With exceptional attention to detail, and with exceptional development of skills, exceptional achievement has been common for John Gort. Being inducted into the Fly Tying Hall of Fame in 2014 was truly a timely recognition of John’s many contributions to fly tying and the sport of fly fishing.
A man of the Olympic Peninsula, John did many things. He was a teacher as much as a fly tier. The many roles in John’s life resulted in his skilled transmission of knowledge and skills to others. He was a fire chief, medic trainer, hospital staff, logger, construction worker, adventurer, inventor, innovator, Olympic Peninsula river guide, cornerstone of the establishment of the Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers, and fly tier extraordinaire. The John Gort Annual Fly Tying award in the Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers continues to inspire and encourage thoughtful tying and sharing of skills within the Club.
John earned the respect of many fishers and friends. Norm Norlander recalls “John went well beyond to encourage me as he did to many others to pursue their dream and for that I am most grateful. He was indeed imaginative and creative, and his support for my efforts to create better tools and techniques for tying flies was instrumental in the development of the Norvise Flytying System. He will always be remembered as a true friend.”
One day, John got the idea to tie the Purple Heart fly, in the colors of the Purple Heart medal. It brought qualities of art to our craft of fly tying by blending emotions, aesthetics, and awe into a single small representation of powerful ideas. Next, John created representative fly patterns for military service ribbons. John recruited and trained tiers from the OPFF to tie these flies. Each was an original design and the project took hundreds of hours and nearly a year to complete. The Project Healing Waters Campaign Ribbon Fly Plate is now on display at the Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vt. Posters depicting the display are available each year at the Fly Fishing Fair of the WA Council in Ellensburg, WA
Honoring veterans and those who serve was a mission John created for himself that lifted the spirits of many. John never sold a fly. He tied flies for any veteran who asked for one, and gave away hundreds of flies. He taught classes that he carefully designed, striving to help all tiers develop their skills. He taught children to tie flies at the County Fair. He taught women-only fly tying classes to assist women in tying flies and gaining confidence in the sport. John’s generosity in sharing flies and skills touched many lives, and his inspiration lives on in active fly fishers who tie their own flies and fish their local waters.