Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Speeding Up The Fly Tying Process

The task of sorting through furs and feathers can slow the fly tying process. A good solution to this problem is to create an assembly line.

First locate all of the materials that you’re going to use to tie a particular fly. Then lay out enough of each material to tie at least six flies. Placing the materials in their order of application is helpful. Also, if you tie in the materials in stages you can maximize your efficiency. 

A Muddler Minnow is a good example of the process and is shown in the three steps below.


Stage 1   
Tie in the tail and gold tinsel and then spin 
the tinsel forward.

Stage 2

Tie in the wing and squirrel underwing and 
then spin in the deer hair.

Stage 3

Trim the deer hair to the desired shape and cement the head. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Flies Blowing in the Wind

Clear Lake (Linn County, Oregon scenic images) (linnDA0011)
Clear Lake
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

Clear Lake is a picturesque reservoir located in the Mt. Hood National Forest. This 560 acre, earth fill dam lake is a popular area for camping and fishing. It harbors planted rainbow trout, brook trout, as well as large brood trout up to 10 pounds! It is an ideal location, but if there’s anything that can be a deterrent to enjoying outdoor leisure activities, especially fly fishing, it’s the wind--as my fishing buddy Rob and I would soon find out.

Sometimes in low water the original stream channel could be exposed. Fish are vulnerable at this time, and we wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity. The channel at the base of the dam was clear, and we could see dozens of fish cruising in search of food. It looked like a fish hatchery and we anticipated action. 

As we rigged up, the wind began to riffle the surface, which we hoped would shield our advance. However, just as I was ready to make my first cast, a huge gust hit us from the backside. Unfortunately, Rob had been sorting through his fly box for a pattern. As I braced against the wind I heard him angrily yell. I turned around and watched a dozen flies or more blowing onto the water. As he rushed to retrieve some of them, fish began rising and greedily taking the artificials at will. 

I laughed and jokingly said, "Rob,you know it’s illegal to be chumming the water!”

He turned to me and said in a sarcastic tone, "It’s not chumming. I’m just trying to match the hatch!”

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tying a Scud Fly: "Grass Shrimp"

Scud Fly and Natural Scud

Scuds are amphipods that reside in cold lakes or streams and are very active as they wiggle and dart rapidly through heavy vegetation. Fly fishers refer to them as freshwater shrimp. They can be effectively fished by dead drifting them in streams using split shot and by giving the fly quick two to three inch erratic twitches close to the bottom.

They are intricate but fun to tie because they display distinct body features. Their arched bodies have a translucent segmented thorax with a shellback shape. They can be tied in a variety of colors including olives, creams, ambers, tans, grays and pinks. A variety of materials can be used for their bodies but avoid hard textures. Their backs can be tied with elk hair, deer hair, feather sections, latex or other materials. Their short legs can be tied with ginger, grizzly or light-brown hackle.

Their overall length should measure 1/2- to 1-inch long. They should be tied to suggest the motion, shape, size and color of the scud.

Hook: No. 37160, Size 8-12
Thread: 3/0 Olive Monocord
Tail: Light deer hair
Shellback: Latex
Body: Olive wool or dubbing
Hackle: Light-brown, palmered

Four drawings showing how to tie a scud or shrimp fly.
How to tie a scud fly.

1. Wrap the olive thread on the shank, leaving a 2-inch length of thread hanging behind the hook. It will be used in Step 4 to wrap over the back. Next, tie in the tail. Now cut a section of latex 3/16-inch wide, taper one end and secure it to the bend of the hook. Then attach the olive wool or dubbing.

2. Attach a palmered light-brown hackle. Then wrap the wool forward and secure it. Pick out some wool fibers with a dubbing needle so it looks “buggy.”

3. Wrap the hackle ahead 4 or 5 wraps, tie it off and then stretch the latex forward over the top of the hook. Tie it off at the forward end of the wool body and cut off the excess.

4. Spiral the hanging thread forward in 1/8-inch increments over the shellback to suggest the segmentation. Be sure to use the fingers of your off hand to position the shellback and separate the hackles as you wrap. If this isn’t done, the shellback can roll to one side and the hackles can be turned under. Taper the head and cement.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Making Quill Body Flies

                               Moose Mane           Peacock Herl         Nylon Thread        Porcupine Quills

To imitate the segmented bodies of quill body flies, you can use materials such as moose mane, stripped peacock herl, regular nylon thread and porcupine guard hairs. Patterns such as the Quill Gordon, Blue Quill, Mallard Quill and a quill body March Brown are effective patterns. 

Nylon thread is by far the quickest and easiest method because all you have to do is tie in a four inch piece of white 2/0 nylon. Then build an even body with black 3/0 monocord and, depending on the size of fly, wind the nylon forward about four to six times. The fragile body should be cemented for maximum protection.

Stripped peacock herls make natural body segments, but the process is more involved. If you’re tying fewer than a dozen flies, use your fingernails to remove the herls by stroking back against the grain of the shaft. You can also use an eraser or the edge of a razor blade. If you’re tying more than a dozen flies, a solution of 20 percent Clorox and 80 percent water will strip the quill in a few minutes. This is called burning the flue. When cleanly stripped remove the treated herls with tweezers and allow them to dry. If the solution is too strong, or if you don’t soak the herls in water before tying, they will be too brittle. 

If you decide to use moose mane, select a light and a dark hair fiber and tie them in together, tips first. Then spin them forward, alternating colors as you go.

If you decide to use porcupine guard hairs, they should also be tied in tips first and spun forward to complete the body. Porcupine is more durable, more realistic and floats the fly better. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Speckled Hackle Fly

Picture of the Speckled Hackle fly.
The Speckled Hackle Fly

The Speckled Hackle fly is a simple combination of the Grey Hackle Peacock and the Brown Hackle Peacock as can be noticed in the wings. 

Years ago I met a fly fisher on the Clackamas River that was catching trout using several old fly patterns called the Brown Hackle and the Grey Hackle. He said that the hackle colors were very similar to many different insects found in the area--Mosquitoes, caddisflies and certain mayflies. Rather than tie both patterns, I decided to combine the grey and brown hackles into one pattern. This made the wing look like it was speckled with contrasting colors, hence the name the Speckled Hackle.  

This fly is also a good dry fly searching pattern and can be used when there are few hatches or when there are hatches of several different insects. This problem is referred to as "Masking the Hatch."

Hook:   94840 sizes 12-16
Thread:  4/0 black UNI-Thread
Tail:  Red hackle fibers
Body:  Peacock herl
Hackle: Mixed grizzly and brown tied dry

Friday, January 17, 2014

How to Mend Fly Tying Thread Cuts

One of the most aggravating foul-ups when typing flies is inadvertently cutting the thread when you are tying in material or tying off the head of the fly. The urge to tear your hair out or throw the fly away is quite normal, but there is a way you can salvage your work. You can use a modified rolling half hitch.  

Modified Rolling Half Hitch
To begin, carefully place the tying thread at the point where the thread broke. Then, using the modified rolling half hitch as shown, wrap tightly back over the area 3 to 6 times to secure it and then continue tying the fly. You probably can avoid this problem if you remember to cut the material or thread on top of or to the side of the hook. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Speeding Up the Fly tying Process.

Drawing of a hand holding a pair of scissors.
How to hold your fly tying scissors.
The way you hold your scissors can speed up the fly tying process. 

Many fly tiers prefer to leave their scissors on the tying table when attaching materials to the hook. But it takes extra time to constantly pick up the scissors, make a cut and place them back on the table.  

If you learn to hold the scissors correctly in your hand when you are handling and cutting materials, tying flies can be much faster. Depending on the size of your hand, place your second or third finger into the finger loop. This facilitates the process of picking up, attaching and cutting materials. It also eliminates extra hand movements and allows you to tie more flies in a shorter amount time.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Wade Safely when Fly Fishing.

Two fly fishers wading across a river arm in arm.
Two Fly Fishers wading across
a river using the Buddy System.
Safe wading requires good balance, common sense and the knowledge of a river’s depth, current flows and bottom structure, but even with this information fly fishers can put themselves in peril if good judgment is not used. Once these principles are mastered you’ll be able to wade with confidence.

Before you begin to wade make sure that you are equipped with proper safety gear. You should have a good pair of wading shoes, a wading belt, wading staff and polarized sun glasses to see the bottom better. Also, if you are a non-swimmer an inflatable vest might come in handy. If you plan to wade in deep or turbulent water, it’s a good idea to use the buddy system. Four legs stabilize you better than two legs.

To help maintain your balance when you wade, you should keep your legs spread apart, your center of gravity low and your body at a 45˚ angle to the current. This reduces the amount of current flowing against your body. Also, slide your feet around the rocks instead of trying to step over them because rocks may look smaller than they actually are due to water refraction.

When you are playing a fish, good judgment can sometimes be overlooked in the heat of the battle. In this situation, be sure to focus on your wading first and then landing the fish. Finally, you should be aware of a river’s fluctuation rate, particularly if you cross over to the other side. If the water suddenly rises, swimming or dangerous wading back are not good options.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My big fish turned out to be a tarnished trophy.

In my younger fishing career I was not fully aware of the spawning history of salmon, but I would soon learn the real facts through an embarrassing incident. 

Chum Salmon in Spawn

The Miami River is a small stream that flows into the Pacific Ocean near Bay City, Oregon. It’s a year-round fishery with runs of Coho, Chum, spring and fall salmon, as well as winter Steelhead and Cutthroat trout. In the fall of one year, a friend and I decided to make a trip to the Miami River to fish for anything that would bite. Back in those early years catch and release was not a customary practice and catching a limit of fish was.

The first hole we fished produced a few small trout, but we wanted larger fish. We moved downstream to a large pool that looked like it could hold some lunkers. After only six casts my line stopped and I thought I was snagged. When it started moving upstream I knew otherwise. It was something bigger than anything that I had hooked before. Surprisingly, after five minutes I played it out and landed my first salmon, a 15-pound Chum salmon.

I was very proud of my big fish and when I returned home I couldn’t wait to show dad my trophy. However, when I walked in and showed it to him he looked at it and said,

Son, what did you bring home that ugly looking spawner?"

Well, Dad, it was the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”

He put his pipe down and with a slight scowl on his face said, 

“Son, the only thing that fish is good for is fertilizer for your mom’s rose bushes!”

My spirits were completely deflated! However, I understood more when he explained that spawning fish were not good to eat and that they could have still been in spawn. Since they don't actively feed, they become weak from malnutrition and exhaustion, lose body mass and begin to darken. He also stressed that when salmon die their carcasses provide healthy nutrients in the stream for insects, young fish and mammals. It was a valuable lesson that I never forgot. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cutting and Matching Feather Wings

Duck Wings

Mechanical wing makers can facilitate the selection of feather wings and cut them into certain sizes, but they’re no match for your fingers because manual cuts can be done with more precision.

First, select a matching primary right and left flight feather. You won’t use the upper third of each feather because it’s too stiff and lacks curvature. Next, pick up one feather and place the back of your hand on your leg. Rest the scissors on top of your thumb nail that's holding the feather and make two slits in the feather about 1/8 to 3/16 inch apart. If your slit is the wrong size, simply stroke the feather with your fingers and it will knit back together and then slit it again. Repeat these steps with the other feather at approximately the same position.  

To speed up this method use the assembly method by precutting a dozen sections from the feathers and placing them in matched sets. Then begin tying them in. Take caution to protect them from any wind source because matching them again can be time consuming. 

Cutting Wings

Feather Sections

Matching Sides

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tying and Fly Fishing Scud Patterns

B. C. Shrimp Developed by Doug Stewart
Years ago, many lakes in British Columbia had huge Kamloops Trout and massive populations of freshwater shrimp and Huff Lake was no exception. After the spring thaw in June most lakes were fishable and the Kamloops trout fed voraciously on scuds (shrimp), caddisflies, dragonflies and midges. They could add several pounds to their body mass before the end of the fall season. Their tremendous growth spurt was very noticeable as they developed heavy shoulders and thick bodies that made them look out of proportion. They looked like footballs! One glutton weighed five pounds and was only twenty inches long, and I played and lost another one that was at least ten pounds or more.

I was intrigued by a scud’s spasmodic movement and its shimmering and translucent-green appearance, so I tied a fly to simulate its striking color and motion. It had a short peacock sword tail, a green body with silver ribbing, a yellow hackle throat and a yellow over white calf tail wing. It became an excellent pattern and I called it the Huff Lake Shrimp.

However, I later made a minor change by tying the calf tail down to simulate the back of a shrimp. After that the fly worked even better, and because of this alternation I renamed it the B.C. Shrimp.

Hook: 9671 Mustad sizes 12-8
Thread: 3/0 black monocord
Tail: Several short peacock sword clips with yellow over white calf tail tips
Body: Insect green yarn and silver oval rib
Hackle: Yellow sparsely tied
Back: Yellow over white calf tail tied down

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Perfect Presentation

Doug and Friend with a Double Hookup
Fly Fishing on the Karluk River
My friend Dennis Randa and I had been fishing the Karluk River on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The Silvers were teeming throughout the river and hooking fish was excellent, especially when we fished with Muddler Minnows. We used different methods of presenting the fly and had similar success. Dennis used a sinking line, a shorter leader with a weighted fly, and fished it close to the bottom with a twitching motion. I used a dry line and fished the fly down and across the surface which was much easier. Fish would take the fly aggressively this way and would often chase it across the surface numerous times.

However, one afternoon our different techniques provoked a mild confrontation when Dennis said, “Doug, the reason that my pattern works so well is the flat head. This type of design makes it keel better and drift more naturally to the fish.” 

What do you mean keel better, Dennis?” I asked.

Well, the shape of the head and the action I give it makes my pattern more effective. It’s a perfect replication!”

I had to take exception to this because I felt that any fly under the water was at the mercy of the currents, and I couldn’t see how a flat head could make any difference. I sarcastically responded, “Look Dennis, fish don’t swim up to the fly and refuse it just because the head’s not flat!” This must have ruffled the hackles of his Muddler because he snapped back,

The big reason they refuse it is because the idiot that’s fishing with it doesn’t know how to tie a fly correctly.”

After a few more derogatory comments, rather than argue more we reconciled our differences and agreed that a perfect fly is only as good as one’s ability to present it correctly.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tying Rubber Legged Flies

Keith's Darn Ant

Two-Legged Girdle Bug
Rubber legs can excite fish into striking because the wiggling motion can suggest the lively movements of many underwater inhabitants that swim erratically or try to escape a predator. This material can be tied in to represent tails, antennae, legs and other body parts. On a dry fly you can tie the lets directly to the hook or into cork, rubber and other spongy materials to make excellent floaters. Girdle Bugs, Bitch Creeks and terrestrial patterns make up a large percentage of rubber-legged patterns. Black and white are commonly used colors, but red, orange, yellow, brown and even pink can be enticing. They can suggest many surface insects including caddisflies, salmonflies and dragonflies. 

Casting to cruising and feeding fish can be rewarding if you place the fly ahead of the fish but not in its direct path. Then, as it approaches give the fly a few short twitches and be ready because the strike will be like a bass slamming a surface plug. The Girdle Bug that you are going to tie next can have two or more sets of legs. 

Thread:  3/0 black monocord 
Hook:  No. 9672, sizes 10-6 
Tail/legs:  White rubber 
Body:  Black chenille 

Step 1. To tie in the rubber tail, fold a two inch section of while rubber and tie in at the hook bend. Cut it in half and attach the black chenille.

Step 2. Wrap the chenille forward 1/3 and tie off. Place the rubber section equidistant from the hook shank and wrap over with a few X-wraps keeping them in a horizontal position.

Step 3. Wrap the chenille forward another third and secure it again. Add another rubber section as previously described.

Step 4. Advance the chenille the last third of the shank and tie it off. Cut the legs to even them up, but even if they are slightly off it doesn’t matter to fish.

Please read our terms of use policy