Tuesday, December 15, 2015

At the tying bench

   Here's another vaguely topical music offering for you to listen to while reading my ramblings.

  As mentioned in my last post, I've pretty much ignored my fly fishing gear for the past year. Not just the rod and reel but also anything to do with fly tying. The only real upside to that is I haven't spent a fortune on tying materials! Truth be told...I'd been tying long before I ever picked up the long rod. Back in the 80's I was making my own spinners and started tying the hooks with beads, bucktail and feathers. Jump ahead 20 years, I bought a cheap fly tying kit a few weeks after getting my first rod and a small fly box, thoroughly disgusted with the price of a hook dressed with feather and fur.

  At this point in the story I can almost hear the derisive laughter. Yup...in the hopes of saving a few bucks on store bought flys...I've spent thousands on tools, materials. books and magazines. It's been frequently pointed out, over the years, that it would have been far cheaper and easier to just go out and buy a fish! True enough... but that's not why we do what we do. Our game is to fashion an artificial bait, present it in a realistic way and hopefully catch a selected species, to be released or kept depending on regulations or personal opinion.

  My initial investments in flys. materials and instructional reading was misguided as the majority of it was geared towards trout and my game was warm water species. Obviously there is a spot for mayfly and caddis patterns, to name a few, in a bass and panfisher's box, but warm, still- water fishing requires different tactics and flys.
  The first creations to come off the vice could only be described as UGLY. Mismatched materials, crowding the eyelet, I've seen 10 year olds at shows with more tying skills. But let's face it, even the ugliest first tries manage to attract the interest of fish with what I assume are diminished mental capacities. So... with the occasional success, I started to rely less on the books and developed my own style to suite my individual fishing needs. Here are some early works I'm not terribly embarrassed to show.

  Patterns that I've consistently tied since the beginning were salmon flys. My first attempts were unweighted glo bugs, but it soon became apparent some major tweaking was in order to fish them in fast, shallow water. First thing was to replace the glo bug material with less bouyant, assorted cactus and ice chenilles, Next step was to add weight, lead wire wrapped along the hook shank, and eventually replaced with copper beads or cone heads. The whole idea was to simplify the process and still have an effective pattern that I could whip finish in under a minute.
I give away more than half my salmon flys every year

8" synthetics 2006

bucktails 2009
   The patterns I truly fell in love with, though, were streamers; from wooley  buggers and egg sucking leaches to realistic baitfish patterns. I still enjoy tying and fishing them. It might be the wide variety of patterns and materials used or the simplicity of tying a fly that looks so good that hold my interest so keenly, but it's more likely the fact that every thing I target (from the smallest perch to the largest carp) will smash them.

  The streamers coming from my vice have gone through an evolution over the years. Unweighted bucktails tied on long shank hooks have been pushed aside by short shank, weighted, mixed synthetic patterns arising from my imagination. Through trial and error I've found by using partridge hooks I get more short strikes, but the overbalance at the head gives a more erratic swimming action, thus eliciting more strikes. The use of beads for weight have been replaced with dumbell eyes, cones,and more recently "Fishheads". I still like to use bucktail, but have a growing fondness for some of the new synthetics as they they have finer fibers that can be bulked up more and don't hold as much water when casting.
Mickey Finn, red and yellow bucktail  on 1/0 partridge hook and Fishead

"Clouser" style, red and white bucktail on 1/0 partridge hook, dumbell eye.

chartreuse, peacock green and  black Diamond Wing Fiber, orange polar bear, 1/0 partridge hook, Fishead. Banding added with a Sharpie.

chartreuse Diamond Wing Fiber, bronze back Flask Blend, #2 partridge hook dumbell eye.

chartreuse Polar Chenille, natural and hot pink polar bear, 3D prism eye.

   Because of my self imposed lack of credit and motorized transportation, my ability to buy tying materials depends almost entirely on dropping into a big box store when out on a trip with Tackle Shop. When the rare opportunity does occur, what ensues is reminiscent of the Black Friday antics we've all seen on the news, me madly grabbing up all the new shiny things without much thought towards whether I need the material or not, eventually leading to buyer's remorse and said material being stowed away and eventually forgotten.

   Such was the case a few years ago when I purchased 4 large packs of Fishient's Polar Fiber. I was on a large pike fly binge at the time and was thunderstruck to find I'd spent $20 on an untried product that was unusable because the fibers were only 2.5" long. The materials went into a drawer, unopened, until I found them last week. As I mentioned, my tying is evolving, so when they returned to the light I put them to use.

  After whipping off a dozen 2.5" streamers on #4 partridge hooks in assorted color combinations, it occurred to me that, although they looked fine and would swim with great action and movement, they lacked an "inner light".  In the next session I added a few strands of pearl Diamond Wing Fiber. What a difference! The only problem being I'll have to wait 4-5 months to use them.

   Several years ago, while on a trip in Barrie, I bought a wooley bugger that had a small propeller just behind the eyelet. It didn't take long to see the potential for this "do nothing" fly. The first time out it attracted a good sized pike as I let it "helicopter" down. On another trip it accounted for dozens of small bass as I swung it across the current on a tight line. It took quite a while to find a source for these propellers and once I'd acquired several sizes and styles it became obvious they weren't all equal in their abilities. The ones with the rounder blades spun much more freely.

Matuka spinner
   Another thing I've been trying lately is tying on worm hooks so I can access the depths in weedier waters.
yellow bucktail. yellow chrystal flash, chartreuse and peacock green Diamond Wing 
Fiber, black bucktail, orange polar bear, on 5/0 wide gap worm hook.
traditional spun bomber
   I've been spinning deer hair on occasions for years, turning out mediocre top water bass bugs and such, but I never took to it wholeheartedly until recently. I'd always been amazed at the "artistry" some tyers produced, specifically Pat Cohen at superfly. The things this guy can do with deer hair would make your head spin. Anyways...last month I found a tutorial on youtube on hair stacking for bass bugs. The video was close to an hour long and, as it turns out, it took an hour for me to produce my first fly using this method. One thing I have to say is that it uses up a lot of material and makes one hell of a mess!
My first attempt at hair stacking

  I suppose experience will lessen the mystery, but I never know how well the patterns will show until the fly is completely trimmed out. Once again... I won't know how well these will work until bass opener next June. Until that time I'm thinking of adding glass rattles  to some of these patterns.

  So...this is more than I've written in the last ten posts combined and I have to admit that it doesn't come naturally for me. You've probably noticed I let the photos tell most of the story. There's more to this story, but I'll have to tell it at another time.


  1. I had similar experiences when I first started tying. By the looks of things you've learned well. There are some great flies posted! Thanks for the add Deadfisher

  2. Thanks Howard. The internet, specifically you tube and the blogger community should take most of the credit.