Dan Morris: The "Guru"
November 21, 2011
He is a tall man. But he was probably taller than I am now at one time. When he stands, he is slightly bent, hunched-over from the terrible accident that should have killed him but left him paralyzed instead. He told me of the day the doctors came to his hospital room and gave him the unimaginable news that he would never walk again. He described it as a death sentence for someone who couldn't live without the push of cold trout stream water on his legs. But Dan Morris isn't the type of man who allows the opinions of others to rule his life. And after experimental therapies that could have killed him, Dan left the hospital. Not in a wheel chair. He walked out. That's Dan Morris. He makes the difficult, easy. The impossible, possible.
The first time I met him, he held out his hand and introduced himself as the Guru. Now I work in a fly shop, which exposes me to varied elements of the public. And honestly, when he told me to call him the Guru, my initial thought was, great, another nut who'll try to talk to the fly rods every time there's a full moon. Perhaps he's an opinionated egomaniac who's come to enlighten me and my staff with his wisdom. We occasionally see characters who would fit both of those descriptions. But through time, I'd come to realize that the moniker, "Guru," is simply a term of endearment given to Dan by the many people whose lives he's touched. And when I see the Guru's car pulling into the shop's parking lot, I don't try to hide in the shipping boxes in our back room. I'm happy to see him; happy to call him a friend.
Dan is the president of the Mutton Hollow Outfitters. I could tell you how the club formed, but I know I couldn't say it better than the description on their web site:
"Mutton Hollow Outfitters started with a half dozen guys who would rather tie flies than become couch potatoes, except for Dan; he wasn't allowed out, so we met at his house".
The club's name sounds very formal. But it's not a fly shop or guiding operation. The club is dedicated to helping new anglers, including kids, learn to tie flies and fly fish. It's membership is open to anyone with $5.00. And for that giant sum, you'll learn to tie flies, be invited on fishing trips that include lunches better than you could get at most restaraunts (made by his friend Mark), and get access to the Guru's imaginative mind. The Guru is special; a local legend who doesn't write because he doesn't want to write. He doesn't headline the winter fly fishing shows, and he's not interested in being in magazine articles (don't tell him I wrote about him here). He could do all of these things. But, unlike so many others, he isn't drawn by the siren's song of money or fame. His motives are pure. He just loves to fly fish and to be around others who feel the same way. But in Clearfield County, PA, the Guru has been more influential on the fly fishing world than any of our sport's celebrities. He is a humble teacher who is just as willing to share what he knows as he is to learn from someone else who has something new to say.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Guru is his inventions. He is always tinkering. His mind finds uses for things I would throw away. He created his first pack (an attachment for his Richardson Chest Box) in the 90's. He built the pack in the picture below out of a cheap backpack from Wal-mart and bits of this and that. It's amazingly functional.
He wanted a lanyard. So he built one from a tie-down strap.
He had a lot of medication bottles laying around the house so he made them into tippet/floatant holders. He gave me one, and it works great.
Need a wading staff? You could buy one of the fancy, expensive, colapsible ones or use one like the Guru's--made from an inexpensive aluminum rake.
He has many inventions for fly tying like a multi-tool made from a pen that is very cool. But what do you do with that chenille that keeps unraveling from its card? The Guru uses old plastic soap bottles. They work like dispensers, but you can also use them like hackle pliers to wrap the chenille.
I thought I knew a lot about the Guru, but he surprised me again at our fly shop's book fair in 2010. Charlie Meck was also there to sign books. Out of the blue Charlie asked the Guru to tie a fly in his fingers without a vice. The Guru was at first reluctant, but who can say no to Charlie? So he did it.
The Guru seemed a little embarrassed as a group of fly tiers crowded around to watch him tie. "It's just a little Woolly Worm," he said. "It's not hard to tie." But that's what the Guru does best. He makes fly fishing and tying simple. He makes it fun. And by doing that, he encourages others and helps to grow our sport more than most of us ever will. The Guru is a legend, and I'm proud to know him. He is what fly fishing is supposed to be about.
The Mutton Hollow Outfitters club with their winter fly tying certificates.
Check out the Mutton Hollow Outfitters web site here: