Friday, January 7, 2011

One Year Anniversary, Part II

Orange & Herl Sakasa Kebari
 In today's post I thought I would continue with the one year anniversary theme and give some pointers to anyone out there who may decide to take up the addictive hobby of fly tying (Disclaimer:  you have been warned.  This hobby is addictive and consuming.  Have you ever played the game tetris and seen pieces falling from the top of a screen when your eyes were closed and you were sleeping?....Fly tying is a lot like that.  The exception is that the "pieces" you see in your head are hooks, feathers, threads, etc.).  This advice is based on my experience and you may use it for what it's worth.

Pearsall's silk thread
 If you are new to fly fishing, like I was, before you pick up the phone to place that order for all sorts of expensive hackle, stop and do some research.  Read fly tying books and browse the net.  There are literally thousands and thousands of patterns out there for fishing under every conceivable condition and for every type of fish.  It can quickly become confusing and expensive if no thought is put into it.  My first and foremost suggestion would always be get the biggest bang for you buck and start simple.  Kits with all the materials included could be the answer for some but I wouldn't recommend them.  Flies that can be tied with these kits can be difficult to learn or not necessarily useful to you on your home waters.  If you become frustrated and give up, you are left with a big pile of useless feathers and fur that cost a quite a bit of money.  You should first ask yourself, what kind of fishing will I be doing? (type of water, small mt stream vs a lake or where in the water, top and dry fly vs bottom and nymph/wet fly).  If you are an experienced fly fisherman you already know what patterns you may be interested in tying.  For the newbie,  pick a small handful of materials that will allow you to tie the greatest amount of flies or variety of flies (biggest bang for your buck and start simple). 

Hungarian partridge
 For example,  if you are interested in wet flies, soft hackle wet flies may be a great choice to start with.  They are generally easy to tie, do not require many expensive materials like dry fly hackle, and are deadly on most waters.  Most styles and patterns have been around for hundreds of years. I am very fond of these types of flies and tie many of them using Hungarian partridge.  Most fly tying supply houses sell these for around $25-$30.  In terms of materials, this would be the largest ticket item to tie these types of flies.  Buy the whole skin, don't be cheap and go with the loose packets of feathers, trust me.  In some instances, for less money, pheasant or some other upland game bird will do.  In any case, with the whole skin you will have a range of feather sizes and colors and will literally be able to tie hundreds of flies. 

Uni-Thread 6/0 various colors
 The next essential item is thread.  Most threads will do.  I personally prefer Pearsall's silk thread for most of my flies but it's a little on the pricey side at about $4 a spool.  In many instances I use uni-thread size 6/0 (usually $1.50-$2 spool).  If you can only purchase a few spools or either brand, make sure you purchase colors of black, olive, tan,  pale yellow, gray.  These colors will cover the largest range of insects that trout may encounter.  I also would add a fire or hot orange for some patterns to act as an attractant.  At this point your good to go once you have some appropriate hooks.  But with a small addition of some peacock herl, some small wire or tinsel and some dubbing for a little extra (~$15-20) you could tie a couple hundred different variations of the soft hackle wet fly and not grow tired of tying the same pattern over and over.

Snowshoe Rabbit Feet
 Another example of a pattern that would be inexpensive to tie would be simple learning to tie is Fran Better's "Usual."  The Usual is essentially a dry fly but depending on the tactics employed it can be fished as a dry, emerger, or nymph.  It can represent just about anything including a mayfly, caddis, or terrestrial.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FLY.  But the Usual comes damn close.  The best part is it is a breeze to tie and only consists of two materials....snowshoe rabbit fur from the underpad of the foot and thread!  Once you have the hooks and thread (fire orange works nice as do black, olive, pale yellow) a rabbit's foot will run you about $2.50-$5 each and you can tie dozens of flies from a single foot. 
The only other items you need are head cement, dubbing wax, and hooks.  Each of these may cost $5-$7.  Fly tying tools are also necessary, of course.  My recommendation for these would be to buy a simple beginners set, such as those available at Cabela's ($25-$40) then as you progress (become more obsessed) with time go for those more expensive vises and tools.  Don't drop a huge amount of dough until you know this is what you want to do.  Remember start simple, pick flies that will be easier to tie and useful in more fishing circumstances, and get the most bang for your buck, pick materials that will allow for either a greater variety of flies or large amount of flies. Until later...Happy Tying!



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