Earlier this week, I had a wonderful but bereaved conversation with the owner of Fair Flies, Jeff Coffey which left me in a paradoxical state. Here, I was listening to horror stories of women and children being sold into exploitative trafficking, typically sex trafficking for women and bonded labour for young men. I was listening to his first hand accounts of witnessing battered women seeking help, despite the dangers of leaving. I sat in my truck, now painstakingly aware of my privilege, silent tears rolling down my cheeks, listening to him tell his story about how his name unknowingly became a beacon of hope in the streets. I listened to his story regarding the dangers of helping these women as an outsider and the fine line you have to try to balance in doing so. I listened to every word surrounding women being forced, being evicted, women being taken advantage of and children being sold from their parents.
But, then I listened to his remarkable efforts of saving women, of offering hope, of offering safety and respect, offering a livable wage four times of what a Nepali man makes of just $1.80 a day. I listened to him raising capital to buy or rent safe spaces for women and paying living wages up front to financially stabilize families, keeping fathers in country which would in turn remove temptations in sending children away in hopes of better lives. I listened to his story of fighting for two laws to be changed at the highest of levels, of spending nine months teaching women how to tie flies, or how proportions work and how to create an inventive 5D brush which broke the mold of how brushes were made on the market. I listened to how the women loved creating brushes and how the work was fun. I listened to how he has successfully saved the lives of over 50 women now, employing them as Fair Flies employees and giving them the opportunity to be treated as an equal, to be financially empowered, to be safe. And then I listened to him, as a family man from Oregon with a wife and daughters who has pushed boundaries to provide new lives for women who were in a hopeless place. A man who didn't come from an affluent corporate background with money to burn but instead a man who worked on the ground, who guided, who ran life-changing back country kid's camps on a reservation in British Columbia and someone who saw they could make a difference one life at a time. I sat there in my truck feeling wistful, yet inspired for all the work that has been done and has yet to be done.
There are moments in our lives where our calling is to go beyond what would be the rational, economic and safe route. It is a calling to no longer self serve, but to serve the greater good. Just in speaking to Jeff, I do not believe for a second that he has ever believed in anything but serving the greater good. Fair Flies is a registered Benefit Corporation in the state of Oregon, which means mission comes first in operating agreements and fiscal reports second. Fair Flies believes in Trade instead of Aid by using "fly tying materials as [their] primary product to provide livable wages to marginalized people in compromised areas around the world but focused in SE Asia". They are making positive strides in communities of people who need help by bettering their lives, "be that with young people who need direction and purpose to stay out of crime, widows who need help providing for their children, victims of exploitation who need to be rehabilitated, or simply parents whose children are at risk of being sold into slavery". They are providing people with dignity rather than dependence. Very rarely today are we able to associate individualization to a commercial product. Yes, we can personalize our products we buy directly from artisans, craftsmen, farmers, tradesmen & women and we can see their story, be inspired by their story, but it is much harder to see a to see a person through packaged items sitting on a shelf. Fair Flies are not simply selling brushes and craft furs, they are selling us, as the buyer, an incredible opportunity to put our passions of fly fishing & of fly tying to save lives. They are extending the opportunity to the buyer to serve the greater good. Buying these brushes and furs allows for employment retention, mentoring and aiding those who have not had the privilege to a fair, safe and just life. . It is not simply a brush hanging on a fly shop wall.
ALL THE FLUFF FOR HALF THE STUFF.....
Ethical reasoning aside, their brushes are sustainable, zero waste, easy to tie with and give 5D profiles, using half of the products, which in turn makes for more economical fly tying. When tying Intruder style flies, or tube flies it is crucial you are maintaining that undulating profile, but refrain from bulking. These brushes allow you to use a single turn or even sometimes just half a turn to achieve that sparse profile. I tell students in my intruder courses that these brushes provide all the puff for half the stuff; and that is KEY for tying. Intruder style flies are already heavy, especially if you are using copper tubes, adding dumb bell eyes and high density materials like rabbit. These heavy flies become tiresome to cast all day, and if they are bulked full of excess fibers, you will not achieve that desired profile shape as it swings through the water; instead it will become matted down. Using brushes however, will create light flies with that 5 dimensional profile, keeping profile even while it swims (which is HUGE)
ARE YOU A BEGINNER FLY TYER? OR WANTING TO KEEP COSTS DOWN?
These brushes make tying ridiculously easy as you could very simply use two materials- a brush wrapped body with a marabou collar, or jazz it up with a few fibers of rhea and two nails of Jungle cock. The brushes are full of flash, squiggly legs and various synthetic fibers so you keep costs down rather than buying excess materials (which would actually cost you 7$ more if you did it that way) and the wire is stainless steel, which allows for saltwater tying as well and keeps fibers attached even after being chomped by fish teeth. I use these brushes for all of my beginner intruder classes as they're just so dang easy to tie with because aforementioned, you only need to use one wrap on smaller flies or maybe two on larger flies to give you that automatic profile. If nothing more, the ease of using brushes will save you time and money.
Next time you see a Fair Flies brush hanging on the fly shop wall, remember that you are investing in more than just a brush (albeit quality and economically friendly), you are investing in a movement that is giving back lives that are just and fair, and thus...Fair Flies.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING FROM ME?
Very similar to my Online Spey Course, I will be having a Beginners Intruder Course learning to use these brushes to make FIVE summer steelhead flies which they simply cannot ignore. If you're interested in this course, drop me an email