Thursday, 8 January 2015

Fly Tying - A Review of Materials

I’m certainly feeling the winter blues, I know I go on about fishing in the winter a lot… But recently I’ve been really longing for those hot summer evenings, stalking wild brownies on light gear and delicate dry flies.  Anyway, lets not dwell on that stuff as its January, cold and the trout are having a well deserved rest. I’ve been working really hard on tying this winter, it's something I want to get really good at and if there are any written rules in fishing, practice makes perfect is definitely one of them. 

I’ve mainly been tying saltwater patterns to use when I’m back at uni. Clousers and baitfish have been the main focus, along with some experimental flies which should’ve never made it to the vise! As I’ve said before, tying is a learning game. Don’t go and buy a load of random materials that look useful, treat it like cooking from a recipe book – you wouldn’t randomly buy a load of ingredients then try and make a specific recipe would you? So I’ve learnt my way around a few materials over the last few weeks and decided to share some of my favorites and try and provide a little guidance.

First up – Hooks. Very important, as at the end of the day, if there’s no hooks there no fish on the line. There are loads of hooks out there - different sizes, gauges and shapes. Keep it simple, you’ll learn your own preferences as you go. The pinnacle of saltwater hooks for fly tying are Gamakatsu’s – Not cheap or easy to get hold of, but they really are the top dogs in the saltwater fly fishing world.

Gamakatsu's. Not the cheapest, but
definitely worth it!

When you’re tying flies you want them to last, right? Make sure you use some decent thread. Jeez, I used to use my mums old sewing threads when I first started! UTC is my favorite at the moment, and the 140 size is great for saltwater and streamer patterns, with the finer 70 models doing well on smaller dries and similar things.

Body materials are a difficult one. Its important to use the right stuff, especially when you’re tying something like a saltwater baitfish pattern. Some move better, some last longer, some are just really expensive! It took me ages to find a few that I like working with, but here they are. Starting with Super Hair, which I found in the Orvis store, it’s kind of like EP fibres which come from the states (which I’m yet to use, but are on my hit list) and ties nicely.

Super hair, an interesting body

DNA fibres are next, and they are incredible! I recently ordered some Frosty Fish Fibre and also a packet of their Holo Fusion. It behaves well when tying, and moves in the water in such an irresistible manor, its my favorite for baitfish and clousers. The Frosty Fish Fibre is smooth and flowy, whereas the Holo Fusion has a lot more flash in it and reminds me of a mix of Crystal Flash mixed with the Frosty Fish Fibres. Theres loads of YouTube tutorials on how to use this stuff, so until I make my own videos, go and check them out.

DNA body materials.. Just brilliant!

Eyes. Very important to all patterns, they are the icing on the cake for me when tying baitfish, the pattern goes from a fly to a real fish on the vice! I recently bought some stick on eyes (always Bug-Bond over them, even though they’re self adhesive) from Orvis again – I had a few vouchers from Father Christmas! Size is important, eyes that are too big or too small will spoil a pattern. So knowing what body materials I had, I went for some chartreuse and red eyes and also some black and red, they look fantastic! Take a look bellow.

Red and chart (left) and red and black (right).

Dumbbell eyes are also important, especially in saltwater patterns. They add weight to a fly and help it get down in currents and tides, they add movement as well by causing the fly to dip and dive, finally they determine they flies position dependent on when where they are tied (top or underside of the shank). Funky Fly Tying do some cool dumbbells and I’ve been impressed by some of the Orvis ones.
Funky Fly Tying Dumbbells and Orvis Dumbbells (rear).

The best thing about fly tying is developing your own patterns. The baitfish is a standard pattern but I’ve added my own colours and features. The Clouser is also a classic, but I’ve added my own features to these ones. Start by imitating others designs and patterns then move to slowly going independent as you apply your skills and inspirations! Its great fun, see how you get on!

The Magic Mackerel (blue) and the Half-life Mackerel (chart)
Two of my own patterns. 

Stocking the box with Clousers. Super Hair in the
foreground and DNA at the back for a closer view.

The Half-life Mackerel.

The Magic Mackerel.

Two DNA Clousers in white, pearl and olive.

Some of my home tied patterns.
Tight lines, and threads!

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