I first met Stan when I enrolled my son in a fly-tying course given by the Stan Cooper Sr Chapter of Trout Unlimited
His kind, patient approach to his students was as impressive as his skill and efficiency.
If you were to have asked Stan about his employment history, he would likely have told you, “I always say I have never worked a day in my life.” He graduated from high school in 1942, got a job in a silk mill and worked there from August to June of the following year when he went in the service.[
A fisherman for most of his life, he didn’t get involved with tying until 1946 when his dad started a fly-tying business. His late father, Stanley Cooper Sr taught him everything he knows about the art of fly tying.
Stan had been tying since 1947, so he’s tied commercially for more than five decades and tied well over one million flies! Stan said, “When it gets to be work, I’m going to retire.” In the early 1950s, his dad tied for Abercrombie & Fitch and Orvis who took every fly he and his dad tied.
The Coopers' specialty fly was the Jassid developed by Vince Marinaro. He would tie 20 dozen Jassids a day! Other flies took longer. He could only tie 10 to 12 dozen per day. These days, he’s down to seven dozen a day.
When I started buying Stan’s flies for my Little Lehigh Fly Shop, I was amazed at the speed with which he would complete my order. The flies looked as if they came out of a cookie cutter. I assumed he had a vast inventory, I decided to put him to the test.
I spoke at the Stanley Cooper Sr Chapter of Trout Unlimited on a Tuesday night. As usual Stan was there. To test him, I ordered three dozen Paramachenne Belles by the weekend. I knew he wouldn’t have them in stock, and probably couldn’t produce three dozen flies with married wings in time to get them to Allentown by the weekend. I was wrong. On Friday afternoon, three dozen perfectly tied, identical Paramachenne Belles arrived at my shop.
One of my other principal tiers was Mike Bachkosky (Mike@RainbowsEndFlies.com). Mike is a superb tier. His mentor was Stan. Mike told me Stan was a patient, demanding teacher, accepting only perfection from his student.
Stan was active in programs benefiting youth fly fishing and tying. If his Trout Unlimited chapter rana youth program, you can bet Stan will be involved. He was generous with his time and talent.
The Little Lehigh Fly Shop hosted several world class fly fishing personalities every year. Stan was the only one who wouldn’t accept a fee.
An amusing situation evolved when I had the late, great Gary Lafontaine at the shop.
I arranged for Gary to do a fly-tying demonstration and talk at Stan’s Trout Unlimited chapter. Stan watched intently as Lafontaine worked his fly-tying magic. Gary finished the fly, looked at Stan and said, “Stan, what do you think?” Stan responded with “too many wraps.”
A regular at the Little Lehigh was the late Dick Garies, an expert midge fisherman and Griffith’s Gnat aficionado. Stan showed his generosity by giving Dick his tiny hackles. To Dick’s dismay, that source dried up when Stan started tying midges for the Little Lehigh Fly Shop.
At one of Stan’s demonstrations at the shop, Dave Gunnett, a Little Lehigh regular, showed Stan his Monster Beetle pattern. Dave’s pattern is a proven fish getter. He ties it on a large hook with a foam body and rubber legs. Stan, being a connoisseur of natural materials, asked Dave, “Did you get that from Zebco? Where do you put the batteries?”
When Stan would show up at the shop with his friend, Jack Riechelderfer, the stories would fly.
One of his stories related to his night fly (Turkey Fly). Jack and Stan were night fishing at Junction Pool on the Delaware River. At dusk a couple of fishermen with heavy Dutch accents asked for Stan’s recommendation for a night fly. Stan gave them each a Turkey Fly.
After dark Stan and Jack heard a Dutch accent yelling;
I got von, I got von.
Pull it in, Pull it in.
The f**ker is swimming upstream.
Pull harda, Pull harda.
Na the son of a bitch is goin back down stream.
This fly the guy gave me really works.
Now the bastard is swimming right at me!
Reel fasta, reel fasta.
The son of a bitch is up on the bank!
It’s a damn muskrat!
Listening to the yarns told by these two veteran fly fishers was one of the highlights of my memories of my shop.
On April 1, 2016 I had the privilege of attending a dinner at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. As a result of Mike Romanowski’s thoughtful nomination, Stan was recognized as a Catskill Legend.
The Center paid the following tribute to Stan:
A testament to fly tying, Stan Cooper Jr. has tied flies commercially as a full time career for over 70 years. His talents on the vice have led him to create flies for Ted Williams and former President Jimmy Carter. Stan served in the U.S. Army. Following his discharge, he began his fly tying career alongside his father, Stan Cooper Sr. Together, they began tying and selling flies on a small scale to local shops and soon wanted to expand into bulk commercial fly tying. Stan’s good friend Joe Humphreys writes: “Stan has taught fly tying to many thousands of anglers. In the 1950’s he met CFFCM Hall of Fame member George Harvey, who was teaching fly tying and fly fishing at Penn State University. Impressed with Cooper’s skill as a fly tier, Harvey invited Stan to teach with him. Over the years, Stan has taught at many Trout Unlimited chapters and independent tying courses. In his heyday, Stan estimated he produced ten to twelve dozen flies per day, at his bench for eight hours per day, six days per week”. Stan Cooper, Jr’s skills in the tying industry are a life long achievement. He continues to produce flies for order. He has tied well over two million flies to date and currently makes about three to five dozen flies each day. Stan Cooper Jr. is a living connection to the Catskill great Rube Cross, who learned his techniques from the father of American dry fly fishing, Theodore Gordon.
Every area of the country seems to have folks who add color and knowledge to our sport. People like Stan should not be forgotten.