Fly fishing

Fishtown residents’ handmade fishing nets are prized by fly anglers around the world

When corporate life grew stale and the beat of the Great Resignation picked up, Tina Lewis focused her attention and artistic abilities on the most unlikely product.

Lewis, 40, makes custom portable fishing nets prized by fly fishermen from the Poconos to Sweden. His company, the Wayward Trading Post, makes the nets from Amish-sourced wood and epoxy in an eclectic Frankford warehouse stocked with his art, weightlifting equipment and an assortment of power saws and tools. industrial sanders. A resident of Fishtown, Lewis said she grew up in Delaware County, often venturing outdoors with her father, John, to fish, shoot and hunt. Still, fly fishing is as much an art as it is a hobby, and Lewis says she’s still a novice.

“My main skill is carpentry, art and illustration,” she said.

While a fishing net isn’t as technical as a custom fiddle or guitar, it’s an essential part of a fisherman’s arsenal. Few anglers can relax until their catch is safely in the net. It’s the final step in a long process that starts with making fuzzy hair look like a fly. Lewis understands this and also believes that simple things can also be beautiful. That’s why many of her nets have recently been personalized: beloved pets, designed by her, or keepsakes from the customer’s past, like military medals or coins, embedded in the wood.

“These are heirloom pieces, something customers want to pass down from generation to generation,” she said.

Lewis took art classes as a child and later again as a student at Community College in Philadelphia, but had no real formal training beyond that.

“I actually got into drawing reading comics, drawing these characters and later, musicians, when I started high school,” she said.

She worked in technology for a pharmaceutical company for years, but yearned to turn art into a stable income. The business started when her husband, Justin, also a carpenter, built a custom-made net for a friend they nicknamed “the Fat Jake”. She added an illustration of a green trout and a bear, and people took notice. She founded the Wayward Trading Post in August 2019 and left the corporate post two years later.

“It started slow but it really took off,” she said.

Lewis declined to say how many nets she has sold so far, but dozens are hanging in various stages and sizes in the warehouse. Walnut and cherry wood strips also abound here, waiting to be bent into shape. Lewis uses rubber netting, which makes it easier for anglers to release their catch.

Each net takes weeks to complete, Lewis said, depending on how much custom artwork the buyer wants. Lewis said she sells nets for between $100 and $1,000, depending on the size and amount of artwork the client wants to include. Many of them are shipped to Europe, she added.

“It’s a perfect mix of outdoors and art for me, it’s what I grew up with,” she said.

Vintage artwork, including portraits of Bob Marley and Jerry Garcia, hang in the epoxy room alongside photographs of various species of trout. Her father’s old sniper trophies shine in the rafters of the warehouse, and Gertie, the one-eyed shop dog, is never far behind on the floor.

“I love having reminders and inspiration,” she said.

Although nets are the flagship product, Lewis’s business also sells wooden boxes for storing fishing flies and is experimenting with gun stocks, cutting boards, coffee tables and maybe even coffee tables. canoe oars. If it’s a flat wooden surface, she’s interested.

“I have lists every day,” she said, “of things I need to do and things I want to do, artistically.”