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Fly tying grew out of casting off grief

March 25, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Art Overcash works in his Hagerstown home to tie a Royal Wulff fly.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Images of fish circle the edge of a lampshade in the room and a picture of a brook trout graces a clock on the wall.

On the opposite wall, a mounted 16-inch golden trout stands as a testament to Art Overcash’s fishing prowess.

Overcash tells a story of how his fishing buddies were unable to land the elusive fish in a Pennsylvania stream, but he managed to hook it one day while depending on murky water to mask his presence.

Above a work table is a big picture of a blue marlin.

“That’s my life goal, to go to Hawaii and catch a blue marlin,” said Overcash, a lieutenant for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

This is where Overcash closes the door on the rest of the world and immerses himself in the art of fly tying, a hobby he took up in 1996 after his 10-year-old daughter died of cancer.

Overcash dabbled with fly tying earlier in his life, but when his only child died, Overcash said he needed something to help ease the heartache and depression caused by her death.

And so Overcash’s free time is spent in an upstairs room of his Frederick Street home tying fishing flies known as the “Woolly Bugger,” the “White Muddler” and the “Gray Ghost.”

Although Overcash has had a small amount of formal training for his craft, his flies are used by professional guides, and his “White Muddler” was shown in a recent edition of Eastern Fly Fishing magazine.

Overcash also is a fly-fishing instructor for Dusty Wissmath’s Fly Fishing School and Guide Service at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa. Overcash teaches students how to fly fish on three lakes at the resort.

The secret to tying flies is to trick the fish into thinking they’re chomping down on something like a fly, a leech or a minnow. In Overcash’s work studio, just about anything is used to make the flies, including the feathers of a rooster and tiny strips of rubber that simulate the legs of an insect. There are numerous drawers in the studio containing material such as rabbit fur, deer hair and turkey feathers.

There are beads simulating eyes of insects, all sorts of wire to tie the creations and synthetic material with sparkly appearances designed to attract the eyes of a fish.

Overcash’s flies are used by trout guides like Steve Harry, who offers trout-fishing trips on streams like Red Run and Conewego Creek in the Chambersburg, Pa., area.

Although Overcash enjoys fishing, he spends more time making flies than getting in the water.

“I much more enjoy giving my flies to other people and letting them have a great day of fishing with them,” the 54-year-old police officer said.

Fly tying is a decades-old tradition through which fly designs have been passed down from great designers in the field. Some fly-fishing aficionados, including former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, have had their own personal fly tiers, Overcash said.

Overcash has been in law enforcement for more than 32 years and has been at the sheriff’s office for nearly 25 years. He is a shift commander in the patrol division.

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