Steven Fernandez, a Venice, Calif. architect who turned his passion for crafting fishing flies into an art form, has been named recipient of the 2012 Buz Buszek Memorial Award by the International Federation of Fly Fishers at the organization’s convention in Spokane, Wash., July 11.
Fernandez, 52, started tying flies professionally at age 13 for Southern California fishing tackle shops; by 16, he was demonstrating and teaching fly tying throughout the area and then nationally. When he was 17, he was featured in the April 1977 edition of Field and Stream magazine.
While pursuing a degree in architecture in the 1980s, he challenged the centuries-old notion of artistic salmon flies by tying flies on straightened out hooks with atypical materials and techniques, raising a few eyebrows in the process. Judith Dunham included him in her book The Atlantic Salmon Fly, The Tyers and Their Art, published in 1991, which helped lead to international demonstrations, classes, and feature articles.
Fernandez is a partner with his father in the architectural firm Fernandez/2 Partnership.
He previously was a project architect for Edward R. Niles Architect FAIA, Malibu. Seeking to develop his artistic capabilities, Fernandez enrolled in Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles in 1999 and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2001.
Since Fernandez no longer ties flies professionally, he is considered an amateur, yet his artistic representations are sold for charity auctions throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He has donated countless flies and fly plates to raise money for conservation causes and local fly-fishing clubs.
Fernandez is a long time member of both the San Fernando Valley-based Sierra Pacific Flyfishers and Visalia-based Kaweah Fly Fishers; he serves as a board member of the 24 club Southwest Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers.
According to Bill O’Kelly, Newbury Park, Calif., president of the Sierra Pacific club, “Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching Steven tie, or seen one of his internationally-renowned salmon flies and Catskill-style dry flies, knows that they are in the presence of a true master of these most elegant and demanding styles of tying. When Fernandez ties, no step is wasted, or undertaken without a purpose. Each fly is tied as if he were engaged in a grand champion chess match, with each step taken with the next 8-10 ‘moves’ down the line already envisioned and planned out, not following a recipe by rote, but strategically identifying how to minimize bulk and to create beauty.
“Steven is also renowned for his creation and development of the ‘pompadour wing’ style of tying in his salmon flies. All the more impressive is that he is self-taught.”
Fernandez started fishing at about the age of 12 on family camping trips and concurrently tying flies after seeing some in a local tackle shop. “I was awestruck that those hooks with nothing more than bits of feather, floss, and thread could actually catch fish. I proceeded to a local park pond to collect duck feathers, and with sewing thread and yarn from my mother, wrapped those onto hooks to fashion my first flies.
“My parents took note of my interest, and for my birthday or Christmas, my grandfather gave me a fly tying kit, which sent me on my way. Ironically, it was a Ned Grey Fly Tying Kit, the product of a Los Angeles-area shop I subsequently tied for from 1974 through the early 1980s,” he said.
The Federation of Fly Fishers’ Buz Buszek Memorial is the most prestigious award in the world of fly tying; it has been presented annually since 1970. It is named for Wayne “Buz” Buszek, an ardent conservationist, creative fly tier, dedicated teacher and founder of Buz’s Fly and Tackle Shop from Visalia, Calif.