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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Landing Fish - A Tale of Heroism and Tippet Size

Yeah... fought him for like 30 minutes.


Curtis battling a beast rainbow trout

Jay and I were on the way to the river with a more accomplished angler than we were.  We had been fishing for two whole years now and it was paying off because we could readily catch fish on our home river.  We got out of the car and started rigging up our heavy nymph rigs with appropriate bobbers when the more experienced fella sees us and exclaims "It's Summer time you guys!"  "Throw dry flies!" We were ridiculed for wanting to nymph and for fishing anything but 6x tippet.  I had never really thrown anything less than 4x, but I guess I needed to get to my local shop to get some lighter cable.  I was sure that I was going to break off on 6x, but hey - that's what the cool kids were using.

This was the first time that I started paying attention to tippet sizes because now I had a complex about it.  Would lighter tippet really help me catch more fish?  Would I be able to land fish on this lighter tippet?  Will lighter tippet help me make friends and influence people?  I was intrigued. This is also about the same time that I started to pay attention to comments like, "Yeah, all I use is 7x and a 3 weight." "I like to really feel the fish that I catch."   A few months later I was wading up the river and there was a middle aged gentleman hooting and hollering like he had just caught a Rattlebass.  He was looking around to make sure everyone saw that he had a fish on, and he took his sweet time landing it too.  A few dramatic false runs of the fish, and the hurried footwork of a guy landing what was sure to be the next world record led me to believe that this guy was on the river to put on a show!  I watched.  I was entertained.  After he netted and unhooked his 13" trophy, he held it up so all could see and then went right back to fishing.  I had met a hero folks.  But - that hero likely killed that fish.

Land your fish people!!! I'm writing this because there really is no point in using lighter tippet than necessary, and there surely isn't any reason to fight a fish longer than you need to.  Here are a few things that might help you save the life of a fish.


  • Use the largest tippet you can get away with.  One of my fishing mentors, Mickey Anderson
    3x cable strapped to this hopper
    uses 4x tippet for most of his trout fishing.  It's plenty strong to make a quick fight and release the fish before it's too worn out and full of lactic acid.  I'll Euro nymph a lot with 2 or 3x tippet, but there are also times that I need to drop down to a lighter tipper in order to get proper drift with smaller flies.  6x is the smallest I have on my tippet system, and I really only use it when I'm fishing very small dry flies.
  •  Use a net.  Yes, I get it that nets are made for sissies, but if you hook even a 16" fish that is full of red bull n' skittles, he won't be keen to lay down and relax while you get the hook out.  Instead of tiring out the fish until he plays nice, get a good net with a rubber bag so you can capture him while he still has some spunk.  That spunk will be needed to recover from the fight.  
  • Like Johnny in Karate Kid, "FINISH HIM."  Get your fish to the net as quickly as the situation allows.  I get it - if you catch a huge fish on a dry fly and light tippet it might take you more time to seal the deal, but in most cases you should be able to quickly fight your fish so you can let them go.  The longer you fight your fish, the faster you should focus on getting your fish back to freedom.
  • Keep them wet as much as possible.  I have no problem with a good fish picture, but you
    A sissy net and a beastly brookie
    should really try to only lift the fish out of the water for a few seconds at a time.  Curtis and I have a system - I'm the hand model, and he's the photographer (It's not because of his mad skills with the camera.  I just have very good looking hands.) He has the camera dialed in to the settings we need to use for the current lighting so he can take out the camera and take a few shots in a matter of seconds.  Remember that the fish is more important than your picture...

To sum it up...  Don't fight a fish longer than you have to just to prove a point.  Rope those suckers with cable, give them a proper fight, and then turn them loose. Unless you are catching your fish to eat them.  If so, ignore all of the above.

~ Cheech


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Dubbing Emerger: Crazy Good Mayfly pattern

Ridiculously Easy

mayfly emerger nymph
Dubbing Emerger - Blue Winged Olive Version

When I worked in a fly shop during college 20 plus years ago, I was enamored with the fancily tied Barr Emerger patterns that we seemed to sell hundreds of. They were (and are) such a fine buggy pattern that I found myself tying a lot of them. However, as I began to use them in my personal as well as my guide stash, I found them far too labor intensive to be used as a high-volume "guide" fly.

So began the process of peeling off features to see how well the stripped down "easy" versions would do. First gone were the legs, followed by the wing case and finally the tail. In none of those versions did the effectiveness of the pattern experience any fall-off. None. In fact, that little pattern was so effective during a float with a couple of guide buddies down the Green River (Utah) that by the time we made it back to the lodge and fly shop, my friend and shop owner Denny Breer (RIP) came out and asked me to show him this "magic" fly. And for the next number of years, this fly was pretty much my go-to mayfly nymph and emerger and I kept calling it a bead-head Barr emerger. That is until a day a few years years ago fishing with Cheech when he asked what fly I was using to work magic on some Green River browns. I told him it was a bead-head Barr emerger, he took one look and said that's not even remotely close to a BHBE. He suggested something that simple needs a simple name -- and he dubbed it the "Dubbing Emerger". The name stuck and it has and always will be on the varsity team.

The beauty of this pattern is really in its simplicity. Now for those of you who see our other "fancy" patterns that are much more complex, we're not saying that level of pattern is a waste -- we still tie complex stuff and always will, so it's not always about how simple or fancy a fly can be. And even though we're not intent on simplifying all patterns down to one or two materials, it's still important to have a few guide patterns up your sleeve. You can tie them by the hundreds and the fish eat 'em up like Cheech downs cotton candy from the gas station.

So here's the deal. It's basically hook, bead, thread and dubbing. That's it. You can use one color of dubbing if you'd like, but I normally go with two colors of contrasting shades -- especially for emerger situations. When I'm fishing to imitate smaller flies, obviously downsize the hook and I usually go one size down to begin with. So let's say you have a size #18 natural mayfly, I'll tie it in a #20. I also use as small a bead as I can on the hook -- especially when using this as a dropper.

Speaking of using as a dropper, that's the most common way I'll fish this. Pair it with your go-to mayfly adult pattern and drop this. Even during the height of a hatch, you'll still catch a good 50% or more of your fish on this little guy. Beyond the dropper method, it's a killer nymph as well.

Material List

Hook: Partridge Fine Czech Nymph #18  (BUY HERE) (smaller go with Daiichi 1130)
Bead: 2.0 to 2.4mm Tungsten, Gold  (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC Premium, 6/0, Brown  (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit Fine Natural Dubbing, BWO  (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit Fine Natural Dubbing, Gray Olive (BUY HERE)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Egan's GTI Caddis

Another Winner From Lance

Egan's GTI Caddis
A couple of years ago, Cheech and I were fishing a back woods river with some fairly finicky Brown Trout. This day it seemed the fish were neither interested in dry flies nor streamers, so I ended up switching over to a tight line or Euro style nymphing method.  I went through a few patterns with not much luck and Cheech tossed me a caddis pattern to try out. My first cast into the next hole brought up a nice fish. A few casts later and I was tight into another. When all was said and done, this little pattern had turned my day around. It wasn't until a few days later when I wanted to tie a few of my own that I really paid attention to what he said the pattern was. Turns out I wasn't surprised when I found out this was another killer Lance Egan pattern.

For those who don't know Lance, he's a super fishy dude that has some secret pact with the devil in exchange for wooing fish into his control and subsequently his net. Besides being a successful competition fisherman (Team USA etc), he's a great fly tyer to boot as well as a friend of ours, so I made sure he was cool with running the pattern here. Now, I'll be honest, I've since come up with some variations, including some whacky dubbing substitutions, but I wanted to stay as true to Lance's real-deal version on this, so you're getting about as close as I can come to that. The only exception here would be my use of a Partridge Czech nymph as opposed to Lance's standard Hanak 300 series Czech nymph hook. Beyond that, this is true to Lance's intended design.

I tie them in this color scheme here as well as a darker olive, brown, neon green and a cinnamon body too. The fish pictured here took the cinnamon toned version.
GTI Caddis Brown Trout
Brown trout on a GTI Caddis

 You can vary the bead and lead-free wire to make it sink faster or slower. I also go with a slimmer version and smaller bead and hook so I can drop it behind dry flies as well. Otherwise, most any nymphing rig will treat this fly well.

So we'll throw out a couple of similar versions, with Lance's listed first. His version is also the one featured in the video tutorial shown below.

Material List:

Hook: Hanak 300 #10 - #16 (I used a Partridge Czech Nymph hook in #10)  (BUY HERE)
Thread; UTC 70 Denier, Olive  (BUY HERE)
Bead: 3.3 mm Tungsten, Gold   (BUY HERE)
Weight: .015" Lead Free Wire   (BUY HERE)
Tail: Peacock Herl   (BUY HERE)
Rib #1: Krystal Flash, Olive   (BUY HERE)
Rib #2: 5X Tippet mono-filament material
Abdomen: Hare-Tron Dubbin, Olive  (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Az Synthetic Dubbing, Peacock  (BUY HERE)
Back: Scud Back, 1/8", Summer Duck  (BUY HERE)


Cinnamon Variation (pictured in mouth above):

Hook: Hanak 300 #10 - #16 (I used a Partridge Czech Nymph hook in #10)  (BUY HERE)
ThreadUTC 70 Denier, Rusty Brown (BUY HERE)
Bead3.3 mm Tungsten, Gold   (BUY HERE)
Weight.015" Lead Free Wire   (BUY HERE)
TailPeacock Herl   (BUY HERE)
Rib #1Krystal Flash, Bonefish Pink   (BUY HERE)
Rib #2: 5X Tippet mono-filament material
AbdomenHare-Tron Dubbin, Cinnamon Caddis  (BUY HERE)
ThoraxAz Synthetic Dubbing, Pheasant Tail  (BUY HERE)
BackScud Back, 1/8", Summer Duck  (BUY HERE)


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tie a Better Elk Hair Caddis

Add some durability to a trout super fly


Several years ago I came down with a serious illness called night fishing with caddisflies.  This type of illness will consume all that you do, and your thoughts will constantly be directed toward those low-light audible gulps where you think you can see your fly, but you aren't quite sure. The huge sound of a brown trout bowling ball slamming the surface for a caddisfly is one that is not soon forgotten.

OK, enough reminiscing about that...  Elk Hair Caddis (EHC) patterns have been a staple in the industry ever since Al Troth graced us with it's presence.  It is an excellent skating pattern and has a lifelike tent shaped silhouette on the water.  It floats high, it's durable, and it catches fish so everyone should have them in their boxes right? Right.  I think everyone remembers their first EHC - the body and hackle go off without a hitch... but here comes that blasted wing that NEVER stays on top of the hook shank.  Do you pre-cut the wing before tie in? Do you cut it after the tie in?  How do you tie it so the wing doesn't pull out of the tie in spot when you fish it?  Perhaps I'm creating a mountain out of a mole hill, But this fly can be outright frustrating.  We are aiming to fix some of those issues because this fly can be a fly that you should be able to tie in your sleep.  It's very very simple.

As you watch this video look out for two things.  First - a technique to make your body hackle bomb proof*.  Second - a technique to proportion the wing and tie it in so it is also bomb proof*.

The thread that I'm using is a thread that many people in Utah will know well.  A good friend and mentor of mine, Boyd Guymon, is the guy who hand spools this thread for me, so we decided to bring some in to the store.  It's a thin monofilament thread that has some very cool applications in tying.  Boyd is one of the top 10% of nice people in this world, and he has been very generous over the years sharing information and fly patterns with me.  I'm very fortunate to be able to consider him a close friend.

~ Cheech

*These are not actually "bomb" proof...  It is simply a play on words to indicate that it is "durable." For the more literal thinkers out there ;)


Recipe
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #12 - #18 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Boyd's mono thread (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Dark barred ginger or coachman brown (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit select cow elk - Natural (BUY HERE)

Low Light Recipe
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #12 - #18 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Boyd's mono thread (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Muskrat Gray (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Grizzly (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit select cow elk - Black (BUY HERE)



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Introduction to Nature's Spirit Materials

The best materials you didn't know existed.

Nature's Spirit X-Caddis Hair
I'm a self-admitted sicko when it comes to collecting materials for tying flies. I have more materials than I know what to do with and I'm always looking for more, so I feel I have a good handle on the brands and vendors out there. So imagine my surprise, if we flash back a number of years ago, Cheech suggested I try out materials from a "new" company, Nature's Spirit, I'd never heard of, that specializes in natural materials. So I trucked on down to a local fly shop and bought a few packs of dubbing and some biots to try out. Not only did they have a great selection and quality of biots, but the dubbings I got matched in color almost perfectly. 

Then there's the deer and elk hair. Until I tied with a patch of Nature's Spirit comparadun hair, I didn't realize how crappy the hair was that I was using previously. It was that good. And I'm not joking here, but my EHC's, comparaduns and any other hair pattern dries immediately got an upgrade. I literally tossed all my previously tied patterns for ones I tied with the "new" hair. If you need to know how to tell the good from the bad in selecting hair, Cheech explains it nicely in an article we did a while back.



Speaking of Cheech, here's his take related to his experience with Nature's Spirit:

"I was first introduced to Nature's Spirit products when I was tying a bunch of foam stimulators for people.  Their Elk hair had nice and short black tips and it flared just the right amount that allowed me to tie dozens of stimulators for people without experiencing a bad hair day.  I tried their biots next - they weren't brittle, and there was very little unusable material in the package.  My only complaint is that we now have a warehouse full of the stuff, and I need to pace myself when I take it home with me.  Again, it's a huge challenge when dealing with natural materials because all beasts of the field are different.  I'm glad they take the time to go seek out the best stuff to sell."


So how is it that their materials are so good? These guys hunt down the best of the best when it comes to deer, elk and moose (and duck and geese and pheasants and...). They literally shut down operations in the fall and go on the hunt for the highest quality materials from their various material sources, choosing only the best quality tying materials they can find. And from there, the materials are inspected, sorted and, where needed, dyed to exacting standards.

So why is that I'd not heard of them and why are so many people today mostly unaware of their existence? The answer is simple: Nature's Spirit is a small family run business with very selective tastes in materials and doesn't believe in mass-distribution and commodization of their products. In other words, I doubt you'll ever find their products in big-box sporting goods stores.

Related to that, my only beef (until now) is that it's relatively tough to find their products. I'd tried a
Hard-to-find Snowshoe rabbit feet
few local shops (not much selection) and online vendors, but had mixed results and their web stores that didn't inspire confidence. Plus they had hardly any photos to show me what I was buying. So when we started our little Fly Fish Food venture a couple of years back, we had Nature's Spirit on the radar. But we wanted to to it right from the get-go. And now after a lot of work to make sure we brought them in with the right product mix and a relatively complete product offering, we're proud to say we've got the Holy Grail of natural fly tying materials. Plus, we took it a step further and made sure that we took decent product photos and created a complete color chart or color-specific photos for each product line (where applicable). Because their products are all dyed by a color ninja, we've seen that there is a very strong color correlation across different product lines. So if you get a pack of CDC that's "Baetis" colored, you can bet that the Fine dry fly dubbing in "Baetis" will be a spot-on match.

Anyway, look to see more products in the future and look to have these tasty morsels featured in many a tutorial to come!

Check them out here: Deer, Elk, Moose and Calf Hair  --  Feathers  -- Dubbings

Monday, April 13, 2015

Purple Haze

Purple is the new gray




The Parachute Adams is arguable the most effective dry fly on the planet.  It can be used as a larger attractor/terrestrial pattern in larger sizes all the way down to mayflies and midges.  Yes.  It catches fish, but why let it go down as perhaps the most effective dry fly on the planet?  Andy Carlson decided to morph the Parachute Adams into a very productive trout fly by simply changing the body color to purple.  We know that the Purple Haze really isn't anything new in the trout world, but we wanted to show a slightly modified biot version, and we also wanted to show some super secret ninja tips on tying off the parachute and blending the tail fibers together.  After tying this bug I couldn't keep from wondering how this bug would fish in other crazy colors like chartreuse, red, orange, and yellow.  Time to hit the vise.

~ Cheech

Learn about biots HERE.

Recipe
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #10 - #18 (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC 8/0 - Gray or purple (BUY HERE)
Tail: Hackle fibers - Grizzly and coachman brown (BUY HERE)
Body: Turkey biot - Purple  (Hareline biots are bright, and Nature's Spirit are darker)
Parachute post: Hareline para-post material - white (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Ice dub - UV purple (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting Grizzly and coachman brown (BUY HERE)

Tools and other items used:
Curtis' Cat fibers - not for sale.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

El Crawcito

A Craw with some junk in the trunk




"Hey...  You want to borrow this stuff for a while?"  Little did Bryan Gregson know that he was rekindling some very bassy spirits that lived deep within my soul.  I gladly accepted the Shimano Curado (the green one...  the GOOD one) and 6'6" baitcasting rod as items that would be on loan for the next 5 years.  See, when I first really started getting into fishing I had one of those donut shaped float tubes that would take me where the bass lived.  I was in heaven.  Casting a bright shiny spinnerbait along the reeds while getting eaten by mosquitoes was my preferred way to spend a day.  After Gregson lent me the baitcaster nearly 8 years after I sold all of my conventional gear, it was a 100% relapse even though I developed into a somewhat decent fly tyer and fisher...  Something about sticking a pig largemouth on a Texas rigged lizard through 3 feet of pure salad made me forget about fishing mayfly hatches on the river.  Ever since that time I have spent roughly 50% of my time pursuing Bassish creatures with the heathen gear.  I loved it then, and I love it now (one of these times you should see the jigs that I make... )

I have preached this before, but fishing with conventional gear made me a better fisherman and a much better fly tyer.  I learned stuff about how fish eat and how to present flies to bass that I would never have dared with a fly.  I also learned that there are things that you can do with a lure that are just plain impossible with a fly.  We can get close...  but flies have limits.  Limits in sight, I wanted to create a good craw imitation that would ride similar to a weeldess jig with a plastic trailer (some might call it a jig n' pig, but there is no pork on this rig). The keys to a good jig are that they fall into place properly (varied weight for different circumstances) and that when they sit still, the legs flare out, and the claws are up in a defensive position.  Easy right??  Not really.  It took many prototypes to finally dial this to where it is, and it will probably go through several more alterations.  What I came up with though is a pretty meaty little bug that rides just how I imagined it should.  It also has a dual weighting system that can be tinkered with to tie flies all the way from a slow falling finesse craw to a fast falling mill stone.  It can also be modified in all types of weedless variations.

The El Sculpito has been one of our best fly patterns, so I stole its chassis and built a more fancy bug on it.  I wanted a bug that had a lot of rabbit, a lot of silicon legs, and a lot of attitude.  Check out the video to see that this bug isn't necessarily a difficult bug to tie, and you will likely tie several in a row, so grab your favorite cold beverage, crank up some good tunes, and glue your butt to your tying station.   (video is under the recipes.)

~ Cheech

Recipes

Orange
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S 1-1/0 (BUY), Partridge Attitude 1-1/0 (BUY), or Allen B200 6-4 (BUY)
Thread: Veevus 10/0 - Hot Orange (BUY HERE)
Barbell eyes: Shiny lead barbell eyes - Large (BUY HERE)
Weighting system: 3x 3.8mm beads or 2x 4.6mm beads (BUY) and articulation wire (BUY)
Antennae 1: Buggy nymph legs - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Antennae 2: Senyo's barred predator wrap - UV (BUY HERE)
Claws: Spirit River UV2 dos jailed rabbit - Sculpin (BUY HERE)
Eyes Option 1: 40 pound mono and Loon Thick (BUY), Thin (BUY), Flow (BUY) and Powder - earth tones (BUY)
Eyes Option 2: Epoxy mono eyes - Black (BUY HERE)
Body 1: Palmer Chenille - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Body 2: Arizona simi seal - Crawdad (BUY HERE)
Legs: Silicon streamer legs - Speckled pumpkin (BUY HERE)
Weed Guard: 25 to 40 pound mono


Olive
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S 1-1/0 (BUY), Partridge Attitude 1-1/0 (BUY), or Allen B200 6-4 (BUY)
Thread: Veevus 10/0 - Olive (BUY HERE)
Barbell eyes: Shiny lead barbell eyes - Large (BUY HERE)
Weighting system: 3x 3.8mm beads or 2x 4.6mm beads (BUY) and articulation wire (BUY)
Antennae 1: Buggy nymph legs - Olive (BUY HERE)
Antennae 2: Senyo's barred predator wrap - UV (BUY HERE)
Claws: Black barred rabbit strips - Olive variant (BUY HERE)
Eyes Option 1: 40 pound mono and Loon Thick (BUY), Thin (BUY), Flow (BUY) and Powder - earth tones (BUY)
Eyes Option 2: Epoxy mono eyes - Black (BUY HERE)
Body 1: Palmer Chenille - Olive (BUY HERE)
Body 2: Arizona simi seal - Dark olive (BUY HERE)
Legs: Silicon streamer legs - Froggy green (BUY HERE)
Weed Guard: 25 to 40 pound mono

Small Orange
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S 4-2 (BUY), Partridge Attitude 4-2 (BUY), or Allen B200 10-8 (BUY)
Thread: Veevus 10/0 - Hot Orange (BUY HERE)
Barbell eyes: Shiny lead barbell eyes - Medium (BUY HERE)
Weighting system: 3x 3.8mm beads or 2x 4.6mm beads (BUY) and articulation wire (BUY)
Antennae 1: Buggy nymph legs - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Antennae 2: Senyo's barred predator wrap - UV (BUY HERE)
Claws: Micro pulsator strips - Black barred crawfish orange (BUY HERE)
Eyes Option 1: 40 pound mono and Loon Thick (BUY), Thin (BUY), Flow (BUY) and Powder - earth tones (BUY)
Eyes Option 2: Epoxy mono eyes - Black (BUY HERE)
Body 1: Palmer Chenille - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Body 2: Arizona simi seal - Crawdad (BUY HERE)
Legs: Buggy nymph legs - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Weed Guard: 25 to 40 pound mono


Small Olive
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S 4-2 (BUY), Partridge Attitude 4-2 (BUY), or Allen B200 10-8 (BUY)
Thread: Veevus 10/0 - Olive (BUY HERE)
Barbell eyes: Shiny lead barbell eyes - Medium (BUY HERE)
Weighting system: 3x 3.8mm beads or 2x 4.6mm beads (BUY) and articulation wire (BUY)
Antennae 1: Buggy nymph legs - Olive (BUY HERE)
Antennae 2: Senyo's barred predator wrap - UV (BUY HERE)
Claws: Micro pulsator strips - Black barred olive variant (BUY HERE)
Eyes Option 1: 40 pound mono and Loon Thick (BUY), Thin (BUY), Flow (BUY) and Powder - earth tones (BUY)
Eyes Option 2: Epoxy mono eyes - Black (BUY HERE)
Body 1: Palmer Chenille - Olive (BUY HERE)
Body 2: Arizona simi seal - Dark Olive (BUY HERE)
Legs: Buggy nymph legs - Olive (BUY HERE)
Weed Guard: 25 to 40 pound mono


Tools Used:
Stonfo Regular Bobbin (BUY HERE)
Stonfo Elite Rotodubbing Twister (BUY HERE)
Rising Big Nippa (Coming Soon)
Rising Tactical De-Barb (Coming soon)

Monday, April 6, 2015

I Sucked at Tying Flies: 5 Ways to not be me

Take your game up a notch

Copper John, clean and purdy
The other day while tying at a fly fishing & tying expo, we had a few people stop by our booth and mention how much they admired the flies we had sitting on display and would sometimes add a self-deprecating comment as to their fly tying skill level. I usually try to explain I'm really not a great fly tyer, I just fake it. But seriously, it's not really far from the truth and here's what I mean....

The first fly I tied was back in high school in the 80's. I didn't really get "into it" until a few years later when I got my first kit. My first flies were ants and mosquitoes for the high country of north eastern Oregon. I caught a lot of fish on those flies. And they were as ugly as sin. I still caught lots of fish.

So all tolled I've been at this game of fly tying for near on 25 years. But looking back now, I'd say I spent a good half of that time tying super-crappy flies. It wasn't until I saw my future cohort-in-crime, Cheech, tying at a fly shop demo (he'd only been at it for a couple of years) that I said "holy crap, I need to pay more attention to what I'm doing" as his flies were impeccably tied and super well-proportioned. I literally went home that night and started to pay more attention. I chucked out a bunch of flies and buckled down to tie better looking patterns. Once I really started to look at what I was doing, critiquing myself and focusing on what I was doing, I found I dialed in the quality a lot more consistently.

Now, at the end of the day, my crappy flies still caught lots of fish, so I'm not proposing this will make or break your fishing success, but let's face it -- most of us would like to tie flies to be proud of. If you still don't care about that, go ahead and navigate on over to Netflix for some Walking Dead episodes. Otherwise, here are some things I learned and what I think will help you take your flies to a new level:

1. Pay Attention! This is a simple yet overlooked one. Before, during and after you tie a fly, look at it and make sure you're doing all the stuff you need to be doing to churn out quality. Inspect each and every fly and look at what you can do to make it better and/or more like the previous ones (assuming they were good). In other words, actively be aware of the next 4 things!

2. Quality Materials. One of the most over-looked aspects of tying good looking flies is to make sure you use good materials. One of the reasons my parachute patterns really sucked hind teat at first was because I was using an incredibly nasty India Rooster neck. It wasn't until I ponied up the investment to get some good hackle that those types of patterns really took off for me. Same happened with comparadun hair, goose/turkey biots, thread and even hooks to some extent. And the list goes on. So if you look at a fly after you tie it and it's looking gnarly because the material is either garbage, too big or the wrong color, swap it out for something that works best for what you're doing. You might be surprised at how good materials can make a difference on how your patterns look!

Cheech was proud of this brassie  ;)
3. Proportion. If you're tying a mayfly imitation, pay attention to either the actual insect you're imitating or the fly pattern itself you're tying. Look at the relative lengths of body, wing and tail sections. Do yours match the naturals? Are you using the appropriate amount of hook shank in relation to the pattern size? Take the time to measure, in advance, tails, wings and hook shank tie-in points for the various body parts. Don't crowd the head, don't block the hook gape, don't let the body eat the thorax and make double sure you don't tie a "Fatty longtail" with a tail that is 4x hook shank length and a body that could be used on a fly that's three sizes bigger. Also, use the right sized thread. 200 Denier GSP is tough as nails, but will really be an epic FAIL using it on a size #14 parachute Adams since your fly will be 50% thread.

The bad example on the right shows Cheech needs to get a handle on his proportions. Don't be Cheech.

4. Critique and Judge Yourself. So you'll finish up a batch of fancy Copper John's, you'll admire them, you'll want to take pictures of them and share with your buddies on Facebook. Then you'll stick them in your box to fish someday and forget about them. However, instead, at some point, take the time to look at them a few hours or even days distant from the time you tied them. Look at some Copper John's online or wherever and compare yours. Do they still look as good as you thought? How can you do better? Make a note and tie up a couple of new ones to compare. Almost guaranteed, you'll end up finding something. So don't be afraid to judge yourself, live with a few failures and improve.

5. Practice. This is probably the most important of all. You can hit all of the above suggestions but if you don't buckle down and tie flies consistently, you'll see little improvement. And practice would include a few of these things here:
  • Tie every day if possible. Yep, just do it. If you can't tie every day, tie as often as possible. It's not like riding a bike.
  • Tie at least 5 or 6 of each pattern you tie every time you tie it. I often find myself junking the first couple of flies for a new pattern sometimes because I haven't gotten down the proportions and little nuances of the pattern yet. Consistency is the key!
  • If you're not good at parachutes, practice on a throw-away hook with bigger sizes. Cut it off and do it again. Don't waste tying a whole fly if you stink at only one particular method or part of it. Using a bigger hook will help get the hang of it before down-sizing.

And now you're a pro....sponsorships available!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Fuzz Monster

The Ultimate Streamer Weapon

Fuzz Monster with extra fuzz


I have been tinkering at the vise quite a bit lately, and the other night as I was about to go to sleep I had a great idea for the ultimate streamer pattern.  I have only tied one of these, and it has only been fished on one trip, but the fish came to it with reckless abandon in the 15 minutes that it was tested.  We are kind of going back and forth about doing a video on this one because of the proprietary "fuzz" material that gives this fly it's namesake.  We are currently seeking a patent and some sponsors to help us get the word out about this pattern...  

Let us know if you are interested in being on team Fuzz Monster.  Comment below on how you would fish it, and how you plan on getting the word out about this pattern.

~Cheech