Monday, March 14, 2011

Profile: Pat Cohen

Pat Cohen, giving a tattoo at his booth in The Twisted Ink tattoo parlor in Cobleskill, NY

“The night time brings a lot of the stranger folks into the shop,” said Pat Cohen, in between tattoo appointments at the Twisted Ink tattoo parlor in Cobleskill, NY. 
“A lot of people-- when they walk into a tattoo shop-- leave all of their inhibitions at the door. They take on this whole other persona from who they really are.  Maybe it's who they wish they could be, or who they think we think they should be.  Often the guys act tougher, the girls act a little sleazier.”
Cohen, who is an avid warmwater fly fisherman by day, and tattoo artist by night, started fly fishing in 2008 and taught himself how to tie his own flies a year later.  Since that time, he has been creating a loud buzz in the fly tying world for his innovative warmwater fly patterns and a savant-like ability to sculpt deer hair bass bugs.  Like most of us, fly fishing and fly tying has become a welcome way for Cohen to unwind from the daily stress of his day job.

One evening, Pat was in the middle of giving a tattoo when a young lady walked in, a student at SUNY Cobleskill in her early twenties.  “She comes over to my booth and says she's looking to get her nipples pierced- a standard piercing in most shops and not that big of a deal. I tell her the piercer will be with her momentarily, as he was in middle of another procedure. She nodded and I got back to my tattoo. I looked up a minute or two later to see her standing in the middle of the shop, topless and pinching her nipples.  I asked her what the heck she was doing in the middle of the shop’s front windows.”  The young co-ed told Cohen that she was trying to get them hard to see if the guys at the shop thought they should be pierced or not.  “I asked her to please put her clothing back on and wait for the piercer to call her in.”  Cohen added, “Those are huge windows, and we’re a family shop…”

Cohen won Rookie of the Year honors at’s annual Fly Tier of the Year contest in 2010, and has already joined the ranks among the fly tying elite at Chuck Furmiskey’s 2010 International Fly Tying Symposium, as well as a spot at the The Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, in 2011.  “When I met Chuck, he said he would love to have me tie at his shows, but needed to discuss it with his son first. He went on chuckling, that I needed to take my earrings out and shave my goatee first. I laughed and said I would as soon as he shaved off his handle bars. He laughed and introduced me to his son, Ben.”

“My family always busts my balls about it,” laughed Cohen, who had fished with bait and spinning gear with family members for as long as he can remember before getting bitten by the fly fishing bug.  “Before I started fly fishing, I was probably the worst fisherman in my family.  Now the running joke is that all of these great opportunities are happening to the guy in the family who couldn’t catch a fish.”
The first time I fly fished, I just wet waded out into the middle of the river.”  Up until that time, Pat had always restricted himself to fishing from the bank.  “But for some reason, with that Eagle Claw fly/spin combo rod, I felt like I had to be in the water.”  Cohen said to himself, “I’m gonna stand in the stream and whip this thing around like they do on TV.”

Things started to click for Cohen as he began engulfing any information he could on fly fishing via books, the internet, and his local fly shop.  “When you’re imitating nature, you need to learn how to actually imitate it,” said Cohen. 
“In my opinion, fly fishing takes a lot more skill and knowledge than spin fishing.  It's not that spin fishing doesn't take that, but a lot of the lures do the work for you.  We give our flies life, we make them move and act like what we are imitating.” 

A few months after taking up fly tying, Cohen purchased a $6 bass bug from his local big box, mega outdoor chain and watched it fall apart after only a few fish.  Shortly after, he was teaching himself how to spin deer hair.   “It seemed like the fish held onto deer hair poppers longer than balsa or cork ones,” said Cohen. 
Before getting into the tattoo business, Cohen received a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art, with a concentration in sculpture.  He also did a lot of realistic figure drawing in his free time.  This background has served him well, as shaping bass bugs with a double edged razor blade has become a form of sculpture for him. 

“I really enjoy coming up with my own techniques to solve a problem,” Cohen said. “Every fly I have designed started with a scenario on the water that the flies I had before it couldn’t handle.”   Cohen says he usually knows what the finished pattern will look like before he attempts to tie it; it’s the getting there part that presents the biggest challenge. 
“A lot of people will ask me what the link is between tattooing and fly tying.  The link is that art is a problem, a problem you need to solve visually.  Like tattooing, I enjoy the creative process and coming up with new patterns or techniques to solve a problem from a day on the water with a new fly pattern at the vise.” 

“…and then I fill up my bath tub and make sure it works.”

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