Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flourescent Floss Test Yields Unexpected Results!

My title makes me laugh...I feel like I should be shouting "Extra, Extra, Read All About It!"

Don't forget, you can click on the pics to get the, er, big picture.

Here's the deal:  my good friend and incredible Miramichi River guide Renate Bullock ( ) sent me a new fly she found out about recently, the Christmas Tree.  No, not the big spring streamer, this is a very interesting looking hairwing for summer.  Here's Renate's tie:

Obviously, the multi-floss butt has to be a big selling point to discriminating atlantic salmon, so, what with my penchant for buying and hoarding every salmon fly tying material known to humanity and all, I decided to let the aging scientist in me have a go at determining the best brand of floss for the job.  I chose three brands, including my fav, Gordon Griffiths SuperGlo:

I tied up three flies, one with each brand, minus the wing and hackle.  The body is peacock herl ribbed with oval silver floss (more about the body later):

They all look pretty similar to my eye, especially the Griffiths and the UNI.  Time to soak them all for a few minutes:

Hmmmmmmm, something's happening.  What is that bluish stuff surrounding the bodies??

Flies out of the bath:

I'll let you, dear reader, decide which floss looks best to you after a soak, but here's a little tip and the best thing to come out of this experiment:  DON'T BUY THIS STUFF:

I originally bought it because I like how the dyed herl really "popped" when tied on as a body.  I didn't know then that whatever company supplies BassPro with this stuff doesn't know doodly about dyeing materials!  The dye essentially all comes off the herl:

So...Gordon Griffiths is still my fave floss - although I wish they had a hotter red (I may try the pink, it really pops), but my three packages of BassPro's dyed herl are going in the trash.

This has been a public service announcement.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Grousing instead of Trouting

Yesterday was another fishable day over in New York.  The Batten Kill was running a little high, but it was a doable deal:

That's the good news.  The bad news is that after I got all wadered up and took a few steps and casts into the river, I realized that I just wasn't into the swing of it (all puns intended, as usual).  Hmmm, what to do?

Earlier in the morning, I had been emailing with a "forum friend", artist Bill Elliott, who I met through the Nova Scotia salmon fishing forum ( about ruffed grouse.

It's been two seasons since I stepped foot into a grouse covert due to those oft-mentioned pesky surgeries.  It was mid-morning, mid-40's temp and I was pretty handy to about 8,000 acres of New York State public land (those of you that don't know New has an awesome amount of public hunting land for a state of its size and human population).   So, street shoes, legs in horrible shape and all, I decided to go for a walk up into the woods, in search of a grouse.  

I started up following a little brook, all very grousey:

The sun was out.  I liked the way it lit up the water droplets hanging from the multiflora rose:

No grouse yet, but up on top of the ridge, the view was pretty darn good, big dairy farm in the distance (and still in grouse cover):

Hmmmm, I'm not the only one that's been up here looking for grouse:

When I was doing graduate research on ruffed grouse on public lands, I used to quantify (to myself, not the university) grouse coverts by what I called the "shot shell quotient".   The better the covert, the more shells littering the ground.  I picked up buckets full of them over the years.  Still do.  Do you pick up yours?

Ah, finally, a grouse!  OK, what's left of one:

Hard life that, being a grouse.  Everybody wants to eat you.  Including me.  Grouse sauteed in white wine, mushrooms and scallions.  Yum. 

But, legs starting to let me know they haven't gone walking for more than a year, time to head back down.  Followed another little brook back down.  These brooks all end up in the Batten Kill.

It was a fine walk.   Far too long since I've enjoyed the smells and sights of a grouse woods.  I'll be back; maybe tuned up for a longer stay.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Over-Gunned (and under-manned!) on the Batten Kill

Yesterday, for the first time since I got my new hip last November, I took myself fishing.  I went to a stretch of the Batten Kill (or Battenkill for the less pure of heart) that is open year 'round, catch and release only.  There is no snow on the ground, the temperature was in the mid-40's, there was no wind and the river level was perfect.  It simply does not get any better than that in mid-February around here!

Don't forget - you can click on the pics for a larger version.

Emailing back and forth with a couple knowledgeable friends about equipment, and since I hate casting heavily weighted flies (chuck and duck, yuck.), I decided to use a Teeny T-300, 24 foot sink tip on an 8 weight Loomis NativeRun GLX (paid political announcement? Not.).   Normally I'd never use an 8wt on that river, but I figured to get down deep I'd need that weight rod to fling the T-300 around.  I've used that set-up on atlantic salmon springers to good effect, so why not?

Well, the "why not" turns out to be because its way too much weight for the current river flow (note to self: do not use Teeny T-300 when Batten Kill is flowing at 600cfs).  I was snagging rocks on every cast.  Lost a nice expensive-to-tie Deep Green Beauty on the first cast.  (Another note to self:  always bring more than one line with you when experimenting in new circumstances).  Hence the over-gunned.

All was not lost, however.  I got to take a nice fly pic (the fly fishing fashion police will be pleased to note the color coordination between fly and rod, no doubt):

And some very pleasant river shots:

And even a buck rub:

Now, about that "under-manned" in this post's title: that would be me.  I haven't worked, hiked, hunted or fished in about a year and a half due to some pesky surgeries.  This was my first foray back where I belong since late last September.  All I can say is its a good thing Bridget gave me a gym membership (subtle message, that, eh?) for my 62nd birthday the other day.  My legs were really aching when my truck finally came back into view!

In spite of the aches and pains, it was a joy to get out again.  I saw a bald eagle, too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dyeing and Tying a Simple Sunburst Cascade

I started dyeing my own materials a year or so ago after reading about the process on several forums, particulary (if you go there, search out especially posts by "flytyer"; he knows what he's doing) and on Bryant Freeman's website,   There's a wealth of information on both of these sites.  I've found that dyeing my own materials adds delightfully to the satisfaction I get from fly tying.  Recently, I saw some flies tied using Sunburst-colored materials, including several Cascade-style flies.  I've had luck with Cascades on the Miramichi, so I decided to mix up some Sunburst, and give it all a go.

First, a little about my dyeing equipment.  I use a hotplate purchased on eBay, where I also purchased a set of 3 stainless steel pots.  If I recall correctly, each purchase was in the thirty five dollar range:

I do know, from my visits to the forums, that some folks do their dyeing in the kitchen.  I believe it would be likely I'd do my dying there if I tried that.  That's the infeed table to my radial arm saw under the hotplate.  Think I could keep the kitchen counter free from new colors?? nah.

The process is fairly straightforward; one merely tweaks it as one's experience with the process grows.  Essentially, you pre-soak the materials to be dyed in a detergent bath, using either a detergent like Dawn, or the more professional strength Synthrapol for an hour or so (maybe more for greasy stuff like duck feathers):

The Sunburst color is achieved by mixing two colors, a fuschia and a yellow:

I heat a gallon or so of tapwater depending upon how much stuff I'll be dyeing, and add the dyes.  I started with a 50:50 mixture of the two dyes, and then, using rolled paper towels, I kept checking the color until its where I thought it should be.  My Sunburst dye ended up being essentially a 2:1 mix of yellow to fuschia.  These towels show the progession from "way too orange" to "way too pale" to back to where I figured I wanted the dye to be:

I like to get the dye bath's temperature in the 175-185 degree range and then add the materials.  A candy-style thermometer is critical to the process:

These dyes are called acid dyes for a reason:  an acid must be added to the bath to "fix" the dye in the materials.  These dyes are also specialized to dye protein-based (e.g., feathers and fur) materials.  So after a few minutes in the bath, I add some (I know, I much?  A splash?) white vinegar.  Oh, and a few drops of that Synthrapol stuff helps disperse the dye evenly too.

Some colors, especially the deep dark green I like to dye for my Celtic Beauty, take quite awhile in the bath.  I achieved the Sunburst I was looking for in about 15 minutes.  The silver badger cape took the color quite differently than the three Whiting American capes (rooster cape, rooster saddle, hen cape, which all started life in white):

Jacquard's dye can be purchased through .  They are a great company to deal with, and also have a house brand dye that is excellent, and comes in a larger portion than the Jacquard's.

So....on to the simple Sunburst Cascade!  REMEMBER YOU CAN CLICK ON A PIC TO ENLARGE!

I start with a shorter shanked hook because I think Cascades look better on these than they do on more typical salmon irons like the Daiichi 2441.  This hook is an english-made hook, size four, that I filched from my friend Wally.  It is 2X Stout.   Begin by tying the thread in at the butt - and please do remember - there are at least a million ways to tie this fly, your mileage may vary:

Now, tie in your Lagartun gold oval tinsel, size small:

Make three or four wraps, depending upon how many you think salmon like to see, to create the tag; the remaining tinsel will be used to rib the fly eventually.  Pull it out of the way for now:

Now we need a Sunburst-colored tail.  You could use a fine bucktail, or other hair...I chose a nice, translucent mammal hair that was legally obtained:

Now trim that off at a taper so the body will have same:

After adding 3 or 4 strands of your favorite bling (in this case, Cascade Crest Tool's Crystal Mirror Flash in Orange..neat pearly stuff!), bind the tail down, keeping everything nice and tidy:

Tie in a length of gold holographic mylar tinsel (or whatever you think will be the rear body du jour for salmon palettes when next you go fishing) and wrap the thread forward to mid-body:

Now wrap the mylar forward to mid-body and tie off.  Leave the waste end a little long and run the thread down it to the head, maintaining that nice taper:

Tie in a length of your favorite brand of black floss:

Wrap it back to meet the mylar and then forward to the head and tie off...always leaving plenty of room there for the wing and a pair of hackles, and wrap the oval tinsel forward, creating the rib:

Time to tie in a wing.  I used black kid goat hair:

Trim the wing, and add a little bling (pearl midge flash here):

Hackle time.  I used a feather from a Whiting American rooster cape, dyed, of course, Sunburst:

Tie it in by the tip, and make three or four wraps, depending upon the feather and upon how sparse or full you want the fly to be:

Tie it off:

Now select and tie in a Badger dyed Sunburst for the front hackle:

Make 3 or 4 wraps of the badger, tie off, finish wrapping the head, and voila', a simple and sparsely- tied Sunburst Cascade:

The list of materials: