Proof in ink

Casting lines has been happening for Josh Fortin, of Montoursville, since he was “out of diapers.”

He loves fishing, a pastime that started with his parents, Mike and Angel Fortin, and his grandpa Charlie.

When he was 12 and in the seventh grade, he was taught “the ropes” of fly fishing from friend, John Fave, with his grandpa helping him along the way.

He not only started to fly fish but he also started tying his own flies.

“Johnny helped me get everything I needed. I started off in the high school fly tying club and took several classes,” Fortin said.

He has been tying ever since and he now runs a small business off Craigslist and Facebook – search for fortins.flies.

Fortin ties his flies a little “outside the box.” Although he ties traditional patterns and flies such as the march brown, sulphur and adams and in wet, dry and nymph styles, he uses different methods, thinking ahead as to how they may work or perform in the water.

He showed one made from a plastic ear plug, made to use on top of the water as a popper for bass.

Another was created from a wine cork, a material that helps it float.

He usually uses traditional tying patterns, just some with a unique twist.

“It’s traditional patterns but more outside-the-box logistics,” he said.

He has taken his fly rod and flies all over, fishing from Texas to places in between. Most recently, he was in New York state, vying for the coveted chinook salmon.

The flies he tied to take to upstate New York to salmon fish were ones he broke down in his mind as to how they would work efficiently. This was a crucial element because an angler has only one set per cast, a regulation in New York.

“All the eggs are traditional. I just added one (feature of) my own to it …putting the bead head on the bottom, so when you are getting a drift, the hook is up, and you are getting your 4-foot leader here,” he points, explaining. “So when it drifts, you only get one hook set per cast, and it will give you a better chance for a hook set.”

When he ties a fly, it’s trial and error as he sees what patterns and colors work.

“When I go up (to New York, salmon fishing), I would rather have five of every color than 100 of one,” he said.

Since he was up to New York, he passed the word around about his jigs, and anglers there have been ordering them ever since.

“That was a good time. I was fishing next to a guy all day, talking with him,” Fortin said.

The angler had several hooks-ups but didn’t land anything. Fortin said before he packed up, he gave him one of his jigs.

“Before I got a chance to walk away, he yelled, ‘Fish on’ … he landed a 27-pounder,” Fortin said.

He just received an order for 100 flies from a Texas angler. And, an order recently came in from Australia.

“I really do not know what fish they will be fishing for there,” he said.

Fortin’s favorite place to fish is in the Delaware Gap when the shad are running.

“They are really fun to catch on a fly rod, even a spinner rod,” he said.

The method he uses is watching for the gulls to fly over. That’s an indication the shad are there.

“Basically, the way shad fishing works is, you sit on the shore drinking your coffee and watching the sky for seagulls and when they start coming close to you and diving, that tells you there is a school of shad,” he said.

Fortin said shad run just like salmon, up the rivers to spawn, but they do not die and they feed the whole way.

“Salmon put up a hell of a fight for a dying fish, but the shad do, too,” he said.

Ice fishing season is something he enjoys. Locally, he hit what is known as “the gut” for crappies.

“Everyone will know what you are taking about when you say that,” he said of the section of water in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, visible from the bridge named for Lance Cpl. Abram Howard.

A well-rounded sportsmen, Fortin enjoys hunting, but fishing is what he loves the most.

“Fishing is all year long. In hunting season, you have limited time. I mean, you go out hunting, shoot your deer by 7:30 (a.m.), you’re done,” he said. “You can go fishing for anything, catch the biggest one ever and your line still stays wet.”

Fortin has solid proof of how much he loves the sport. Just ask to see his left leg.

Immortalized in ink is one of his fondest memories.

“Several years ago, my grandpa, my dad and several other friends rented a houseboat up the St. Lawrence River,” he said.

They were out catching northern pike.

“We were drifting and came to a shallow mud bottom, no weeds or anything for the pike,” he said.

So Fortin grabbed his vice and began to tie some bucktails, right there on the boat.

“I tied them totally different from any of the other ones,” he said. “I wanted to see what the presentation was like in the water.”

He cast and, almost instantly, his line began to run.

“I yelled, ‘Dad, get the net!’ “

He reeled in a 50-inch muskie.

That moment is tattooed on his leg. The tattoo is taken from a photo of his dad and grandpa and Fortin with his fish. On the back of his leg is a tattoo of the fly he used to catch the fish.