Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fly Tying Series #1

Over the winter, I'll post some information and instructions for some flies I tie.  Photos of the major steps and finished product will be included, and a little information about how I fish with it and what types of fish I catch.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind.  I tie flies for fishing not for showing in display cases.  If you're looking for flies to show in display cases, this is the wrong place.  I've found that fish don't care if it's 3 wraps or 5 wraps and they couldn't care less if the thread head is perfect.

I tie fast and some would say sloppy but, again, I've never found fish to be overly concerned about how neat a fly is.  The looks of a fly are more for bragging rights among other fly tiers.  I'd rather have my bragging rights be through the fish I catch.  Now, don't get me wrong, when I put my mind to it and really concentrate, I can tie some pretty flies and have done so (I may even post a blog or two with some pretty flies), but I find tying flies I don't mind hanging in a tree or getting stuck on a stump to be more rewarding than remorsing over a lost fly.

First for fly tying materials:
I like to hit the craft stores and other unlikely places to find interesting stuff to use in my fly tying.  The Christmas Decoration section is a great start.  Look at the stuff I got at a Dollar General store just this week:

I'll start the fly tying series with my "Tinsel Fly".

The Tinsel Fly has proved to be very effective on warm water fish like bluegill, bass, crappie, pumpkinseeds, etc.  It is a very easy fly to tie. It is essentially a minnow imitation and when fished unweighted is very effective when bass and crappie are chasing minnows in shallow waters.  In these conditions, I let it sink about 3 or 4 seconds, twitch it and start a very slow retrieve then let it sink.  Most strikes come on the sink.  I think the movement of the marabou tail and the very slow sink rate of this unweighted fly must resemble a dead or dying minnow.  When cast into a bunch of hungry crappie who have been thrashing minnows in the shallows in early spring, it's not uncommon for me to bring 40 - 50 to the hand in an hour or so.

Before we get started tying, one little "trick" I'd like to share is threading bobbins.  The stuff used to pull dental floss through teeth makes a perfect device to thread bobbins.  Here are 2 photos, one of the stuff and one how it's used.  This can be picked up in any pharmacy or grocery store in the area where they sell toothpaste and dental floss.

OK, now for the Tinsel Fly.
There are two ways to tie this fly.  One is by laying a base of red yarn down and the other is by tying the tinsel onto the thread base hook.  The yarn gives it a little more body and the red left at the head seems to give the impression of gills.  On some days, they really key in on the red and on others, the straight tinsel fly works better.  I'll give instructions for tying the yarn based one and show a photo of the straight one.  They are tied the same minus the yarn step.

Materials Used:

  • 2X long Streamer hook Size 4 - 10 (6 and 8 seem to work best for crappie, 8 -10 bluegill, 4-6 bass)
  • White Marabou Feather
  • Silver Tinsel (can use gold or any other color you like)
  • Red Thread (I used black for these photos because it showed up better, you can use black it works)
  • Red Yarn (optional
  • Lead Wire, bead head, chain eyes (optional, I prefer this fly unweighted)

This fly can be tied with a bead head, chain eyes, a few wraps of lead wire, or as I prefer, unweighted.

Start with a good thread base.  I like to take the thread back to about where the barb is on the hook (yes, I do flatten the barbs of my hooks, as much because they come out of me easier as they come out of the fish easier.  If you've ever had a hook go past the barb in YOU, you'll understand the value of mashing down the hooks).

Next step, tie in a clump of white marabou feathers.  I like to have it extend out the back of the hook approximately the length of the hook shank.  Experiment with your fish and see what they like.  It seems 1 hook shank length is the ticket around here.

While you're back there, tie in a length of red yarn as well.

Then tie in a length of tinsel (silver, gold, holographic, green, red, whatever suits your fancy.  I've found silver to be the best, but I do tie it with various types of tinsel.  Holographic seems to have a nice shimmer in shallow water but seems less effective when fishing more than a couple feet under the surface,  Silver has been the top producer for me).

Wrap your thread back up to about 2-3 hook eye lengths from the eye (look at the picture following this, on this tie, I went all the way to the hook eye because I was thinking more about photos than tying, the next photo shows what I'm talking about.

Wrap your yarn up to the thread and tie off with a few firm wraps.  DO NOT cut off your tag end of yarn yet.

Now, wrap your tinsel up to the point you tied off your yarn and tie off the tinsel.  Clip the tag end of the tinsel leaving your yarn tag end in tact.  Wrap the yarn up to the hook eye and tie off.

I usually use red thread on this fly but the black showed up better in the pictures.  I have fished the flies with black thread heads and haven't really seen a difference.  Heck, the fish may think the black head is eyes.  Fish have an IQ of about 3 so they're not all that smart to begin with.

You can make the red head area as large or small as you wish.  It really is not as big as the photo makes it look so just use your eye to judge what looks best.

Here is what the fly looks like without the yarn.  This fly is VERY productive without the yarn so don't be afraid to tie it the easy way.  This really is about a 5 minute tie (if you're taking your time and take a few sips of coffee between steps).

That about wraps it up for the Tinsel Fly.  I'm sure this has some name, but I just always called the Tinsel Fly.

The next installment will be my take on variations of the wollie worm.  I may be a bit unorthodox in how I tie this fly too.  Here's a pic of the finished product.

Tomorrow is Christmas so I doubt if I'll be updating until the weekend.  In addition to the woolie worm, I have a different spin on the San Juan worm to share, some poppers, and whatever else I may decide to tie up this winter.

I hope you all enjoy.  Leave a comment on the blog if you like the flies or have questions.


PS. if you need to buy any of the materials listed here, check out Little River Outfitters.  I'm not affilliated with this shop, but have been a happy customer.  They don't have a lot of fly tying stuff on their website, but have a huge fly tying area in the shop.  Just give them a call, tell them what you need and they'll ship it to you.  They do not charge shipping on orders which helps .  Yes, there are LOTS of other fly shops out there, but these guys have always treated me right.

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