Rozell "Rozzi" Stidd's hands might not be as steady as they were in 1956, but with time and a magnifying light he still ties a fly any trout fisherman would be proud to use.
Stidd, 89, grew up along the Kinzua Creek in McKean County where learning to fish came naturally.
"I mostly fished tributaries about 10 to 12 feet wide," he said. "I was 4 years old, so I wasn't very big."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Rozell “Rozzi” Stidd, 89, ties one of his original designs, the “Light Fox,” in his hobby area at Epworth Manor in Tyrone.
He caught his first trout in one of those tributaries at age 5.
Stidd, a resident of Epworth Manor in Tyrone, was a conservation officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for three years and the Pennsylvania Game Commission for 33 years. He also served for two years on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission after being nominated by Gov. Tom Ridge in 2001.
In 1954, he left Alaska where he had been working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to return to Pennsylvania to work for the game commission. He was surprised to learn that fishing flies had gone up in price to 25 cents each.
To save money, Stidd, formerly of Huntingdon County, decided to make his own.
"I watched some experienced fly-tyers and got a kit with instructions," he said.
Stidd said there are different types of flies. Wet flies are for fishing underneath the water's surface, and dry flies are for fishing on top of the surface.
"The dry flies have real light hooks, but the wet flies have twice as heavy hooks because you want them to sink," he said.
The flies mimic insects, which increases their appeal to a variety of fish.
"All different fly patterns have a name," Stidd said. "I developed one of my own in 1976. I named it the Light Fox."
To make the ties look natural, Stidd uses rooster and duck feathers.
"It costs a lot for fly-tying material," he said. "The tails are made out of expensive rooster feathers. You take them from the neck or the back."
His fly-tying materials are stored in the hobby room at Epworth Manor where he has a special place to do his work. His area includes an array of fly-tying tools, plastic boxes of different colored threads for the fly's body, and several drawers full of different colored feathers.
Using a vice to hold the fly in place, Stidd demonstrated the precision work necessary to create a one. He snipped pieces of feather and wound dubbing wax around the body of the fly.
He uses a trifocal light with a magnifier to illuminate his delicate task.
"I didn't use to have to do that," Stidd laughed.
A three-time cancer survivor, Stidd said the passage of time has sidelined his fishing career.
"I haven't fished for about seven years," he said. "I always wore chest-high waders and liked stream fishing because of the moving water."
The moving water eventually became a hazard, he said, noting that his equilibrium has become impaired from operations.
"Ten times I went fishing; three times I went over backwards in the stream," he said.
While Stidd used to provide flies for profit, today he gives them away to friends. He admits that the intricate work is getting more difficult as he approaches 90.
"Now it takes me 40 to 50 minutes instead of 18 to 20," he said. "I think I'm going to quit. I shake a bit now."