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Friday, February 28, 2014

Get a handle on your dubbing

Avoid a furry mess

Dubbing Organized into organizing containers
When it comes to dubbing, you'll see a lot of methods to both collect and contain the various fur, fuzz and fibers. I remember my first fly tying kit from High School and it included a couple of small bags of hare's ear dubbing and a synthetic dry fly dubbing in just a couple of colors. From there, my collection has increased just a tad over the past 24 years and I found it's important to keep better track of dubbing so I'm not buying the same stuff over and over again and so I can find what I need. With that said, I've broken it down into two points of focus: Collection and Containment

Right off the bat, here's a universal truth for anyone that really gets into the tying gig: You will collect far more dubbing than you can ever use (see the monstrosity above). That being said, start your collecting by remembering that if you like a certain style of dubbing, you'll more than likely want to use it in a variety of colors. Point being, when you buy a package of say Hare's Ear dubbing, get as many colors as you think you'll use in the color scheme that most closely matches the type of tying you'll be doing (i.e. trout vs steelhead vs salt water etc). The little boxes that are most common for dubbing storage are pretty cheap, so it's easy to fill one up with a given "set" of dubbing colors. Probably the best scenario for someone who wants to collect dubbing colors is a lot of dubbing can now be purchased pre-packaged in the 12 compartment boxes and it comes labeled and ready to go. Even if you don't like the container method, it still behooves you to collect your dubbing on more than a package-by-package basis.

Dubbing container labeled with colors
The 2nd and likely most troubling part of dubbing is how to effectively store and contain it all. In addition to the obscene collection above, I also have a desk drawer filled with individual baggies of dubbing that include duplicates, one-off's and home-grown stuff I never ended up using much. I like either the 12 compartment style boxes or taking bigger craft store storage containers (or tackle boxes) and drilling holes in them. I have a couple of 20 compartment boxes, with bigger compartments, that I drilled out (upper photo at the top of the photo). They're nice because I use these for longer fiber dubbings and dubbings that exceed the 12 colors on the smaller boxes. 

Regardless of how you organize the dubbing, it's a good idea to label the boxes -- especially if you've taken the dubbing out of their original containers.

And finally, if the compartment containers don't float your boat, there are a plethora of other options from storing dubbing packages in a 3-ring binder or peg board pegs, to storing dubbing in labeled film canisters to storing them in jars or other smaller clear containers. And if that's not enough, here are a couple other suggestions I've seen floating around the interwebs. Enjoy...

Photo/Idea by Jason Jones, Az by the Fly

Dubbing Tower from Oasis Benches

Monday, February 24, 2014

Double Wide Cheech Leech

The Cheech Leech Grows Up

How big is too big?  I was busy last summer testing articulated flies, and in particular, how big of a fly was too big for my local trout.  Well, long story short, I couldn't come up with anything that was too big and offensive.  I had a lot of different flies that I had been throwing at them, but the fly that was the most productive was a larger version of the Cheech Leech that I started calling the Double Wide Cheech Leech.

The funny thing is that many of the fish that we were catching on this bug were no bigger than the fish that were eating the normal Cheech Leech.  I think their strikes were a predatory response to something encroaching on their territory.

This fly really swims well and moves like crazy due to the huge amount of marabou that is used.  This bug is definitely more comfortable to throw with a 6 or 7 weight rod...

~ Cheech

And the video:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Swinging Midge Style: The Opal Swinger

Swing High, Swing Low...

Add caption
It was a few years ago that I was fishing a decent midge hatch and happened to realize that, in a given stretch of river, the fish would end up keying a bit more on my pupa dropper pattern as it completed its drag-free drift and began to swing in the current. After a few solid hits and a couple of fish to hand, I decided it was time to go "all in" and I tied on a Syl's Midge and started swinging. Not surprisingly, we had a great hour or two catching fish after fish on the swing.

Since then, I've had a few great midge swinging outings and I've dialed in a few more patterns that work well on the swing. This flashy pupa soft hackle is one of those. I tie it in a variety of sizes from as small as a #22 up to a #14. By using a high quality hen cape, like the Whiting one pictured here, you can get the supple soft hackle style feathers in some very small sizes. And as with other midge pupa patterns, the flashy body imitates the midges as they pupate and emerge. Great combination.

Whiting Hen Cape showing smaller sizes

The Opal Swinger

Hook: Allen N205BL #16 (Buy Here)
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier, Black
Body: UTC Mirage Tinsel, Opal, Med
Ribbing: Dark Green Sulky Holoshimmer
Hackle. Whiting Hen Cape, Dark Barred Ginger
Head: Thread with Clear Cure Goo Hydro

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


An effective "one material" fly.


When I fish lakes, I really like to have something in my box that is different from the typical brown, black, and olive wooly buggers that are commonly sold at shops.  When I got my first pelt of Whiting Soft Hackle with Chick-a-bou, I immediately started thinking of stillwater applications for it.  I wanted to tie something that was super simple and very effective, so I think you will see this in the Chick-a-Bugger.  This can be modified in size and color to fish like a leech, damsel, or even a small minnow.  All I know, is that there are a ton of moving parts that the fish love.

Material List:

Hook: Allen S402 #10  -- Buy here --
Thread: UTC 70 Chartreuse or Olive  -- Buy Here --
Tail/Body: Chick-a-bou
Collar: Soft hackle from Chick-a-bou pelt.  -- Buy Here --

Also, here are some other useful soft hackle links.
The Importance of Good Soft Hackle.
UV Fly Tying: Soft Hackle Drake
Soft Hackle Stonefly

~ Cheech

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fly Hack: The Quicker Picker Upper

The Lazy way to pick up hooks

telescopic magnet hook retrieval
Telescopic Magnet
This is a quick and easy addition to our "Fly Hack" series. As is often the case when I'm coolly but slyly cruising through the local craft stores, I found this little gem in some miscellaneous section of the store and immediately had visions of recovering hoards of lost hooks that had gone under my tying table in and amongst all the stuff I can't reach (very easily) down there.

I think it cost something like 4 bucks and the magnet is actually strong enough to pick up a lot of hooks at once and even some bigger metallic junk, if you're so inclined.

The nice thing about this tool is that it's telescopic, so you don't have to get down on all fours to search for your dropped hooks. Just extend it out, sit there comfortably in your chair and run a sweeping search grid across your floor until you hear the tell-tale "click" of the hook being picked up.

So next time you're at the local craft or hardware store, be on the lookout for this little gem and say goodbye to "hooky" socks once and for all.

telescopic magnet hook retrieval
Lost Hook Retrieval 2.0

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dyna-King Barracuda vise review

A vise built for generations

Dyna-King Barracuda

When it comes to quality vises, I think it's very clear that Dyna King is almost in a league of it's own in regards to craftsmanship and durability.  When you buy a Dyna-King vise, you are really buying the vise that your grandkids will use.  Dyna-King is a family run company that has been producing vises for over 30 years, and continually seems to get better.  One of the things that impresses me the most about Dyna-King is that they use the same high quality jaw in all of their vises.  In my opinion, the jaw should be the focal point of a vise - nothing else really matters if the jaw isn't a hook holding workhorse.  Not only is the bone crushing jaw the focal point of the barracuda, it's the focal point of all of their vises.  After spending about the last month and a half religiously tying on the Barracuda, I think I have a pretty good idea of how this vise performs.

The Jaw:
  • So I'll jump right to the best part of this vise.  The jaw holds essentially everything that you can throw at it.  When I review vises, I always like to tie something in the range of #30 all the way up to 5/0 to get a picture of how versatile the jaws are.  The Barracuda held solid on a #30 bunny midge, even though such a tiny hook looked out of place in such a rigid jaw.  The key is to not over-tighten the jaw, because it will smash small hooks.  I'll talk about the sweet spot a little bit later.  There is a midge jaw that allows for a bit more operating room around small hooks, but after a short while, I got used to tying the micro stuff on the normal jaw.  For flies in the #20 to #12 range, normal jaw is perfect.  For large flies, there are two notches that allow you to seat the hook with the most solid hold that you will find in any vise.  In all, the jaw is nice... really nice.
The Sweet Spot:
Proper hook positioning
  • The Dyna-King's jaws are kind of like a fine hot beverage (my preference is Yerba Mate).  If you try to drink it while it's too hot, it will burn you, and if you wait until it's too cold, it's not very tasty.  Like my yerba mate, the Dyna-King has a sweet spot that I found to be very important for tying flies in the #12 to #8 range.  This range of hooks is still barely too small to fit in the notches, but big enough that proper tension can take more time to find with the forcing cone.  If you over tighten the jaw you will either smash the hook, or damage the jaw.  If the jaw is too loose, it simply won't hold the hook properly.  The sweet spot is a perfect amount of pressure that will firmly hold your hook using a minimal amount of pressure.  Here are a few pointers to find the sweet spot.
    1. Make sure the hook is placed so the point of the hook is extruding from the jaw right about in the middle of the front of the jaw. (see picture)
    2. Loosen the jaw slightly, and place the hook in the vise.  The hook should slightly slip with downward pressure.  
    3. Take the hook out of the vise, and make tiny adjustments, and repeatedly clamp the jaw until the hook doesn't slip very easily.
    4. You will realize that it takes surprisingly little pressure to hold your hooks nice and snug.  The worst thing you can do with a Dyna-King is crank the jaw super tight hoping to get a tight hold on the hook.  This will cause damage to your vise and cause it to lose holding power.
    5. Over time, you will know how to adjust the vise very quickly, but it can take some practice.

The Rotary Function:
  • With most of the rotary vises that I have tested, the rotary function had to be adjusted and tweaked until it fit my style.  The Dyna King came ready to rock-n-roll right out of the box, and I was able to truly plug-and-play with this vise.  I did find that the rotary tensioning knob would back out as I tied, and If this were my every-day vise, I would just add a bit of lock-tite on the threads to get it to stick where I like it.  The jaw can also be lowered and raised to ensure 100% true rotary (if you are in to that type of thing).  The consensus on the rotary feature is that it is smooth right out of the box, and very low maintenance.
Overall Workmanship:
  • You will be hard pressed to find a vise that is as well made as a Dyna-King.  I think this is what sets them apart int he fly tying arena, and it's also what justifies their prices.  As I said in the heading of this article, this vise is made to last for generations.  Everything on this vise is made from top quality materials from the base, to the accessories, to the vise itself.  I like that they put oversized knobs on the vise to ensure easy adjustment and the ability to crank down on them if you need to (especially on the pedestal).
Overall, This is an excellent piece of workmanship, and would be a good choice for anyone looking for a vise to last forever.  My only criticisms are with the material clip and seating size 8 and 10 flies.  The material clip seems to be too far back, and can be hard to get to if you are tying smaller flies.  I guess I'm too used to the adjustable material clip on the Griffin Montana Mongoose that allows me to move it forward and back on the fly  In regards to tying size 8 and 10 flies, it really just depends on the diameter on the hook wire, but the sweet spot can be a bit harder to find in that size range.  That being said, you won't have any slippage unless maybe you tie some deer hair stuff.  

Kudos to Dyna-King for creating a lineup of really excellent vises! 

~ Cheech 

See the Barracuda in action:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Quill Gordon

And a new hackle brand

As we do from time to time, we like to try as many materials, tools, vises and anything else out there that we can work into our fly tying repertoire (fancy word for "crap we do"). Anyway, I had seen some good things said about Clearwater Hackle and decided to try them out. We'll probably work up a more in-depth review on their hackle in general later on, but this was one of the first patterns I churned out of the vise. 

As you can see on their website, they offer some really nice colors in a variety of capes, saddles and soft hackle pelts. Additionally, Cleawater's tag line is "Quality Hackle at an Affordable Price", so you can hopefully snag some good values on their products. 

Quill Gordon Dry Fly
The hackle on the fly here was from a Light Barred Ginger Cape #2. It's a great hackle color to begin with and it really screamed Quill Gordon to me.

I had some pretty sweet quills from a recent midge session and a really awesome set of Lemon Wood Duck fibers from Hareline, so it worked out. Plus, the Allen D102BL hook is a great choice for classic dry flies like this. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Yong Special

A Legendary Midge Pattern

In certain circles, it is rumored that anciently there was a fly pattern that possessed such magical fish-catching mojo that no fish could resist its siren-esque call. A fly with material so secretive that it was said there existed only one source of it hidden high in the Andes of Patagonia on the testicles of a golden Guanaco. A fly pattern so powerful that any angler who should possess it was assured of 100 fish days and to whom women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.

100 fish days?! Nonsense, you say? Well, kidding aside, the Yong Special was a very highly hyped, highly effective and subsequently highly controversial pattern originated by Andy Kim, a popular guide on the San Juan River in New Mexico.

I know there's been a lot said, both good and bad, about Andy and his patterns but my experience comes first-hand from a few times I ran into him on the water. The first time I came across the famous "Yong", I was fishing the Green River in Utah about 20 years ago. As we meandered down the riverside trail back to our vehicle, I see this very animated guy landing a fish yelling "Another one on the Yong Special!!" (or something along those lines). We stood and watched as this fellow pulled fish after fish out of a very highly pressured stretch of water. His cohort, dressed in a long camouflage overcoat of some sort and who we later found out was aptly nick-named "Camo Man Jerry", would help him land the fish. We couldn't help but want to see this "Yong Special". Lucky for us, the next fish landed pushed upstream a ways and the Camo guy was nice enough to show us the pattern as he landed the fish.

It took a few days to track down some people who knew what the pattern was and we ended up trying to duplicate it with mixed success. We ran into Andy and his buddy a couple more times over the years there on the Green and eventually learned the "secret" of the pattern (although to this day you'll find some people that claim the "secret" still isn't published). Either way, the general consensus is that the thread is a sewing thread from Coats and Clark called "Summer Brown". I've tied enough of these over the years to say that it's pretty dang close, if not the same material and anyway, I don't think the fish will tell.

Long story short, this is a great little midge pattern, super-easy to tie and you'll enjoy the women of Capistrano to boot. Just be careful as you harvest from the Guanaco.

Yong Special

Hook: Daiichi 1110 #18 - #26 (I use a #22 in this video and the original pattern calls for a 1100, but I like the straight eye)
Thread: Coats and Clark Summer Brown, UNI 8/0 Black
Coated with Clear Cure Goo Hydro

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tie a Killer Hare's Ear

Subtle changes to make your pattern stand out.

Kicked-up Hare's Ear Pattern

As I was preparing this article, I realized that I literally changed all of the materials that are used for the classic Hare's Ear.  Guard hairs for the tail, adios.  Dubbing from the hare's mask, gone...  etc.  It's been a few years since I have been tying flies with Arizona Synthetic and Mega Synthetic dubbing (not to be confused with Arizona Simi Seal), and they have become a major staple on my desk.  It has that perfect blend of bugginess and shine that I really like when I'm tying subsurface flies.  Aside from the dubbing, I'm also using Whiting Coq de Leon hen fibers for the tail and legs, and thin skin for the wing-case.  I like to have a lot of these in my box because they are a quick tie, and are very effective.  I usually have them in sizes 10 to 16 in a variety of colors.  

Material List

Add to Cart   View in store

Hook: Daiichi 1560 - Traditional Nymph Hook - 12     
Bead: Plummeting Tungsten Beads - Copper - 1/8" (3.3mm)     
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier - Gray Brown     
Tail & Legs: Coq De Leon Hen Saddle - Speckled Copper Olive     
Abdomen: Arizona Mega Synthetic Dubbing - Hare's Ear     
Thorax: Arizona Mega Synthetic Dubbing - Dark Hare's Ear     
Rib: UTC Ultra Wire - Amber - Small     
Flashback (wing case): Mirage Tinsel - Opal - Medium     
Wing Case: Thin Skin - Gator, Brown/Black     
Wing Case Coat: Loon Fluorescing UV Clear Fly Finish     

Other tools from the tutorial:
Loon UV Power Light     
Stonfo Comb/Brush Tool     

Hope you enjoy this one

~ Cheech

Here's the video tutorial.