were most important to the fly fisherman were identified and then 64 fly patterns that best imitate them were selected.  To create them, we reached out to 15 master fly tyers who excel in the Catskill style and traditions, and who had some personal history or connection to our area. Some of the patterns are specific to the Esopus Creek, and little known beyond the Catskills.  Others are fished worldwide. Once the patterns were tied, every artificial fly was meticulously photographed in a carefully controlled studio environment.  In the end, serves as a history lesson as well as a fishing lesson. 



Mark Loete is a professional fine art and corporate photographer with over thirty years experience shooting a wide range of subjects, such as landscapes, architecture, jewelry, products and people. Most of those years were spent in New York City, creating commercial and advertising imagery for clients like Sony, IBM, Avon, Harper-Collins, and the United Nations. In 2002, Mark moved his home, family, and photography business to the Catskill Mountains, settling in the historic hamlet of Chichester. The move allowed him to indulge his dual passions for photography and fly fishing the streams and rivers of the Catskill Mountains.

Growing up in Illinois, Mark cut his angling teeth fishing the bass ponds of the Midwest, and hooking an occasional catfish in the Mississippi River.  Moving to the East Coast after college, he discovered the fly rod and immersed himself in learning all aspects of the sport — including fly tying. In 2014, Mark founded Catskill Mountain Angler, a fly fishing guiding and instruction service. Of late, Mark spends much of his time with a fly rod or a camera in hand, and often finds himself holding both at the same time.

“Catskill Fly Tying: The Art of Artifice” draws upon Mark’s background and extraordinary skill at photographing fine jewelry and his extensive knowledge of the fly tyer’s craft.  Through these unique, larger-than-life images and the tiny details they reveal, we can truly appreciate the beauty and artistry that is the Catskill Style.

Catskill Fly Tying the Art of Artifice, is on display January 28 through March 18, 2017. The Erpf Gallery, located at 43355 Route 28 in Arkville, NY is open Mon – Fri 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm. For more information, contact the Catskill Center at 845-586-2611, or visit