“So when Bob Nauheim came from Fishing International to Charlie’s Haven with Frank Bertania, they were missing all the big fish,” Charlie said. “Bob was getting upset and angry because he couldn’t get one on, so I said, ‘I have a nasty fly in my pocket; would you like to try it?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’ll try anything,’ so he cut the Deceiver off that Lefty Kreh invented and put on my fly. As soon as he cast it out, as soon as it hit the water, the fish ran over and — boom — 9½-pound fish to the boat. So, I poled the flat a while and Frank caught one, 6½ pounds. Then he gave the rod back to Bob. When he went to cast to the next big bonefish, Frank was in the middle of the boat and Bob pulled the fly between me and Frank and hooked Frank in his ass. And this is how it all began right there. We got the fly out of Frank’s ass. Bob cut it off the line and put it in his pocket, and he took it to the Fly Shop in Redding, California, to Mike Michalak and asked if he’d copy the fly and tie up a lot of them. Mike said, ‘Yes, but I’ll have to call Charlie.’ So Mike called me up and told me, ‘Bob gave me this fly for me to copy,’ so I said, ‘Yeah, go ahead and do it.’ And that’s how it all began. It ended by Bob saying he looked in his tackle box and found this old lure. That isn’t true; he got the fly from me.”
Charlie is the first to admit that his flies aren’t fancy — or even pretty for that matter.
“I tie fly to catch fish, and I always tell the shops they tie the flies to catch the fish and the customer.” As with any genius, Charlie has a rhyme to his reason behind turning out flies that many would consider unattractive. “If you are a bonefish trying to catch a shrimp and you are gaining on it and it looks crippled, you are going to keep going after it.”
He swears that his sloppy version, sitting right next to the beautiful version bought from the fly shop, will be picked up by a bonefish every time. “It’s because my fly doesn’t look too fancy or too pretty; it always looks rough and I keep it like that. I could make it fancy and pretty but I’m not selling; I just tie and give.” Do Charlie’s flies display a few external imperfections? Absolutely. However, his rationale reveals the inner beauty of Charlie’s Charlies, and when you understand it, you realize that the finished product he holds in his hand is not merely a roughly tied fly but rather a true masterpiece.