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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Beginner's Corner: Getting Outfitted to Tie Flies

10 tools to get started

First off, if you're confused as to whether or not to buy a kit or build up your own, see this. So assuming you don't buy a kit, let this be a primer on what you'll need to get started, including 10 popular and useful tools.

As a word of advice, if you're still up in the air as to whether you want to invest in this stuff, stop reading this, go to your local fly shop or a fly tying neighbor and try it out. Even better, take a class! Point is, we're not recommending you go out and buy a bunch of stuff without doing some research into whether or not you'll like it. I've taught far too many people that spend hundreds of dollars on tools and materials only to tie a couple of flies and give it up. If you want to go that route, I'll save you the time and send you my PayPal account and you can just send me the money in the first place. ;)

So, with that said, here are the basics of what you'll need and what to consider. If you add up the "required" items below, you'll be looking at an average cost of tools around $112 to get you a decent setup. Upgrade your scissors and a higher end vise, you'll be looking at closer to $150.

Items #1 through #4 we consider required.

Item #1:  Vise: Easily the most expensive stand-alone piece of tying equipment you'll buy. We've done a short write-up on what to look for here. In the end, buy what you can afford, borrow something if you're not sure. Try out any vise before you buy it, if that's something you can do. Estimated Cost: $40 to $150 (depending on what you can afford and/or want to buy). At around the $80 mark, you'll find some decent vises, as you can see in our vise review. So average estimate: $80
Peak Vise

Item #2: Scissors: I don't recommend skimping on scissors. As we point out here, the scissors are a major "don't go cheap" item. I will ultimately recommend the Dr. Slick Razor scissors to anyone who takes our classes or goes to our tying demonstrations. But our new Rattle Bass Fangs Scissors are also making waves. Plus, they offer you the protection of the famous mythical fly tying beast. See a good selection here...
fly tying tools scissors getting started
Dr. Slick Razor Scissors

But if you can't afford or don't want to buy those scissors, there will be a lot of others that will ultimately do the job fine. Look here to find a good variety to purchase. However, try to stick to fly tying scissors. Craft store sewing nippers are not a good substitute. Average Estimate: $15

Item #3: Bobbin: This is the handy tool that holds the thread as you wrap all sorts of stuff onto the hook.

Bobbin fly tying tools scissors getting started

There are many brands and styles of bobbins. We sell a good variety here. In the end you'll want something with a ceramic insert. If you go with a simple flared bobbin to save a few bucks, you'll end up going through a lot more frustration and busted thread than it's worth. Average Estimate: $12

Item #4: Whip Finisher:

whip finisher fly tying tools scissors getting started

This is a nice tool that will help you tie off your thread when you're done tying the fly. It makes it so your whole fly doesn't come unraveled by throwing in a "noose" of sorts at the tie-off point of your fly. I'll have many people argue whether this tool is even needed at all. Granted there are ways to finish your fly that don't involve this tool, but for speed, ease of use and strength of the knot, I personally think this is the way to go. There are a number of different styles and brands, but either of the two shown above will work just fine. You can get whip finishers from our website here. Average Estimate: $5

The remaining items here are really not 100% required, but nonetheless highly recommended....

Item #5: Bodkin: This is a simple needle-like poking or picking tool.

bodkin fly tying tools scissors getting started

Granted, you can easily supplant this tool with something as simple as a toothpick or even a small awl, but either way, you'll be wanting a tool to help you poke, prod, preen and pick your materials and such on the fly. They also work nicely to apply small amounts of glue or resins into tight places. Find a good selection here.

Item #6: Hackle Pliers: You use these little guys to help you grab and wrap small or awkward materials around the hook. This little video, at the 3:00 minute mark, will show you a quick example of how they're used.
hackle pliers fly tying tools scissors getting started

There are a lot of people that just don't use them much. They come in handy, though. So while I wouldn't necessarily buy a pair to start off with, they can be helpful. If you're wondering what kind to buy, here is a review we did on one of the more versatile pliers out there. And if you like more selection, our online fly shop carries a good variety here.

Item #7: Bobbin Threader: Here is a little tool that can save you some frustration and cussing at your thread.
bobbin threader fly tying tools scissors getting started

One of the challenges you'll face when you start tying is trying to get the thread up through the bobbin tube. While you can definitely thread the bobbin with your fingers, it's a lot easier using this device to reach in, grab the thread and pull it out. The nice thing is that these things are cheap and usually come in three packs (cuz you'll lose them every now and again). So I'd suggest forking over a few bucks to buy this tool, listed here.

Item #8 Dubbing Twister: While you'll see a large number of variations on this tool, its main purpose is to take materials you want to wrap onto your hook and spins them into a thread "loop" for a more even and "buggy" distribution.

dubbing loop tool fly tying tools scissors getting started

As you can see in this video, at the 3:00 minute mark, the dubbing twister tool is used to spin some dubbing and then wrap around the hook to form the body of the fly. Now, you obviously don't need a super-spinning bearing style tool like I use (I used to use a paper clip with a lead weight hooked into it), but they do come in handy when tying leeches, buggers, streamers, certain nymphs basically anything needing spun materials using craft fur, dubbing, wool etc. This Turbo Dubbing Spinner is probably the most sold item on our website. We feature a couple of others, so you can check them all out here.

Item #9 Tweezers: I'm guessing most people know what tweezers are and how they operate.

fly tying tweezers fly tying tools scissors getting started

What you'll find in tying is that they can come in handy when picking up small items or picking out pieces of materials from your fly as you tie. They can also be used as a third hand to help hold things in place. But as some of the other tools listed here, they are not 100% required. So for starting off, you can probably leave these off your list unless you want to spring for them anyway. Here's a great pair here with some added flair.

Item #10: Hair Stacker: If you end up tying with deer or elk hair (caddis dry flies, terrestrials, comparaduns etc), you'll likely want to invest in this tool.

Hair stacker fly tying tools scissors getting started
The way it works is that you cut the hair from the patch, insert it, tips-first, into the stacker, pound the bottom of the stacker on a solid surface and then the tips will all align nice and even. Pictured above are two different sizes of stackers from Peak. You can pick these up from any fly shop and there are a large number of choices. Most of them work equally well, but look for something that fits the style and size you are going to use. Here's a good selection to choose from.

Ultimately, there are many more tools available than what we've discussed here, but these are the top-hitters. With the 4 "must-have's", the remaining tools on this list would be a good start to your fly tying addiction. Good luck and tight threads!

Hopper Project 2013

Project Hopper 2.0

Green and black barred legs.
As you have seen with patterns like the Rainy's Grand Hopper, Crosslink foam is a great material that can be used to sculpt a great hopper body.  It's a very dense, hard foam that is almost like fishing with balsa wood, but with more forgiveness during the tying.  I like to use an x-acto knife to cut the general shape of the fly, fine tune it with razor scissors, and finally I round off all of the harsh edges with a lighter (very little heat does the trick!!!).

Yahtzee!  Success with the Project Hopper.  It's more durable than I thought.

In the first version of this hopper I used knotted round rubber legs, but it's hard to get them to sit just right on the fly due to the angle of the knot that is tied.  I have been going over a potential leg-fix in my head for a while, and I finally got the legs laid out on a hook.  I cut the thick section out of foam, but the thin section is 20# monofilament that has been colored and barred with sharpies.  I made about a 12" section of black-barred orange and black-barred green to start off with, and yellow, blue, and red legs will be soon to follow.  The notch in the legs is made by gently heating up tweezers and bending them to shape.  The two sections of leg are welded together with super glue (mono + foam + super glue = indestructo).

I began the project with a Gamakatsu B10S #6, but it was a little too light for the fly, and it would land upside down about 40% of the time.  This hook is more heavy, and makes it land just right.

Slooper Hopper 1.0 with Gammy hook and knotted legs.

As summer nears I'm sure I'll make more modifications to this work in progress.  If any of you out in blogger-world have any input of how to improve this fella, feel free to leave a comment or two.  Also, should we do a video on this one?


Hook: Allen S402BL #8
Thread: UTC 140 Hopper Yellow
Body: Rainy's Tan Crosslink foam 6mm (cut and burned to shape)
Back Legs: Rainy's Tan Crosslink foam 2mm (cut and burned to shape) and 20# monofilament colored with markers
Wing: Rainy's Tan Crosslink foam 1mm colored with marker, and natural deer hair
Pronotum: Rainy's Tan Crosslink foam 1mm
Antannae: Rainy's Tan Round Rubber Legs (fine)
Indicator: Rainy's Orange Crosslink foam mm
Front Legs: Rainy's Natural Round Rubber Legs (Medium)

Orange and black barred legs.

Front view

Bottom view

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Gut-Bomb Revisited

This blood worm gets traction

Rainbow trout gut-bomb bloodworm

Back in January, we posted about a new pattern that we'd been messing with. Between that post and the video we did for the pattern, the response from our readers has been quite surprising. We had feedback from some fly shops where there was a run on the materials for the pattern to the point where they were running out. We had a number of emails and messages from people that had been fishing the pattern this spring and had had excellent results. (**Update: You can now buy these from our online shop**)

gut-bomb bloodworm

Needless to say, it's been a fun pattern to tie and to fish with and we've found it to be very effective. Just this past weekend, proved the point again with some fat rainbows that found it difficult to resist. As it turned out, the bigger fish of the day fell for the Gut-Bomb.

Large rainbow on a gut-bomb bloodworm
Curtis Fry and a Gut-Bomb eating fish

Fish it however you like to fish your chironomids, but a floating line with an indicator is a pretty good way to go. Suspend the fly closer to the bottom or weedbeds where the naturals would hang out. Throw in some slow twitches to impart a little action here and there.  Enjoy!!

gut-bomb bloodworm takes a large rainbow

If you want to see the original post and tutorial, click here.

(**Update: You can now buy these from our online shop**)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Peak Vise Review

Durability is its middle name

I have tied on many different vises through the years - some for the long term, and others just long enough to get a whip finish on my first fly.  I started tying on a rotary vise about 10 years ago and I'm truly addicted to the rotary feature.  Even though I don't wrap all of my materials on the fly rotary style, I struggle to tie a fly without being able to rotate the vise to see what is happening on the other side of the action.  When the peak vise came out, it intrigued me, and it looked like it had all the right moving parts to be a major player in the vise market.  

The very first thing that I recognized with the Peak vise, and their other products (see review for the Peak Hair Stackers HERE), is that they are made from the highest quality materials.  The vise is essentially all metal, and has a very simple, durable, and functional design.  I got the rotary vise with the regular jaw, the saltwater jaw, and the midge jaw.  I really place a lot of value in being able to tie on a wide range of hooks with minimum adjustment.  Even though I had to change jaws to go from a #32 to a 4/0, the change is very simple and easy to do.  The midge jaw was probably my favorite, and I tied flies from #32 (yes...  fish eat them) to about a #8 comfortably.  The standard jaw was the most versatile, and I was actually able to seat a #32 in the jaw, but the midge jaw was more functional for the micro stuff.  The regular jaw can almost handle anything, and I tied from #20 to 4/0 with no problems - just place the bigger hooks a bit further back in the jaw.  The saltwater jaw would find a place on my desk if I were tying from 1/0 and up, and tying deer hair, wool, etc.  

My favorite part of the vise was definitely the pedestal base.  The c-clamp is great, and is probably the most robust clamp you will use, but the pedestal is very well thought out.  Not only can you position the vise in different spots on the pedestal, it is heavy, and huge.  Those two H's are absolutely must haves for a pedestal bases.  When rotary tying, the vise might have the tendency to tip if the base isn't big enough.  It also has a cut-out that allows you to put hooks, beads, etc in a spot where they won't scatter.  With this stability, I can rest my fat fingers on the vise and grab onto it without fear that it will tip over.  Comfort is KEY!

There were a couple things that, in my opinion, could be a bit better.  It seemed like I needed to put a lot more pressure on the jaw when securing the hook than some cam operated jaws.  I know that vise will hold a hook with less pressure, but with less pressure the hook would slightly slide up and down.  The only other thing was that the vise didn't come with a material clip (which can be purchased separately).

My overall assessment is that this vise is probably the best vise that 1 1/2 hundred dollar bills will get you.  If I were stranded on an island with this vise, a box full of hooks, and some materials, I'd be a happy camper because I'd know that it would last until the love boat came to rescue me.  Oh yeah...  last but definitely not least, it's made in the good ol' USA!

Since I have written this review, my 10 year old daughter has commandeered this vise and will not let me tie on it anymore.  The fact that she knows that she can just throw a hook into it and not have to mess with it is a big deal.  Also, I know that she won't break it even if she gives it the typical 10 year old kid treatment!

~ Cheech

FlyFishFood  Review
Rotary VIse

Made out of very durable pieces that will last a lifetime.  The standard jaw will hold most hooks.
Best vise for ~ $150
This vise is great for the price, and is comfortable to tie on.  Made in the USA!  My only concern is that you need 3 jaws to have positive lockout for any hook.

Monday, April 22, 2013

La Bomba Bluegill Snack

simple fly for stubborn gills

La Bomba bluegill fly pattern
Not to be confused with the EXCELLENT movie La Bamba.

Stubborn gills?  Really?  It was prime spawning season, and day 2 of a 3 day bass/bluegill trip was proving to be much more difficult than the previous day.  Just 24 hours ago we were having the "lets see if it will eat THIS," contest, and the gills were coming on every cast.  Today, however, it was almost like they had their morning safety meeting with bar graphs and powerpoint presentations with information about NOT eating those bright snack looking thingies.  I went through my boxes and found something that was really simple to try to throw.  What could it hurt...  I had already gone through about every fly in my box.  The keys to this fly were a flowing tail and orange rubber legs.  I don't think it was on the "do-not-eat" list because it became the slayer for that day.  Since then, I have made some modifications to the fly, and it is now "La Bomba" because it will pump some bluegill into your hands.

~ Cheech

Recipe shown on the video...

Material List

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Hook: Daiichi 1710 - 2X Long Nymph Hook - 10     
Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 140 Denier - Fl. Green     
Tail: Bruiser Blend Junior Dubbing - Chartreuse     
Body : Cactus Chenille - Chartreuse - Medium     
Under Body: Lead Free Round Wire - .020     
Bead: Plummeting Tungsten Beads - Fl. Chartreuse - 1/8" (3.3mm)     
Wing Case: Veevus Holographic Tinsel - Chartreuse - Large     
Thorax: Bruiser Blend Junior Dubbing - Chartreuse     
Legs: Grizzly Micro Legs - Fl. Orange     
Glue: Loon UV Clear Fly Finish - Flow     

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pike's Puke

A toothy predator fly

A few years ago, I was working on a fly for meatier fish that would both push a lot of water as well as offer good movement in the water. Articulation is a no-brainer, but I wanted to get the head to act differently than the normal spun hair, brushed out dubbing or EP style stuff out there. While I originally went down the tube fly route (look for the Deflectinator in a future post), I came up with this version here.

First concern was the head made of foam, would it stand up to some sharp teeth and thrashing movements. The answer is "mostly". Coated with something solid like Clear Cure Goo both under and over the head, makes it pretty bomb-proof. The foam also gives the head a different style of movement than the tail section so it creates a bigger wiggle as it is pulled through the water.

Another bonus is you can tie the tail sections in various colors for "hot swappable" sections.

Anyway, sorta unorthodox, but it's a performer. Be looking for Pike's Puke 2.0 here in the coming weeks.

Main Hook:  Gamakatsu B10S #1/0
Stinger Hook:  Gamakatsu B10S #4
Thread:  Orange UTC Gel Spun Thread (GSP) 100 denier.
Underbody (main hook only):  .30 lead free wire
Body:  Dyed UV Polar Chenille in Olive Brown twisted with Swisher's Wiggly Hackle in Brown/Olive.  Pine squirrel crawdad orange & Strung Guinea in red (optional)
Overwing:  Dark brown zonked rabbit strip.
Head: 2mm white foam cut to shape, painted and epoxied.
Legs:  Silicone fishing skirt in brown, orange, red combo
Articulation connector:  19 strand Beadalon w/ #16 swivel and two red beads.


Enjoy! ~ Curtis

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The ChupaCamarón Shrimp

The "Shrimp Sucker"

Shrimp fly pattern bonefish flies

I live about 30 miles from some very high concentrations of saltwater shrimp. Unfortunately the shrimp are the miniscule brine shrimp and the Great Salt Lake doesn't hold any fish to speak of. Nonetheless, when I got asked to participate in a saltwater fly pattern swap a couple of years ago, I decided a good shrimp pattern would be the way to go. As I usually do, I like to refer to actual images of the bug/fish/thing I'm trying to imitate. In this case, it was a species of shrimp in the Caribbean I decided would be a good bonefish pattern. So I dug through a bunch of materials and came up with what I thought would be a good translucent and representative imitation.

Because I'm a fair jaunt from any bonefish, I had to rely on the reports from fly swappers that got a chance to fish the pattern. All reports came back very positive and I had requests to do a video. Well, I finally got around to it.

So it's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done (or so I'm told). Just be aware that the image above shows the pattern with a slightly different hook than what's shown in the video. Either hook will work, so it's up to you which you choose and what sizes you'd like to tie. The ones shown above are a lighter hook with a smaller barbell eye and would have a slower sink rate than the version in the video. Just wanted to show both versions...

Hook: Do-It Molds Wacky Jig hook #6 to #2/0 or Daiichi 1160 #8
Tail-Eyes: Barbell eyes, 3mm to 4mm (vary size depending on desired sink rate)
Thread: UTC GSP 100 Tan
Mono-Eyes: 30 to 50lb monofilament burned and colored
Hot-Spot: Fly Tyer's Dungeon Water Silk, Flr Orange
Antenna Etc: FTD Glass Web, tan. Orange Crystal Flash, MFC Barred Yellow Centipede legs, Black Crystal Flash
Body: Cream UV Chewee Skin and Cascade Crest Tools Gold Hackle Flash gold.
Tail Fan: FTD Glass Web, Tan

Monday, April 15, 2013

Foam Dragon - Bluegill Edition

Mixing a bugger with a chernobyl ant

Brown and Tan
I was in a bluegill-ish mood the other day at the vise, and like I often do, I just started throwing some materials onto hooks.  I had some marabou from Cheech Leeches, I had AZ synthetic dub from some AZ Princes, rubber legs from the Masked Marauder, and foam from the fact that there should ALWAYS be foam readily available at your desk...  I already have a lot of topwater bugs like La Ranita tied up, so I decided to tie some subsurface stuff to pick the more picky ones off their beds.  On went the marabou for the tail, and then the foam started looking at me funny.  On it went and the rest is history.

Like many flies that come off of my vise, I huck them into a bowl of water to see if they will ride like I want them to, and then on to the fishing.  This one has not yet punctured a lip, but my fishy jedi senses tell me that this one will be a killer for at least bluegill.  Trout version coming soon.

And some other colors

New updated recipe!

Material List

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Hook: Daiichi 1710 - 2X Long Nymph Hook - 10     
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier - Wood Duck     
Tail: Nature's Spirit Premium Bugger Bou - Tan     
Body 1: Arizona Mega Synthetic Dubbing - Yellow Tan     
Body 2: Fly Tying Foam - 2mm - Tan     
Body 3: Fly Tying Foam - 2mm - Brown     
Legs: Grizzly Flutter Legs - Black Barred Rootbeer