“Great Fly Tiers I Have Known”

By Don Fine

Ed Shenk was described by such fly fishers as Joe Humphreys, Charlie Fox, and Ed Koch as a consummate fisherman. As described earlier in this issue of Streamlines, Ed Shenk was the originator of many important fly patterns; including the Letort Hopper, Letort Cricket, Shenk Cress Bug, Shenk Minnow, Double Trico and the Shenk Sculpin. From his earliest experiences fishing the Letort Spring Run and other Pennsylvania limestone streams and spring creeks, to his famous three-season pursuit of the gargantuan trout, “Old George,” Ed Shenk has remained fascinated by the ways of trout and hopelessly in love with the waters they call home.

According to the internet reference cited below, Ed Shenk has fished since the age of two, catching his first trout at the age of seven. In total Ed Shenk has been fishing over 80 years and has tied flies for >65 of those years, much of that time tying commercially. Ed Shenk is considered the master of terrestrial fly patterns. It was on the Letort that Ed tested many of his fly patterns. And while he has also fished the West, including Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho for the past 36 years (22 trips) as well as streams in New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Dakota, Ed considers the Letort his home waters.
Ed Shenk was the first to trim fur dubbing-loop-tied flies to specific shapes, such is found on the flat oval Shenk Cress Bug and the Shenk Minnow. While the late Jack Schneider of Montana first described the fur loop, Ed Shenk originated the “trim to shape”.

Ed Shenk served as a Fishing Instructor for Allenberry Inc. (1987 – 2002), LeTort Limited (1978 – 1986), Orvis Allenberry Fly Fishing Schools (1965 – 1977). He also served as the Fishing Instructor under Joe Humphreys at Pennsylvania State University, during the summers of 1987, ’88, ’89, and ’90.

Ed has fished with the late Joe Brooks and with various dignitaries including actor, William Conrad, Gov. Ray Shafer (PA) and tied flies for President Jimmy Carter.

For myself and Rick Loose, it was indeed an honor having the master himself, Ed Shenk, as our instructor when we learned to tie the Letort Cricket and Letort Hopper some years ago.

In preparing this short biography of Ed Shenk much of the information was taken from the internet and more specifically, askaboutflyfishing.com.