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Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Minute Streamers with Hawgfish

Hey bro... can you fish today.

Cheech showing off Hawg's Fish


I had been up basically all night finishing the last two finals of my life (yes for that fancy book learnin'), and around 11:00 when I woke up, there was a text from none other than Mr. Hawgfish himself.  Something to the effect of  "Hey bro, can you fish today?"  Well...  Yes. Yes I can, just as soon as I take care of some work emails...  Out the door after whipping up a few extra special morsels for the fish.  We only had a few hours to fish, but the conditions were excellent for hucking big meat at willing fish.  It's always fun to fish with people who are streamer fanatics because you can be sure that all of the good stuff int the river gets covered.  Couple of hookups and a ton of window shoppers later we had to head back to town, but it was just what I needed to celebrate not having to ever take a final exam again.  Thanks again Mr. Hawg.  preciate' ya bud.  If you all are interested in seeing obese fish on a regular basis, check out his Facebook page (Hawgfish) and his Instagram account (@hawgfish).

**  The above picture is Hawgfish's fish that he needed a good model to hold.  The fly is the (click for link) Mongrel Meat, destroying mongrels one at a time...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fish Skins for your Devices

Skin It!

Fish Skin Background
Ok, so we've decided to release a series of fish skin photos that can be used as phone or tablet backgrounds etc. These are all free o' charge but please keep them to personal use only. We're going to create these as a standard page on the website here so we can update it as needed.

Click here to get the full list of available skins.

Enjoy!

-- Curtis and Cheech

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chimera: Callibaetis and Damsel Flavor

Another face of the shape shifting fly


Chimera in a damsel or callibaetis color scheme
As I've written about before here and here, the Chimera pattern was designed to be an attractor pattern where you can whip up a few in different sizes and colors, using the same basic materials, and cover a lot of insects to imitate. This summer has been a good round of testing results for the damsel/callibaetis flavored version.

Obviously, the design isn't a slim-looking damsel body and it's a bit bigger than most callibaetis you'll see, but I'm a big fan of trigger points on flies and this one seems to have a few of them.

Brook trout taken on the Damsel Chimera
As with the other versions, I find this one fished best under and indicator on stillwaters. Once I find and set the depth with the indicator, I usually impart a small amount of action to the fly with a slow "mooching" motion. Sometimes a quick jerk and rest will also do well. And don't forget to throw this one on rivers. It can pass as a stonefly and makes for a great attractor pattern there too.



Regardless of where you fish and what you fish for, snag some materials in various colors (see list below) so you can mix and match the colors and sizes to fit your needs. 

Another Brookie on the Chimera

Material List:


Hook:  Mustad C49S #10 or Allen N203BL  -- Buy It-- 
Eyes: 50 lb Mono, Melted
Top Coat: Clear Cure Goo Hydro or Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Thin  -- Buy it --
Additional Tools: Ultimate Dubbing Brush, Hareline Touch Dub Wax

And the video here:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Griffin Montana Mongoose Vise Review

Bring your hooks... any hooks.




griffin montana mongoose vise
Griffin Montana Mongoose vise

If you have been following our articles and videos you will see that the vast majority of our tying is done with
the Griffin Montana Mongoose vise so I though it would be a good time to tell you all why.  As a fairly afflicted fly tying addict I know that most of you will agree that there was a time in your fly tying "career" that you decided that you needed a better vise to help you tie better, more comfortably (or you can just insert whatever justification you used to buy a new vise here.)  Some might have started with a top-o-the-line vise, and never had vise envy, but let me assure you...  Vise envy is real!  Curtis and I have tied on pretty much all of the commercially (and readily) available vises out there, and we basically can have our pick of any vise we want.  We choose the Mongoose.

After tying with the Mongoose since about 2006, here is my list of pros and cons about the vise.

Pros 

Hook holding 
#32 Bunny midge from the Mongoose
As I have ranted before, I think that the purpose of a vise is to hold a hook at 100% strength with minimal any hook that I throw at it with 100% positive lockout, and with minimal adjustment.  The Mongoose is the best of the best when it comes to hook holding power with minimal adjustment because I can take 7/0 trokar out of the vise, turn one knob a few times, and then seat a #32 hook and get tying. I'm not saying that I make this transition very often, but the fact is - I can do it... easily.
effort and minimal adjustment.  My definition of a hook is also a bit more broad than some might use, because it includes 7/0 heavy wire Trokar
6/0 Musky fly from the Mongoose
hooks that I tie sailfish flies on, to 4/0 jig hooks that I use to pour lead onto for bass fishing, to the standard tout fare of #2 to #20, to the micro #32 TMC 518 hooks that we use on Utah rivers during the winter and early spring (yes, they are effective and very necessary at times).  There are very few vises that I have tied with that can hold

One Jaw
There is no "midge" jaw or "super tough big boy" jaw that I need to install to get that holding power - it's all done with the same jaw.  The point of the jaw is fine enough to accommodate the smallest hooks, and with the twist of a knob the jaw is ready for a much bigger hook.  All you have to do is seat the larger hook a little bit further back in the jaw to get it to hold.  This, is a huge deal in my opinion because I don't want to have to take the time to change jaws in a tying session, and I don't want the extra cost of having to buy two of arguably the most expensive piece on the vise.

Material Clip
Material clip being used as a drying rack
This vise has probably the best material clip that I have seen on a vise.  It has a wide spring that can be easily adjusted and used with one hand.  If i'm tying midges I can easily slide it right up next to the hook, and if I'm tying bigger streamers, I can move it back far enough to be out of the way.  It can also be used to keep the back hook of an articulated fly out of the way while tying them.  When I tie with other vises, this is usually the first thing that I miss about the Mongoose.

Durability
These vises are made in Montana by people who understand what it takes to meet the demands of beginner tyers all the way to production tyers who tie thousands of dozens of flies per year.  I have beat this vise to death.  It has been thrown in the bottom of my wader bag, It has been checked with my luggage, and it has suffered the abuse of tying huge saltwater flies.  It works the same today as it did when I got it out of the box.

Warranty
Even Curtis can figure this vise out
I really only have had to call Griffin once about one of the screws that broke, and instead of trying to
troubleshoot how, and why I did it, they just asked me for my address.  No questions asked, they sent me the stuff I needed to get up and running again.

Whole package
The Montana Mongoose comes with more goodies than any other vise on the market for the price.  With the Montana Mongoose you will get a carrying case, pedestal base, c-clamp with extension rod, supreme ceramic bobbin, and a hackle gauge.  The most critical part of this is the fact that they add a stem extension if you want to use the c-clamp.  This is something that many other companies overlook.

Cons

Pedestal base
Because the rotary hub on the vise is offset from the stem, and doesn't sit directly above it, the vise can tend to rock toward you while using the rotary function.  There are many fixes for this all the way from using a different pedestal base (which Curtis and I both do), to welding the current base to a bigger hunk of metal.  You can either add weight to it, or make it wider.  Both work.

Initial calibration
This is a very minor con, because once it's set up right it requires very little maintenance.  To get the vise to rotate silky smooth, I had to tighten the rotary assembly (with the bolt on the very back of the rotary assembly) just right.  Not too tight, and just loose enough so it doesn't wobble.  Once it is just right, the rubber gaskets still touch the sides of the rotary assembly that causes them to stick a little bit.  Just add a tiny bit of reel oil to those bad boys and you will be silky smooth.  I re-apply oil to them about every 6 months and I tie a lot.

To sum it all up... This is, in my opinion, the best vise on the market due to the things listed above.  It has all the features I'm looking for in a vise, but the most important feature is that it will hold ANY hook with 100% positive lockout.  That means no slipping ever... EVER.  (sorry for yelling).  In my opinion a vise should be designed around the jaw - everything else is just gravy.

~Cheech

We have the Mongoose (for a steal at $185) and many other vises available HERE.

Here are some videos using the Mongoose.











Monday, August 18, 2014

Top 5 Fish Camp Tips

Roughing it to up your fishing game


Kodiak tent lights up the mountain
Camping, when it comes to fishing trips, usually elicits a variety of responses from people who like to fish. Some people I know absolutely hate sleeping outdoors while others see the camping as part of the whole experience.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a camping family and have had the opportunity to camp all over the western US. So naturally as I began to venture off on longer fishing trips, being able to just throw down a camp and sleep wherever gave me quite a bit more flexibility rather than depending on hotels or limiting myself to one-day trips.

In the past few years, Cheech and I have been committed to spending more time on the water which usually means a lot of nights up in the hills or next to the lake in order to get an early/late start. We started to really dial in some things that we felt helped make things easier and get rid of excuses to not camp.  If you are more of a trailer or hotel person, this isn't for you but you might find it helpful anyway. If you want to go the economic route and enjoy nature a bit more, here's a quick compilation of fish camp hacks.

Fishing a calm section of water at dusk
1. Camping = More time on the water. The main and probably most important idea here is that by camping close to your ultimate fishing destination you will typically get more time on the water. When possible, even for a quicker one-day trip, we try to leave the afternoon or evening before so we can get on the water in the evening (great time for hatches) or early morning (before the river or lake becomes a zoo). I've actually found some of the best fishing we've had in the past few years has come during those early morning or later evening times I'd normally not be on the water.

2. Organize your gear. In order to accommodate #1 above, you can't be spending a load of time throwing your gear together an hour before you go. If you have a truck or SUV and can secure it, I'm a big fan of keeping a lot of basic camping and even fishing gear at the ready. Those handy lockable truck bed organizers or even just a simple Rubbermaid container (again in a lockable vehicle) can be kept in the vehicle. If you prefer not to store things there full time, just having them in bins or big bags at the ready in your garage or a closet will help to expedite the process. In my case, I have all my camping gear on a shelf in the garage. It's loaded into the truck within a couple of minutes and I'm ready to roll.

3. Get a "Go Bag". Similar to #2, I have a "Go Bag" that contains some basic cooking devices, dry good food, a water filter, lighter/matches, bottled water, knives, lights and some other basics, that could be used at any time. It's similar to an emergency kit. That way, I don't have to scrounge up small things from all over the place. Then you put those things into an actual backpack, duffle bag or these cool ditty sacks from REI.

Cheech ties during a late night session at fish camp
4. Power Up! I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but it's pretty dang nice to have a good source of power when camping. Goal Zero is a company down the road from my house here in Utah. They have some incredible outdoor solar-powered products that work great for camping. Not only that but they're good for emergency situations in your home. That said, we ended up getting a small solar powered generator kit called the Yeti 150. Along with that, we got some of these daisy-chain style LED lights to string in the tent, outside in the cooking area or wherever. They put out a lot of light and don't take up much energy. Plus, you can recharge the Yeti battery during the day with your solar panels so that Cheech can run his infernal fan all night long. All tolled, the Yeti has a USB charger, a car charger output, the Goal Zero accessory port for lights etc and a regular 120 V outlet. We can set the solar panels on the roof of the tent to charge it all during the day if needed.


5. Comfort is king. I'd say comfort (or lack thereof) is a big reason why people stay away from camping. If you're not comfortable, you don't sleep well and you'll be all grumpy the next day. Nobody likes a grump. So in order to take the comfort level up, I'm pretty much a car camping kinda guy. I have a bad back and can't do a lot of backpacking. Plus, I hate backpacking mummy bags. I like big comfortable sleeping bags that'll keep me warm even in the winter. So my ideal setup these days is a good tent I can stand up in and move around (Kodiak canvas springbar style), a nice sturdy cot with an insulative pad and a decent sleeping bag. If you've never slept on a cot with a good thermarest or thick foam pad, you're really missing out. It's really the next best thing to a legit bed. And in the cases where the tent didn't make the trip, I setup the cot and just sleep under the stars in comfort. All in all, with being able to stand up and move around in the tent, have a place to sit, store gear there and even tie some flies, it's a pretty slick setup that lends well to longer fishing trips.

In addition to these fishing-related tips, you can find a lot of fun camping hacks here and here

*** Note from Cheech - Get some comfy ear plugs.  I learned the hard way that Curtis snores like a congested mule.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Synthetic vs. Natural Materials

Substitute for your benefit

The Foam Dragon has a heavy dose of foam

One day I was driving around town and realized that I was pretty close to a fly shop that I hadn't visited in years so I stopped in to check it out.  I did the typical stuff a sick minded fly tyer does by checking out the tips on the patches of deer and elk hair, looked for any premo patches of calf body hair, and looked to see if they had any hackle capes that I couldn't live without.  Well, no dice on finding any gems to add to my tying collection, but I did get an education that day, albeit an unwarranted one...  A shop employee had just finished a batch of some pretty cool looking flies and when I asked them about them he preached a beautiful sermon about only using natural materials in flies because of this, and because of that...  I just kind of nodded my head and carried on even though there was plenty of flashabou in the flies.  I almost asked what animal we get mylar from...

Before I go on a rant about "natural only," I will say this - I think there is definitely a place for natural materials on the bench, and I use them a LOT.  Hackle, deer elk and moose hair, peacock herl, pheasant tails, the list goes on...  If tying with natural materials only is one of the motivating factors for tying flies, have at em'!  BUT...  (There is a big but here) When it becomes less practical to tie with natural materials it's perfectly fine to use synthetics.  Here is a list of some of the synthetics that will make your life easier.

Foam
Stoneflopper 
Foam seems to be the biggest offender in this debate.  Let's see here...  you can buy an 8x10 sheet of foam from a craft store for about 99 cents, it's super buoyant, it's durable, and it can be tied into about a bazillion shapes.  In my mind it's the fly tying super material, yet some guys look down on tying and fishing with foam.  I will say that I have met many a fish that will turn their nose up at a 100% foam fly, so I try to mix it up with some patterns.  For example, the Stoneflopper is a fly that has a lot of thick foam in it, but the body is built out of scraggly AZ synthetic dubbing that breaks up the hard lines of the foam.  I also try to substitute foam for spun deer hair as much as I can because it's more durable, and it's less time consuming.  There are a lot of really good foam popper and diver heads on the market, or you can form your own topwater bugs out of sheet foam (Check out the bearded lady).

Yarn  
The Grumpy Frumpy has a section of yarn for the wing and tail

We have heard it called antron, darlon, zelon, klingon etc.  There are many consistencies of synthetic yarns of this type, and they are all pretty good for tying.  Whether its for making a trailing shuck on a mayfly or caddis, or a parachute post on a dry fly, these yarns have the properties that you need.  One of the products that excels for both parachute posts and trailing shucks etc. is Hareline's sparkle emerger yarn.  For a shuck, you use less, for a parachute post, you use more...

Chenille
This is an area where synthetics go crazy, and there are many different types of chenilles available for tyers.  There are very think chenilles meant to replace a dubbed body on a nymph, all the way to long fibered chenilles meant for bulkier streamer patterns.  Curtis ties the Foammerger with EZ magic dub as the body, and it is one of our top flies for picky fish.  I like to substitute palmer chenille into flies that call for hackle for a more flashy effect.

Streamer fibers
The Bearded Lady has synthetic fibers for a tail
I call these "streamer fibers" because they are typically longer fibers used to tie streamers from.  Some of the popular names are EP fibers, Congo hair, Super hair, and my two new favorites; Flash 'n Slinky, and Steve Farrar UV Blend.  There are not too many animals that are regularly harvested that have long flowy hair that is readily available.  Yes, there is Yak, but there is even a synthetic Yak now that really fishes well.  The idea is that these materials allow a tyer to have consistency in long fibered materials for tying bigger flies.  They are also very durable.

Dubbing
Hare's Ear with AZ Synthetic Dubbing
Dubbing is probably my favorite tying material of all time.  You can do so much with dubbing, and there seems to be a dubbing for everything these days.  I love some good ol' hare's ear or squirrel dubbing still, but when you start mixing in flashy synthetic stuff it really changes the game!  I use everything from AZ synthetic dubbing which is 100% synthetic, to super blends like Dave Whitlock's SLF dubbing, which consists of natural and synthetic fibers.  Try tying a hare's ear out of SLF RSF Abdomen color and watch fish crush it! Substitute dubbing at will...

I know that the number of people who absolutely detest synthetic materials is fairly small, but if you get a better feel for synthetic materials you will be able to substitute them more freely in your tying.  Synthetics can help you tie faster, and they can add more durability in your flies too!

~Cheech

View tutorials for the flies listed,

Foam Dragon
Kicked up Hare's Ear
Stoneflopper
Grumpy Frumpy
Bearded Lady








Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You Have Too Many Flies: 5 ways to cope

Don't resist the urge to purge

Row of chironomids in the "2nd team" box
Most fly fishermen I know carry a lot of flies when they fish and, as I wrote about a while back, you really only need one fly anyway. But even with that said, it's always good to stop and reevaluate our fly position.

When I tied my first fly some 25 odd years ago, I had no idea how absolutely hideous it really was. Adding insult to injury and taking a page from Uncle Ken, it was tied with the nastiest selection of materials (ones that came in my handy kit) and although a dry fly, it sunk like a rock. It caught zero fish.

As a result, in the intervening years, as I've spent more time behind the vise, I have collected more flies across more boxes. Not surprisingly, the flies, if graphed as a function of ugliness, would show an inverse relationship to the time dedicated to the craft. This usually results in a pile of flies (or in my case, sometimes boxes of flies) that, given my standard today, would not make the cut to the varsity team. Yet, for years I kept thinking "oh, I'll get in the middle of a killer baetis hatch and those nasty-looking comparaduns will come in handy". No, never happened like that.

So over the years, I've traditionally done major restructuring of my boxes from time to time, pushing the "2nd team" flies into their own boxes that stayed in the closet or my gear bags and reevaluating my varsity team flies. Some of those 2nd team flies actually went into the trash. Some I gifted to some friends who were just beginning to fish. It's therapeutic and it made room to tie other flies without infinitely adding to the collection.
brown trout hopper fishing
The Tomsu Hopper is on the varsity team

With that said, I have since gone through this and other fly box purges and re-org's, here are a few points I found to be helpful:

1.  Let's face it, most of us can benefit from slimming down and dialing in the fly selection. Whether it's opening up space in our packs or vests or just being more mindful of what we're carrying with us. Don't be afraid to lessen the load if you like. But hey, if you're cool with carrying 10 boxes of mayflies in every shape, phase and color, great. Otherwise, read on...

2.  If you tie flies, going through an annual purge or re-org can help you identify areas you need to improve in your tying. I'm often blown away at how crappy I tied a certain batch of flies from a year or two ago let alone 10 years ago. I know it's borderline OCD, but I'll often replace a given section in a box with new flies, of the same basic pattern, I feel looked better to me, had a new twist added to them or some more durable material/method. This more active quality evaluation will push you to tie better looking and better tied flies overall. I think it also helps creativity as you will be thinking more often about improvements in design and construction of the flies as well.

3. One thing I do as I go through the fly boxes is to do a quick inventory on what flies actually did the best on the water. I'll usually opt for tying more of a good performing pattern using them to replace flies in the box that haven't gotten results. Whether they work or not, it may actually be more an issue of whether you'll even have an opportunity to fish them. If you're not going to use them, don't carry them. You'll end up with fly boxes that have a higher concentration of varsity team patterns. On the flip side, though, always make room for the field tester flies. If you remain committed to the same varsity team to the exclusion of everything else, you might be missing on some good opportunities.

4.  Another big move I've made in organizing my boxes is to tie and stock more "cross-functional" flies. If you have a pattern that can act like a Mayfly and a Caddis at the same time, you just saved a bit of space in your box. Patterns, like the Chimera, that can double as different bugs to the feeding fish are a good example. The Mercer's missing link is another great example of a cross-matching pattern.

5. As you narrow down and finely hone your fly boxes, I'm strongly convinced you'll end up being a more successful fisherman. In the end, you'll be fishing with your "confidence" flies, you'll be fishing flies you know that work and your tying skills should come along with all that. As Michael Scott would say "it's a win, win....win".