This High School Entrepreneur Makes Handmade Flies That Are A True Catch

Image: J's Flies web page.

SAINT JOHN– A Saint John teenager wants to help improve your fly-fishing game with his business.

James Quinn is the creator of J’s Flies, a company that makes hand-made, high-quality flies for fishing enthusiasts. He sells his flies through his website, Instagram and Facebook pages.

James Quinn (Image: Submitted)

The Grade 11 St. Malachy’s Memorial High School student has been fishing since he was in the sixth grade, which was also when he started learning the art of fly-tying.

“I saw a poster on my school wall … It was a poster for fly-tying classes as an afterschool activity,” says Quinn. “I chose to do fly tying every Thursday after school. I did that for a year. I was taught by an ex-forest ranger named Bob York. He was an avid fisherman and he just has retired when he started teaching the group how to tie flies.”

After tying flies at school for about a year, Quinn started doing them at home.

“Then that year I got a fly-tying device for my birthday from my mother. I tied as much as I could,” he says. “I spent all my money on it.”

Up until this point, making flies was just a hobby. It wasn’t until Quinn showed one of his creations to his uncle that he realized it could be a way to earn some cash.

“I went to my uncle’s house and he was a really avid fly fisherman and he was looking at them and he was like, ‘these are pretty good, James. I would like to buy some from you,’ ” he says. “That kind of got me going on the idea, ‘oh, I could make something out of my passion.’”

J’s Flies are made to be rugged and high-quality. Each fly is hand-made by Quinn and is coated in epoxy. It’s often used to cover heads of flies, but not a lot of fly manufacturers use it because it’s a little pricey.

“But it does make your flies last a lot longer. I use that on every fly that I can use. When you buy a J’s Fly, you get a lot more quality in your fly. You get a lot more time out of it,” says Quinn. “For each fly, I use natural materials. For example, I use deer hair, rooster feather, I just made a fly out of rabbit hair and stuff like that.”

Take a look at some of J’s Flies below:

J’s Flies offers few different packages. For example, one includes a variety of flies arranged by species, such a trout, salmon, and steelhead. Customers can also purchase custom orders, where Quinn will make the fly to their liking, or design it to attract a certain type of fish.

“If you’re going on a trip to a remote place or just somewhere that isn’t in your comfort zone for fishing or you don’t really know much about it, you can say, ‘I’m going to British Columbia, I’m going fishing for this species,’ for example,” says Quinn.

“It’s a little bit more expensive, but it’s meant for an avid fisherman that really has particular details in the fly they would like to see. Or, even if someone wanted to buy a fly just to put on their wall just to look cool, I do that as well.”

Quinn has had some help over the last year when it comes to developing his business. He’s been taking part in a small business program for high school students funded by Enterprise Saint John, the Anglophone South School District and Brilliant Labs.

Taking place in Connexionworks in uptown Saint John, participants receive lessons at least three times a week on different parts of their business, along with guidance and resources. Quinn says it goes beyond what the typical high school entrepreneurship course offers.

“A lot of people describe this co-op as entrepreneurship [class] on steroids,” he says.

“This is meant for someone who wants to have a small business as their career. They may want to go to school, but they want to have a small business. It’s meant for someone who wants to keep their business running.”

He said the program has helped get his business to where it is now.

“It’s opened my eyes so much to business and the opportunity in Saint John. You wouldn’t really think this, but if you did your research, there’s a huge market for fly fishing in Saint John,” says Quinn. “Because there are so many people who like to go away from Saint John to fish, but they can’t find their stuff here for fishing. The market is fairly open for fishing.”

After high school, Quinn says he would like to go to school for forestry, but plans for J’s Flies to continue.

“I just don’t know if it’s going to be me by myself, or I’m going get a few fly-tyers or staff. I haven’t decided on that yet. But I will most likely always be tying flies on the side,” he said.

“After that, I’m hoping I can use my job and my fly-tying business to support myself. But eventually, the goal is to be able to support myself only on the fly-tying business and having a storefront or a fly shop.”