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:


  1. Great post Gary. I'd nearly buy some dyed capes off you if you were selling them. And the fly, it looks good too! I love the badger at the front!

    Nice job!

  2. Sharp looking fly Gary. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nice looking fly Gary~~I soooooo enjoy your commentary as you create this fly! You`'re right up there with the "pros"! To think~ at one time I tied a fly for you to catch a fish ....LOL!

  4. Interesting stuff Gary. You are a man of many talents...keep up the great work!