Monday, March 28, 2016

New Sherriff in Town...Brodie, by name.

Brodie came to our home as a birthday present to me from my ever-thoughtful Bridget.  She understood the loss I felt when Tucker passed away back in November, and this is her way of bringing back English setter life and love to our home.

I picked Brodie up on March 23, 2016 way up in the Colebrook, NH area at Deadwater Gundogs of New England ( ) .  It just so happened that they had a litter of 13 ready to go and sold, but had two last minute cancellations.  Scott from Deadwater sent us a video of the two pups left (a male and a female); the little male, with his half mask, was an instant hit with us.  One of the deciding factors was that in the video, he knocked over a broom, and it didn't phase him one bit; he went right to it to inspect.

Brodie's mother is Deadwater Zee, a hard-working dog in Deadwater's guiding string.  His father is 4X Champion Long Gone Buckwheat, winner of the National Amateur Woodcock Championship and the Grand National Grouse Championship.  Lots of horse dog power between those two.  And yes, I have a lot to handle on my hands!  Brodie is a beautiful tricolor, my favorite of the setter color schemes.

Anyway, here's Brodie during his first visit to his new backyard:

Brodie's schedule has pretty much worked out to an hour as a blur, then an hour of this:

I love the wavy hair of a setter's ears.  A little secret:  I've also always loved the smell of a setter's ears:

Tucker left behind an almost astounding collection of stuffed toys for the next guy in line.  Brodie particularly likes mauling the polar bear:

It didn't take him long to pick out his own easy chair (we have absolutely no problem with that; Bridget even piled up a couple pillows to help him figure out how to get up there:

After almost a week here, I figured it was time to get Brodie acquainted with the Cave (after a semi-massive clean-up of feathers and fur - thank heavens for that big closet!)

I believe he's found the Cave to his liking:

So that's our Brodie.  I look forward to sharing the journey from puppy to gundog over the years.  Brodie is only the sixth setter I've trained, but they all turned out to be great bird dogs and friends.  I hope you'll enjoy the ups and downs of it all as the years pass.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Updated Size 10 salmon hook comparison chart

Well, with nothing better to do (not) on a beautiful early Spring morning here in southern Vermont, I decided to update my size 10 hook comparison chart.  There's a couple new hooks in the stable, a result of my searches to replace the lamented loss of the Tiemco 7999 (stupid Tiemco), which I thought I'd bring to your tying bench.

This go 'round, I've included prices, either from where I bought the hooks, or from quick Google searches.  My winner (by just the slim margin of a finer return eye) to replace the 7999 is the Akita AK305.  I prefer a heavy size 10; I've just had too much good luck with it not to stick with it.  An example of its staying power is the Celtic Beauty tied on it with which Bridget hooked 7 salmon a couple Septembers ago:

I've broken down the price per hook.  It's eye opening.  Good thing I like the Akita and Maruto more than any of the Partridges (which I suppose are OK if you're on the Partridge Pro Staff and get them for free or at a discount) because they are priced WAY above my paygrade (Prices are U.S. dollars; foreign shipping for some of the hooks increases the cost per hook somewhat dramatically - not taken into consideration here):

 Akita A305:                           29 cents/hook
Maruto M30:                          19   "          "
Tiemco 7999:                          good luck
Partridge M2:                         80 cents/hook
Partridge single Wilson:         51   "         "
Partridge Bartleet Supreme:   70   "         "
Mustad  SL53 UBL                28   "         "
Daiichi 2421                           38   "         "
Partridge CS42 Bomber         28   "         "

Missing from the chart this time (where'd they go?) is the Gaelic Supreme hook.  Sixty cents a pop.

Where can you buy the Akita and Maruto hooks?  Not telling.  But easy enough Google.

So...the chart.  Hope it's helpful. (click on it to make it bigger)


Friday, March 11, 2016

Another Famous Grouse Fly

The similarity I noticed in my last blog post between Bob Warren's Glenlivet salmon fly and a Glenlivet bottle got me to thinking that I should make another stab at a Famous Grouse fly, this time more modeled on that scotch's logo bird than my last effort and more "spey style":

Several years ago, a "forum acquaintance" from a U.K.-based atlantic salmon fishing forum (  sent me some samples of claret seal fur dubbing.  One of the packages came from Frankie McPhillips Traditional Irish dubbing.  It was lovely dubbing.  Fast forward to this project.  The package of McPhillips' dubbing I had looked perfect for the project, but not the right shade.  I wanted the body of the fly to go from darker at the butt to lighter towards the head, like the logo bird.  A quick google and I was at Frankie's website
(  Great color photos of all his dubbing; I was able to order the two I wanted and received them promptly.

Here's where it gets "it's a small world" cool.  My partner Bridget's parents came over from Northern Ireland many moons ago.  She is the first of her family born here.  I thought she'd get a kick out something I'd bought from Ireland.  She read the package and burst out laughing.  "Enniskillen, that's where the family farm is...I've been there twice!"  And that's where McPhillips' Irish dubbing is made.  Some one on the U.K. salmon forum told me that Frankie has a nice fly shop there.  We need to go.

Back to the Fly.  I selected Fiery Brown dubbing for the rear third of the body, and Ballinderry Brown for the front two thirds.  I wanted to use feathers from the red grouse skin I have for hackling but they are all too brown to match the logo bird.  I went with ringneck pheasant rump dyed orange for the body hackle, and mallard for the throat hackle.  Tag and ribbing are gold oval Lagartun's tinsel.  I did manage to use a tail feather from the red grouse for the wing and of course Jungle cock for the eye.

I still have a bit of a tremor in my hands, so the head isn't the best, but it'll pass.  Here ya go (click on the pic for a larger version):

I think we'll give it a swim this fall on the Miramichi.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Will the REAL Glenlivet please stand up?!

I apologize.  I totally screwed up in my blog post Dyeing Mohair and Tying the Glenlivet Salmon Fly.  I misinterpreted/misunderstood Bob Warren's comments to me about the fly prior to writing that post and want to set the record straight.  Here are the facts and the real Glenlivet (not my best tie; problems with trembling hands):  Bob designed the fly for his wife, Linda, soon after she took up salmon fishing.  She was doing well with his Cutty Sark, but he felt she should have her own fly, named, like the Cutty is after his favorite scotch, the Glenlivet, her favorite scotch.  The real Glenlivet:

Tag:       Oval Copper Tinsel
Butt:      Chartreuse Gordon Griffiths floss
Tail:      Red Golden Pheasant Breast feather
Body:    Mohair dyed emerald green
Rib:       Oval Copper tinsel
Throat:  Black hen
Wing:    Wood duck flank feather (tented)
Head:     Red

A bottle of Glenlivet bears a striking resemblance, eh?
 So what of the fly in the last post?

Well, we know its not a Glenlivet.  I described it to Bob over the phone and all he could figure was that it is some simplified Balmoral that he was experimenting with.  The body would certainly lead one to think so.  It's such a pretty fly that I tied a batch of them before my hands went south (saw neurologist the other day; it's Essential Tremor.  He gave me a drug for it. Hope it works)

Anyway, just wanted to set the record straight.  The history of flies is murky enough without me muddying things up further.  Now, I better go and re-work that other blog post.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dyeing Mohair and tying a simplified Balmoral salmon fly

A couple weeks ago I was trying to tidy up my tying bench a bit (an endeavor doomed to an epic fail) and found a pair of flies tied by my good friends and salmon camp pals Bob and Linda Warren.  I think I could tell a Bob Warren-tied fly from across a room: neat, tidy, sparse, perfect small head.  And a tented wing like no one else I know can create.  Bob's simplified Balmoral, on a double (shows how long ago he tied it; hasn't tied doubles in years):

And Linda's fly, tied on a single (this low water version has been fished, if I recall correctly):


Looking at the fly under the microscope, so to speak, I couldn't identify the body material.  Not floss, not yarn.  Hmmmm.  Call Bob.  Turns out its Mohair, from the Angora goat:

I, er, borrowed that photo from this website, where, for the curious-natured among readers, you can find out more about these interesting creatures:

It also turns out that Bob has a BIG stash of washed angora mohair, and that he'd be happy to send me a batch to dye up and split with him in the right colors for the Glenlivet.  Good deal!  A few days later, it arrived.  Since it had been commercially washed, I would have to spend far less time washing it.  Mohair contains a lot of Lanolin, which, if not removed,  prevents the hair from taking the dye effectively.  Part of the lot he sent me:

You can "tease out" single locks of the stuff:

Here's the process I used to dye the mohair.  It is essentially the same process I use for all the feathers and hair I dye.  I should mention that I did google "dyeing mohair".  Interestingly, most of the sites with instructions of one type or another are "doll hair" sites.  That was a neat surprise!

My first step, even though this was pre-washed material, was to wash it again with Synthrapol:

I'm fortunate to have a stainless steel sink in my shop; I do all my dyeing there.  I am lucky to have that shop, from both a convenience and a self-preservation perspective.  Trust me on this:  DO NOT do your dyeing in the kitchen...unless you have: A. a death wish or B. like paying alimony.  The sink with mohair being washed:

Over time, I've developed a collection of the dyes I use most commonly, uncharacteristically neatly stored in a drawer of the old medical cabinet I use as my dyeing platform:

Looking through my collection of dyed materials, I found two pieces of "white bear" that match the body sections of the Glenlivet perfectly.  The two dyes:

It's important to use acid dyes in a stainless steel vessel, over a controllable heat source, with a thermometer that tells you the temperature of the dye bath.  Here's my set-up, all obtained pretty cheaply via ebay (check out the stains on the formica countertop...think those would boost your popularity in the kitchen??):

I like to pre-dissolve the dye in small pan prior to adding it to the bath:

For the three inches or so of water I had in the large vessel, I figured a heaping teaspoon of dye would be plenty:

Here are two VERY important things to have on hand when using acid dyes:

You cannot "fix" an acid dye to the material at hand without white vinegar.  And you'll be sorry (but very colorful) if you don't wear some brand of rubber gloves.

I typically bring the dye bath up to 175-185 (F) degrees to dye most of the feathers and hair I dye.  Reading those doll sites I mentioned before, most of them said to dye mohair around 150 (F) degrees, so that's what I was shooting for (by the way, that is a long-stemmed candy thermometer that goes all the way to the bottom of the dye pot):

Mohair washed and ready for the bath:

And into the bath.  This batch spent about 30 minutes in the bath before I felt it to be the right color.  During its time in the bath, I poured a generous amount of vinegar into the bath.  My experience tells me if I can smell the vinegar coming off the bath, I probably have enough in it.  I always move the material to the side of the bath so I can add the vinegar to it without pouring it directly onto the material.

Once I've achieved the color I'm looking for, I remove it from the bath and place it directly into a warm water bath with a bit of Synthrapol in it:

I swish it around quite a bit in the Synthrapol bath, then hold it under the faucet, rinsing and wringing it until the water I'm wringing out runs clear, which means that what I'm holding in my hands is all material with fixed dye in it; nothing to run out later when a fly tied with it hits the water.  The finished Kelly Green and Sapphire Blue batches ready to dry:

When I can't blow dry a material (like a piece of fur or an entire chicken cape) I use an old pillow case and our dryer.  I just place the batch in the pillow, tie a not in the open end and chuck it in the dryer, medium heat for as long as it takes to dry. Worked very well in this instance, as well as when I've dyed up a batch of individual feathers (and no one is the wiser that I've been using the dryer for illicit purposes!):

After the two batches dried, I teased out a lock of each to tie a simplified Balmoral from:

Time to try tying the fly.  It usually takes me 3 or 4 tries at a new fly before I'm happy with it.  In the case of this fly, it's not a particularly good looking end product, and I know there are other ways to tie the same fly, but I wanted to bring a good, effective fly (and far prettier than most!) to a broader audience than it has heretofore been exposed.

This fly, like Bob's Cutty Sark, has a peach floss butt, which is a blend of flosses.  Bob uses, as do I, the now essentially unavailable Gordon Griffith's floss.  The blend is 4 parts orange floss, two parts yellow, and one part green.  If you tried to blend pieces of this floss right off the spool, you'd have a rope on your hands.  Fortunately, GG floss divides easily into two pieces:

Here are the split strands ready for blending:

I use a soft toothbrush to stroke the strands together, blending them slowly, starting with two strands and then adding the next strand when the previous strands are blended together:

The finished peach floss:

And then I split that piece into three finer pieces for a less bulky butt (that sounds funny.)

Okay, NOW we can tie the fly:

1.  I wrap the hook with white thread to give other materials something to hang on to:

2.  Tie in the small, oval copper tinsel for the tag and rib:

3.  I use 4 wraps of tinsel to build the first part of the tag:

4.  Use the thread to move the tinsel forward to make room for second part of the tag,the peach floss:

5.  Tie in the floss:

6.  Wrap floss to complete the tag and tie in Golden Pheasant Crest tail (Note:  I'm going to wish I had wrapped the materials to this point in a little closer to the head, smoother and more tapered at the head):

7.  Time for the butt.  Dub a tiny amount of black beaver dubbing onto your thread:

7.  Wrap the butt:

8.  Oops, forgot to show tying in the green mohair and wrapping it, but here's the blue:

9.  Body finished (now you can see why I mentioned that I wish I had taken the "under materials" farther forward, and should have paid a little more attention to lumps under the body.  But hey, I was tired from all that dyeing!!):

10.  Wrap the ribbing:


11.  Tie in a black hen hackle for the collar:

12.  Wrap the collar (I made 4 wraps, shoulda used 3):

13.  Tie in the wood duck flank feather for the tented wing (I like to put the feather shaft through the hook's eye; helps me keep things centered).  Keep the feather folded as best you can as you draw it to its final length (even with the end of the tail):

14.  Tie wing off, finish the head, start layering on the Cellire varnish, and you're good to go:

Is this a fly worth tying?  Ask Linda Warren!