Category Archives: Fly tying Materials

Where to find them cheaply

A Colonoscopy is Better than Fly Fishing

ColonI was shocked by the violence of the outburst. How us “fly fishing guys were NUTS”, and how the speaker – a largemouth Bass devotee – would rather submit to a colonoscopy before EVER learning to fly fish.

I’m staring at an extended digit, which I assume to be the exclamation point for some hideous crime dealt by some pompous flyfisher …and the victims, the aforementioned gear-wielding bass fiends, being horribly traumatized as a result.

I could understand the vitriol if my fate was the company of fellows I didn’t care for – or the required fly fishing livery and mandatory smoking jacket were unsavory, but as I’m unsure what the source of the angst is – and whether the conversation will end in blows,  I’m  struggling  to envision what horrid crime would anger a fellow fisherman to the point of apoplexy.

I understand it better now.

As a reward for spending the weekend waist deep in cold water with not even a single bite, I was coaxed into a pilgrimage to “Mecca”, a.k.a. the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World Boating and Tackle Megamall.

To suggest I was intimidated would be an understatement. No sooner had I broke the plane of the entry than I was hailed by a “Walmart Greeter” in store livery, and promptly herded past the acres of checkout aisles, test kitchen tidbits hawked by sweaty fat guys, and into the throng of people headed for the Big Aquarium of Tapped Glass – which was home to numerous large (and sonically deaf) fish whose fate it was to endure children banging on the glass – hoping to startle a resident into activity.

While I’m slowing to take it all in, I realize I’m that Old Lady blocking the soup aisle while poring over the sodium levels of Bean & Bacon versus the Chicken and Rice.  I am blocking the path to the Test Kitchen and the free samples of “Gut Shot Elk Butt” being foisted on the unwary. Those same folks that wrinkle their nose at laying a lip on fish from the Wild, now squealing in pleasure as Mother Nature dipped in sugar and deep fried makes the sumbitch tastes like a Twinkie ..

I managed to find refuge in an side aisle featuring a mixture of “my organ is bigger because I kill stuff” fluorescent tees, (which all the kids were in a tizzy over) mixed with the more staid earth tones of Sherpa gear that just came off the Matterhorn, whose drab sophistication Mom and Pop found enchanting.

I found a side eddy that took me past more glittering silver and gold spinner-baits than King Croesus’s treasury, and as I slow I begin to see price tags and comprehend where I am. I’m in “SevenDollarLand” where everything large or small, glittery or drab, wiggly or inflexible – cost seven dollars each.

Like Walmart, bins of merchandise dominated by sale banners and bold typefaces ensuring us old guys don’t have to squint before pantomiming our displeasure. Suddenly that tasteful bit of tackle we’re fondling is the “dipped toe” into many hundred’s of dollars in liability, and we find ourselves cornered by an angry spouse with no path to the hordes of squeezables in the Rubber Worm Garden.

I’m a fish out of water – uncomfortable in what should have been a religious experience. Organ music and choir warble gives way to announcements of lost children, debtor’s prison, and the screams of kids no longer interested in Dad’s pending decision between Deep Fuggin Craw and Yum Yum Yello Crankbait.

I’m cheek to jowl with many thousands of folks who have no interest in any of this other than the spectacle.

The fly fishing section was framed in dark wood and dim lighting, a welcome contrast to the bustle and garish colors of the Crankbait aisle.  Large price stickers announced the fly tying section as “Threedollarland”  – where spools of tying thread were $3.19, as were the tiny bits of duck’s arse, deer fetlock, and turkey down.

I hadn’t  thought the price tag mounted on the rear of a glassine envelope to be the fly fishing equivalent of “demure”, but I understand better now.

The shock of how much a new fly tier pays for materials  caused my eyes to water. Hackle has never recovered from the heady days of hair inserts, and the White River shop brand for Bass Pro was a small (and useless) handful of neck hackle reminiscent of India capes. At $13.00 per packet, a fellow could go broke tying a dozen dries.

I was more fortunate, given it was Shad season. I picked up a few fetching colors of pink and chartreuse tinsel, a packet of pink beads, a couple 10lb tippet spools (mono not flouro) and two spools of heavy white thread – and I was out the door at $31.00.

Nine flies later I wasn’t so impressed at my acumen …

Pricing a Royal Wulff was an eye opener. $14.00 for a packet of brown hackle, $5 for the calf tail, $4.79 for the Peacock, another $3.19 for red floss, and $3.19 for the thread, closely followed by $7 for a 25 pack of hooks, meant I was into the fly about $38 by the time I had everything.

Considering the hackle as the delimiter, maybe I could tie 9 good flies .. making the cost per fly about Four Dollars Each. As Bass Pro sells the damn flies for $12/dozen, we’re not likely to see the fly tying ranks swell much …

Ditto for the Thousand Dollar Fly Rod. As Momma and the kids stroll past the fly fishing section (with prices visible from the closest three aisles) we’re sending a powerful message to our recruit pool.

Tying flies as a means of defraying the cost of buying store-bought has always been one of the reasons for fly shop visitation and our continued support even during non fishing season. Like tippet, it’s one of the most common reasons for us to visit and toy with that new rod, or try on those new zipper front waders.

One megamall does not a trend make … but as our numbers are dwindling quite rapidly, and these “foreign” venues present our craft to thousands of potential recruits, far in excess of anything our small stores can muster, I was a bit surprised at my own reaction …

… and was an eloquent depiction of why my hardware mongering bass pals won’t even consider the long rod. A lesson punctuated by airborne spittle and much finger pointing.

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.

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.

Certainly the IPO may make you some coin, but the value of Alibaba.com will be the money you save

The financial wunderkind of Wall Street are already lining up in anticipation of the IPO of Alibaba.com, a Chinese B2C web company that makes Amazon.com look like a neighborhood market.

… and it may seem odd to be talking high finance and initial public offerings on a fly fishing blog, but Alibaba and I are old friends, and has been the source of much of my fishing tackle, and all for pennies on the dollar.

Whether you plan on investing in the company is immaterial, what’s important is to understand how you can leverage their business model as a simple customer.

Computers were once thought to make offices paperless, electronic transactions replacing whiteout, staples, typewriters, and most interoffice correspondence. That promise has never been been realized  yet the migration from paper to electronic media continues. Each step forward results in some unforeseen Target debacle that makes us all leery of anything more complex than a #2 pencil ..

The internet held similar promise diminishing the “bricks and mortar” retail presence in lieu of countless web clicks, and while its impact on physical stores has been substantial, companies with significant retail presence have augmented their square footage with websites, and leverage both mediums.

What the Internet did successfully is destroy the notion of “B2C”, business to customer relationships, as the worldwide draw of a web presence made many millions of micro-transactions hugely profitable.

Pre-Internet a company would require a minimum order of 5000 bicycles to establish an account, and only other businesses could absorb that volume, private citizens could not.

The internet has undone the notion that other businesses are necessary to broker consumer sales and manufacturers are now free to cut the middleman out of transactions to enhance profits. Alibaba is an aggregator of manufacturers within a searchable interface that allows consumers to find manufacturers willing to sell direct to them, instead of only to other businesses. Consumers benefit from wholesale pricing, manufacturers get more profit per transaction, and the jobber is reduced to making the small dollars that bulk discounts can grant – rather than making profit at the expense of both manufacturer and consumer.

As manufacturing has largely been shipped overseas, China and the Orient are now the manufacturing engine for the entire world, and Alibaba breadth of product is ample demonstration that “Made in America” has been replaced by Hong Kong, Sialkot, or Hanoi.

Many of the rods, float tubes, waders, fish hooks, and fly tying materials, that we paw through at your local shop stem from the Orient, which is why Alibaba.com is such a compelling shopping experience.

I’m not a fly shop, how can I benefit from wholesale?

As you can buy float tubes, motorcycles, or saddle hackle from Alibaba, all you need is the desire to buy a bit more than a bubble pack of something, or perhaps you wish to broker a purchase with a group of like minded fellows from your casting club.

Let’s take simple brass beads for fly tying as an example. Launch your browser at the http://alibaba.com address, and enter the search term,”fly tying beads” on the search bar at the top of their website.

alibaba.beads

Here is an example of the first vendor returned by that search, the Qingdao Leichi Industrial And Trade Co., Ltd., of Shandon, China. They sell every fly fishing item known, from fish hooks to IM6 fly rods and reels. From our perspective the most important feature is the Minimum Order required by the company, and for Tungsten or Brass socketed fly tying beads, that is 500.

In a fly shop a 25 pack of socketed brass beads is somewhere between $3 and $4. This manufacturer’s price varies weekly based on the international spot price of copper, brass, or tungsten, so a quote request (delivered typically as an Excel spreadsheet attached to an email) will only be accurate for a limited time.

The last time I purchased copper beads from this vendor they were about $4 per thousand, which is what a jobber like Spirit River pays. Most jobbers will allow the shop to double its money on the retail price, so it will sell a 25 pack to the store for $1.50 – $2.00. The jobber makes about $80 on its $4 purchase, netting them a profit of about 2000%.

… which is why both consumers and manufacturers want to reduce the middleman’s share.

Was I a fly shop owner Alibaba would be my only catalog, as I no longer need the jobber or his wares. The limitations of fly fishing’s niche customer base suddenly mitigated by my ability to get product directly from the manufacturer, thereby increasing my profits substantially.

… which has been the promise of micro-transactions and the Internet, now realized.

Because many thousands of small transactions are the same as a few large transactions, all manufacturers are moving to this B2B / B2C platform, and why Alibaba is such a hot topic among the retail brokerage houses.

Sending Money overseas, avoid Banks

Conducting business overseas has also been simplified by the Internet. There are three basic options available; your local bank, an ePayment vendor like PayPal, or Western Union.

Doing business with an entity like Qingdao Leichi Industrial And Trade Co., Ltd, will require you to exchange US dollars for Renminbi or Yuan. As the currency exchange rates also vary daily, prices quotes are usually good for a fixed amount of time. Banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America should be avoided, as they are still stuck in archaic bank to bank exchanges and typically levy a $45 charge for brokering the transaction and money swap. Paypal (if the vendor accepts it, and many do) has a sub-$10 fee, as does Western Union, which can transfer money to Pakistan or Hong Kong faster (usually overnight) than banks (about a week), and for about a quarter of what banks charge ($10).

A Western Union account can be tied to a credit card making repeat shopping easy. You will need to call your credit card company on large transactions, and certain countries are on “watch” lists – due to fraud or hostile governments, you may need to pre-authorize the transaction to the destination country in order for it to complete its journey.

contactInitiating contact is done via email with the vendor. Each company has a contact name to request price quotes and all will contact you in English.

For small items like fly tying beads or fish hooks I typically ask if I can get samples, or can I pay the shipping to receive samples.

I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not, and typically will explain what my anticipated transaction will be if satisfied with the samples. You don’t need to be a company to do business here, so tell them up front you’re looking for a buy of about 10,000 beads, 2500 each of 3mm, 4mm, and 5mm, and perhaps a couple thousand more in Tungsten.

The Perils of the Orient

Each of the vendors on Alibaba are interested in sales, not fraud, and each of them have a satisfaction and longevity rating, allowing new customers a bit of insight into their past dealings.

It’s never a sure thing, but ask yourself how many of the thousands of affiliate shops on Amazon are intent on fraud. Good ratings drive sales, and sales is the reason they are offering their services, so it’s reasonable to assume a modicum of professionalism.

Copyright laws have little bearing in China and imitation goods are rampant, so you need to be cautious about “Made in China” versus a wader that appears to be a famous US manufacturer at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes it really is the same wader, sometimes it is merely an imitation of that wader, made of very poor quality materials and leaks like a sieve.

Note the availability of the “Battenkill” reel for $35. Whether this is the same reel rebranded by Orvis, we’ll never know. Request a sample, and if it’s a good reel, order a dozen more for your casting club and use them on rods loaned to the public during free casting classes. Fly lines and rods are available for a fraction of store prices, why not equip your club with an inexpensive and serviceable set of tackle for casting practice.

A great deal of the rods and high dollar equipment we use (float tubes, reels, etc.) are made by these same manufacturers and re-labeled by American companies, so you’ll need to do extra diligence before dropping the large dollars. Ask if a vendor in the states carries the item already, perhaps you can view or inquire of that middleman for additional information. Caveat Emptor, baby.

Take this standard one man rowable boat. In the US it may go for $600 –$1600 each. This vendor lists it as $300, minimum quantity only one needed. Postage will boost its price much more, so always inquire of the shipping fees. Typically DHL is used for normal packages, and freighter is likely used for the bulky pallet sized items. Nothing of size shipped from mainland China to the US will be cheap.

Alibaba.com is also one of the best sites to bulk purchase fly tying materials. Most of the iridescent and opalescent synthetics in use today are also manufactured in the Orient, so getting a few skeins of something that sells by the yard will save you considerable money.

It’s worth a couple evenings simply browsing all the categories and viewing prices. Our colloquial terms for items may not hold in their listings, and “float tube” might be “floating boat”, but you’ll find plenty once you drill down to the proper keywords.

The only real downside is you can’t park it by the John for uninterrupted browsing, like the old Herter’s catalog ..

Slingblade says, “Like Coors .. it’s the water”

I was asked about the pending Turkey season and what was the local outlook, and while I typically hover around fish I do cover a lot of unkempt and out-of-the-way turf, as getting to the water without being shot, bitten, or arrested takes me all over the drainage.

Oak_Turkey_onHoof430

This year the quarry is constrained by water, and the above turkey track still had the edges folding into the depression – meaning the bird was braving the exposed bank at midday.

Turkey being notoriously shy creatures and despite your being surrounded by a flock of 15lb birds, can get by you with nary a bush moving to show their passing.

My allergy with “No Trespassing” signs often has me bursting out into their midst without warning – as the circuitous path necessary to give the angler plausible deniability takes me into inclement areas. Avoiding landowners, ambitious dogs, and the 300 beehives I disturbed accidentally – means I occasionally have to move blindly and without benefit of friendly terrain.

… and scaring hell out of the big-arsed birds means I usually emerge with a couple of extra tail feathers given their hasty departure.

Hunt water. Hunt the path between the roost and water – and it shouldn’t be too terrible surprising if the roost tree is closer to the creek than last year.

The lack of water means the ground remains hard and flinty, so I’m not seeing the usual scrape areas they work with them big clawed feet.

The lakes I hit last week had an abundance of tracks near the water’s edge, and that means they covered 300-400 yards in the open to get there.

A canny fellow would take advantage.

We’ll see if the gals are as good a sport

DKNY_Does_GrizzlyIt’s plain the “Grizzly-Hackle-enmeshed-with-tousled-mane” made a lasting impression on women’s fashion, and while we’ve resented their wanton consumption, Grizzly may have become the next “Ombre” – something required of the everyday well-heeled-gal.

While I’ll admit to public displays of petulance, given all that premier saddle hackle is gathering moth eggs in some darkened  jewelry box, could it be we’re about to endure a speckled renaissance complements of a few hundred expensive chickens?

I’ll let you be the judge.

DKNY_Grizz_Closeup Think finely printed faux fur that will dye into steelhead killing, eye-watering, fluorescents capable of tying enormous Intruders, fast sinking Sculpins, and take salt water fly tying from humdrum  to two foot-long articulated Squidz …

Think oodles of fashion designers cranking out acres of sophisticated fashion that will hang in closets forgotten, or better, discarded within the year …

Then again, $295 for eight square feet is about what you’re paying for crappy jobber-packed deer hair – allowing you to rush out and throw elbows with the other patrons of DKNY …

Just make sure you explain the receipt to your wife – and I wouldn’t mention the “cutting it up” part – nor would I attempt the equally lame “I gave it to my secretary” excuse.

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Leave it to Beaver

beaver_round2 I liken this to the search for the Fountain of Youth, one of the truly great unfathomable questions of fly tying, guaranteed to plague many generations to come:

Have any suggestions for a cheaper substitute for rabbit fur?  I’ve been using rabbit as a binder, but for whatever reason, the price of a bunny skin has increased about 50%.  And for whatever reason, I can’t get rabbit skins to dye all the way down to the skin and/or turning the skin into a potato chip.

From a cost perspective, only road kill is cheaper than rabbit. Of course there are many unpleasantries associated with your asphalt bounty, most can only be overcome if you’re single and your neighbors ignore the screams …

A rabbit skin lacks any real leather, it’s paper thin and when subjected to heat turns brittle as a potato chip. Cold water dyes alleviate this only slightly, as age will also turn a rabbit skin into a potato chip.

Depending on the species of rabbit (and its climate) the hair on the skin can be quite dense, making “dyeing to the root” difficult. To fix the issue you must dye the hide exactly like a dry fly neck. First clean and presoak the fur, then pressing it against the bottom of the bowl until all the air bubbles stop coming to the surface – and only then can you transfer it to the dye bath completely saturated (do not wring it out).

Air bubbles are trapped at the roots of the fur – and so long as they appear when the fur is pressed underwater you will have an area the dye will not touch in your final product.

The solution to your problem is to buy a beaver “round”. Coffin Creek Furs offers a large Beaver pelt for $25.00. It is superior to rabbit fur as a binder – and is among the finest of dry fly dubbings as a side benefit. Typically these are 36”-44” in diameter and will offer the average tyer a lifetime of quality dubbing.

Beaver has a thicker skin than rabbit and will only go “potato chip” on you if your kitchen is aflame, along with the surrounding house ..

Caution: Coffin Creek shipments can contain moth eggs – so the pelt should be quarantined (treated generously) in moth crystals for at least a week before adding it to your collection. This is true of most furriers and their hoards of hides.

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.

Catch the falling knife, giggling all the while …

I think this qualifies as a “don’t tease me …”

I would start thinking about eBay and all those fashionistas that will unload all the feathers they purchased hoping to recoup some cash. A casual examination already has a lot of feather clumps being offered at $0.90 -$1.00 per feather, which is closing in on the zone occupied by Whiting’s  “100 Packs” – the downside being most will tie Raspberry Quill Gordons, and none of the owners will know a #14 from a Buick Skylark …

Just reminding you to have no mercy on them as deprived us of all them dry flies.

… and it won’t surprise a bit to see Whiting return to the fold with a significant price hike to welcome us long time supporters back.