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Copying fly patterns...

Phil Lilley

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Bret Raders' flies are awesome. He moved here from KC and started a fly shop, an online shopping cart, a fly guide business and has done great, as far as I can see. But there seems to have been a rif with his fly design. It's being copied?

He's made mention on his fishing report that his patterns are being copied. I'm not going to address IF they have- they probably have been copied. All great flies are copied by the average fly tyer. Then there is the commerical tyer that takes advantage of an uncopyrighted patterns and someone like Umpqua picks it up and runs with it. That's why alot of new patterns are sold by the designer to Umpqua or other wholesalers before the pattern is pirated. Just ask John Wilson- he sold the rights to "Trout Crack" to Umpqua and now you can find it in their catalog.

I consider Bret to be a friend, although he very seldom guides for us. And again, his flies work on Taney and he should be commended for designing them.

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I would think it is very difficult to keep a fly - even copywritten - from being copied. Your average - or should I say above average - fly tier who sees the pattern can pretty much get the recipe by just looking at it in many cases and go home and tie up a few... give them to buddies... etc. Unethical? Maybe... Illegal? I don't know how it would hold up in court unless you actually tied up a bunch and sold them...

Then again, if the original used - say - mallard flank and you used wood duck flank, even if copywritten there may be some problems proving the copyright was infringed. Just ask Al Beatty how many ways there are to tie an Adam's Parachute...

What would be very unethical would be for someone to tie something like that KNOWINGLY copying a pattern someone had come up with and making a profit on it.

I will say that John was always very forthcoming with the average tier on how to tie Trout Crack. He might hold back a couple of secrets until he knew you better, but still always seemed eager to share. Yes, he got a copyright and sold it to Umpqua... that was the smart thing to do. I just hope they never check my fly box...



"There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process." - Paul O’Neil

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Are you sure you mean copyright?

This is information given to me when I was once in the embrodeiry business.

This may be considered an art form and you may not take a pattern that is protected by copyright laws and sell it or produce it in large numbers. You may produce a simular product for personal use but cannot display it in a business. You may make a product and give it to a grandchild with for instance a Cardinal emblem that is simular but not exactly the same as the orginal. Is it ethical? I think that is really splitting hairs to make a few flies for a fishing trip. If I am guide and taking clients or giving them away in numbers its not right.

Does this law apply to fishing lures or flys? See the information from the web on copyright.


"What is a Copyright?

Copyright is a protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works, whatever the form of expression, provided such works are fixed in a tangible or material form. This means that if you can see it, hear it and/or touch it - it may be protected. If it is an essay, if it is a play, if it is a song, if it is a funky original dance move, if it is a photograph, HTML coding or a computer graphic that can be set on paper, recorded on tape or saved to a hard drive, it may be protected. Copyright laws grant the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly. Exclusive means only the creator of such work, not anybody who has access to it and decides to grab it."

Interesting topic though.

Thom Harvengt

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Lilley, what is the rest of the story. Is someone else making a profit off of his patterns? Our is everyone he guides and uses his flies taking one for a pattern and tying more of them. I have always admired the guy that comes up with an original pattern or style of fly tying, but I have many, many pattern books that have flies with a persons name on them and the recipe for the fly listed along side of them. What is the recipe for? I was thinking about buying and fly and was wondering if it has anything in it that is bad for me? It is to make one just like it for yourself, so you can copy it exactly. And they are published by Umpqua, Orvis, and the Federation of Fly Fishers to name a few. Fame and fortune in this sport is recognition and the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you have passed your knowledge along to another. Haven't you felt sorry the the guy beating the water to a froth with a woolly bugger, and not catching anything during a hatch, and give him one of your hand tied flies that you are tearing them up on? You know he will save it, and try to copy it for later use. This grasshopper, is why we are called trout bums.........if we could make a living at it, it would be a job.

"Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously."

Hunter S. Thompson

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I agree Phil, Brett is awesome and so are his flies. I've followed his career down there since he was guiding with you and he is a great fisherman and artist.

I have some of his flies right now and they are beyond compare. I won some flies from him for answering a trivia question on his website. I read his reports every chance I get and he gives all the details you would ever want.

He is like John Wilson with his willingness to share and educate people who never use his guide service or buy any product from him. I don't know the answer to who owns the "rights" to fly patterns or the ethical side of copying them but once you sell one it will be copied. That's why so many guides keep so close to the vest on their flies and methods.

I've regreted showing people some of my technigues and fishing spots so I know how he must feel.

I haven't copied his flies although I could. I look at them more like a trophy than a tool and I wouldn't disgrace myself by copying them. Once he makes the pattern public then I will copy them. Just like trout crack or cracklbacks, I know both originators and didn't tie my own until they made the pattern public. I

I really just wanted to compliment Brett and his work I think he's awesome.


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How many more NEW flies can there be. I would suspect every known bug in the rivers has been duplicated by some fly tyer. For instance the Zebra Midge. I presume the original was a black thread midge with a nickel bead head and some silver ribbing. How many variations of that have been "developed" I can think of probably 10 in my midge box. And each has a different name and presumably a different originator. I think you could tie all of anyone's orginal ideas as much as you wanted without repracussions, but to claim it as yours unless it was copywrited or some other form of acknowlegement would certainly be unethical and maybe even with liability. One other thought, all of the "old" patterns handed down were never copywrited, they simply were associated with the tyer and passed on.


Glass Has Class

"from the laid back lane in the Arkansas Ozarks"

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tying them for personal use is fine. i say this because i like to tie and enjoy catching fish on flies i tie. if i am capable of re-producing a fly, i'll do it.

if a commercial tyer wants to sell it, he should at very least give credit to the originator either by adding the originators name to the name of the bug or telling his customers when they ask about it. taking credit for something you did not design is wrong, but there is no reason a commercial tyer shouldn't make a profit from a fly he tied whether he designed it or not.

i'd compare the use of another tyer's design to the manufacture of similar products by other industries. i doubt ford, gm, and chrysler all simultaneously came up with the idea of a pickup truck, yet they all produce similar products that are used for the same purposes, without question of ethics.

i know that ALL commercial tyers use patterns they did not design. whats the difference between producing older patterns that everybody knows how to tie that someone else designed and producing a new pattern that is not so well known that somebody else designed?

just my opinion

Cute animals taste better.

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I am good friends with Brett and happen to know the situation that brought on his comments on his website because I was the one that pointed the issue out to him. Brett most definitely does not have a problem with individuals tying his proven fish catching patterns, as a matter of fact he will sit down with you after a guide trip and show you how to tye the flies that you used that day if you're interested. On the other hand when a competitors fly shop tries to imitate one of his most popular flies (poorly I might add) and even goes so far as to use "almost" the same name (they changed one letter) you can see why he might get upset. For any of you who have not seen his wide variety of scud patterns , he definitely does some things that are different from what you normally see. It was very obvious that the other fly shop was trying to capitalize on the popularity of a proven fly with a well recognized name. Illegal or not to me it just didn't seem right.

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What fly are they copying, I've looked at Bretts' web site and I myself have tied a lot of those patterns or versions of them, I even sell a few that are similar, but I have been tying them for over 20 years, I didn't even know they had a real name, most of the small patterns I tie, I tie from my experiences on the san juan and at taney. I'm just curious as to what pattern someone is copying and selling.

Tim Homesley

23387 st. hwy 112

Cassville, Mo 65625

Roaring River State park

Tim's Fly Shop


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Brett is a very talented tier and he deserves credit for the flies he originated but he published pictures of his flies on the web so I'd say that that makes alright for others to copy. Plagiarizing one of his designs and selling it to Umpqua or Montana Fly would be an entirely different matter. Cheers.

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