Interview With Jean-Guy Cote, Founder of Uni Products
Uni Products, the well known manufacturer of threads, flosses and other fly tying materials, has been recognized by two separate fly fishing magazines for its high quality and unique products.
In awarding its annual Kudos award to Uni Products, FlyRod & Reel said, "Uni Products is a UNIque company serving the tier; his Kudo recognizes Uni's diligence in producing a remarkable tying thread. Thanks both to Uni and to Jean-Guy."
Jean-Guy Cote is the President and founder of Uni Products. A former professional fly tyer who also organized the World Salmon-Fly Tying Championships, Mr. Cote now dedicates his time to developing and producing the best threads and materials. He has had a passion for fly fishing for many years and in fact, learned English by reading fly fishing magazines and publications.
As well as the Kudos award, Fly Fish America magazine in its January 1999 issue announced it had selected Uni Products for its "Editors Choice Award."
The fly tying products that Cote has develloped are certainly worthy of recognition. As well as supurb threads, Uni developed its unique UNI Box-Stor System with the fly tyers bench in mind. If you tie a lot, you will certainly want to take a look. As well, some rod builders have used Uni thread for fishing rod wrapping.
Mr. Cote graciously agreed to an interview recently. Questions ranged from his favorite flies, advice to beginning fly tyers, and his plans for new products:
Congratulations on winning the recent Kudo's award from Fly Rod and Reel Magazine. How did that make you feel coming from such a prestigious magazine?
JGC: I am honored and grateful as so few Kudos are awarded.
Do you still tie flies professionally or does your business take up most of your time?
JGC: I no longer tie professionally as all my time is taken up by the business. However, I still tie for my own pleasure and fishing needs. I often tie at fly fishing shows and at the invitation of fly- fishing clubs. I have developed my own patterns over the years and am now in the process of "creating" a pattern that will be called "Entre 20". An emerger fly that rides upside down, Keel type, that has some wiggle to it, that will be use as a bobber fly while trolling the lakes for brookies, the construction is similar to the "Presque Pas" but with different colors to mimic dragon flies.
How old were you when you began tying flies?
JGC: I began at age 15, tying floss and yarns from my mother's sewing kit and feathers from my pillow to bait hooks.
Did you have any mentors to look up to?
JGC: Not until I met Jean Michaud. We met at a restaurant in my hometown Trois-Pistoles. When I saw his fly boxes on the table it was like a magnet. I went to his table right away and asked that he give fly tying courses. I was seventeen. Later on, while at college in Montreal, John Cuco. At that time John was running a small fly shop on Sherbrooke street. I am very gratefull that he took me under his arm for so many years, master fly tyer and great salmon fisherman. He helped me refine my tying techniques, but I am still learning.
Do you have any memorable or favorite experiences while fly fishing or tying?
JGC: Catching large speckled trout in Quebec lakes using my pattern, the Branchu, which imitates a fresh molted crayfish. It is mainly trolled with an other fly as the Presque Pas.
What do you think is the biggest mistake beginner fly tiers make?
JGC: Trying to do too many things too soon. By this I mean jumping from one style of fly to another before perfecting the necessary techniques.
What should a beginner fly tier consider for their very first purchases of tools and materials?
JGC: Quality, not quantity.
Do you have any favorite books or resources that you would recommend to fly tiers?
JGC: Col. Joe Bates' "Streamer and Bucktails" and Dick Talleur's fly tying books as well as magazines specializing in fly tying.
Who is your favorite professional fly tier?
JGC: I have many, such as; Dave Whitlock, for he is a complete writer, artist and tier. The Dette family, for their dedication and tradition. Paul Jorgensen for his salmon books and flies. Gary LaFontaine for his innovative flies. Finally, the master fly tier, Daniel Dufour. There is so many pro fly tyer out there that it is very difficult for me to choose only one.
There is a growing concern about the harvesting of wildlife. In fact, material such as jungle cock that used to be available for fly tiers is no longer available. Is the industry, in your opinion, doing enough to develop better synthetics that can take the place of natural materials?
JGC: First, I consider natural materials to be an integral part of fly tying and they need only be replaced where the wild sources are under pressure. For example, jungle cock from domestically bred and certified birds is available. Regardless, the growth of synthetic materials is encouraging as it offers fly tiers choices. Also, many synthetics are not just replacements but also provide ingenious tiers with the means to achieve new effects. Certainly there is still room for innovation in the use of synthetic materials.
When did you start UNI Products?
JGC: In 1989.
What do you consider was your biggest hurdle in building a successful fly tying materials company?
JGC: Finding adequate spool winding machinery and the research and development of proper spool design and labeling/packaging.
What do you consider to be your greatest successes?
JGC: Our 8/0 UNI-Thread, without hesitation.
Tell us what is unique about your products.
JGC: First, quality spools and a condensed information label on each spool. Second, the unique wax and waxing methods used to produce our waxed threads. Finally, the wide range of spooled materials we offer as well as fly-tying aids such as tools and material storage and dispensing systems. We manufacture a total of over 850 different items at UNI.
What new products can we look forward to from your company in the future?
JGC: Twenty-eight new product lines (colors or sizes) were added for the 1998/99 season and at least as many are planned for 1999/2000.
Do you believe that the fly fishing industry could do a better job of promoting themselves to French Canada?
JGC: Not really. French Canada is predominantly bilingual and information about the latest in equipment, materials, and techniques is widely available.
If there was one thing you could change about the industry you are in, what would that be?
JGC: Limit international trade shows to one in North America.
Do you have any flies that you prefer to tie?
JGC: Other than my own creations, such as the Branchu and Presque Pas, I enjoy tying other streamers (I now live near several lakes) and salmon flies. They are very effective, I have more pleasure using my own flies when fishing than anything else.
I understand that you have a passion for Muddler Minnows. Is it true that you have catalogued over 80 variations of this pattern?
JGC: Yes, tying Muddlers paid my way through college and university. I collected as many variations as possible on paper and later catalogued the material on computer.
Any plans for a book or publication on this?
JGC: Perhaps in the future.
Do you have any favorite fly fishing related sites on the Internet and what is it that you like about them?
JGC: No, I have no favourites. I enjoy all web sites pertaining to fly tying and fly fishing.
Any employment opportunities at your company right now?
JGC: Not at this time.
Thanks, Jean-Guy. I wish you all the best, and offer my own hearty congratulations on your recent awards!