"New pattern, new technique."
Angler fights beetle for fish.
I've been in quarantine too long.
Creative Realism Realistic Fly Tying
"New pattern, new technique."
Beetle grabs fish.
Angler fights beetle for fish.
I've been in quarantine too long.
When I said, “I think I’m on to something!” I had only an inkling my suspicions would turn out to be correct. But here are some early results.
The brush manufacturers make brushes with straight fiber monofilament fibers. I’m not certain of my statement since I’m not a chemist. All I know is that the fiber is all one size, and not tapered. You can buy some tapered bristles for painting. But the floor burns and dustpan type brushes the fibers are larger in diameter and straight.
In order to make the item more effective or efficient they treat the fiber tips by splitting them. I was told by a brush salesman the process for doing this is called “flagging”. They exposed the fiber tips to a high-speed rotary knife process that cuts the fibers ends and expands it into multiple smaller fibers, which assures the end user of a more effective tool for moving of finer surface particles. Let me show you what this process looks like to the newcomer like me. Here are fibers cut from the broom as it was taken from an unused broom.
Observe the tips. As the broom is used the tips began to expand or spread out thus making the tip more effective for use in moving finer surface hairs. I take these fibers and falsely expand them and coat the ends with head cement and set them aside to dry in their expanded state.
At this point I stockpile a few fibers, 20 or so and I start inspecting them for possible use as primary or secondary legging. Use fine scissors for trimming. I look for the fiber to be useful for the next step in my legging process. Keep in mind, not every fiber will be usable. So if you have any doubt, pitch it. Don’t try to force the issue. About 50% will be a good average.
Lay these aside until you finish your first round of selection. I try to put the primary ones in four different piles, but this may be too premature for your first efforts. But for explanation purposes I want to explain what I mean by primary or secondary fibers. On larger flies I use two fibers per leg. On the smaller flies I use one fiber. Naturally I use the one fiber that has the greater detail as a single fiber. Here is a photo preview of what I’m referring to.
The natural bug has a claw and a single strand at the legging end. The double fiber has fiber tips starting slightly up the leg from clawed tip. This process of making two fibers to come together is not rewarding. But I used crazy glue and start by bonding the ends together, then the shafts. With care, you can do this without joining your fingers once the three shafts are bonded. They are cut to the side you need for the leg and it’s time and or glue and length. Once you position them using your crimping tool, and then you coat them. I use plain acrylic craft paint, and did paint with the use of a bodkin or a toothpick. This is not a fun process so use patience. I coat the upper leg portion or the femur with enough coats to give the leg more realistic topped appearance. You have to rely on your I for this phase. Painting also reinforces the leg set positions at the crimps.
My final process is a coat of flat spray lacquer to protect the paint from exposure to the water. It is a lengthy process, but I think you will be pleased enough to try it. Just look at these results that I am experimenting with.
Periodically I have a tyer in Europe that visits my website every so often that I think is a great tyer himself. He happens to like Beatles, and that’s my weakness also. But this tyer can do legs better than most. I would love to see him tie, and would steal his technique and a second. But I look at his efforts and he gives me inspiration to keep going, working and improving.
Legging is one of the biggest issues on the Beatles, and they are always the last on in the last things you touch when tying them. Yet they are the first things you see when you pick one up. How they taper. How they are positioned. How they are proportioned. All these issues flood into your mind. I have even caught them, and watched their behavior as they climbed over obstacles placed in front of them. I have even taken the legs off a dead one I find, and have moved them into various positions so I can sketch them. “But I think I am on to something”. It is still in the experimental stages, so these are my attempts at my version of the Super Beetle.
Here is a beetle who has legs that are manufactured monofilament strands from a push broom. The monofilament strands of been cut or flagged at the tips using a rotating knife used by the brush manufacturers to split the Mono fiber tips. I am taking advantage of these split tips that act is hairy spines and claw tips to resemble the real legging. Once I am able to control these elements and finish them for use, I think it may be my answer to making better legs.
If you are like me, my tying times are erratic. It stopped like normal work time so you, “catch as catch can”. So when you sit down to tie, it’s the usual world wind of wrapping and moving materials from one place to another, spilling glue, looking for your tools, picking up dropped items, turning your bobbin, changing threads and another million other distractions which are slowdowns and frustrations. And this is the fun part. Another thing we tend to do before I even start tying his we select a book and mount it in the vice. Do you know how many posts you have mounted in the vice? Do you know how many flies you’ve tied and never have and never will fish with you? Are you going to die with more flies than you’ll ever fish? And I both know, you have about three or four patterns you really have faith than. You fish them with confidence and those are your go to’s. But, since tying is such a rewarding activity, and practicing is extremely important, let me share with you a good idea to keep your skills up and save on the cost of hooks. Particularly if you are an experimental tyer, or you are designing a new pattern, are particularly if you are changing materials or just trying to get better. I use a paperclip. That’s right, and ordinary paperclip you find in any drawer in your desk. It lends itself to the hook shape, it fits into the vice, and it eliminates obstructions such as points, Ben’s and eyes, and provides an excellent site line to observe your progressions. Take your clip, pull out the outside arm and vended in a 90° angle to the clip body mount the bottom of the clip in your vise jaws and there is your shank for tying how simple is that.
Every fly has steps. I make my first step on the clip and I tied off them. Then I take and place it in a temporary holder, putting the second clip into the vice and all repeat step one and go to step two after which that sample goes into the holder. Repeat this process until the entire step process is completed. You will be surprised when it’s inspection time to see where your fly or tying needs shoring up. But I’ll guarantee you, your time will prove improve dramatically.
My holder which is simple is a piece of 1 x 2 Pine wood, 12 inches long. I took the wood and made a slot every one and a half inch long using a hammer and a screwdriver. The slots are just a little over ¼ inch deep. Just enough to hold the clip in the upright position without falling over. Just stand your sample up in the slot. I use this holder process many times at various shows and outings when trying to explain a process or step on a fly when flies are slow in developing. It really is a timesaver since most people don’t want to stay and watch the whole process.
Try it. I think you’ll like it! Here’s a picture of a permanent holder I use at fly shows to show a flies progress and materials in positions of steps.
The new “shut in” policy has really made a change in what you can and can’t do. But I’ll say it really kept me at the tying vice.
I decided to revisit a fly that has always bugged me at trying to tie in the realistic sense, the “WASP”. One of my worst days and fishing was due to a WASP. I was tying on an 18 Adams when I felt a bug land on my right cheek. With a quick brush as an automatic reaction, in 10 minutes I had right eye almost swollen and shut. It was the worst fishing day I ever had.
I never forgot that WASP, or that day. It was a week before I was back to my normal self. What a wallop. I’ve tried tying wasps before, but was never satisfied with the shape or profile. If you look closely, their shape is almost “S”-shaped reversed with two distinct individual body parts. One is the rear body with its tapered downturn tip, to the upper thorax hump that contains the wings and legs leaving an actual slim waist between the two bodies. Now this is a challenge.
I can tell you now, after a lot of tail chasing, I’m satisfied with my results. The fallout however is what I had to do to modify the hook to conform to the outline profile. In doing so I may have over compromised the hook shape thus making the fly worthless. I’ll try and report back. Here are some preliminary planning I did for considering steps to take in tying.
If you think you have an interest in tying realistic flies, I have some pointers you should keep foremost in your mind at all times.
How I Got Bitten by the Realistic Bug
Although my tying has virtually been, on my own learning, I have relied on references to guide me. It's funny to realize how little you know a subject or about a certain thing until you start to created in the vice. Take an ordinary housefly. You see them constantly, yet try to tie one. You will surprise yourself at how little you really know if you're trying to make an exact copy. Therefore, I rely heavily on reference books and collecting specimens. Google images is a fantastic reference also. I know it sounds crazy, but there's no substitute for re-creating a wing, or a leg if you have the real ones taped down to a nice flat surface so you can study them up close. Many of the book references are way over my head. And they refer to everything in technical terms I still don't know. There are a few things I've picked up though, just by looking that have been extremely helpful. I found out that I really didn't have to understand or speak Latin.
My choice of realistic fly tying is or was not a very popular activity when I started 30 years ago. No one in my area was doing it. Not even on a national level, as the interest was rare. Everything in tying materials was feathers and furs. If you don't use this, you are on your own. No shops or material sources had yet recognized that realistic tying was soon to be in vogue. The very first time I even saw realistic flies, I was captivated by their appearance. I remember, they were tied by Bill Blades. He was experimenting with unusual materials and methods in the late 30s and early 40s. He was the first to use almost anything in materials as long as it achieved his intent. He was the first I knew of who painted, and carved, molded or even sculptured. And he was bold enough to show and share it. The first time I saw Dan Bailey's veined wing material on his Stonefly adult that Jack Herter sold in sheets for cutting up, I was hooked. I used up a whole months pay for my paper route to buy five packs of this material. One thing this whole experience taught me is if you want to do realistic patterns are going to have to do it on your own, and create your own materials and techniques. Even today when I see or read what materials other tyers are using to create their flies, I am amazed by what they use. There's still creating on their own, whatever technique or material that suits their needs. I know this also may sound crazy, but when I tie at shows or give demonstrations, I'm not able to visit other tyers and to sit and watch them tie. I'm busy tying likewise as they do the same. At that time most of the realistic tyers were on the East Coast, or Europe and England. I was too far away and too embarrassed to call or write them. Also tying, in my opinion, is something you have to observe. I can talk or write until I'm blue in the face on how I do my Hopper wings that I can show you in about five minutes and you won't fail when you try it yourself.
It was not until my work was published in 1988 in a book named "the Art of the Trout Fly", that I realize there were many other tyers also working on realistic patterns. Since that time I have had the pleasure to work with, meet, but not watch some of the best. This phase of my own tying is the most exciting and rewarding. I'm still working on my own, and experimenting with anything and everything. I would also like to think I have had a small influence on the vast assortment of synthetic materials you find in the fly shops today. Materials that have had a profound impact on the fly pattern assortment you see on the market today. If you are a Tyer, and if you are interested in the creative side of fly tying, particularly with respect to realistic flies, you can't do it without some study and references. You will need some books and some samples to help you. Find any resources that will help you study your subject. The Audubon book series, or Google insects of North America. Remember that your goal is to re-create your fly as realistically as possible. Happy tying...
The most wonderful experiences in my life have been fishing. Oh not just baiting a hook, or riding in a boat, or driving to the country. I’m talking about fishing in general. Weather its looking at a copy of last years Field And Stream waiting at the barbershop for a haircut, to strolling down the isles of my favorite sporting goods store just to look at the rods on display. It’s all a part of the fishing experience for me. I can’t think of anything distasteful. That is why I took up fly tying. To me tying had as many rewards as fishing itself. Nothing is prettier than a well tied fly. It’s a work of art. There are flys like the Atlantic Salmon Flys that are beyond description in their beauty. I can enjoy a mounted and framed fly as much as a painting. And like a painting, it’s mounted and framed to last forever and be admired.
Fly tying was just an extension of fishing. Something you did while filling in your time. Like rod building, line cleaning, leader tying, equipment maintance, wader patching, planning, thinking, plotting, imagining and wondering. It’s all the same process because it leads from that wonderment of fishing.
It’s my firm belief that a person needs and craves a commitment like this to exist in life. After all, look around you. Your employment or business asks this of you. Your religion teaches you this principle. Your marriage and family demands this from you. Isn’t this just a part of the grand order?
Oh, it doesn’t have to be fishing. It can be a host of other subjects. But I’m here to tell you. Fishing fits right up there with the best of things. Because there are rules to follow. It teaches you to be observant of those rules. There is an order or sequence that creates these rules and naturally the more you are in sequence the greater is your success at achieving higher success levels.
If you are a parent, a guardian, a teacher, a friend, or just a person, the best thing you can do for yourself and your life is to instill a commitment from all you know. You do this by example and a relentless pursuit of example coupled with patience, kindness and understanding. Then all of us will be crazy.
Be always mindful of the needs of others, and see the positive side. Don’t criticize. Save that for yourself. It’s only negative anyway. If you waste time on this, you will not have any forward progress. Learn to practice at making yourself and all you do positive.
Damm I know that trout’s here somewhere. Here trout – here trout. Listen! You had better show yourself cause I’m going fishing, and I’m gonna use you for bait.