Jonathan Pund is a reluctant businessman.
The 17-year-old Ellicott City resident fell into his business while pursuing two loves, computers and fly-fishing, or more exactly, fly-tying.
He had made so many flies--the intricate, colorful, sometimes realistic, sometimes whimsical lures that swing from the end of a whipping fly rod--that he figured he'd try to sell them.
First, he succeeded in a big way while on vacation in North Carolina, selling several dozen of the flies to a fishing outfit on the Outer Banks. Eventually he found his way to the Internet, where he played around with personal Web pages before creating All American Fly Co.
Still, he calls it more of a hobby than a business. Pund has sold flies to a customer in New York and to several others who manage to find his site on the World Wide Web, but mostly he fills orders for friends and acquaintances, and he keeps a variety pack of flies at his parents' coin and jewelry store on Route 40. He expects to get a few requests for Christmas, but otherwise he's more concerned with finishing his college applications than selling his wares.
Selling was never what it was about.
"I like making stuff," Pund said. "It's more the art of it, I guess."
The River Hill High School senior is what one might expect from a fly-tying enthusiast: a little shy, soft-spoken, smart and quite content to spend hours at a time hunched over a metal vise, attaching thin strips of feathers and hair to tiny hooks with beady eyes.
Yes, he loved the movie "A River Runs Through It," which helped catapult fly-fishing's popularity in the early '90s with its romantic scenes of Brad Pitt wading through beautiful Montana rivers, portraying fly-fishing as an almost religious experience.
But Pund cares more about creating the tools of the craft, which is pretty unusual for someone his age. Neither of his two younger brothers shares his interest, nor do any of his friends, and he admits he's typically the youngest person at fly-fishing and fly-tying seminars and workshops he attends.
Local fishing outfitter Jeff Devon, manager of Upstream Anglers in Ellicott City, said he doesn't see people like Pund very often. "We have a lot of people who tie flies, but we don't have a lot of kids who stick with it," he said.
It's an expensive hobby--the vise that Pund uses to hold the flies he ties cost his parents $125 four years ago--and it's also an intricate one, requiring good hand-eye coordination and much patience.
Pund said tying flies isn't all pretty sunrises and gently flowing water for him, either. "Some of them take two or three hours, and sometimes your string snaps," he said. "But for me, I think, it's relaxing more than it's frustrating."
As for the flies themselves, most of which sell for about $2, some are tiny, as small as gnats and designed to look that way, sitting on top of the water to fool unsuspecting trout. Pund makes quite a few larger flies, too, which are not flies at all, but crabs, shrimp and small fish bait, and they sink and meander like injured prey for the big fish in the sea.
Their names are as colorful as their plumage: woolly bugger, maribou muddler, mickey finn and gray ghost; seaducer, deceiver, whistler, surf candy; Chinese claw, bunny bendback and white water witch.
In his room, plastered with flypaper--wallpaper covered in fishing flies, that is--and decked out with framed flies, fish slippers and a fishy bedside lamp, Pund ties the tiny creations from a corner that looks part sewing circle, part tackle box, part Mardi Gras float.
He built the wooden drawer boxes that hold his flies, as well as the fly-tying bench that sits atop a table. A rack on the wall displays a dozen or more spools of colored thread, and all around the table are dyed feathers, synthetic fibers and lots of tinsel.
He leans over the vise, clamps a hook (impaling side down), and gets to work, wrapping waxed thread around and around the hook, then letting it hang in a bobbin below the vise. He ties on a pair of lead eyes and then a sliver of hair from a deer tail dyed lime green, securing each with the thread. A little piece of tinsel on its belly, a pluck of matching rooster feather, and he's done. This was an easy one.
"If it's not tied right, then when a fish bites at it, it'll all fall apart," he said. "If it's the wrong color, the fish won't even look at it, and you'll get nothing all day."
He's been at it since he was 13, when a fly-tying kit in a sporting goods store caught his eye. "I think he liked the beauty of it, the feathers, the colors," said his mom, Trish Pund. "It was kind of hard, and he put it away for a year or so and then picked it up again. When he likes something, he gets really involved, and he just kept practicing and practicing and practicing."
After all those practice sessions, attending fishing seminars with his dad and going to a week-long camp in Boiling Springs, Pa., where he caught a 20-inch rainbow trout from Yellow Breeches Creek, Pund isn't likely to give up his passion soon.
He has ambitions of becoming a computer engineer after college, but as he fills out his applications for Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware and a few other schools, he's still thinking about his favorite pastime.
"Virginia Tech is in the mountains, so there's good fishing," he said. "There's a stream running right through campus."