A biographical article on Jack Gartside by D'Arcy Egan.

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So who is Jack Gartside anyway? And how does he manage to fish 300 days a year? Find out in an article by D'Arcy Egan that originally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Flyfishing master keeps it simple

by D'Arcy Egan

Strip fly fishermen of what they most consider important, from a custom fly rod and reel to fashionable fishing togs. Add the most critical ingredients for a successful fishing trip, mainly an aggressive angling attitude and a few flies that really catch fish.

Now we're talking Jack Gartside, master flytyer, world traveler, and noted Boston cab driver.

Gartside is featured at the Museum of Natural history Trout Club's annual Clambake on Wednesday. He'll school fly fishers on tying flies before dinner, and tell them fly fishing stories afterward. The event ($35, $25 for members) is open to the public. Call 231-4600 (Ext. 278).

"Perhaps I do resist financial success," said Gartside, 49. He called this week to explain that tying flies was his life, since baseball legend Ted Williams flipped that fishing switch 40 years ago, though it was an existence that didn't include the luxury of even a four-figure bank balance.

Gartside said his earthy attitude came from his English grandparents, who were from the industrial area of Lancashire. "My grandfather always said, "There are no luggage racks on hearses, no pockets in shrouds."

"All we have is this life and it's up to us to make the most of it. I've always believed that, and never owned a lot or had the desire to own things."

Gartside doesn't have a sleek, custom fly rod and a closet where the latest from L.L. Bean and Orvis are hanging. Some of his best creations have been tied on a fly-tying vise attached to the steering wheel of his Boston cab.

He's traveled to trout waters most fly fishermen only dream of wading. When you don't have much to worry about, and a blank calendar of upcoming events, a spur-of-the-moment fishing trip is easy.

"One time I won a round trip on Continental Airlines to anywhere they fly. It was 2 p.m., and I had to take the trip that day," Gartside said. "So I went fly fishing in New Zealand."

The toughest part of the adventure was a madcap trip from Logan International Airport to his inner-city Boston home. Gartside stripped his bank account of its $200 balance, collected fishing gear and fly-tying materials and returned to the airport in time for the 4 p.m. flight. "Quite a trick with rush hour starting," he said.

"I lasted a month in New Zealand on grit, not money," Gartside said. "I firmly believe in the likelihood that things will work out for the best. That somewhere along the line good things are going to happen."

Gartside found plenty of New Zealand friends willing to take him fishing, provide a hot meal or a place to sleep. He tied flies to make a few dollars, and returned with $1.35 in his pocket.

Gartside's flies are legendary.

His soft hackle streamers are in demand on the bonefish flats of Florida. A Gartside Pheasant Hopper is deadly on Montana trout streams in the summertime. Gartside's favorite fresh water fly is the Sparrow, a combination nymph and streamer.

"I'm never going to be wealthy," he said. "But then again, I'm never completely broke."

Dedicated fly anglers would be aghast at his fly fishing gear.

"I use anything that's working at the moment," he said. "I've got fly rod tips that are broken, and mix-and-match rod sections that don't quite fit and are attached with duct tape. I only have one rod that's complete the way it came from the factory."

Gartside's salvation are fly rod and reel makers who send equipment every now and then to try out. The most expensive gear, he said, can be overrated.

"In the Keys last winter, I went through two fly rods in one day, the only two I had," Gartside said. "I rushed off to Kmart and bought a Berkley Hunter fly rod that sells for $19.95.

I got it on sale for $17. It's a decent rod, and it caught fish. The Berkley Hunter is in the trunk of my car and I'm still using it."

There is little to slow Gartside from summer adventures in Montana, winter forays to the Florida Keys and a sprinkling of trips to England, Norway, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, and Central America. Not a wife, a mortgage, or a wealth of possessions.

"I've never owned a car that's less than 10 years old," he said, laughing. His latest, a 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was a gift from his sister.

Gartside was lured to fly-tying before he began fishing with a fly.

"My idol, when I was growing up, was Ted Williams, the great baseball player for the Boston Red Sox," said Gartside. While the other kids revered Williams' ability with a bat, Gartside focused on Williams' favorite sport of fishing.

"When I was 8 years old, I was at a sportsmen's show at the old Mechanics Hall in Boston. Ted Williams and Jack Sharkey, the boxer, were conducting fly casting demonstrations," Gartside said. "After the casting, they both went to a booth to tie flies.

"I watched them tie, and badgered Williams until he sat me down and taught me how to tie a simple fly. I got hooked, even though I had no other contact with the sport and no one in the family fished."

Gartside may be an off-the-wall angler, but the experts agree he can tie the conventional pattern with the best in fishing. He also excels at creating innovative new fly patterns.

An English teacher long ago, after a stint in the Navy, Gartside is also a talker. He preaches simplicity, form and function in tying a fly.

Most of all, though, he preaches the value of spending time on the water, not planning the trip.

"Most fly fishermen spend two or three weeks , at the most, actually fishing each year," Gartside said. "Forget the guides, the planning. Get out there and do it."



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