Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ephemera Catalogi


  All you dry fly fishers were possibly expecting another post on fur and feather or something from Wile E. Coyote. Sorry to disappoint you but stick around anyways, you might find this entertaining. "The Way We Were" was my first idea for the title but after thinking it over decided I'd miss my demographic and attract those pesky Streisand fanatics instead. Ephemera is Greek meaning short lived such as a mayfly. It's also a collector's classification for anything produced with a limited useful lifespan such as tickets, posters, newspapers, and catalogs etc..

  Ever since I was a little goober I'd had an unusual affinity for "goofy old stuff". Coin collecting was an obvious pursuit...I mean if you're going to collect anything, collecting money sure seems to make a lot of sense and it made my parents proud to see me diligently researching and saving for my future. What did concern them though, was my love of ephemera, particularly  magazines and catalogs. Their worry was that I was exhibiting signs of becoming a hoarder, long before it became popular with the advent of "reality TV". What they didn't understand was that every slip of old paper gave me small glimpses into the world that came before me.

We live in a time where a click of a button connects you to retailers around the world and your purchase arrives a few days later with no cash exchanged, so for some it may seem incomprehensible that a few generations ago, mail order catalogs were frequently the only way to access the goods you needed. I still remember the thrill of opening Sears, Simpsons, and especially Canadian Tire catalogs back in the '60s. They fueled the dreams of  generations of kids, It was a candy store window transported to our front door for our microscopic inspection, lovingly dog eared and fiercely protected  in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

  At a lawn sale several years ago, I picked up a wrapped bundle of paper being sold for a buck. On the back page was a full page ad for Tiffany& Co.. No brainer! Upon opening the bundle I found the Tiffany ad was a singe page which I regrettably gave away before scanning. The rest of the bundle contained several building supply and farmers catalogs from the '30s and '40s.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Hackled Fish Skull

  I frequently surf the web looking for interesting fly tying ideas, and once found, it's a simple process of taking a screen shot and saving the image for later consideration. These images can sit on my hard drive for months without ever being viewed, and all too often, completely forgotten about. Such was the case the other day when I finally opened the folder for the first time since late summer and re-discovered a simple yet beautiful streamer tied with a Fish Skull. The problem with my "process" is that I don't remember where the image came from, what the fly's name is, or who to credit with it's original creation. For that I apologize.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The River Creature

  Last week a friend texted me a photo of a streamer and asked if I could tie it for him. OK, no problem, except for figuring out the size of the fly from a cell phone photo. I had all the materials on hand and proceeded to tie three  versions in different sizes and different weighted heads. He was so overjoyed with the results he asked me to tie him 100 more. You may remember me saying in a previous post that the best way for me to ruin an enjoyable hobby is to turn it into a business but this time I decided to disregard my own advice and took my first plunge into production fly tying.

  Because this was a first time thing for both of us I suggested it might be wise to start off smaller and we decided 50 was a better number. I spent the first day compiling a material list and searching the web for their  availability and the best prices. It really wasn't a surprise that there was only one place where all the materials could be found under one roof...Bass Pro Shop. With a material and price list in hand it was time to negotiate a fee where we could both get a nice return.

  I declined his offer to pick up the materials and deliver them to my door for two reasons; he isn't that knowledgeable on the subject and wouldn't be able to make substitutions without my input and I had a long list of stuff I wanted to buy for myself. This turned out to be the second big mistake I'd made in the planning stage. The first mistake was not realizing all the prices on the Bass Pro web site are in US dollars so it cost me an extra $10 for materials and $20 for gas. Live and learn. The funny thing was that after cashing out in the fly shop I noticed three bins full of River Creatures, the same fly from the text photo. The major differences between it and what I was tying were the BP fly was tied on a curved shank hook and used medium crystal chenille instead of the large I'd bought.
med/small Fish Skull on a #4 Carlisle hook
3/8" cone eyes on a #4 Carlisle hook
1/4" cone on a #6  Aberdeen hook 
  It took just over 10 hours to complete the order with a few problems along the way. Normally, when working with coneheads, I don't glue eyes to them, so having them occasionally rotate on the hook shank isn't a problem. Cock-eyed creatures are unacceptable, so a thread dam behind the eye secured the cones from rotating. I'd bought some super glue to secure the eyes but immediately found it was too runny, difficult to control, and ultimately made a big mess particularly when trying to apply the mylar eyes to the curved surface of the smaller cones. Mixing small batches of 5 minute epoxy and applying tiny daubs with a pin solved that problem.
  I can honestly say I didn't enjoy the process all that much, but it was a learning experience and it did give me a chance to re-stock my drawers and put a few bucks in my pockets.

Friday, January 15, 2016

More Ice Flies

  So...winter has finally had a positive effect here in Southern Ontario, (other than keeping me indoors and at the tying bench), the local pot-hole lakes and smaller reservoirs are now covered  with enough ice to start taking the first careful steps toward vertical jigging.

  I have much more ice fishing tackle than is necessary as I'm a bit of a "tackle junkie", always having to buy the newest thing. The one positive point on this is the fact that every thing I might want to use can fit into one pocket of my flotation suit.

  This year I vowed to stay away from those gaudy retail trinkets and make my own using the tying bench and, more importantly, my imagination. So here are my latest.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Whittingham Minnow 2

  I sat back the other day, pleased with myself, after posting on The Whittingham Minnow. I'd found an obscure pattern which suited my fishing style, tied a few color combinations, added my own personal twist to the pattern and showed it off to the world. Only after the fact did it occur to me that, perhaps, I didn't give the pattern or you, the reader, more respect by further exploring the possibilities of what  could be done with it.

  Returning to the bench yesterday, I decided to follow the original recipe closer by using bead chain for the eyes and tying on a #10 longshank hook instead of the #6, however, instead of using the Diamond Braid for the body |I used Diamond Wing Fiber. Here's what I came up with.

  I was fairly happy with the results with the exception of the bead chain eyes. I'd used them often enough in the past but rarely fully painted. The process of painting them after the tie was time consuming and messy. Before lights out last night I took a 4" section of chain and dipped it several times in the nail polish bottle and hung to dry overnight.

  This afternoon everything was ready for round 2. I replaced the bucktail back/tail with Diamond Wing Fiber and the body dubbed with Ice Dubbing.

  These appear a lot more buggy than the original intended profile, but I know one thing for sure... next spring the crappies won't know what hit them!

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Whittingham Minnow

   As mentioned before in numerous posts, I'd classify my fly tying as freestyle. Not quite randomly attaching materials to a hook without any thought to form and function, but also not closely following the "set in stone" guidelines to traditional patterns. Don't misunderstand my attitude as I have a great appreciation for well crafted flies, particularly traditional salmon flies, but I lack the necessary patience, attention to details and most important, motivation to tackle the complexities of advanced tying. I recently declined offers from a couple local shop owners to supply them with a few patterns. Personal experience has taught me that the best way to destroy my enjoyment of a hobby is to turn it into a business.

   The other day I fired up my old laptop for the first time in ages, and was surprised to find an old folder I'd overlooked when transferring files to the new machine. The folder was created more than a decade ago when I was desperate for any info on fly tying and contained over 250 patterns scanned from a stack of magazines. So...I spent the next hour reminiscing, reviewing some of the things I'd tried before, wondering why I bothered to save other things, and finding a few things different enough to catch my attention again.

   One such attention getter was The Whittingham Minnow,  published in The Canadian Fly Fisher magazine by Ian Colin James. The recipe called for plastic eyes to be tied on the underside of the hook shank, just behind the eye and an ultra thin profile to the body of pearl Diamond Braid and black bucktail. In typical freestyle fashion, I've switched out the plastic eyes in favor of weighted dumbells tied farther back on the shank to allow for a more balanced descent. I also experimented with different, contrasting colors and, in a few cases, replaced the Diamond Braid with trimmed cactus chenille.


 Hook: #6 to #10 long-shank
 Thread: 6/0 black
 Eyes:  medium sized dumbell
 Under Body: Piping filling
 Body: Diamond Braid (DB)
 Back/Tail: bucktail

1.  Place hook in the vise point up and start a thread base approximately one third of the length of the shank.

2.  Tie in dumbell eyes using figure 8 wraps and apply a small amount of head cement to lock it in place. Remove hook from vise and return it point down.

3.  Tie in piping filling behind eyes and lash it to hook shank, tapered to end half way between the point and the bend. I've used this material to fill out the body but you can use whatever you have on hand eg: thread, wool etc,. Skip this step if using cactus chenille

4. Return thread to front of eyes and tie in  DB. Select a small bunch (30-40 hairs) of bucktail and tie in using 20 tight wraps of thread just behind hook eye with the tips facing forward. Apply a small drop of head cement to thread wraps. Wind thread to rear of hook.

5.  Wind DB forward and then back to build a tapered body at both ends. Tie off and clip.

6.  Firmly grasp bucktail and pull back along body. Tie down at back of body with 10 tight wraps and whip finish. Apply head cement to finish.

   Immediately after the first try, I adapted the pattern for vertical jigging through the ice.

  To wrap up this post I offer another blast from the past.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The New Flyfisher E-zine

  For years I watched these guys on TV, learning a lot about the sport and my own backyard. But then I lost access to the network the show was on. Oh sure... there was always the you tube channel but watching video over the internet all day kills my monthly allotted data plan. So, needless to say, I was overjoyed a few months ago to find they published a free e-zine!  

 Unlike the countless magazines I`d spent a small fortune on in the past that, at times, seemed full of ads and lean on useful info, you`ll  find this full of interesting articles with appropriate links to you tube. Check it out at: