Posts Tagged ‘Essential Fly Tying Techniques’

Fly Tying 101

April 18, 2015

Flytying101Head

Some help for the neophyte fly tyer.

There never seems to be a shortage of people taking up the challenge of tying their own flies and that to my mind is wonderful. Personally I don’t believe that anyone ever really reaches their potential as a fly angler if they don’t tie their own flies or at least some of them.

What primarily inspired this post was a recent evening with “The Vice Squad” a Cape Town initiative started by Tudor Caradoc-Davies which has some of our best tyers demonstrating patterns and techniques. It is proving to be very popular and now the Vice Squad evenings are getting almost overcrowded with enthusiastic fly tyers of all shapes, sizes and ages. At the most recent event Gordon van der Spuy, made mention of a number of key techniques to fly tying, he is one of very few fly tying tutors I have ever heard mention the more mundane but essential skills required to tie good flies. So with that in mind I thought I would focus on a couple of them.

ViceSquadLogo

For the neophyte the task or manufacturing one’s own flies can appear daunting, seasoned fly tyers appear to have mounds and mounds of materials to play with, and of course there are new things coming into the market all the time. So where to start?

Tying good, neat and durable fly patterns doesn’t demand a great many skills in reality, nor necessarily a lot of materials. Although the flies may look complicated and frequently appear very different to one another the same basic principles hold true to tying almost any fly pattern. From a full dress Salmon fly to a tiny midge dry, from Clouser minnows for the salt to deer hair frogs with which to target bass, the basic skills are all he same.

What I tend to see however is that a lot of beginners make a few elemental errors in their approach to tying flies and frequently these early habits die hard and cause problems down the line.

So I thought perhaps a couple of thoughts and points which might assist those wishing to learn to tie flies or to improve their fly tying.

Firstly if you are a beginner don’t be tempted to try to tie too many different patterns all at once. It is virtually impossible to tie consistently neat and durable flies if you are jumping from a size 10 woolly bugger to a size 20 parachute caddis and then a pheasant tail nymph and so on. Pick a pattern and tie them by the dozen. When they all look exactly the same tie the same pattern in a smaller size until you have a dozen of those too before going a further size smaller and repeating the process. If you do this you will ingrain key habits which will mean that later you can return to tying more of the same pattern with very little time to get back into “the groove”.

Practice essential skills even if you don’t tie flies, just cut the thread and materials off the hook and try again.

Thread control, Gordon van der Spuy made mention of this in a recent “Vice Squad” meeting and I couldn’t agree with him more. The primary tool of the fly tyer is the thread and control of it, the tension and wraps that it forms are the absolute basic foundation of ALL fly tying.

Most fly tying video clips on line are all about patterns, and that is fine but for the beginner things need to start a few steps back.

How do I get the thread up inside the tube of the bobbin holder?

Many fly tying tool kits provide a “bobbin threader” but they are completely unnecessary, you can use a loop of nylon (better as there isn’t risk of damaging the tube and creating a nick in the metal), but even that isn’t really required. You can, with a bit of practice and some healthy lungs suck the thread through the tube.

How do you start the thread on the hook in the first place, a necessary enough start to things that is virtually always neglected, here is the answer to that question and a few more which hopefully will prove of value

Starting the thread:

Starting the thread is a simple case of holding the loose end with your non tying hand and the bobbin in the other hand. Make touching wraps towards the eye of the hook, perhaps three or four and then “reverse the thread” changing the angle of attack and winding two or three more wraps the in the other direction. That’s it, no knots, no glue, no varnish just that and you can pull as hard as you like without things coming undone. Beware though, let the thread go slack and the entire lot will unravel before your eyes.
How do you insure that you build a neat smooth base of thread and why should it matter?

The hook is smooth and slippery, by building a thin (emphasis on thin) base of thread using touching turns of thread you create a non-slip layer onto which you can then tie the materials..It is important for the durability and neatness of your flies that you master this basic technique before proceeding to more complicated matters.

Getting the proportions right.

This is probably the biggest giveaway that the fly tyer is a novice, the wings are too big, the tails too short, the thorax in the wrong place etc. People become so besotted with the pattern that they neglect the proportions and you will never have a nice looking fly if you don’t manage this particular detail. Certainly most fly tyers have their own style within a range of proportions and one can with practice tell one person’s flies from another based on that but the differences are small. Good fly tying requires proper proportions. In general there are three lots of accepted proportions, for Dry Flies, Traditional Wet Flies and for Nymphs. Some are not that critical, others more important such as the Catskill Dry Flies where incorrect proportions will have your fly rendered useless and out of balance.

Dry Fly Proportions

Using the right size hackle.

As with the above the hackle is a key element of the proportional balance of a dry fly. On standard “Catskill” ties it also will greatly affect the engineering and balance of the fly such that it doesn’t fall on its face or flip upside down when cast. The video below shows how to easily measure a hackle before you remove it from the skin. You can use fancy hackle gauges and such but this base method works very well without need for additional tools.

Winding ribbing:

You would be amazed at how many videos and books show the ribbing wound in the same direction as the body (dubbing, pheasant tail or whatever). There are a couple of very good reasons why you would want to “counter rib” the body of a fly. It adds to the durability and equally better shows the segmentation effect that one is aiming for. The ribbing in general adds strength but at the same time imitates the segmented body of a real insect to one degree or another. There are effectively two ways to do this, either wind the body material in opposite rotation to the rest of the fly and wind the ribbing normally, or wind the body in the normal rotational direction and rib in the opposite manner. It doesn’t matter too much which you choose.

 

To half hitch or whip finish?
S
o now you have lovingly fashioned an exact copy of the fly you saw in the magazine, you have followed the instructions diligently and kept some space for the head where you intend to tie things off. Trouble is that most instruction videos either throw in a couple of half hitches which they then intend to glue together with varnish (in my opinion a very poor option) or they whizz through the spinning of a whip finish tool too fast for you to be able to see. So here are two video clips, taken from my book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” to show you how to use either a whip finish tool or your fingers. Personally I far prefer the fingers as it requires no additional tools and I don’t have to look under the piles of fur and feather to find the thing each time I finish off a fly. With practice I think that you have more control with your fingers but both methods are infinitely preferable to using half hitches.

These are just a few key tips which might assist the newcomer, I have focused on those which are so frequently neglected in many books and video clips because they are essential even if nobody mentions them. All the images and video clips come from the book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” which covers all of these key elements in fly tying from spinning deer hair to tying parachute posts. The book uses a combination of text, full colour graphics and video to clearly demonstrate many of the key skills required to tie numerous fly patterns. You can download an electronic copy of this book with internal links to all the videos from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble (international readers) or the Inkwazi Flyfishing website (South African readers). The book is also available on disc from better fly fishing outlets including Stream X.

This post brought to you by the publisher of the world's most innovative fly tying book. Essential Fly Tying TechniquesClick on the book image to find out more of what lies inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The “C” Word

March 6, 2014

TheCwordHead

The C-Word: CONFIDENCE.

I have been tying a lot of flies recently, mostly with a forthcoming trip in mind. The trip will take me back to waters I haven’t fished in four decades and as a result I have been researching more than a little on hatches, fly patterns and all things related.

I like tying flies and I like going on a trip with boxes full of newly minted patterns to cater, one hopes, for any eventuality, it is all part of the process. But it does strike me that when you look at all the different fly patterns out there  one would have to consider the possibility the trout would pretty much eat anything at some point in time. One has to ask the question if it is possible to tie a fly that is so poor that a fish wouldn’t eat it.

Given the numbers of artificials  one could be forgiven for imagining that you could be wrong all the time or equally that there is no wrong and the fish will eat whatever you have tied on the line if properly presented.

AdamsDry

So what to do if you are on some strange water without too much of a clue? The answer to my mind is to fish something generic that could be “all things to all fish”. I can’t be alone in this thought process, the propensity of Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Adams Dries and Elk Hair Caddis patterns in everyone’s fly boxes around the world suggests that we all come back to a similar solution to the problem. You pick something that is a reasonable facsimile, a pattern in which you have confidence and then fish it with care, because confidence in fly fishing really is the ultimate “C-Word”, it matters not one jot if your mate likes this fly or that fly, this wing or that wing, if you don’t have confidence in it the darned thing won’t work for you.

My mate Mike regularly fishes, amongst his team of three flies on a lake, an olive soft hackle pattern, and more to the point catches fish on it. I have used the darned thing, casting it for hours, hooking fish on the other patterns on a three fly rig without a single sniff from a trout to that fly. It just doesn’t work for me and the more it doesn’t work the less confidence I have in it, and the less confidence I have in it the more it doesn’t work.

PTNNew

As a general rule when tying flies, if I am not excited about the prospect of fishing them as they come off the vice they go into the recycling jar. The recycling jar nominally allows me to cut off the dressing and reuse the hook, in reality most of the flies go to other anglers, school kids with limited budgets and such who might appreciate them. The rub is they will probably catch fish on the things, but if the fly doesn’t excite me coming off the vice it isn’t going to get used and will sit quietly rusting away in the corner of a flybox until it is eventually turfed out to make space for something more useable and less tarnished.

HaresEar

We are all different, for some a precise imitation begets confidence, for me most of the time at least, delicacy of the fly gives me faith that it will work, delicacy in a dry fly and movement in a subsurface pattern. I could very well be the only fly angler alive who has no confidence  in Woolly Buggers, I strongly dislike them, I really do. I don’t understand what they are supposed to be and so I don’t understand how to fish them. Actually I think that here at home they mostly get taken by the fish because they think that the fly is a dragonfly nymph, but then I would as soon tie on a dragonfly nymph pattern, in which I have a great deal of faith. Other anglers with a different viewpoint see the woolly bugger as the catch all “everything to all trout” kind of fly and do well with it. For me the Velcro Brushed Hare’s ear nymph is probably about as near to a universal subsurface pattern as any, the shaggier the construction the better.

CzechNymph

So how much of it is about the fly? I am convinced that much of the time not a great deal at all. But your confidence in the fly, well that is a different matter entirely.  It isn’t simply mystical, if you are confident you cast more carefully, retrieve with purpose, maintain concentration, fish slower, move more carefully. In short your fishing style changes when you are confident and confidence can be the most elusive of on the water emotions.

There is however an oddity to this discussion, a fly which has never worked for you previously, a fly in which your faith is extremely limited can become a favourite almost instantly should it prove successful, even only once.

On the streams we mostly fish with one fly at a time, so it takes some commitment to make a radical change to the fly pattern, away from those in which one has untold confidence. On a lake and bobbing about in a boat we generally fish three flies and so the trauma of testing a previously none productive pattern isn’t quite as great.  Then when that fly takes fish your confidence builds and before you know it you have a “new favourite”.

I like to carry a lot of flies, probably too many to be honest but the confidence that it gives me to know that I could cover almost any eventuality gives me confidence, even though 80% of the flies rarely see the light of day, never mind approach becoming intentionally damp.

ElkHairCaddis

In various parts of the world different things seem to be valued as confidence builders, the hot spot in a Czech nymph is paramount for some people, the inclusion of real jungle cock in a pattern is another obvious affectation the lack of which will cause some anglers to simply pack up and go home. I personally have less confidence in parachute dry flies with bright fluorescent posts because I am convinced that they result in more refusals from the better fish, other anglers cast them with alacrity. There are fly tyers who will dye and blend their own mixtures of furs and feathers because they are seeking a specific colour and have remarkable blind faith in such and I have had one client in a past life who wouldn’t fish an Invicta but that it had a red tail instead of the traditional yellow one of Golden Pheasant Crest. There are those who consider that a damselfly nymph imitation should have red eyes despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that real damsels are kitted out with similarly bright opthalmics. It is all a bit odd and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense except for the fact that if you are confident you fish better and if you fish better you catch more.

One of my favoured patterns on our local streams is an absolutely minute brassie, a fly so lacking in physical presence that I generally don’t tell the clients that I have tied it onto the tippet. If they see the fly before they catch a fish they have no confidence in it at all, so I wait until we get a hook up and then say something along the lines of “do you want to see what that fish ate?”, something generally then followed by gasps of surprise from the angler.

Confidence isn’t easily obtained but there are certain criteria for most of us which help nail down this ephemeral emotion. Preparation leads to confidence, having lots of flies, practising knots, carrying spare leaders, having waterproof (as opposed to leaking) waders, being able to cast well, knowing the water, fishing a lot, reading a great deal.. all those things lead to a state of relative confidence and that will in turn catch you as many fish as all the fancy and complicated accoutrements, which the tackle industry might care to throw at you.

In the end I suspect that is why many of us, and probably all of the best anglers tie their own flies, it may not be that their own flies are better than any others, but they do give confidence and that is a good enough reason for all the slaving over a hot vice.

If you are a neophyte fly tyer you will probably start out, as indeed did I, with a lack of confidence in your own flies, but in time that will change and the commercial ones will lack the allure they once held.

Here are a couple of great resources if you want to start tying flies, tie better flies or perhaps gain confidence in tying and fishing them.

Essential Fly Tying Techniques: A eBook on critical tying techniques which will help you tie more effective and durable patterns.

EFTT

See inside the book:

Download from Inkwaziflyfishing

Download from Smashwords

Order on disc

Order on disc from outside of South Africa

Guide Flies: A book and eBook available currently on disc and in printed format covering the flies that give me the most confidence. How to tie simple, durable and effective flies that really work.

GuideFliesCover

See inside the book:

Order a copy on compact disc.(South African Clients)

Order a copy of the softcover version (South African Clients)

Order either from outside of South Africa

As always feedback in the form of comments is most welcome, what flies bring you confidence? Are you as happy with a commercially fashioned pattern as ones of your own manufacture? Have fun out there and remember that if you have confidence then half the battle is already won.

A New Arrival

February 28, 2014

NewArrival

Well would you know it, I have a new baby.  It has taken the better part of two or more years to get to this point, people might think that in-vitro fertilization is a long and troublesome process but with no real motivation towards fatherhood and with a natural human longing to leave something behind on my demise, I decided to produce a book, Ok another book so I should have known what I was getting into, but I never realised that the birthing process would make the gestation of the African Elephant seem like quick trip to the shops.

GuideFliesBabyPramMy New “Baby”. . 🙂

In hindsight simple conception, even fertilization in a small glass tube might have proven less troublesome, had I managed to skip the glass tube bit it could have been a heap more fun too for that matter. If I had simply required some lasting acknowledgement of my existence I could have chosen to go with the now almost universal tagging option. Got hold of a spray can and scribbled my name in relative permanence on a variety of train carriages or roadside brickwork. It seems to work well for people like Banksy but then again it isn’t really that permanent and has the added disadvantage of being, to my mind at least, eminently anti-social, destructive and not really worthy of the epithet of “art”. It would however have had the allure of speed.

Graffiti
I suppose I could have simply opted for a spray can to achieve some level of immortality.

One might imagine that having done this previously in print and electronic formats, with publishers and without, well it would all be a piece of cake wouldn’t it?

Alas writing a book isn’t the hardest thing on the planet, it is all the other stuff that goes with it that proves to be the troublesome part, particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies and are pedantic about things like graphics and video content. Yes there was a hiccup right there, having produced eBooks with video content previously (and probably a world first when it comes to fly tying tomes) I found myself rather backed into a corner, some people expressed their dissatisfaction with reading off a screen, wanting to hold and flip the pages, fold down the corners and all that goes with a “proper book” but then again they didn’t really want to miss out on the video bits. So this book includes a CD of video clips that you can read on your computer.

Having produced “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” in electronic format I ventured to produce this publication in similar vein, with a little more anecdotal information on the fishing and thought processes that go into the flies that I fish and use in my work. Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish, is what it says on the cover.

GuideFliesCover
It says “Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish” on the cover.

Once the decision is made the challenges come thick and fast, to go with photographs, easy in this digital age, or stay with the somewhat retro graphics option. Firstly I like graphic drawings, they have more feel to them somehow compared to photographs, more to the point in a graphic you can clearly demonstrate the exact position of a single turn of thread and other such detail lacking in a photo, it is no mistake that authors such as Oliver Edwards used graphics in his exceptional “Oliver Edwards Fly Tyers Masterclass”.

Fig21Fig5I like graphics over photo’s and that seemed a good enough reason for all the work.

Trouble is that I am not an artist, certainly not with pen and ink anyway so digital graphics had to be the way forward, just that there is a steep learning curve if you want to do something as odd as try to draw peacock herl on a computer screen or convey the ethereal delicacy of a CDC plume. Some feathers had to be constructed fibre by fibre in painfully slow attention to detail. How on earth does one “draw” marabou, or crystal chenille? In the end it all proved to be good entertainment, if frustrating at times.

Fig55 Fig50Drawing things like marabou and crystal chenille posed something of a problem.

Still that was all going well, I found myself a publisher in the form or Barbara Mueller at “New Voices Publishers” and Barbara proved to be a real asset, she, as the name of her business would suggest, specialises in assisting authors to self publish. Having been down the spectacularly unrewarding process of publishing a book with a recognised major publisher in the past I didn’t wish to follow that route again. It is galling in the extreme to see a book that you created with your own blood, sweat and tears sold where the government makes more money from the tax on it than the author gets from the sale.

WealthWarningThere were many further hurdles, how to set up a system where someone might purchase the book? It is remarkably tricky and the banks, despite their constant advertising for “entrepreneurial clients” actually close the shutters just as soon as you say the words “self-employed”. In the process it has necessitated rebuilding my website, learning some basic HTML code and more. I am not sure that it is entirely solved but it is mostly solved.

PayFastLogoThe book “Guide Flies” has been completed in eBook format for some time but now finally the glossy printed, page turning, corner folding, paper textured “real book” is available. Not only that but it comes with its own compact disc containing video clips of every fly in the book so even if you prefer to do your bedtime reading with nothing more electronic than a decent lamp you can still check out the tying processes on screen next time you return to the computer. I suppose it really is the best of both worlds when you get right down to it.

“Guide Flies” boasts some 150 pages, 60 odd full colour graphics, detailed descriptions of the flies, the tying process and perhaps as importantly the thought process behind their development. The CD has 25 video clips of fly tying covering everything from the torque of thread on a parachute dry to the ultra-durable “Super Glue Whip Finish” and effective fly patterns to cope with almost every trout fishing eventuality from stillwater to spring creeks.

GuideFliesBookandCD

It has been a labour of love, a learning curve of stupendous gradient but I am well pleased with the result, in the end I suppose that “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating”, if not yours hopefully the trout’s..

If you would like to obtain a copy of my book in either paper or electronic format you can do so in a variety of ways:

Email me your request on rolston@iafrica.com

Purchase on line from my website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/bookshop.html

Purchase from Netbooks on line at www.netbooks.co.za

Purchase from a fly fishing outlet http://urban-fly-fisher.com/ or www.streamx.co.za and hopefully more in due course.

Damsels

It’s Complicated

July 4, 2013

Complicated Head

One of my favourite writers is Bill Bryson, he has that ability to make complex things simple enough for the average person to grasp. Who can have read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” without walking away with a better grasp and greater appreciation of the world and the people who have shaped our understanding of it? It’s a trick to be sure, to be able to do that. To make it as entertaining as Bryson, well that really puts the cherry on the cake but I am finding that making things simple is actually pretty complicated.

So to me fly fishing is actually pretty simple, or as one wag commented in mid international competition, “Come on Tim, just chuck em’ out and pull em’ back”, it certainly isn’t rocket science and I have over the years become more and more enamoured with the idea of trying to make learning the disciplines associated with fly fishing simple for the average bipedal hominid to grasp. But apparently making things simple is a complicated affair.

It is an oddity that in many fields of endeavour one sets off on a path and becomes diverted. Many fly anglers have become more focused on casting, fly tying, photography or whatever than they have with actually catching fish.  For my sins I have become rather obsessed with writing about it all, you may or may not think that is a good thing, I am not entirely sure that I know if it is either.

But much as one lesson in fly casting leads on naturally to the next, one fish leads to bigger fish, more fish, specific fish etc so everything seems to be in natural progression. Things started off with little more than a reasonably regular newsletter, then a website, then a blog and books and then electronic books. In the midst of all this I had to learn to use computers, teach myself to type, learn graphics programs, wriggle my way around international taxation requirements, get (would you believe) an American tax number, and a whole lot more. All supposedly such that I might get what I thought were some fairly simple messages across.

 BooksHeaderThe graphic images have all been updated on the site.

Now I have just updated the www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za website once more, this time incorporating a book shop. But it’s complicated, when I left school nobody had a computer, in fact the hospitals in which I worked didn’t have computers and even had they been available it wouldn’t have done a lot of good, I spent the first year of my working life heading to the laboratory on a bicycle, where was I going to put a desk top computer, even if one had been available?

cheaterOliveThe Fly Images have all been updated.

Later those hospitals had computers, massive things that required reinforcement of the floor if you were anywhere above ground level and housed in an air-conditioned room with “Computer Room” stencilled on the door along with grave warnings that mere mortals should “Keep Out”. Nobody needed to worry, the bloody things terrified most of us and the inner workings of bits and bytes were so far beyond us that we still did most of our calculations with a pencil.

Format_BookFormat_CDFormat_DownloadNew buttons have been created to assist with navigation and book orders

Now I have become overwhelmed by this tidal wave of complexity, in this recent little jaunt, apart from updating graphics and modifying links (I only hope that they are all working), I have even been forced to dip an intrepid and quivering toe into the murky (at least for me) waters of HTML code. I didn’t set out fishing so that I could learn the vagaries of Hypertext Mark Up Language, I just wanted to catch a few fish and perhaps help a few other people do the same. It is, as said, all a bit complicated.

PreviewBookPreview images of the books have been added along with an entirely new Bookshop section.

Anyway, with some good fortune perhaps there won’t be too many complaints and I shan’t receive and overabundance of sniggering emails pointing out broken links and incorrectly rendered graphics.

This whole “Making things simple” thing is becoming too complicated for my rapidly aging synapses. When I started fishing I only owned one rod, I used to phone my fishing buddy Johnny Hallet from a red British Post Office Telephone box about half a mile down the street from my house to make arrangements, it was most useful because you could check the weather on the way down the road.

The phone had a dial not push buttons, never mind touch screens. We fished three methods, Fly, Spinner and worm and catch and release hadn’t even been thought of. Now I can cast my plans on Twitter, Facebook, eMail or Smartphone, I have to choose which rod to take with me, what lines, even which digital camera for that matter, and I can get an hour by hour prediction of the weather before I leave without so much as opening the curtains. Some colleagues will use GPS on their way to the water, some souls, ( of in my opinion questionable ethics),  will use fish finders to try to locate the trout. When did it all become so complicated? It used to be simple, you would go out, sometimes catch some fish and sometimes not, now each escapade takes on the dimensions of a military operation.

Format_DownloadYou can even order and download pdf versions of my books direct from the site if you wish.

Having said all of that, I am rather proud of what has been achieved with the website, you may wish to have a peak at it on the link http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za I think that it is pretty neat to be honest, in essence it is as simple as things get, just an array of zero’s and one’s apparently, but darn it seems flippin’ complicated to me.

Bookshop_WordsBookShopHeadThe “Bookshop” provides links to download books as well as to all the other places they are available including Netbooks, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Sony and Kobo

Variations on a Theme

April 23, 2013

VariationsHead

Variations on a theme:

I often think that fly tying books and even instructors do the neophyte tyer and perhaps some of the old hands a great disservice. There are “new” patterns being invented all the time and there are those so besotted with the concept of having the “right fly” that they spend all their mental energies on such. Truth be told fly tying hasn’t changed a whole helluva lot in the years since Halford and Skues fiddled about with hooks and feathers. There have been innovations to be sure. In his book “Sunshine and the Dry Fly” (1924) John William Dunne described such esoteric niceties as painting the hooks white and the effects of thread colours on dubbing. As anglers it seems we are always looking for “that edge”, if nothing else it is entertaining.

Variations1

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

However as time has gone by I realise that much of it is just a rehash of the same old same old. Most anglers are less effective than they might be more as a result of their presentations than their flies and most flytiers would do well to spend a bit more time on technique and proportion than accumulating the latest synthetic dubbing or pre-printed plastic wing.

Variations2

Jock Scott Salmon fly, beautifully fashioned by Brian Ebert image courtesy of www.bestclassicsalmonflies.com

The arguments have raged for decades, the concept that a Jock Scott just isn’t as effective without the jungle cock sides or kingfisher cheeks perhaps, or that your favourite woolly bugger really needs that blue flash in it, not the silver one that everybody else uses.

It is nice enough, fun even, (and where Salmon Flies are concerned pure art to be sure), perhaps it builds confidence which is not insignificant but in the final analysis fly tying hasn’t changed that much. There are really relatively few techniques to learn, perhaps a dozen or so and you can manufacture, albeit with a little practise and a modicum of dexterity, any number of trout, salmon, steelhead or other flies using the same tried and tested methods.

As a self-confessed pragmatist I like to keep things simple, I would rather have more flies than less and speed and simplicity of manufacture aids that particular goal.

Not that I can’t appreciate the thought and skills in what some would call “advanced fly tying” I really do and there are more than a few little tricks that I have learned from people such as Olive Edwards whose “Masterclass” book really should be required reading, if only to point out what is possible. It’s just that I can’t get overly excited about it. I sure as hell don’t feel comfortable trying to whisk a fly, that took me two hours to make, at a reticent brown hiding in a tangle of tree roots and overhanging branches.  To quote John Gierach “to be of any use at all a fly should be thoughtlessly expendable” and one doesn’t wish to have to fish with a limited supply of complex patterns and a team of navy divers in case one of your creations requires retrieval from an underwater snag.

The ability to tie touching turns of thread is the basis for all fly tying, smooth under-bodies of neatly aligned thread wraps go a long way to making a durable and neatly fashioned pattern.

Variations3

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Starting the thread off on the hook is a struggle for the beginner but quickly mastered and to my mind performing a neat and durable whip-finish a basic requirement. (I do so hate to see good tyers throw in a few half hitches and rely on the varnish to hold it all together and I am not much given to using a whip finish tool either for that matter, you simply don’t need one).

Variations4

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

The pinch and loop is a necessity unless you wish to be chasing materials about the hook, but no matter that you are tying in duck quill wings or a piece of tinsel ribbing the process is the same.

Variations5

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

One can argue about wrapping hackles but there really aren’t that many variations, even the difference between Catskill ties and parachutes aren’t that significant, and variation between winding palmered hackles and standard one’s is little more than a matter of the spacing..

Dubbing is as old as the hills, there are a few ways to do it, the direction you spin it is important and of course there are variations using loops of thread or even special tools but for the most part lashing hair onto a hook is a basic and simple process.

Winding neat open turns of ribbing as a must for many patterns to be sure but it isn’t rocket science.

Variations6

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Perhaps a more troublesome fiddle is spinning of deer hair, many never really master it and I could suggest that spinning deer hair on a bare hook requires slightly different methodology to doing the same when there is some thread already laid down on the metal, but it just takes a little instruction and practise

Variations7

Image courtesy of Essential Fly Tying Techniques

However the problem for most new fly tyers, or for us old hands when tying a new pattern is more a matter of consistency than anything else. It isn’t unlike backing a cake, you might have all the correct ingredients but if you don’t master the proportions and the methods you are not going to particularly enjoy your afternoon tea.

No doubt we all develop our own little quirks and it is remarkable how one can identify patterns tied by different anglers. For example all my parachute patterns are now finished around the post, I suppose quite a modern innovation, but in the end consistency wins out and all flies become simple variations on a theme.

BSP Variations

In the final analysis though, once you have mastered perhaps a dozen techniques you can tie pretty much anything and with practise you can “churn em’ out”. On a winter’s evening I am happy to play but in the midst of the season, battles looming in the morning and with water to cover and fish to catch, well I would rather be holding a box of dozens of tried and tested durable flies than a few complicated experiments.

SignatureCompendium3

Guide Flies

December 7, 2011

Things have been busy of late and that means that other than a lot of additional shopping, sandwich making, car servicing and such there is the perennial issue of having the right flies. If you are a social angler not being able to match the hatch or fool the fish is simply a matter of annoyance but if you are a guide it represents a most serious professional faux pas. I have to admit that I did once forget to take the rods with us in the car but I pride myself on finding a solution to finicky fish even if I have to chop up a pattern on the river to make it work.

Flies of course wear out, they get lost, hooked in bank-side herbage, caught in client’s socks and clothing and even simply fall out of one’s hat or fly box. In short they have a limited lifespan. With windy conditions, a bushy stream and an impatient and unskilled client their longevity is only marginally better than that of an unstable sub-atomic particle. More than a few give up their brief lives without ever having been presented near to a fish. I figure that if flies had feelings they would undoubtedly feel disappointed, perhaps even insulted by the way they are discarded with gay abandon. Trouble is, as one of my favoured writers, John Geirach, points out, to be of any use at all flies must be “thoughtlessly expendible” and that is pretty much it.

With all of the above then – there is the necessity to match the hatch, carry plenty of patterns, replace those lost and worn out and still have flies that are sufficiently efficacious to satisfy both discerning trout and fussy clients. One then has one’s work cut out work that frequently requires long hours at a hot vice in the wee hours of the morning.

Guides want their clients to catch fish and we want them to catch fish on the flies that we supply and recommend, but we don’t want to be spending an hour constructing a pattern that as likely as not will end up in a bridge support before it gets wet.

Guide flies are therefore a little different to standard shop bought patterns. Firstly I would venture that they are generally “more” and at least “as” effective. Secondly they are carefully geared to the likely requirements on specific waters with which the guide is intimately attuned. As far as possible they are equally durable, inexpensive and quick to manufacture and most of the time it is a huge advantage if they are also highly visible. People with sufficient time and financial resources to utilize guides are rarely blessed with 20:20 vision any longer, mind you neither are most of us aged, bent and arthritic guides either. For the client to miss a take is forgivable, the same doesn’t apply to the guide, so visible flies are a professional necessity.

So it comes to pass that I have been in need of churning out more than a few patterns of late and I thought that I might share a couple with you. You don’t need to be a guide to benefit from them and indeed anyone can make use of these invaluable patterns and adapt them to their own requirements.

The Key Patterns I like to carry are:

Elk Hair Caddis 

Once you get the hang of them Elk Hairs are pretty simple to tie, bleached or light hair makes them pretty visible and they not only make for great caddis flies but are respectable “bugs” covering any number of terrestrials, they will even fool more than a few Mayfly feeders much of the time. They have the added advantage of being one of the few patterns that are sufficiently aerodynamic to be easily forced into a stiff breeze when the need arises and equally act well as high floating indicator patterns when nymphing with a two fly rig. If there is a disadvantage it is that they are not that durable and require a palmered body hackle which if you are using genetics can be wasteful. On the smaller sizes you don’t really need body hackle at all and brushed out dubbing bodies will suffice. On the larger ones one can frequently use oversized hackle and trim them without ill effect. Either way they are patterns that you can’t really go without. Details of how to tie Elk Hair Caddis Flies can be found in my eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Parachute Mayflies:

I carry virtually no “standard” or “Catskill” ties at all in my boxes, the parachutes have major advantages in terms of presentation, they always land the right way up, are easily spotted on the water even in small sizes and require less hackle to make them float. They can therefore be tied more sparsely than Catskill ties which provides in my opinion better imitation and improved economics. My standard parachute pattern is the BSP “Bog Standard Parachute”. The flies vary in only size and colour, but their manufacture is identical. Again this is a major advantage in production tying, once you get in the groove you can churn out effective patterns at a rate of a dozen an hour or more. The key issues for me are that the BSP’s don’t use any dubbing, they sport bodies of thread only. Thread colours are easily and cheaply obtainable in such variety that you can match near anything that you may encounter and for our streams the slim bodies better match the anorexic forms of most of our naturals. We don’t have fat mayflies for much of the time, simple as that. There is a post on this blog “Bog Standard Parachutes” which gives step by step instructions. Also there are two parachute patterns detailed in my “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook demonstrating the various techniques of tying in the post and performing a “super glue whip finish”. (the SGWF is a boon to guide flies, it does an amazing job of increasing durability and speed of tying, most flies get lost before they get broken)

Parachute Caddis Patterns:

It is odd really that the Elk Hair Caddis is such an effective pattern, on our waters we don’t have a single natural caddis fly that would grow larger than a size 18 and most are considerably smaller. Small and micro flies require trimming down compared to their more robust brethren and the goose biot micro caddis is the perfect example. It is tied with exactly the same technique, thread body, post and hackle as the small BSP’s just that it sports neat little biot wings. As a guide fly it is superb because you can always pull the wings off and have a reasonable midge or mayfly pattern. It lacks tails of course but sometimes it will work if you are stuck.

Spun Duns:

I have written about variations of spun duns on this blog previously, in fact in the article “No Hackles” you can find a link to tying a pretty complicated goose biot spun dun. Most of mine are however once more simple in the extreme. Split tails (a twist of complexity to be sure but even guides have been known to give in to vanity and they just look nice). Thread bodies (again that ease of matching various colour variations) and a collar of semi-spun deer hair. These are superb mayfly patterns and have the major guiding advantages of being quick to tie, easy to see, floatability and near ludicrously economic. They can further be trimmed on stream to produce spinner patterns, floating nymphs, cripples and emergers if the need arises.

Drowned Midges:

These patterns are actually drowned anything, although originally designed to copy net winged midges they do a great job of covering cripples, stillborns, drowned duns, midges and even spinners and are so simple to manufacture that there is no excuse not to have dozens of them. Simple brushed dubbed thorax to imitate legs and movement and hackle point wings, added more from vanity than necessity. They aren’t visible patterns and generally get fished in tandem in much the same way one would a nymph, but they are effective. Detailed instructions in graphic and video format for this pattern are part of my eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques”

The Brassie:

If there ever was a quintessential “Guide Fly” then the brassie has to be it, simple, quick and inexpensive to tie, durable and deadly. It is my “go to nymph” when the fish are being difficult. We don’t have a lot of serious hatches and the fish rarely get the luxury of honing in on specific sub-aquatic forms. The brassie does a great job of covering tiny caddis larvae, baetis mayfly nymphs, black fly larva and more, plus it has that “certain Je ne sais quoi” that lures fish the world over. Tying the brassie is covered in “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook, available from http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

Pheasant Tail Nymph:

In case I feel the need for something a tad more complicated the Pheasant Tail nymph covers more sub aquatic life, a universal pattern effective everywhere. Sporting on occasion a tungsten bead and always with my favoured peacock herl thorax for that added touch of sparkle. Another killer pattern in various guises. The PTN breaks one of the guide fly rules, it does lack slightly on the durability front, but wrapping the pheasant tail over a bed of thread moistened with head cement will provide additional longevity. The PTN is also covered in detail in “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook.

The Compar-ant:

This has to be one of the simplest patterns of all, I don’t use it frequently but when you need an ant then you need one badly. Flying ants have the ability to hook fish into selective feeding more than any other natural on our streams. The fish simply love them and you can sometimes break a hatch with an ant if you can’t copy the actual hatching fly. Trout will deviate from established feeding patterns to take ants and they represent a great trick to have up one’s sleeve. The Compar-ant is made entirely of synthetic materials, a poly-yarn wing and superfine dubbing body, has a superb and uncomplicated profile which I think better imitates the key segmentation of the real insect. It is well established that the thin waste and distinct thorax and gaster of the ant act as a trigger to the fish, one doesn’t want to mask it.

All the above flies can be varied in terms of size and colour to suit, with a few colour and size variations in each of the above you will still be carrying hundreds of flies, but they won’t take long to manufacture or replace, they will catch you fish almost anywhere that you go and you won’t break into a cold sweat of panic if you lose one in a tree.

Guide Flies are essentially simple and quick to tie, inexpensive, durable and effective. You need to be able to whip them out by the dozen but still fish them with confidence.

This post brought to you by the publisher of the world's most innovative fly tying book. Essential Fly Tying Techniques

The Easiest Way to Learn Flytying.

August 29, 2011

Launch of the World’s most innovative flytying instruction book.

It has been a dreadfully time-consuming exercise it has to be said, enough so that had I known the amount of work required maybe I would never have started, but that said my new eBook “Essential Fly Tying techniques” has now been “officially” launched. Perhaps most gratifying of all is that it has received some very very positive reviews from those who have seen the finished product and some very well-respected names amongst them.

Tom Sutcliffe, the elder statesman of South African fly fishing and well-known fly fishing author provided a wonderfully positive review of the book on his website “The Best Way to Learn Fly Tying”

Tom is the author of “My Way with a Trout”, “Reflections on Fly Fishing” and “Hunting Trout” a new version of the latest title is due for release shortly so I am even more grateful that Tom found the time to review my book.

The book contains some 80 full colour graphics, over 30 video clips of essential fly tying techniques and complete flies, full instructions on tying 14 killer patterns which at the same time illustrate the various techniques highlighted and one hopes it will indeed prove to be a new standard in fly tying tuition.

Some comments from reviewers of the book to date:

“This publication bridges the gap between traditional books and on-line video”..Ed Herbst Editor of Piscator Magazine.

“Awesome, I wish I this had been available when I started flytying”…. M Spinola, SA Commonwealth Flyfishing Team and bronze medalist in the SA National Championships.

“This is perfect, the video clips fill in the gaps that step by step sequences in traditional publications can’t cover and the patterns shown can form the basis of any worthwhile fly box……..MC Coetzer, Protea Team Angler and Coach of the SA Junior World Championship Team.

“This has to be the easiest way to learn,…engaging, ingenious and comprehensive, …this book is surely the first of its kind in the world..Dr Tom Sutcliffe, Author of “My Way with a Trout”, “Reflections on Flyfishing” and “Hunting Trout”.

So pleased as I am with the response now comes the hard part, marketing the book and I am hoping that those of you out there in the fly fishing underground can assist. The book is available directly from me at Inkwazi Fly Fishing both on a retail and wholesale basis. It is also currently available from fly fishing retailers and bookshops: Netbooks (On line book store), Mavungana (Fly Fishing retail in Johannesburg and Dullstroom), Wild Fly (Fly Fishing retail Nottingham Road) and hopefully more stores will follow shortly.

Retailers:

If you have a retail outlet anywhere in the world and would like to see a review copy of the book contact me on inkwaziflyfising@iafrica.com and I shall endeavor to provide you with a sample, alternatively if you can’t wait I will include a demo version with your order just so that you can see what all the fuss is about..

I am expecting reviews of the publication in key local and overseas magazines shortly and shall no doubt be able to keep you all posted in terms of progress there via this blog.

Magazines:

If you edit a fly fishing magazine and would like a review copy to feature your comments in your publication please again contact me and I shall willingly send you a review edition free of charge.

For more information you can see a breakdown of the contents of this unique eBook on the following You Tube Link

Individuals:

Should you wish to place an order you can do so by mailing me directly Mail Order Enquiry or you can download an order form from our website at http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/ options are available for both retail and wholesale orders from this page. Order your copy before the end of September and I will cover the postage no matter where you are in the world.

If you have seen the finished product please do feel free to leave a comment on this blog, it helps others to find it and of course provides unsolicited review of what I think is an exceptionally useful publication.

Now it is only a couple of days to the start of the fly fishing season on the streams of the Limietberg and hopefully I will once more be able to re-acquaint myself with rod , line and moving water, too much time in front of the computer can make Jack a dull boy, or indeed if not dull at least more than a trifle frustrated.

Thank you to those who have supported this blog to date. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive updates if you wish.

The book contains detailed graphics and embedded video clips

Cheater Soft Hackles

July 28, 2011

Cheater Soft Hackles.

We all I am sure have at some point tied and fished soft hackle patterns; there are those of us who embrace these simple and mobile flies to the same degree as Sylvester Nemes who proclaims addiction to these amazingly effective and relatively simple patterns.ref:  (“The Soft Hackle Fly Addict”).

Having fallen in love with these patterns though I can’t be the only one who has ventured forth and purchased a packet of grouse or partridge hackles only to find that the feathers are all too large to tie the flies in the classical style. Even if you buy a skin there are going to be a lot of feathers that you can’t use on trout sized patterns. It looks lovely and simple, perhaps stripping one side of the hackle and tying it in point first to create a highly mobile emerger wet fly. But what about all those over sized feathers?

I fish predominantly small streams with good insect populations the vast majority of which are tiny, a size 14 would be a veritable “whopper” and that leaves me with a lot of hackles that are simply too large to tie in the normal manner.

Well having played about with a lot of different experiments, most of which failed dismally it has to be said, I have found a way of using oversized hackle to manufacture very nice and more than acceptable wet fly or soft hackle patterns without wasting. Now I am free to tie patterns of almost any size, for stream or stillwater use and no longer am frustrated with the wastage that occurred previously. In fact it opens up a whole new world of tying flies because you can utilize all manner of feathers which you thought previously were unsuitable.

Here is how you do it:

  • First pull the fibres at right angles to the stem so as to align the tips of the fibres as much as possible.
  • Then cut or tear the fibres off the stalk and hold them on top of the hook shank, points forwards over the eye.
  • You now need to measure them so that you get the degree of “overhang” that you require, this will determine the “size” of the hackle in the finished fly.
  • Swap hands and tie down the hackles leaving the points hanging over the front of the hook, they will be fashioned into a wet fly or soft hackle collar later on.
  • Cut off any excess and add a tail (optional) and a body of whatever material you wish to use, silk, floss, dubbing.
  • Once the thread is back at the eye of the hook you now pull the fibres down and around the hook before bending them backwards over the body and form a neat head of thread in front of them. The fibres should now look to all intents and purposes as though you had wound them around the hook.
  • Form a neat whip finish and you fly is complete.

Below are graphics of the process from my soon to be launched eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” this book provides graphic and on page video clips of all the key techniques required to tie myriad flies.  This is but an excerpt and example of a little bit what is contained within the book.  There are over 100 pages, over 80 graphics, 35 video clips of key techniques and entire flies , basic entomology and fly identification and lots of great tricks which will help you tie flies like the one shown here. The video clip below is an indication of what you can expect from the eBook but is not in the exactly the same format. If you would like to pre-order a copy of the book please drop me a line on the following link. Pre-order enquiry Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Click on the images to see them at full size for greater clarity if you wish.


 


The possibilities are endless, here are a few different versions of cheater soft hackles just to show some options.

Olive Cheater Soft Hackle with tails

Orange Cheater soft hackle

Silver Cheater with golden pheasant

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.