Posts Tagged ‘Whip Finish’

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?
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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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