Category Archives: Fly Tying

139 Yards of shattered glass

It was one of those rare opportune moments where a simple resupply of “frog” yarn revealed something really useful at a compelling price … even better …ample tonnage remaining to satisfy any fly tier’s ambition to lay in a goodly supply.

Bernat Boa is a synthetic polyester ribbon yarn that’s strong enough to use as hackle, has enough structural integrity to use as streamer wings, can be wound closely to make 3D shaped minnows, and can be knotted and teased into any number of fish killing uses.

I use it consistently in Shad flies, bass flies, and anything requiring saddle hackles, because the edge binding the polyester fibers is thin enough to wind, and can be tied off securely without inducing weakness due to bulk.

As each skein has three or four colors, it becomes really cost effective due to the additional colors that can be harvested from its “camouflage” coloration.

Yarns that are in consistent demand typically introduce new colors (and retire older non performers), and as I refilled my dwindling supply of Shad “pink”, I noticed new colors that made the material doubly compelling.

Bernat_Holidays_Label

Apparently for Christmas 2014, Bernat introduced a series called, “Bernat Boa Holidays”, that added three additional festive solid colors;  Santa Suit (red), Holly Green, and Blizzard (white).

The white caught my eye immediately as I was tying some minnow patterns that needed a light colored body, and something about the original photograph suggested these filaments might be a form of Antron.

After I took delivery I was pleasantly surprised. This is a much softer and finer tri-lobal filament that has the “shattered glass” brilliance of Antron, but can be dubbed onto a dry fly.

Bernat_Holidays1

Where this material truly shines is when it is clipped from the yarn base and mixed into a natural fur blend to offer a sparkle akin to  baby seal. This “shattered glass” effect is great for a medium (trout) sized fur blend, and given polyester dyes readily, additional colors can be made from the white to suit more “earthy” sparkle effects.

Bernat_HolidayGrass

Holiday yarns tend to be limited release but I’ve not seen any mention of these being pulled post holiday season.

Do not buy these colors on eBay as they tend to range in the $6-$8 range per skein. Instead get them from YarnSupply.com or Knitting Warehouse – which has Blizzard on sale for $3.69 per skein.

These are often found in KMART stores as well, but holiday colors are typically swapped quickly to seasonal favorites shortly after the festivities are over.

139 yards per skein makes an awful lot of streamers or dubbing blends, I think you’ll find a multitude of uses quickly.

My struggle with diaphanous

While much of the struggle involves spelling the damn word correctly, the remainder of my frustration is having to refine the fly tying equivalent of , “less is more.”

diaphanous

Fly tying being the art of “taming cowlicks”, wherein us tiers deploy spittle, cement, and thread to lash as much as possible onto the hook, and anything we can’t dominate with finger pressure or more thread gets trimmed away…

… yet, I’m on the converse of that road, attempting to invent transparent by adding materials versus subtracting them, and it’s an unmistakable sign the idea was sound but the execution is likely flawed.

Much of what the local bass are eating are minnows. Observation of what few I could see near shore suggest there is a mixture of opaque and diaphanous qualities to the fish. As most of my traditional minnow styles are not working, despite my best attempts at matching colors and sizes, suggests something else might be the issue.

I’ve been fiddling with colors and visibility, but to date that has been fruitless. A few fish follow the imitations, but none have taken the fly. Contrasting the gaudy strumpet I am towing through the water with the natural suggests I need tone down both glitter and bulk.

Bulk is not easy to remove, given how water tends to flatten and streamline dry materials, and lightening bulk typically results in diminishing the profile of the fly – making it more like a pencil In the water than the traditional “pumpkinseed” minnow shape.

While struggling with a lot of other issues I did manage to come up with an elegant solution allowing me to remove bulk without sacrificing the fly shape.

Using a #4 kirbed (point offset) streamer hook, I built a small bulwark of chenille halfway down the shank, after first sliding on a small brass cone.

diaph_cone600

After whip finishing and adding a drop of cement behind the cone, I retied the thread onto the front of the shank to add a bit of ribbon yarn. I picked a light pink to correspond to gill coloration, and took a couple wraps of the material in front of the cone.  The brass cone flared the material further adding a more pronounced 3-D cone shape to the fly.

Diaph_gill600

This “spread” effect of the underbody will cause any material added onto the fly to spread further, giving the proper silhouette without relying on bulky materials for form.

Taking about 35-40 strands of white marabou – I spread them out along a “dubbed loop” – with about 3/4” of the butts on one side of the loop, and the remaining tapered tips on the other. When spun, the butts (with their thicker stem) add bulk to the area containing the pink ribbon yarn, and the less numerous tips add a bit of color behind the fly, without adding opaqueness.

diaph_marabou-hackle600

Add three strands of original holographic green flashabou to the top of the “marabou hackle”, and then add about 20 strands of gray marabou in a clump onto the top of the fly.  The gray marabou should be about 1/2” longer than the white, and the flashabou should be the longest of all, just peeking out from the other mats to make an enticing flash behind the fly.

diaph_grey600

Add five strands of a Montana Fly barred Ostrich plume (sexy looking but nosebleed expensive @ $9.00), to the top of the fly to add a bit of coloration.

daiph_dry600

The result is an amorphous lump of materials that will lose opacity when dampened. The bulky area around the bead will retain its mass and color akin to the real baitfish – but the nether underbelly will vanish as the grey marabou, tinsel, and ostrich is longer than the white, making it appear diaphanous and transparent.

diaphdamp600

The final effect when wet is light and airy with the bulk up front. Note that instead of slimming down to nothing the fly retains the all-important  minnow shape.

The local fish inhaled it with great gusto this weekend, but the unsavory brutes that haunt the local creek would have been just as eager to inhale the twist-off cap from a Budweiser … so additional research is needed.

Science provides inspiration and wisdom does the debunking

I’ve always assumed Renoir and Degas had similar issues with us fly tiers; a couple of decades spent on rigorous painting tedium, and saddled with the costs of painting supplies, groceries, and a roof overhead, true masterpieces were sacrificed for the more mundane portraiture … because painting Madame … paid the bills.

Fly fishing, especially during those cold months between Winter fisheries and Spring, endures a similar tedium, where inspiration comes occasionally, and inclement weather and work combine into  books read, magazines thumbed through, and daydreams of future successes.

I used to find inspiration from periodicals, where fresh ideas and the exploration of new fisheries caused me a fit of tying creativity or made me lust after new terminal gear. Unfortunately, fresh ideas are in limited supply, and periodicals eventually yield to the stale yet profitable, and every Bahamian bone fishing article looks like ISIS reconnoitering Mosul, the difference between the two the color of their sun buff …

With the Internet and its ready access to all of the great colleges, organizations, and  sources of fisheries research, the Scientific community is an underutilized source of freshness in angling ideas. Theories abound on fish, bugs, stream dynamics, global warming, and invasive species, and even a casual knowledge of fish and bug behavior allows the reader to follow along from proposal to conclusion.

The volume of research is staggering, and while much is in its infancy (and is best served as simple topics to mull), a great deal more is mature – and for anglers  seeking new insight into their quarry or craft, become a source of ideas and topics that will never be mainstream enough to grace our angling press, or may feature conclusions that counter current ecological practices and are ignored by our conservation organizations.

In short, if you don’t turn over the stone yourself, no one will turn it for you.

This Spring has seen me start down a thread I found interesting, and resulted in many hours of fervor at the vise. What started simply – as a dissertation on Guppies has led through a chain of other papers, physics, and conventional wisdom, and while both conclusions and flies will always be questionable – the enjoyment of discovery and new inspirations have made the journey completely worthwhile.

The April issue of the Royal Society Proceedings B, has an article discussing the notion that patterns, motion, and coloration of prey (flora and fauna) are inheritable in Guppies, a freshwater fish.

After a great deal of rigorous experimentation the authors concluded Guppies prefer red or orange, and don’t particularly care much for blue. What fascinated me was the discussion that like bees, guppies were capable of honing in on patterns exhibited by their prey (both motion and coloration) akin to bees and birds and the specialized pollination coding on flowers.

For those as are unfamiliar, flowers are colored (both primary color and patterns of color on their petals) to attract the unique insects and birds that can best pollinate them. So long necked flowers that bees cannot climb into are coded for Hummingbirds, and anything with a long, thin proboscis that it can wad into the barrel of the flower.

This notion that freshwater fish may have similar tendencies I found fascinating, given that if anglers accept this notion it would likely spawn a bazillion new patterns that resembled (in coloration and pattern) everything from Green Drakes to discarded French fries.

As Mother Nature colors her insects to resemble the stream bottom, the notion of red or blue is a bit far fetched, but it does buttress our notion that color of the natural is worth imitating, in either dry or wet variants. Inheritance would also ensure that planted fish, should they survive, would also trend toward the same food choices of wild fish – as both groups must dine off the same menu.

Color and shape are the most copied trait of the modern fly tier, a reflection of the prevailing  “match the hatch” logic that has dominated fly fishing for the last several decades. Patterns in coloration and motion are the “less traveled” path, given how fly tying materials have dictated how the resultant imitation moves.

Natural materials being a bit more lively than synthetics, but only by accident, as many natural materials can be stiffened by the simple act of attachment to the hook.

Having to use a “J-shaped” bit of steel to contain all the parts of the natural is also a delimiting factor. Any discussion of imitation has to also recognize the limitations of physics on our potential options.

After a couple of weeks ferreting out full motion videos of mayfly nymphs in their natural settings, and viewing them for signatures akin to how a bee might view flowers, it is quickly apparent that there is a couple of patterns of color on a typical mayfly when swimming. The first was due to its carapace and color density imbued by thickness, and the second was due to gill motion, and the lightening effect that lateral gills (and the light-colored cilia attached) and their constant motion have on the surrounding colors of the insect.

Mayfly_Pattern600

Should this wild notion of torso “pattern-key” being the missing ingredient in the complete subjugation of Salmonids, I could expect some lofty company. The thought of my Portly & Brazen suddenly synonymous with Gordon, Skues, or Sawyer was pretty heady, but a couple of decades of wisdom tempered my flirtation with ego.

Tying flies with this type of pattern in their torso had some very obvious shortcomings …Physics being the most sinister, as all of my full motion vignettes quickly displayed.

BellyBackIn moving water most fish face upstream. Insects dislodged due to mishap or swimming to the surface come downstream (roughly) head first. Fish on the prowl for targets likely don’t see anything of the abdomen patterning save the wink of dark top or light belly, and only if the insect is swimming in its customary violent tail-centric, up-down, fashion.

In still water the fish can encounter an underwater insect along any axis, and the predative view may not even involve any signature other than motion, the frantic attempt to evade being eaten triggering the pursuit.

Fish_eye_nymphbutt

Not to mention the notion of the fish’s eye not being the same as our stereo flavor, and the exaggerations of coloration that exist when converting a stereo image to an approximation of what we think fish see

… and therein lies the beauty of Science and the unending appeal it has for me and my dull Winter months. A constant stream of facts and theorems that promise future success – all of which must be tempered with angling wisdom and experience, in order to determine which theory will fill next season’s fly box.

What’s not important is whether any chain of facts will result in more fish caught, as the angler cannot determine what he would have done had he fished other flies. What is worthy is to continually question the status quo, given the shaky ground all of our current angling truisms are built upon.

The Unnecessary Drought in Fly tying

Ever watch someone attempt to match a bug in the wild? Minimalism usually overrides complexity as tying while traveling restricts the fly tier to a small subset of the materials than are available at home. Little packets of dubbing compress nicely, and a half dozen necks covers just about everything fished dry.

As your pals cluster over your “canvas” insisting, “ …it was a bit more brown” – and how, “…the ones near me were about a size 12,” invariably the resultant bug when duplicated enough to quench demand, is always dry.

Not the “dry” of dry fly, rather the dry of the desert … bone dry, the opposite of damp.

As the only “fish” able to survive out of water are Snakeheads and our prehistoric ambulatory ancestors, the inconvenient truth is fish live in water and to catch them your fly must get wet. As simplistic as this sounds, this notion eludes most fly fishermen, as attempts at imitation are done using dry materials, under bright lights, rather than wet materials under the dim light of dusk, or under refracted conditions.

Dry_62

The Bad News being that under morning or evening conditions, damp flies change color drastically, and while our painstakingly crafted imitation was anatomically correct and the proper color, its damp, darkened variant may only catch smaller fish forced into the unpopular lies, and the desperate fish that rushed to the bait regardless of its color.

The magic of realistic imitation is a mixture of known and unknown, which makes the topic complex and the outcome so varied. On the one hand,  our quarry cannot be queried as to what it just ate, and if it doesn’t, we assume it “smart” – able to count the extra six legs our hackle contained. On the one hand fish are  stupid, and any object carried by the current and resembling something living, is eaten without hesitation.

Due to the cost of our tackle and collective ego, fly fishermen insist their quarry is an agile, canny, predator – that can only be seduced by a similarly gifted angler. The reality of “pea-sized” brain and the “instinctive eat” is dismissed as belonging only to drinking buddies or the angler’s offspring.

In actuality, flies are darker when wet than when dry. Fish are likely to eat them, but may not eat them with the gusto reserved for the predominant hatch, and refusals can be more common than a properly colored imitation.

This darkening effect is enhanced by many factors, most important being the underbody and the thread color used to construct the fly. Attempts at exacting imitation of form or color must include an understanding of how thread colors influence the fly when fished.

wet6

To illustrate the phenomenon, both of the above pictures were taken of the same flies under marginal light conditions. The “dry” picture flies look reasonably identical other than the bits of thread color showing at whip finish or the post of the parachute wing.

After immersion in tap water, the bugs tied with darker thread reveal their true colors – which no longer resemble the coloration of the original pattern,  and in this case, only the yellow and tan versions remain unchanged.

Dry flies are much more vulnerable to the bleeding through of thread colors due to their light coloration and sparse dressing. Fur absorbs water, and most tiers attempt to reduce this absorption by minimizing the amount of fur used in the body.

Nymphs have less exposure to this issue – but are not immune by any measure. Most nymphs tend to tied with darker colors, and thread to match making their color less susceptible to the skew induced with dampness.

Tying flies with neutral colors may not be as fashionable, but they will preserve the intent of the dressing better versus adding unforeseen consequence.  For flies dressed in the warm spectrum of yellows through brown, tan thread will neither add color nor darken noticeably, it is the preferred neutral “warm.” For light dun through the olive spectrum, a light gray thread is the preferred “cool” neutral.

Underbodies and the controlled visibility of their thread color is a powerful tool to assist a tier if the effects are planned and understood. Buffering a bright underbody with external fur can yield a “gelatinous” coloration that due to visual effects adds dimension as well as color just like the real bug.

As beginning fly fishermen we are destined for numerous stages to our fishing careers. Choosing to tie flies being one, awareness of our prey and its favorite food groups being a second. Discovery that angling theory is a mix of myth and word of mouth – inevitably leads to entomology and the scientific process … and the desire to imitate versus attract. In our maturation as an angler, it’s inevitable that precise color and exacting imitation will become a dominate chapter, one of many phases we’ll endure in our journey to “Opinionated Old Sumbitch”, the Jedi Master of fly fishing.

We who are about to die, salute you …

The only reason I have any fishing gear remaining in the house is She hasn’t seen the carnage yet …

It was to be a tale of Good and Bad News. The Good News being she would be occupied elsewhere all weekend, and I could go fishing…

The Bad News being any thoughts along those lines dispelled by the same warning tingle that alerts Peter Parker to the menace of Doc Octopus; a whirl of tan wings trundling through the living room about the size and shape of a scout for the dreaded Great White Hackle-Slurping-Fur-Crapping moth swarm.

NukeTheRoom

Alert to the danger you rush to your tying bench knowing it to be at risk, and you’re met by the peaceful bliss of Smallville – all defenses in place, everything bagged and put away, and nary a movement from any drawer however dark and remote.

… and while in the bathroom you see another “tan Fokker” climbing for elevation and mash it gleefully against a wall.

Which leads to a check of extended storage; bags and boxes containing your overabundances that aren’t used as often, the full skins too large to fit in the drawer, the pheasant tail bags, and the sack of salt water colored buck tail, all which come up clean.

… then the third sighting and subsequent kill, and as you scrub fragments of chitin and hairy wing onto your pants leg – you know that sickening feeling that somewhere, somehow, you’re the unwitting host to a really bad infestation …

Hudson: [Knowing that the Aliens are close, Hicks and Vasquez are welding the door shut] Movement. Signal’s clean. Range, 20 meters.
Ripley: They’ve found a way in, something we’ve missed.
Hicks: We didn’t miss anything.
Hudson: 17 meters.
Ripley: [Checking the tracker] Something under the floor, not in the plans, I don’t know.
Hudson: 15 meters.
Newt: Ripley.
Hicks: Definitely inside the barricades.
Newt: Let’s go.
Hudson: 12 meters.
Ripley: That’s right outside the door. Hicks, Vasquez get back. Hudson: Man, this is a big fuckin’ signal.
Hicks: How are we doing Vasquez, talk to me?
Vasquez: Almost there.
[They welded the door shut, and stepped back away from the door]
Vasquez: There right on us.
Hicks: [Waiting for the Aliens] Remember, short controlled bursts.
Hudson: 9 meters. 7. 6.
Ripley: That can’t be; that’s inside the room.
Hudson: It’s reading right man, look!

I’d checked everything I used for storage except the Room That Has No Name, containing the unused normal household extras – a few boxes of unused books, some extra dishes, a stack of my hard fishing gear – rods and tubes …

… and opening the door was witnessing the sack of Rome, complete with scurrying hordes of insects pouring out of the crevasses and crawling onto the walls to avoid the thin light intruding on their debauchery.

… and with them went all plans for fishing, as the infestation I found in the storage room was so bad, so numerous, and so blatant, that I simply closed the door, and wadded a towel against the jamb to keep the balance of the house clear.

Gross.

The real crime is that I’m about to be banned from my own domicile unless I return to lures and bait. Past outbreaks having sensitized She Who Cares Not for Dead Things to the roulette played out on my tying bench each evening.

… and the source of the infestation not some unmarked boxes of dead animal pelts – rather a down comforter opened by a mouse to feather his own nest, then exploited by the Winged Borg to explode their population exponentially under my watchful care.

Protesting my innocence being completely futile as past sins have me so far in the doghouse as to welcome fleas, as they’ll be the only thing talking to me for the foreseeable future.

All that’s left is the porous “I love you” defense, where the Condemned foreswears a weekend of fishing for the, “I could’ve gone fishing but instead I cleaned the store room knowing how much it meant to you” defense.

While it always sounds good on paper, keeping a straight face is critical, and while you’re making the Ultimate Man-bleat-noise she’ll see some laggard squadron of the “Dawn Patrol” break out of the closet to start their death spiral in front of her … my grin will out, and my arse cooked.

And The Lord said, “Modify my killing patterns not with thy name or risk Everlasting Censure”

Reduced_DressingMy last blurb mentioned how everything was likely to arrive early, be shorter, and fraught with unrealized complications, and would require anglers to brave Nature’s adversity.

I forgot how modification of a standard pattern was a Sacred Cow and could land a naïve fellow in hot water.

Reducing a pattern to fit on a smaller hook requires considerable changes to the basic pattern, and a canny tier needs to understand the waters they just parked their toe in …

The materials and accoutrements of large hooks rarely extend to their smallish cousin without interpretation, as the physics of the smaller hook cannot be denied.

Yet the biggest issue facing an angler intent on modifying an existing pattern is not the dressing, rather it’s the inherent Magic in the dressing. Tinkering with a known killer that may be a couple decades older than you are is the equivalent of tinkering with “luck” – crucial to fishing yet largely indefinable, akin to Jungle magic.

If you change a favorite classic to reduce its shape, colors, silhouette, or weight, did you ruin it?

… and if so is goat sacrifice enough to appease an Angry God?

Most anglers would never consider something so base and tasteless, and the notion of changing the tail on an Adams’ is sacrilege. An Adam’s is perfection, a fly that dominated every environment into which it has been hurled …

While we commend your fervor, one of your biggest and earliest hurdles  in fly fishing is the understanding there is nothing special about an Adam’s or Royal Wulff, they simply enjoy the same happenstance that allowed VHS to beat out Betamax, which was a better public relations firm.

… and us fly fishing snobs can be swept up into two piles; those that insist everything you throw at a fish should remind it of what it ate a minute ago, or, the group that insists you should scare, piss off, or antagonize the fish into lashing out uncontrollably.

That first bunch will laud you if scientific rationale is part of your color and material reduction, the second will adore you if you spread a little opalescence or add an invasive tinsel.

In most cases neither group will acknowledge the other, and while they may occasionally buy each other a drink or surrender the riffle to the other contingent hoping they fail they do have much more in common than most would think.

The agree on the silhouette of bugs, their many stages, the split finger fastball, and the small of a woman’s back, but deviate on the colors, tinsels, and beads with which each must be dressed.

In short, you can tear a grand old pattern into pieces, reassemble the silhouette and colors, and you’re likely to have as killing a pattern as when you started. Add in a bit of sparkle or give the old gal a hint of color as a “tramp stamp” and you’ve not sullied the past an iota, merely given homage where it’s due.

… but if you put your first name in front of it, or use the word “invented” in the same sentence … you’re reviled by both groups, you’re an Untouchable, a Poser – or worse, a Belieber … to be cast from us like a indicator foam in trophy water.

Tying the Awkward hackle, adding artistry and function to the humdrum business of wet fly hackle

I was never at a loss as to what to call it, my only concern was whether I would call it the same thing twice or merely be content with whatever epithet I spat from clenched teeth.

A technique about as awkward as is frustrating, and while those that attempt it are not likely to mention genius in the same breath, it shows rare possibilities of extending traditional wet fly hackle into materials and styles not considered traditional.

As hackle typically covers the tie off of everything that came before it, all you need remember is the amount of “hackle” you prepare must change based on the number of turns you’ll apply, as well as the circumference of the thread you’re about to cover. As “less is more” in wet fly hackle, consider using no more than three turns total – more if using this technique to build a “Palmer” hackle or specialty hackle like a Spey fly requires.

I start with a slip of paper about 3/8” wide and three inches long, and smear a hint of tacky wax to the bottom two inches, giving me an inch to hold that is not sticky. Two inches of “awkward” hackle is about 3-4 turns of a #8 hook.

The beauty of this style is that any fiber is eligible to make a hackle flue, so you can select them based on color, texture, action, or stagger lengths so one color is short and close to the fly – and a second fiber is longer and drapes over the body.

It can also be used to “right size” feathers too big for the hook size you’re tying, as you can pull the fibers short now they’re no longer connected to a bothersome stem.

Clip a few fibers of material and press them into the tacky edge of the paper at regular intervals. Select a second, third, or fourth material and fill in the spaces with additional fibers to make your finished hackle.

In the below example, I’ve added Maple Sugar Teal flank fibers every 1/4 inch, and filled in the gaps with Olive dyed Hare’s Mask guard hair, using both feather and fur to make my hackle. The teal flank is set longer than the Hare’s Mask, which should project a few tips out past the halo of Olive fur, ensuring their color shows separate and distinct.

Teal_OliveHaresMask

Once the amount of fibers is appropriate for the hackle density, simply throw a loop of thread from the hook shank and slide the fiber side of the “hackle tape” through the loop, holding onto the top (or bottom) inch that does not have wax on it.

loop_tealOliveHares

Now grit your teeth and hold the loop closed with your left thumb and forefinger and run your scissors up between the gap of paper and thread and cut away the paper.

Now spin the mixture as quickly as you can to have the thread loop capture each fiber and lock it between the threads. If you’re not swearing yet, start – as really profane swearing can alter gravity and it’s attempt at dropping all your earlier work out of the loop and into your lap.

spun_loop

Transfer the loop to a set of hackle pliers and continue to spin the combined materials tightly. The more turns per inch on the resultant hackle the better the fibers will be anchored on the completed fly.

Awkward_Olive_Completed

Here is the completed “Awkward Olive” nymph showing the final hackle. The Maple teal was set longer than the Olive Hare’s Ear guard hair, and the regular rabbit duff found along with the guard hair was left in the final mix to offer softness and motion once wet.

Awkward_Olive_top

Here’s the same fly shown from above which allows you to see the two lengths of hackle added with a single application. The long teal fibers offer considerably more motion than usual as they are not connected to a stem, and the secondary fibers of Olive Hare’s mask pulse when wet, giving the result a compelling action unavailable in traditional hackle.

Use your imagination, add feather fibers and marabou strands, hair, deer hair fibers, any fibrous material can be used including yarn fragments and bits of tinsel. The only caution is the larger the fiber diameter the harder it is to lock tightly with thread.

Don’t be afraid to add a loop of Size “A” thread or even Kevlar thread for super coarse materials or extremely large flies including those tied Spey style. Wax the loop assist it holding the materials in place for the delicate cut that must be made.

While wax is not as popular as it once was, any tier worth his salt ignores what the crowd likes in favor of what works. It comes from too many icy winters filling fly boxes with bits of dead animal, the kind of behavior that depresses your Facebook “friend” count and neighbors looking to borrow sugar …

What do you suppose they’ll think of Jungle Cock?

blue_guinea_nails On the one hand it’s a relief we’ll not see another Yank led away in manacles after overstaying his welcome by pillaging the Royal and Ancient Bird Museum, on the other hand an anorexic second story supermodel might make a hell of a splash on Interpol …

Now that drab genetic chicken hackle is so completely-yesterday, it’s nice to see that girls might rend a big handful of plumes off something that squawks – instead of looking down their nose at Mister Outdoorsy who’s been ventilating all manner of birds for a couple of centuries.

pheasant_fingers

… but it’s that meat-headed rod builder that I want to find. Some thick skulled overly sensitive craftsman who wanted a couple extra days in the woods – who paid off his debt after shellacking  his wife fingernails with the local warbler. That same unthinking fellow that has doomed our game birds and fly shops to yet another tidal wave of fashion seeking society dames …

… I’m going to find you, and this time I’m going to hurt you …

Can fly tying cleanliness lead to hoarding obsession?

Homer Price and Gigantic Twine Ball It was a two room apartment, with four occupants and at least three outdoor hobbies participating. Keeping all those vocations in their respective corners was bad enough, not counting us kids fighting for extra flat space at the kitchen table.

In one of many book sessions I discovered deer hair and how to spin it. Now, each time the back door opened there were howls of dismay as the blizzard of gaily colored trimmings blew under my bed – or into the living room.

Some well-wisher had gifted me with the skeletal frame of a fly tying material clipping-catcher, minus the all-important catch-all bag. I explained what was needed and Ma dutifully whipped out a nice mesh bag that we threaded onto the harness. I dogged it onto the shaft of my Korean knock-off Thompson Model A and domestic bliss was restored.

Her cornbread no longer featured unwanted stubble and I discovered that a material-clipping-catcher was the Greatest Invention I’d Never Bought …

… and never will again.

The first month I reveled in the grief my brother caught for spreading his wire-rope splicing gear all over our bedroom. Now Ma was picking up snippets of waxed thread or rope, broken needles, and fragments of trimmed wire, while I cheerfully snipped away at Bass Awesomeness and made faces at Meathead Dumbass Older Bro while Ma lectured him sternly.

The second month I discovered that fly tying material clipping-catchers had uses far beyond simply catching all the airborne debris. They became a particle reservoir of everything I’d ever made, or ever will make …

By the third month I wondered how I’d managed to tie fly without one, and why the fly tying media never touched on the thousands of reuses all those trimmed parts represented.

Instead of opening a drawer to find Grizzly tailing material, you simply dug into the snippet bag, whose contents you’d never emptied, and was full to bursting with animal parts mixed with bits of toast, old socks, and small unidentifiable stuff …

By month four the ball of debris was so big you had to adjust it in your lap when you sat down. It was crucial to your tying as it had two or three inches of everything you owned, shaving minutes off each fly as you no longer had to guess which cardboard box contained pink and white variegated chenille, or that ancient spool of mint floss.

It was just there. Roll the ball around until you saw the tag end.

But at month five you realized it wasn’t gold so much as iron pyrite, that’s when the first moth fluttered up from the bottom of your accumulated ball of debris. You’d mistaken ash from Pop’s pipe dottle for the eggs of fly tying’s only nemesis.

Now, your ode to Homer Price was doomed.

… but not before you thought about saving your prize, whether you should endure the kiss of all those noxious chemicals, or could you endure separation anxiety and simply toss it and start anew.

This was an important moral quandary, which you would practice many times when you discovered girl friends.

The Debut of the “Do it Yourself” fish hook?

The folks at Fishingmatters Ltd, whom you may recall purchased the Partridge hook company, are concerned about the amount of time us over-consuming fly tiers spend searching for the better hook …

In the June issue of Tackle Trade World (pg10), suggest that they’re introducing the “Do It Yourself” hook, outfitted with a straight shank that allows you to bend it into the curve of your liking.

“ … research carried out by the company that shows advanced fly fishermen and pro guides are constantly searching for new hook patterns that don’t exist.”

– via Tackle Trade World, June 2012

As an “advanced fly tyer” and chronic hoarder I can attest to the time spent searching for good hooks. Most of the niche players that sponsored hook innovation like Partridge, have been plowed under by the Japanese and Korean hook companies, and esoteric models like the Flybody, Mariano Midge, Captain Hamilton, and Keith Fulsher’s Thunder Creek, all died lonesome.

Consolidation is a good thing until the pendulum swings too far and you’re left with Plain Vanilla and his kid sister …

Hooks used to have odd bends and varying length shanks, and an entire hook nomenclature was discarded to reduce the many to only best sellers. Outside of the constant influence of the salmon-steelhead crowd, and the Czech nymph phenomenon, we haven’t seen much in the way of new hooks in the last decade.

X-Stout, Offset, X-Heavy, Kirbed, Sproat, O’Shaughnessy, Limerick, X-light, 1,2,3,4,5 XL(ong), 1,2,3,4,5 XS(trong), and 1,2,3,4,5 XS(hort), haven’t been on the packaging in a mighty long time. Nor do today’s anglers understand why in this pinched-down-barb-era, how a good sproat or limerick offered something tangibly and different.

But we’ve got Black Nickel, which is a start …