Every now and then I develop a minor obsession with some or other pattern, or rig, or method.
Lately it has been adult caddis patterns. Here is a sample from my vice:
When I was growing up in fly-fishing, as it were, our literature back then (we used to read things called books!) was interwoven with the concept of the closed season.
It seems to me that the closed season has lost its edge a bit. Not only in South Africa where several streams are now open throughout the year, but also in North America and elsewhere, where outdoor apparel has advanced along with the appetites of outdoors people to a point where images of people fishing in thick snow are commonplace. I don’t express an opinion on all this, because I really don’t know enough about what effect it might or might not have on Trout breeding seasons in other parts of the world. Certainly in the North Eastern Cape, where streams are normally so thick with Trout due to prolific breeding, I would have no problem with some (no doubt very minor) collateral damage in July.
But what is emerging is the closed summer season.
African Trout are by no means unique in requiring kit-glove protection in hot weather: I have listened to podcasts and read of the closures of streams in Canada and elsewhere, but it certainly is warm down here in South Africa EVERY January and February. A couple of us have been focused on this subject of late. It is possible that we were equally focused on it last year, but I don’t remember it being that way.
The local club has closed many stillwaters, and only left open those that are less popular or heavily stocked or some such thing. Private syndicates have largely done the same. There has been much news on Facebook and elsewhere on what to do and not to do when it comes to Trout in hot weather.
Probably the most significant advise has been “Go to the beach”.
Now I am not much of a beach person, so I have not heeded that at all. But why not do what snowbound anglers do in their off season?
Re-tie leaders, tie a lot of flies, read those things….what are they called….oh yes “books”.
Study some maps. Hole up in coffee shops, talk fishing, and start getting a dreamy look when people speak of mid March and beyond. I have drawn a minor line in the sand to look forward to. It is the time when we start consistently getting air temperatures of under 10 degrees C at night in the Trout areas. I need to go off and look up on the Kobus Botha weather site (see the link in the ribbon to the right here on Truttablog) to see when I can expect that in say Kamberg. Then I can work on that CDC hopper I have been developing, in preparation for “hopper time” .
Now there’s something useful to do in the off-season.
a photo essay
When tying in materials, and this applies in particular to bulky materials, you need to handle steps in the diameter of the thread base.
If you tie in a bunch of thick deer hair, and trim the butt ends in a straight line, you will probably have a wide diameter zone over the butt ends, dropping in a step to the smaller diameter zone where you have only thread around the shank.
This is depicted in the top sketch :
A sudden step like this can be managed: You can leave it as a step, and wind one material on the “high ground” and another on the “low ground”, as depicted in the centre sketch above. Watch Davie McPhail do this (watch from 8 mins into the video to about 9 mins 45)
Alternatively you can build up thread to make the base even, or manageably sloped as depicted in the bottom sketch.
If you choose to trim the waste materials at an angle to create a tapered base to work on, that is fine, but be aware that a steeply tapered base will still cause problems as materials wound onto it may slip down the cone shape. Either consider working on a step by building up thread in front of it, or put a thin base of superglue and wind carefully onto the glue brushed, steeply tapered base.
Steps and tapers close to the hook eye are invariably problematic, and should be avoided completely by tying materials well back of the eye. If you have a step or taper problem close to the eye of the hook, you probably haven’t left enough space for the head of the fly in the first place.
“lay flat threads” are also preferable, and there is the aspect of deliberately creating a step to splay materials, but I will get into that in another post.
(One step at a time!)
I was coaching my daughter this afternoon on getting her homework done and over with quickly. As all “old farts” do, I related my own school experience, and the memories came flooding back.
At boarding school. we had early prep, which must have been somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes in duration, followed by supper and thereafter “long prep”. In early prep we were all showered and dressed, but many were still red in the face from the exertion of the afternoon’s sport, and spirits were still high. Little work was done. Most procrastinated, figuring they still had long prep lying ahead of them like a vast and miserable desert.
What does this have to do with flyfishing?
There was one bloke, who worked like a machine in early prep, in an attempt to get it all done in half an hour. That was me. 51% would do. (I didn’t tell my daughter that part.) And that was because, if I got it all done in first prep, I could tie flies for the whole of “long prep”.
After supper, in the prep room, the vice was out, and I was churning out DDD’s by the dozen, while my mates did maths. There were several of us who fell into this pattern.
Some of the slower learners (and I was by no means a fast learner), were also keen fly-fishermen, and they too tried this. Unfortunately their marks plummeted, and the result was that fly tying during prep was eventually banned at the school. What a bummer!
And speaking of slower learners: There was one fellow, who shall remain nameless, who provided us a lot of entertainment. He was one of those gangly, uncoordinated kids, who fly fished, but couldn’t quite get fly tying right. He was inclined to bind his fingers to the hook or suchlike. So I sold him a few flies. Another chap witnessed this, and concocted a plan. He snuck in through the dorm window, and stole the flies that had just been bought. Within an hour he presented them for sale to the same fellow, claiming that they were tied much better than mine. The plan worked. What’s more, he did it several times, each time stealing exactly the same flies and re-selling them! After a while guilt set in, and we came clean with the fellow, restoring his pocket money , but denting his dignity.
I can’t help feeling that we must have done him a service in some way, and contributed to his education, because I bumped into him a few years ago, and he is now a captain of industry. But someone must still be taking money off him, because he still doesn’t tie his own.
So, my advice to my daughter: Get it done in first prep, (and learn to tie your own flies, so that you won’t be had).
I discovered this pattern just recently in an excellent video by Davie McPhail.
I liked it instantly. It ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is light and springy. It could be one of several things: A cranefly, a small hopper, a half hatched cripple, a hatching midge, and just about anything else your imagination can muster. Exactly what you want in a searching pattern.
The one in the video is on a #12. That is rather big for me, unless it is the hopper you have chosen from the list above, so I tied my first ones on a #16. To start with I made a beginner’s mistake by trying to put on similar quantities of material to that evident in the video. The result was an overdressed fly:
Notice how it looks bulky, and lacks that sparse, buggy, springy feel that one should be after?
The smaller one is better off with a single CDC feather , and just a sprinkling of deer hair fibres. I think I could even trim the dressing more than I have done in the picture at the top of this page. Take a look at McPhail’s one again:
The colour combinations that you could try are endless. I put a spotter post of yarn on one, and left the wing off another.
I contemplated converting it to a parachute pattern. But just as you can’t have bacon on everything, I realised I was bastardising the pattern beyond what was reasonable, and I reverted to something closer to the original.
This one is tied on a klinkhamer style hook, and with longer more gangly legs, so that it is somewhat more of a cranefly:
I read somewhere that creativity is the art of putting existing ideas together, that no one has ever thought to put together before. This pattern is a truly creative one. I look forward to putting it over some fish.
February 5, 2015 | Categories: Fly Tying | Tags: cranefly, creative fly tying, Crippled fly, Davie McPhail, duckfly, Duckfly Hog Hopper, emerger, Fly Tying, hog hopper, hopper, midge, sedgehog | 6 Comments
I tidied my tying desk this evening, as I do once in a while. The maid normally remarks favourably when I do this, since she is not allowed to touch.
I think the abandon with which I toss around dead birds and animals gets to her.
Thing is, when the desk is tidy, I can actually lock the thing, as my brother intended when he made it for me.
I have to say though, that I was a little worried. I was worried that it would not close. This anxiety stemmed from the fact that I have been on a long steady acquisition phase. I hadn’t realised it, but I have been collecting again (did I ever stop?), and the drawers are starting to overflow and jam with packets of goodies.
I am happy to report that I was successful. I will not be needing another chest of drawers, and so will not be jeapardising my spot in the corner of the lounge. Which brings me to my point.
You MUST have a room, or better still a corner of a family room or lounge, where you can leave your fly tying kit out.
Trust me on this one. Until you do that, your tying will be frustrating, infrequent, and uninspiring. You cannot be hocked by having to clear away for dinner or guests. This will cramp your creative style in ways that you will only come to appreciate when you do get it right and have a good setup.
When you do get set up, a peaceful fulfillment will descend upon you, and you will become a much better husband and father. For me it has worked to have this space in a corner where I am not locked away from the family. I have a corner of a room in which the family can sit around while I tie, and it is a magic recipe for family harmony.
Now print this piece, and go and show it to your wife.
A recent topic of discussion has been that of eyes on our Trout flies.
It occurred to me that we have come a long way in that department. My earliest memory of eyes on flies was that of the Clayne Baker swimming nymph, in which one was required to tie an overhand knot on a bunch of marabou fibres. Now that was a trick!
I think at that time we normally made eyes by simply cutting a stub of tuff chenille either side of the hook. Those were not very pronounced eyes, and come to think of it, the snipped end of a length of tuff chenille was positively insipid compared to the lovely round shiny eyes we are able to get today.
Round about the time of Hugh Huntley’s red eyed damsel, we had started to loop the tuff chenille. That method persisted for a good long time, and it still shows up now and then.
It would have been around then too, that we started melting thick nylon, to make eyes. You had to get the right nylon, and the right method to control what you ended up with, and I seem to remember that my own results were far from predictable. One difficulty that I still see on the online videos, is that it is darn difficult to get the eyes the same size.
In more recent years though, a whole plethora of ideas have emerged. Some are better than others.
Roger Baert uses a plastic sheet, from which he cuts strips, and folds them over to make eyes. The stuff positively glows along the cut edge, making Roger’s dragonfly pattern a killer pattern:
Fly Tied by Roger Baert
Not long ago I bought these soft “Chew balls”.
They look wonderful don’t they!
They fall off on about the third cast.
Back to the drawing board. These moulded plastic eyes are great.
The black ones are somehow shiny, but the olive and grey ones just look dull on a fly. You also have to shop carefully. These ones lose their colour and end up white on the fly:
That is, unless you coat them in thin UV glue, so locking the colour in, and giving them some shin too.
But the real trick nowadays is to go and scan the bead shops for all kinds of interesting beads and make your “dumbbells” yourself.
Jan recently showed us the faceted beads he has been using.
These ones came on a string, but most of them don’t. So here is how to make them up yourself.
First, lay you hands on the heaviest nylon that you can thread the beads onto. Builders line is a good option:
Thread two beads onto a short piece.
Now light a candle, and position the first bead about an inch from the end of the nylon. Hold the nylon near the tip of the flame, and wait for it to start sizzling. Keep it there until it practically catches fire. It will burn back into the bead and stop. The bead is like the firebreak!
To do the other end, move the free bead to a position about a quarter of an inch from its stuck partner, and then snip the nylon about an inch away from that. Now slide the free bead back against it’s stuck partner. Holding the unit by the locked bead, and with a pair of sharp nosed plies holding the free bead, advance the end of the nylon into the flame until it catches fire. Let it burn to the point that you want it to stop. Then swiftly but gently use the pliers to move the bead to that point. As the bead reaches the rapidly advancing bead of sizzling nylon, it will put the fire out and embed itself in the desired position. The sizzling nylon is however as soft as butter, so you have to avoid sliding the bead right past the desired point and off the end. It is a knack!
Another way to do it is shown in this clip from Global Fly-fisher.
Now the only issue with this method, is that your bead is fouled with a “gob” of dull melted nylon. A lot of the pictures and videos on the internet don’t get you in close enough to see this for what it is. It is not as shiny as the bead, and it is often not symmetrical either.
On a black bead, you can solve this with a black permanent marker.
I normally coat my bead eyes with loon thin UV glue. This helps secure the bead. It also fixes the black marker. You can also do this with Sally Hansens “Hard as nails” or epoxy, as shown on this video that I came across.
The problem is that not all beads are black. One can find a wonderful assortment of translucent beads in plastic and in glass. These look quite fantastic, but that melted nylon is somewhat of a blemish.
I have tried different melting techniques, to give a smaller blemish, and then secured the bead onto the line with UV glue to compensate for the smaller stopper. But I don’t feel as though I have got it right yet.
But if we step away from the beads for a while, and dwell on the idea of creating our own translucent bead using UV glue, we might be onto something.
Take a look at this video.
In that clip he says how the top layer of UV glue is so thin that you can’t even tell its there. But I got to thinking: what if you do want to know it is there! What if you want your colour in the middle of your “bead”, and successive layers give you the translucent layers over the colour. And what if you introduced some sparkle into those successive layers. I know that you get glitter type material that you can infuse into your epoxy or UV glue.
So what I did was to start with the old melted nylon eyes described above. Then I used this base of a small nylon ball as a base onto which I dropped a small amount of very thick UV glue . I twirled it while wet and then cured it with the light, when I was sure that it was smooth, and even more symmetrical than the original ball of melted nylon underneath. Then I couloured it with a permanent marker. In fact I did some with a white board marker: it doesn’t have to be permanent.
At that point, check to see if the bead is slightly tacky. If not, you may want to give it a very fine brush of nail varnish or thin UV glue. Then before it is cured, roll it in some glitter of your choosing and then cure it. Now roll on some more thick UV glue, roll the dumbbell around to get it smooth and even and then cure it with your UV torch.
You can play with colours and glitters, and multiple clear or coloured layers.
What do you think?
At a recent gathering of the Natal Fly Dressers Society (NFDS), Jan Korrubel demonstrated the tying of the well known “Papa Roach“, that excellent Dragonfly nymph pattern that is making it into halls of fame.
Herman Botes’ Papa Roach: Photo ex Tom Sutcliffe…see link above
Jan has a pragmatic approach that I enjoy. He chatted about the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to leave the hook shank bare under the Zonker strip, “because it just looked wrong”. I Know Herman Botes intended the hookshank to be the flat base of the fly’s shape, but a bit of dubbing finishes it off nicely. We briefly discussed whether Trout could count legs and settled on four. Jan showed us the faceted beads he uses for eyes, and then he went on to tie a “Banana Roach” in pale tan colour.
That particular colour didn’t do anything for me, but Jan’s introduction of his fruity version, and his comment about not leaving the hook shank bare, got me thinking on the way back home.
I have always been one for subtle things showing through. Like a single strand of Krystal flash, that flashes only occasionally in the sunlight. Or a small tag on a nymph. I quite like the “hotspots” that people are adding to everything nowadays, although I think that too often they are too large or prominent. I am one for a single wrap of bright colour. People have often suggested that a red band which appears around the gills of a bait fish imitation suggests blood, and therefore injury, and therefore a weak target. The red or green body was always important on a Walkers Killer, and yet you never really saw that. But like a drably dressed lady, who has racy red underwear beneath the tweeds, the body of the fly was somehow significant, if only to those who knew it was there. On that rare occasion when the lady reached up to fetch a jar, or a current shifted the walker’s feathers, the racy red bits worked their magic, and the prey was like a moth to the candle!
I can work with theories like that. They are neat and logical, and can never really be disproven. Most of fly-fishing is built on that stuff!
So with Jan’s ideas in my head, I added some racy red underwear to the Roach.
What do you think?
The DDD is old hat here in South Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Sutcliffe)
I did a quick google search for DDD. First time around I got all sorts of weird stuff, so I added the words “Dry Fly”, and still got no less than 89,000 hits! That says something, doesn’t it? I will admit that after page three the real DDD gets replaced by tent fly sheets, and obscure digital equipment, but let’s just say you won’t struggle to uncover information about the real thing.
Probably the most comprehensive article about tying and fishing it, is written by none other than its inventor, Tom Sutcliffe. I wont even try to top that! Take a look here.
In one’s online search, you will find debates about which deer hairs are acceptable, (most notably the wonderful Klipspringer hair vs conventional deer hair). You will find debate on what to use as a hackle, whether to tie it roughly cut, as Tom does, or neatly. You will see discussion on whether to use a deer hair tail, or a hackle tail. There is mention of using some krystal flash in the hackle. And there is talk of colour.
In the colour debate, the primary discussion goes around natural vs yellow. I remember many years ago, getting Hugh Huntley’s help to dye a patch of klipspringer bright yellow, and the fear and trepidation of dunking an entire patch of highly sought-after klipspringer hair into the simmering cauldron. I still have that small patch, and I still tie up a few yellow versions.
But in recent years I have gone off on another tangent with the DDD, and that is the black one. Maybe it has something to do with a sub conscious affection for the new South Africa and political correctness, I don’t know.
What I do know, is that you wont find a whole lot of information on the black DDD.
I got an unexpected result when I did an image search for the black DDD:
The FMD on video
The other evening, I was tying up a few flies for still-water, and I was getting to the end of a pack of marabou. When I remarked to the family that I was running out of feathers, I got some funny looks. That’s because as I said that there were wisps drifting about me in the air, there was some getting in my nose, and there were black feathers all over the place. But they were the wrong feathers you see.
Those who use marabou, will know what what I am talking about, feathers with thin, sharp ends. No fluff at the ends.
In desperation I looked in a packet that I thought contained grey marabou. As it turned out, it only looked grey because the old plastic packet (with a “Fly-fisherman” price tag of R4-50 on it!), had whitened. Inside, it contained the most glorious black marabou, as I remember marabou from 20 years ago:
Now that is a proper feather.
Look for feathers like this when buying marabou. Some packets have a lot more of this in them than others.
This represents a half hatched nymph. A crippled and hopeless morsel for the Trout to take at will. The idea is to hang the fly in the surface film, with the tail end of the nymph shuck still attached and hanging in the water. The front end of the fly represents the half hatched winged insect, it’s looped body stuck in the top of the shuck, and its legs trailing beneath its thorax and partially opened wings.
The materials you will need:
Some time back, I worked on a few methods of achieving a “gill body” for my nymphs. I was convinced that Ostrich herl was the way to go. I think I still am convinced. For the time being at least. It has such fine dense fibres, that seem perfectly sized for nymph gills. This is particularly so for the smaller nymphs, #14 and #16. The problem with this material is that it is so frail, and even a good ribbing fails to protect it, and it ends up tattered. The main problem is that the stem of the herl is frail.
So what we did here was to wind a body of V rib, leaving spaces between the wraps. Then the herl gets wrapped into the spiral between the strands of V rib, where it’s stem sits low and protected, but the lovely fine fibres of the herl protrude.
Then trim the fibres top and bottom
And here is the body that results:
How you put the rest of the fly together is up to you, but here is an idea:
I don’t know if all us fly-fishermen are afflicted with this thing, but I suspect most of us are. Just take a look at our fly vests. A myriad of pockets, zips, buckles and zingers. And if we fish with a backpack, you can be sure it will have hidden pouches, rain cover, waterproof key pocket, secreted expansion zip and the like. Fly boxes: row upon row of little compartments that clip open. And then there is the fly tying desk!
I often marvel at the guys who buy their dry flies. Mostly I marvel at guys who buy dries for the second time. First time I can understand, but second time around….wow!
Now this sounds like an obscure thing to say, but have you seen the size of dry flies in tackle shops?
Generally the fly sizes start about a #10 or #12, and go down to a #16. If you are lucky, perhaps a #18.
Now that’s just fine if you are imitating a hopper, or in the case of the DDD, a dead stable rat, but lets consider the mayflies for a moment. And what about the caddis, and the midges?
Next time you are out on the water on one of those sticky summer evenings, when everything is hatching around you, blow some of those “miggies” out of your nose, and have a look at them. Measure them against the thumb nail of your small finger, or better still, prop one up beside a #18 imitation on your fly box. Looks a bit silly, doesn’t it!