- By: Seth Norman
We regret to announce that André Puyans died on October 25, 2005, in an Idaho hospital. Puyans' accomplishments are legion: He was the originator of the A.P. Nymph series and the loop-wing design, winner of the Buz Buszeck Memorial Fly Tying Award, a founder and president of California's Trout Unlimited chapter and a TU National Director for several terms. But to the thousands of people he taught to hunt trout, cast and tie flies he was simply "Andy"-a giant of a man, and a mentor warm and funny, generous and wise, with a special kind of grace.Born September 11, 1935, Puyans began tying at seven, contracted polio at nine, and spent most of the WWII years in and out of hospitals. He was hospitalized when he took on his first commercial tying order-and the feather trimmings from 144 dozen "Governor Paine's Boost Maine Specials" soon clogged the vents of a sterilizer. During the rehabilitation that followed, Andy became a fixture at Wilmarth Tackle and The Angler's Roost in New York City, where he learned from Elizabeth Gregg and Jim Daren. At 12 he met Henry Newitt, a stockbroker and widower, who offered to take Andy under his wing if the would-be acolyte could meet a challenge: Land a fly on a pack of Lucky Strikes at a distance of 35 feet on three consecutive casts. "When Henry saw it," Puyans remembered, "he walked away without a word. Then he came back and handed me his favorite H. L. Leonard rod." Andy took over managing the Grand Lakes Carbon Cooperation's Atlantic salmon camps in Newfoundland when he was just 19, taking up reins released by Lee Wulff. The same year, Al McClane wrote an article about Puyans' Portland Colonel tie. After turning down a job as McClane's assistant, Andy finished college at Rutgers and Columbia, earning extra money as a tier and "kitchen gunsmith" for Abercrombie&Fitch. From there he migrated West, to open A&F's tackle department in their new San Francisco store. A few years later he quit to pursue a life dominated by three seasons: "The season of hunting, the season of fishing, the season of girls." In 1972 Puyans started Creative Sports Enterprises, and for decades set himself to creating programs to educate adults. And with Diablo Valley Fly Fishers, Puyans tutored a generation of youngsters who would later be knows as "Andy's kids," and described by Ernie Schwiebert as "Puyans' Fly-Fishing Commandos." With Andy's passing, fly-fishing loses one of its greatest innovators, and a truly irreplaceable archive of American fly-fishing whose vast experience bridged American fly-fishing's Eastern and Western tribes. But of all his accomplishments, it was the teaching that gratified Puyans most. In 1995, hundreds of his appreciative students overflowed Fort Mason Hall in San Francisco in order to applaud Andy's induction into the Northern California Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. Per Puyans', example, fond tributes were also full of laughter. We would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to Mrs. Puyans, the former Jannifer Lee, and also to report that Andy's great friend, Rene Harrop, is now helping to establish a permanent memorial to Andy on the Henry's Fork, in Island Park, Idaho.