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Friday, August 28, 2015

Fly Tying Room Renovation

The fly tying desk gets a facelift


I usually go through some sort of fly box or fly tying area re-arrangement once every year or two -- especially during the dead of winter when I'm spending more time at the vise. And for the past probably three years, I've been using a fairly large flat oak dining table as my main base of operations in the tying man-cave. As Cheech and I spend a good amount of time in the man-cave plotting out trips, talking flies and materials or doing our filming, I've realized that room is much too small for such a huge piece of furniture. So I decided to retool the room, making it more Sasquatch friendly.

Before we get too far, I've written about some of my organization tips here and here. I'm sticking to the same ideas there as far as storage goes, but I've realized I needed to consolidate and change up my tying area and make it even more efficient. I'm mostly talking about getting away from my Dwight Schrute style "megadesk" to something more user-friendly.

For me, the biggest thing when it comes to my tying desk (besides my light snobbery) is making sure I can easily reach as many materials as I can without taking my butt out of my nice comfy chair. If I have to stand up or even worse, take a few steps, I'm losing out on precious fly tying time and physically taxing my body way too much. But seriously, it really is nice to have most of the materials at my fingertips without having to dig through boxes or pull stuff off of peg boards and stuff like that.

So to begin, here's a shot of my previous setup:

Fly tying room before the renovation
You'll see the big table there in the corner. It took up too much space and in order to reach the things on the top shelf and towards the back of the table, I had to stand up and move things around. Not the most efficient setup.

Here's the "after" setup:

Renovated fly tying area
I ended up taking the table out and replacing it with a cheap ($20 total) corner unit from IKEA. I got it in the clearance area, so it was super-cheap. This freed up a lot of space and allowed me to form more of a "cockpit" tying area where most of my materials and tools are in arms' reach.

Here's a video to walk you through it all...




Friday, August 21, 2015

Biot CDC Callibaetis

Feed the Gulpers

Biot CDC Callibaetis, the Slurpee of the lakes


Remember that time when you were fishing your favorite reservoir out of your donut float tube?  The time when you were rigged up with your 6 weight, a type 5 sinking line, and your very best bugger pattern?  The time when you started seeing dimples in the surface only to realize that those were fish dimpling the surface, and not only were they dimpling the surface, they were eating mayflies???  I remember that time.  I had never really considered rigging a dry fly line for lake fishing, but what did I know - I was a neoprene wader, 'murican flag bandana wearing, secret dubbing having, bugger strippin', EXPERT...  This day was similar to many that I have had over my fishing journey, because it taught me that I should never get too comfortable with my techniques and that I should always keep an open mind to learn new things.

If you have ever fished a good callibaetis hatch on a stillwater, you have experienced some very exciting fishing.  It's exciting because you never know if the fish is going to crush your fly with reckless abandon, sip it gently, or swim up to your fly to count it's body segments only to decide that it's not "real" enough and flip you the fin.  When tying flies for lakes (or for froggish slow moving water) it's critical to dial in your flies just a little bit more than you would for faster moving water where fish don't have the luxury of window shopping before making a commitment. Split your tails.  Use materials like biots to make segmented bodies. Sparse up your hackle just a bit...

Brookies eat Callibaetis like I eat Skittles.  Fast and Furious.

This pattern has been particularly effective due to some very cool materials that we have been playing with.  The wild turkey biots give a very mottled effect to the body, and the speckled badger hackle plays very well with the "speckled" callibaetis theme.  Another big player in the "match the hatch" game is Nature's Spirit materials.  They have their colors so dialed in that it makes it very easy to tie a fly that is G'd up from the feet up (That's bad gangster lingo for "matching head to toe."  I apologize... kind of.)

The next time you are fishing a lake, pay attention to what is happening on top of the water, even if you are killing it stripping buggers, rocking a 'murican flag bandanna, and listening to Skid Row on your portable boom box.

~ Cheech

Recipes:

Speckled Tan
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #14-16 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Veevus 16/0 - Dark tan (BUY HERE)
Tails: Coq De Leon rooster cape - Med pardo (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit wild turkey biot - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit CDC tufts - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting Hebert Miner - Speckled badger (cape or saddle) (BUY HERE)

Speckled Gray
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #14-16 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Veevus 16/0 - Dun (BUY HERE)
Tails: Coq De Leon rooster cape - Med pardo (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit wild turkey biot - Muskrat Gray (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit CDC tufts - Medium gray dun (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Muskrat Gray (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting - Grizzly (cape or saddle) (BUY HERE)




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Desk Dump: 5 for Summer

5 Materials for Summer


Desk Dump: 5 for Summer
I know it may be disappointing, based on the title here, if you were expecting to see my dog taking a dukey on my desk, but no we'll save that for a later post. However, if you've been around the social media and interweb channels long enough, you might be familiar with a very popular style of photo and blog post called "Pocket Dumps" (Google it if you're not). We've toyed around with the idea of doing something similar that would revolve around tying, so this is the first in a series of pocket dump style posts we're going to name "Desk Dumps". These posts will feature materials we have on our desks a lot lately and how we're using them. In terms of pocket dump jargon, this would be called an EDC (Every Day Carry) type material. And while our EDC materials will vary throughout the year, we'll try to stay on top of what we're tying.

So in this inaugural post, I'm going to stick to some of the materials that have been on my desk the longest this summer. (click each material heading for a link to see more info on each material)...

Nature's Spirit Select Cow Elk


Out of all my materials, I'd say the Cow Elk from Nature's spirit, in pretty much all colors, has been on my desk the longest for the past few months. It's been used on caddis patterns, Fripples, foam patterns like the Moodah Poodah, the Project cicada pattern and a few others. Check out the colors here.


Speckled Badger Hackle


I don't think my speckled badger has been back in its bag since the time we got it back in April or May. The nice thing about this versatile hackle is that it's got enough variation in the colors and hues in one cape or saddle, you can literally use it for a bunch of different patterns.  See more here




Partridge Czech Nymph Hooks

Once we started to carry Partridge hooks, my hook choices for  tying sessions have changed quite a bit. And my favorite, probably most versatile in the mix, is the Czech Nymph hook. I use them for everything from emergers to nymphs to soft hackles (see the biot nymphs below). Sharp as can be and stout quality hooks. They come in a bunch of sizes here.


Nature's Spirit Wild Turkey Biots


These Wild Turkey biots might get my vote for material of the year. I'd seen them in the past, but never tied with them. What you get here is a natural segmented coloreffect similar to peacock quill, but with the ridge effect you get from biots. And these ones come in a sweet variety of colors to tie anything from Callibaetis to Caddis and everything in between. The biot nymphs shown here are tied with the Callibaetis color:



Danville 140 Denier Thread


We sell a lot of different threads on our store and I really find myself tying with a pretty wide variety of threads for different purposes. But when I got a couple of sample spools from Hareline, I knew right away this would be a go-to thread for bigger patterns like streamers, big foam jobs and most of my stillwater patterns. If you haven't tried this particular size of Danville's you owe it to yourself to at least try a couple or three colors.



Monday, August 10, 2015

California Leech Variation

It's highly adaptable

California Leech

Several years ago when I first started to poorly cast, kick, and strip (I know... bad play on words) or as I called it "stillwater fishing," I was a bugger guy.  All you needed was a handful of olive, black, and brown Wooly Buggers and a type 3 sinking line.  Sure, I caught plenty of fish, but it wasn't until I started paying more attention to some of the excellent patterns out there that I really started to catch more fish.  One of the extra "ninja" patterns that I had heard about was the California Leech that was made famous by Bill Scheiss at Henry's Lake in Idaho.  Bill's flies were usually pretty scraggly, and not the prettiest of flies, but they sure caught fish.  There are many different versions of California Leech dubbing, but the best I have used is made by Mike Andraesen from Bountiful, UT.  It's a blend of flash with his famous Canadian brown mohair that can be adapted to be used in a wide range of patterns.

In the pattern that I tie in the video, it's not an original California Leech because I change the tail, it's too bulky, and I wrap hackle through it.  The original calls for a marabou tail, and a very thin body without hackle.  BUT...  I have caught many fish on the "variation" that I tie in the video, so that's how I tie all of mine now.  This fly also opens the door for a lot of creativity, and I'll list some pattern variations that can be very effective as well.

To fish this fly, I usually like to find where the fish are holding and use a full sink line to get the fly down to their depth.  I start off with long slow pulls with some pauses, and a lot of the time the fish will eat it on the pause.  The key is to vary your retrieve until you find what the fish want, and then duplicate the retrieve that caught fish...  Clear as mud?  Good, now go give some friendly fish free facial piercings (Say that 5 times fast).

~ Cheech 

Recipe:

California Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Rusty brown (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Arctic fox tail hair - Brown (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Amber or copper (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - California leech (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Brown saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)

Pond Olive Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Red (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Arctic fox tail hair - Black (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Peacock (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Red (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - Pond olive plus (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Black or dark olive saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)

Canada Blood Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Wine (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Nature's Spirit Bugger bou - Claret (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Pearl (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Wine (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - Canadian blood plus (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Black or claret saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review: Zeal Optics

Sustainability and quality in one package

Curtis wrangles a nice rainbow while sporting Zeal glasses


I remember the trip when I realized how important good lenses are.  I had a lot of experience fishing our local cutthroat lake with flies, and if there is a common theme for that lake, it's short striking cutthroat.  The game changer for this trip was the fact that my father in law and I were fishing standing up on our new-to-us tin boat instead of sitting in kick boats.  I was fishing a pretty bright fly around 12 feet deep and I could see the fly the whole time due to good polarized glasses.  We really weren't doing super well until i realized that my fly would disappear for a few seconds at a time, but I couldn't feel any bites.  The next time my fly disappeared I strip set and it was fish on.  We repeated this for the rest of the day in what turned out to be one of the best trips we have had on that lake.  It wouldn't have happened without good polarized glasses.

I have fished with $15 gas station cheapies to $250 lenses, and the technology that is available now is pretty amazing.  As with any other fishing related product, we are always interested in the new companies in the fly fishing world to see how they compare with already established companies.  Sometimes the newcomers rally shock us with great products, and other times it's more hype than anything else.  We met Joe Rizzo from Zeal Optics in the spring of 2015 and we were intrigued by what is by far the most environmentally friendly product in the optic field.  Frames made from bean oil???  Lenses made from plants??? Yep.  The list of eco friendly features goes on and on.  We wondered how this eco-tech would stack up against other glasses that we had used in the past so we put them through their paces pretty hard.

I got the Tracker model in both the copper lens and the bluebird HT lens.  I wanted something that I'd use for the majority of my fishing, and I also wanted a lens that I could use in low light situations (like evening caddis hatches).  My first impression was that they were very comfortable to wear and they fit my huge noggin really well.  The true test was on the water where they could definitely hold their own, and I realized that they were on par with any of the other high end lenses that I have fished with.  It's cool to be able to fish with a product that ranks highly in both technology and environmental friendliness.  I have been fishing them hard for about 4 months and I keep them out of their case on purpose to see if they can stand normal wear and tear.  So far they have proven to be very durable and scratch resistant, even though I haven't sat on them yet, which is a sure fire way to destroy glasses.
The Zeal Big Timber has an automatic lens for bright and low light.

And from Curtis:

I got the Snapshot model in a Copper lens and took them to Mexico to fish the flats with my eagle eyes and a pair of similar Costas and Maui Jim glasses on board.  I really wanted to just see how they all compared.  I was really surprised at the clarity and sharpness of the Zeal's when compared to my other two pair of "go-to" sunny weather glasses. In fact, I'd say under some conditions, I'd end up switching back to the Zeals because I was seeing the Bones a little more clearly. So after that first day of the trip, I decided to leave my other glasses back at the hotel because the Zeals were doing everything I needed them to do. Now whether or not it was a combination of the sun, the flats' coloration and the tint on these specific lenses, I can't say for sure (definitely not a knock on the other glasses) but I was still very impressed with what I experienced.

I guess we had our answers...  Zeal glasses can hold their own in a tech heavy market where eco-friendliness usually isn't as big of a priority as it ought to be.

~ Cheech

Pros:
Eco-friendly:  These glasses are made from plant based products and are 100% biodegradable.

Prescription friendly: Many of their models can be ordered with prescription lenses.

Very functional: These glasses are born from high technology and perform as a high tech lens should.

Cost effective: The Tracker is $119, and the Snapshot is $79.

Lightweight and comfortable: The frame is rubberized on the critical places where it touches your face.  They don't move when you are acting a fool swatting mosquitoes.

Con:
Fog:  These glasses fogged up a little easier than some of the other glasses that we have used, but it was mainly a non-issue.



Make sure to check out the full line of Zeal products for the next time you have a pair of shades go over the side of the boat.  www.zealoptics.com

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cinnamon Toast Ant

Not for human consumption


Cinnamon Toast Ant with the Rising Brookie net
The good thing about having friends that are super fishy is that they give you the feedback needed to create killer bugs.  Around 2005 Bryan Gregson requested an ant of some sort to take to some small streams that he had been fishing, but you have to know that Bryan has fished about everything under the sun.  I looked at a lot of ants online, and I looked at a bunch of fly patterns to make sure I didn't give him anything that he already had before I hit the vise.  I tied up a prototype ant that was kind of similar to the now-named Cinnamon Toast Ant, and sent him on his way.  They ran into an unexpected Green Drake hatch that weekend, and since he was there to do some product testing, he followed through with his promise of fishing this cinnamon ant.  Well, he was glad that he did, because this ant outperformed all of the green drake imitations that they were fishing.  

Cinnamon Toast Ant


His feedback was to make it more visible and to make it float better - check and check.  Similar to the Unsinkabeetle, this fly has cartoonish wings that stick up and out to sides, making it more visible.  I also changed the hook from a heavier wire scud hook to a Gamakatsu C12 because I really like the hook gap and the light wire diameter.  It's great because the back half hangs just low enough in the water, but not so low that it's hard to see.  So far, we have fished this fly for picky stillwater trout and some terrestrial eating river fish.  The consensus is that they LOVE cinnamon toast.  If you tie this one, make sure to tie the Black Toast Ant as well.

Recipe:

Cinnamon Toast Ant
Hook: Gamakatsu C12 or Daiichi 1130 #10-14 (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC premium thread 6/0- Rusty brown (BUY HERE) (even though we didn't use it in the video.)
Underbody: Nature's Spirit hare's mask dubbing - Rusty spinner (BUY HERE)
Body and head: Fly foam 2mm - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Wings: Sparkle emerger yarn - Cream (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting dark barred ginger cape or saddle (BUY HERE)

Black Toast Ant
Hook: Gamakatsu C12 or Daiichi 1130 #10-14 (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC premium thread 6/0- Black (BUY HERE) (even though we didn't use it in the video.)
Underbody: Nature's Spirit hare's mask dubbing - Black (BUY HERE)
Body and head: Fly foam 2mm - Black (BUY HERE)
Wings: Sparkle emerger yarn - Cream (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting grizzly or black cape or saddle (BUY HERE)




Friday, July 31, 2015

Sparkle Minnow Variation

Fill up a box in no time


As much as I love fishing Complex Twist Buggers, this fly has found a permanent spot in my streamer box because of how simple it is to tie and how effective it is.  I recently went on an excursion with a friend who hadn't really caught fish on streamers, so I tied on a white and gold version of this fly.  Long story short, He's probably tying some up right now...  Anyway, this fly is similar to the MFC Sparkle Minnow after it's all tied, but the method for this one is even more simple, in fact, this fly is easier to tie than a wooly bugger.  

Some variations that work well for this pattern are: 1- Tie the tail out of a single piece of marabou. 2- Use gold, silver, or copper ice dub in a loop instead of the EP brushes. 3- Leave out the Bruiser Blend head.

A word about the EP brushes...  I can typically get 2 flies out of each individual brush, and there are 6 brushes per package.  This stuff is an awesome blend of flashy material that really moves great in the water.  I really hadn't messed much with these until this year, but now I think I have one of each color at my desk.  It's an awesome product.

~ Cheech

Cutthroat on a Golden Ticket


Recipes:

Olive/Brown
Hook: Daiichi 2461 #1-4 (BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Copper 6mm x 5mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - black or brown 
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - olive and brown (BUY HERE)
Body1: Holographic cactus chenille- Brown (BUY HERE)
Body2: EP sparkle brush - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Head: Bruiser Blend Jr. - Barf brown or olive brown (BUY HERE)

White/Tan
Hook: Daiichi 2461 #1-4 (BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Black Nickel 6mm x 5mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - White
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - Tan and white (BUY HERE)
Body1: Holographic cactus chenille- Silver gold (BUY HERE)
Body2: EP sparkle brush - Pearl or pearl magic (BUY HERE)
Head: Bruiser Blend Jr. - Cream (BUY HERE)

Copper/Brown
Hook: Daiichi 2461 #1-4 (BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Copper 6mm x 5mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - black or brown 
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - Brown and rusty spinner (BUY HERE)
Body1: Holographic cactus chenille- Brown (BUY HERE)
Body2: EP sparkle brush - Copper (BUY HERE)
Head: Bruiser Blend Jr. - Hidden treasure of sasquatch brown (BUY HERE)

Smaller Variations

Golden Ticket
Hook: Daiichi 1750 #6(BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Gold 5mm x 4mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - White
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - White (BUY HERE)
Body1: Tinsel chenille- Gold (BUY HERE)
Body2: Ice dub - Gold (BUY HERE)
Head: No head on this fly

Silver Ticket
Hook: Daiichi 1750 #6(BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Black nickel 5mm x 4mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - White
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - White (BUY HERE)
Body1: Tinsel chenille- Silver (BUY HERE)
Body2: Ice dub - Silver (BUY HERE)
Head: No head on this fly

Copper Ticket
Hook: Daiichi 1750 #6(BUY HERE)
Bead: Slotted tungsten cone - Copper 5mm x 4mm (BUY HERE)
Lead Free Wire: .035 (BUY HERE)
Thread: UTC 140 or Danville 210 - Brown
Tail: Nature's Spirit prime marabou - Rusty spinner (BUY HERE)
Body1: Tinsel chenille- Copper (BUY HERE)
Body2: Ice dub - Copper (BUY HERE)
Head: No head on this fly