Northwest Fly Tyer

The fly tying pages of Monte Smith

Archive for the ‘Tips & Techniques’ Category

The History and Evolution of the Trout Fly – Part 1 – ReelLinesPress

Posted by nwflytyer on October 5, 2013

Check out the first book from my old friend, Andrew Marshall.

From the intro:

Andrew Marshall’s perseverance for historical accuracy, coupled with his artistic tying talent, have recreated a visual and tactile history of the flies tied and fished by our forefathers. Working from the fifteenth to eighteenth century European and British angling literature, Andrew painstakingly sourced, or creatively substituted, the sometimes quite odd tying materials to create faithful examples of these original fly patterns. From a historical perspective, the book traces the evolution of fly patterns, where they were first documented and how they were passed from author to author, “borrowed” in their own works.

The History and Evolution of the Trout Fly – Part 1 – ReelLinesPress.

Advertisements

Posted in Fly Patterns, News, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies | 1 Comment »

The Air Head

Posted by nwflytyer on July 15, 2012

Here is another fun fly from the creative mind of Gary LaFontaine.

The Air Head

The Air Head is an attractor pattern.  Utilizing clear packing foam, it is a bright fly; in fact, sometimes perhaps a little too bright.  I have seen it pull trout from a good distance only to suffer a last second refusal.  The way to combat this problem is to simply drop a small nymph or emerger 18″ behind the Air Head.  The Air Head now becomes a hooked strike indicator.

Why carry the Air Head?

1. It is a strong attractor

2. It floats like a cork and can easily suspend a trailing fly.

3. It is easy to tie

4. Bonus:  panfish love this fly!  Try it on a standard size 16 or tie it on a light wire scud hook in sizes 12-14.

Enjoy!

The recipe:

Hook:  Dry fly #8-18

Body:  Fine fur dubbing, color of choice (original was mink in various colors)

Wing:  Deer hair extending just beyond hook bend (again, color can vary)

Head:  Bullet head of clear packing foam creating foam spikes that cover the wing and extend beneath the shank.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Reference, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies, Tying Notes | 2 Comments »

Gary LaFontaine’s Diving Caddis

Posted by nwflytyer on July 1, 2012

This is one of my favorite LaFontaine patterns.  It is truly a “go-to” fly for me and many others.  Why?  It is an excellent crossover pattern that can be fished – lake or stream – throughout the water column.  On a wet fly hook, it sinks nicely.  On a light wire hook, it can be fished in the film.

It is a simple wet fly with a clump of soft hackle feather fibers as a down wing, covered with strands of clear antron.  The antron – in both body dubbing and wing – is the magic material.  It is designed to imitate “plastron respiration.”  Plastron Respiration: the female insect takes an air bubble with her when diving underwater during egg-laying activity to allow her to breathe.

The Diving Caddis imitates the female egg-laying stage of the caddis fly.  The air bubble trapped by the antron allows this fly to be used as an emerger as well, so it is crossover pattern often used when an Emergent Sparkle Pupa would be in order.  It can be greased and fished on top, too.   It is a solid all-around pattern when caddis are about.

Cross reference to LaFontaine class pattern notes Click Here

Let’s tie one.  This is the Brown/Bright Green version:

Hook:  Daiichi 1550 (wet fly), sizes 8-20 (this is a #12)

Thread: Tan 8/0

Rib (optional):  Stripped hackle quill or doubled thread

Body:  Apple Green antron “Touch Dubbing” dabbed on heavily waxed thread

Wing:  Grouse feather fibers

Top:  Clear Antron

Hackle:  Two turns low-grade brown hackle

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Attach thread and wrap to rear of hook.  Take a sticky dubbing wax and run it over the thread, trying to cover all sides.  Be careful to avoid clumps of wax.

Take a bit of your antron dubbing and dab it along the thread.  Fibers will stick to the heavily waxed thread.  Do not touch or roll the dubbing with your fingers; you want to wrap it just as it is.

Note:  Touch Dubbing was a term coined by Gary that is simply a mixture of antron fibers and similar colored fur.  You can find the pre-mixed dubbing at some fly shops and through Gary’s old company, The Book Mailer.  You can make your own by cutting antron ‘sparkle yarn’ into 1/4″ lengths, adding a similar amount of rabbit fur, and blending the mixture in a coffee grinder.

This is what your dubbing thread should look like as you get set to wrap the body.  Note the sparseness.

Wrap forward to complete the body.

For brown soft hackle fibers, I have selected a grouse body feather.  I will pull a few fibers from either side and roll them into a clump that I can add to the top of the hook.

The wing has been attached (length just beyond hook bend) and awaits the application of a few strands of clear antron.

This is a package of clear antron.  It is also sold under the “Hi-Vis” label.  Do not use spooled antron, as it does not possess the same properties.

The antron, slightly longer than the grouse fibers, completes the wing.

The hackle is a low-grade dry fly hackle to be wrapped a couple of times at the front.  It is not supposed to make the fly float, so do not over apply.

I have attached the hackle by the tip on the far side.

Two turns of hackle are made and then the thread is used to force the fibers back over the fly.

The completed Diving Caddis

A Brown & Tan Diving Caddis

Copyright 2012 – Monte Smith

Posted in Fly Patterns, Flyfishing, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies, Tying Notes | 1 Comment »

Working With Bronze Mallard

Posted by nwflytyer on February 26, 2012

I’ve been doing a little tying with bronze mallard lately, and I was reminded of some notes I put together awhile back for a couple of Spey classes.  Sorry there are no pictures…perhaps I will add some later.  In the meantime, I hope this might help the budding Spey fly tyer.

Incidentally, these tips pertain to forming a mallard roof on your full-dress salmon flies, too; just pare down the width of the mallard strips.

1. Get good quality bronze mallard.  Long fibers with grey roots (it’s a softer part of the feather and easier to mount) and tips that tend to stick together (you don’t want the tips to fray or splay out).  You must bind the mallard to the hook over the grey section of the feather to avoid it splitting and/or rolling out of position.

2. When snipping the mallard sections from the feather, leave the stem (rachiis) on your slip.  This will hold things together as you form your wing.

3. Use two matching quills when selecting your mallard slips.  Your slips will meld together much easier that way, and look good too.  Otherwise, it can be a battle to get them to work together.  Use fairly thin feather sections to start with (⅛” – ¼” per section).  It will make the material less likely to bunch up or roll and ruin your wing.  This width of the mallard slips can be increased as you get more comfortable with your techniques, if desired.

4. Try to keep the head area free of any other materials where you will apply the wing.  It’s really tough to set mallard on top of another material.  Careful tying of the throat materials is important so as not to create a “bump” at the head that must be overcome when applying the wings.  You can, if needed, create a nice platform with your (flattened) thread, if necessary, snug up against your throat material.

5. One method of mounting is to use a left side slip for the near side, and a right side slip for the far side.  I align the ends and “hump” them together as a single unit (remember tip #2?).  Then apply it to the hook as one wing, using a soft loop to hold it in place and then tighter wraps to secure.  The key to this method is to have these slips of mallard hold against one another and retain the shape of your wing.

6.  You can also apply the wing slips one at a time.  I’ve started using this method more and more as of late where I apply the far side and hold it with a wrap or two.  Then apply the near side slip using that far side section as a brace.  You can slide the near side wing right up to your brace and then use your fingers to adjust the final position.  It’s amazing how you can sometimes just squeeze the wing sections into proper alignment after applying them in this manner.

7.  Both of the methods described will also work if you want to reverse the mallard slips and work with a right side feather section for the near side wing.  This will give a distinct downswept appearance to the wing.

I happen to prefer the upswept appearance at the end of the wing, and the left side = near wing follows how I apply married strips on full dress salmon flies.  So it keeps it consistent for me.  But many tyers go with the right side = near wing, so feel free to experiment to see what looks good and works for you.

7. A final method of applying a bronze mallard wing is also probably the simplest:  using a single slip of feather and folding it in half before tying it on.  Select a ½” or so width of mallard. Pull it out so that it is perpendicular to the stem. Strip it off with a quick pull – do not cut it, as you want a bit of the stem to remain to help hold it together.

Fold the slip in half and give it a bit of curve so that it will hug the body of your fly, and attach to the hook with a soft loop of thread to hold it.  Position it with your fingers and then follow with a couple of snug wraps to set your wing in final position.  Voila!

Happy tying!

Posted in Reference, Salmon Flies, Spey Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | 1 Comment »

Tips for the Beginning Salmon Fly Tyer

Posted by nwflytyer on January 6, 2012

This is directed toward those tyers who have begun tying Atlantic Salmon Flies or are about to embark on that journey.

I had been tying flies for a few years progressing from trout fishing flies into some more complicated hairwing steelhead and salmon flies, mallard wing Spey flies, and featherwing streamers.  It was a movement toward more complex flies using most of the techniques I had already learned along the way.  When I decided it was time to make the jump to what I see as the pinnacle of fly tying – Atlantic Salmon Flies – I had the basic techniques required.  However, to begin to master these complex flies (and no one ever really masters fly tying do they?), there are some items I’ve learned that I want to share to perhaps ease the transition:
  1. “Errors” tend to compound themselves.  If something is not quite right, it’s difficult to keep in place, is split or falling apart, or just doesn’t look right, it will definitely not get any better as you add more to the fly!  Patience and discipline are required to go ahead and remove the offending material – even if it is a few steps back – and start again.  Don’t compound the error.
  2. Along the lines of item #1, the tail sets the tone for your fly.  It might be worthwhile to lay out the tail and topping (pre-selecting) with your hook to get a visual of what the framework of your fly is going to be.  It is better to have the tail too short than too long in my opinion.  Tail and topping (golden pheasant crests, usually) do not have to meet; it is often enough to have the suggestion that they would meet.  That said, most classic salmon flies employ a tail and topping and it is good form to have them meet at the rear of your wing.  In short, get the tail right before you move on or you may have to compensate later to the detriment of your final result.
  3. You already have a lot of materials that are used in dressing salmon flies.  You need not go out and spend a lot of money to buy the most rare and unusual materials when starting your salmon tying career.  In fact, I would recommend practicing with cheaper materials as you work on techniques.  Goat instead of seal’s fur.  Rayon floss instead of expensive silk.  Mylar tinsel instead of varnished metal.  Mounting simple wings constructed of turkey (I know you have some for nymph wingcases) and perhaps goose feather fibers will serve you as well for practice as building wings out of bustard or other expensive feathers.  There are also plenty of excellent substitutes available for things like kingfisher, toucan, and Indian crow that are inexpensive.
  4. Tie on regular steelhead/salmon hooks which are cheaper and more readily available than blind-eye hooks that require the addition of a gut loop.  Stick to sizes no larger than 2/0, and you should have no problem finding materials that will work on flies of this size.  Even on more expensive materials, there is often a significant price break for the smaller feathers (i.e., shorter barb length). Once you feel more comfortable in your tying, you’ll know when it’s time to seek the rarer materials and the bigger hooks.
  5. Practice.  Especially setting wings.  Make sure they are like a knife-edge along the top of the hook shank and that they don’t veer to one side.  Work at compressing the materials into as fine a point as possible; the colors should spring from that point.  Beware of splitting!  Practice.  Work on making smooth underbodies, even when it is going to be covered with dubbing.  This pays off when it is time to wrap a smooth tinsel or silk body.  You want to develop good techniques and work at them all the time.  And did I mention, practice?
  6. Pay attention to proportions.  While there are not hard and fast rules governing every item on every fly, there are generally accepted parameters for proportions.  As you explore the writings of past and contemporary tyers, pay attention to what is said about proportions.  Things like tag length and alignment, wing length, number of rib turns (trust me, remember the number 5…it will keep you from being drummed right out of the club), body hackle and throat length, etc.  Pay attention to the proportions as you progress through your fly.  Don’t be afraid to mark the underbodies with a pen and to measure materials as you go.  Be patient and selective in what you apply.
  7. Along these lines, I think some of the best advice I received early in my salmon tying days is to use a light colored thread (white or yellow) for dressing the majority of the fly.  It is much easier to work against a light underbody than a black one (and easier to mark with a pen).  Black thread can darken materials.  You can color light thread with markers when dubbing multi-colored fur bodies (this is another trick for you).  I have a number of Sharpies for just this purpose!  Switch to black thread once you’re ready to set your wing and then finish the fly.
  8. Learn to control your thread.  Be able to place it precisely from front to back and anywhere in between.  Be able to flatten it by counter-spinning your bobbin; keep in mind that some thread flattens better than others.  Some threads are round and will never flatten out properly, so you might need to check into this a bit.  For me, I tie almost all of my salmon flies with Danville 6/0 thread.  I want a flat thread to seat things like cheeks and to build smooth underbodies and tie small heads.  I might want a more round thread to grip a material and pull it into place.  The more you progress, the more that thread control becomes essential to getting the best results out of your efforts.
  9. Use an “economy of wraps” to hold materials in place. Practice wrapping 5 turns to hold materials, then backing off 2 or 3 of them before progressing to the next step. An example is holding a tinsel rib with 5 turns before wrapping the hackle forward.  Once the hackle is at the tie-off point, back off 2 or 3 of the turns holding the tinsel and then secure the hackle.  Also, use a half-hitch at strategic points to hold your thread which avoids unnecessary wraps building up.
  10. Using the “right” materials makes things go much more smoothly.  By “right” I don’t mean in terms of authenticity (although that can be an item for debate as well), but rather the correct type or section of a given material.  The entire bronze mallard feather is not suitable for making Spey wings or roofs, for instance.  There is a sweet spot of 1″-1 1/2 ” where the material is perfect for these applications with soft base fibers and edges that stay married.  Same goes for tools – the right tools help get the job done with minimum of fuss.  With practice, you will become adept at selecting the proper material or tool for performing the task at hand.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of things to guide the budding salmon fly tyer, but it is a start.  Every time we dress a fly it is possible to run across a helpful hint or tip to remember that helped solve a problem, made a task easier, or made the final result look better.  I will address some more specific tips in a future post.

Posted in Reference, Salmon Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Classic Streamer Class Notes

Posted by nwflytyer on January 1, 2012

These are notes compiled when taking a streamer tying class from the late Harry Gross in February 2003.  I have added these to the Tying Notes page and can be found by following the link below.   

-Classic Streamer Class Notes « Northwest Fly Tyer.

Perhaps there will be some items here for the streamer tyer that will prove helpful.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Reference, Streamers, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Orange Goshawk

Posted by nwflytyer on May 7, 2011

Orange Goshawk

The Orange Goshawk – an Irish pattern for County Mayo

(I found a reference to this fly in E.J. Malone’s Irish Trout and Salmon Flies, 1984)

Tag:  Silver tinsel and blue silk

Tail:  A topping

Butt:  Black ostrich herl

Body:  Orange silk

Rib:  Oval silver tinsel

Hackle:  Golden olive

Throat:  Jay

Main Wing:  Six toppings

Horns:  Blue and gold macaw

This is another fly pattern given to me to dress last winter. There was no reference cited, but I found mention of it in Malone, as I noted above.  The hook is a simple Partridge Bartleet CS 10/3 # 1/0.  Topping wing flies are challenging, and this fly offers no cheeks or shoulder accoutrements to “hide” the wing construction.  You’re on your own!

The Orange Goshawk is a beautiful little fly.  The jay throat – common on Irish patterns – is a nice touch.  The trick to working with jay is to carefully split the feather to

a) remove the “bad” side (the grey, non-blue side) that is not wanted, and

b) make it thin enough to wrap as a hackle.

The stem, left unsplit, is rather thick and will not wrap well at all.  Jay is small and delicate, so one must take care in the splitting process. I start at the tip and work my way back carefully pulling the two sides apart.  This is the method as described by Kelson in Salmon Flies.

I find it helpful to lay out the fly before starting to tie it.  I select and steam my crests while “fitting” them to the hook and to each other.  Then it is just a matter of stacking them on top of one another to complete the wing.  Carefully snip away the waste ends – one at a time – to avoid having one crest slip and taking the rest of the wing with it!  Enjoy.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Salmon Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »

Expo Class Notes

Posted by nwflytyer on March 14, 2011

The handouts from my Northwest Originals for Lake, River, and Stream class at the NW Fly Tyer Expo on March 11 have been posted.  The page is located here and the notes are available in individual Word documents at the bottom of the page.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Flyfishing, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »

Library Addition

Posted by nwflytyer on January 16, 2011

I have added the classic work Fishing at Home and Abroad (1913) by Sir Herbert Maxwell to the Classic Books page.  You may access a .pdf copy of the book here.

Here is a quick link to the Classic Books Page.

Enjoy immersing yourself in some of the classic writing of our sport.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Reference, Salmon Flies, Tips & Techniques | Leave a Comment »

Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine

Posted by nwflytyer on November 6, 2010

Posted in Flyfishing, News, Reference, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies | Leave a Comment »