Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tying a Thoroughly Modern Magog Smelt

Over the past several years, my experiences on-stream, river and lake indicate to me that flash works.  Doesn't have to be a lot of flash, probably even shouldn't be a lot of flash, but my flash-added streamers are just more effective.  And for the material hoarder in me, there's so much in the way of flash out there.  Name your poison.

Here's the venerable Magog Smelt all dressed up in modern materials as I tie it:
Thread: Black Gordon Griffiths 14/0
Hook:  Daiichi 2271 size 2
Body: Orvis E-Z Body Braid, size extra small and in natural pearl with lateral line with silver mylar underbody
Wing:  Hair of your choice.  Purple over yellow over white, flash mixed in and over to whim.

Don't forget you can click on the pics to see a larger version!

1.  Tie in thread about 1/4" from where you want the body to end and wrap back to that end point:

2,  Now wrap forward half the distance to the tie-in point.  That rear portion of thread is important; it will give you, your thread and the E-Z body braid something to grip when you tie it down:

3.  Cut a length, maybe 7 or 8 inches, of wide silver/gold mylar.  Taper the end that you will be tying in:

4.  Tie in the mylar with the silver side facing the hook.  This somehow magically allows you to wrap the mylar with the silver side facing out.  Intuitively, that just seems wrong.  Wind the thread to the head.  You don't have to be wickedly careful about how you do'll be wrapping the mylar tightly and the little ridges formed over the thread just give the fly that much more star power.

5.  Wrap the mylar forward in tight, touching turns (as Scottish tyer Davie MacPhail likes to say with a brogue so thick it took me about 10 of his videos to figure out what he was saying).  Tie off and remove thread:

6.  Find the E-Z Body Braid under the pile of materials on your bench:

7.  Measure twice and cut once as carpenter extraordinaire Norm Abrams likes to say, and slide your segment of body braid over the hook:

8,  This is where you're going to be really glad you left that 1/8" of thread wraps at the rear of the hook.  If you don't, the body braid will just slip and slide and elude your every effort to tie it down.  Trust me on this one.  Start the wrap maybe a 1/6" back from the butt of the E-Z Braid, making sure the lateral line in the braid runs straight down the side of the hook like a good lateral line should:

9. Wrap back over the Braid just like you were finishing the head of the fly:

10.  Tie off with a couple half hitches where the thread meets the braid and hit with your head cement of choice.  I like this butt to look as good as the head, so its 3 to 4 coats of Cellire Clear Varnish for me (which mean several days of application and drying, but who's in a hurry, anyway?):

11.  Time to finish the fly.  Tie in your thread - and this is why I like Gordon Griffiths 14/0 so is incredibly strong and with the Braid you've already got a pretty big head developing; heavier/thicker thread isn't going to help matters one bit - securing the forward portion of the Braid.

12.  Tie in the first batch of hair, which for the Magog is white:

13.  The nice thing about tying on a down-eye hook like the 2271 is that you can trim the hair from the front of the hook rather than the side.  You get a much better taper going this way, which is important to keeping it so it doesn't look like you've got a black block of cement on the front of your hook when you're done:

14.  I add a dab of head cement and make a bunch of wraps on each layer of hair...helps keep the head small (because remember I'm using that 14/0 thread and can get away with it) and helps keep the hair on the fly when you're fishing it, which is a good feature of any fly.  I tossed on several strands of pearl midge flash at this point, too:

Tie on the yellow and purple layers, always trimming off from the front to keep that taper thing going:

Traditionally, there's some peacock herl topping the Magog Smelt.  I use peacock krystal flash.  It's all about the flash after all, ain't it?  Voila, a thoroughly modern Magog Smelt:

Wait'll the landlocks and atlantics get a load of this little darling this coming May!


Todd Towles of Kingfisher River Guides ( suggested tying this smelt up with blue in place of the yellow.  I had just gotten some blue dye in, so this morning I dyed up a pile of hair.  There's a spring atlantic salmon fly called a Blue Smelt...this beauty has got that beat for looks by a mile.  I will definately be giving it a swim in May on the Miramichi!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Building a Furniture-Grade Fly Rod Rack

Some years ago I built a rack for my fly rods out of leftover flooring from my house in South Carolina.  Two hundred year-old Longleaf heartpine:

My good friend Jamie was down in my cave recently and said he'd like one just like it, so, since I can actually move around again pain-free (thank you new hip!) it was time to see if my saws still worked after 15 months of inactivity (read: no income).   So off to The Big Box Lumber yard I went (I know, I know, but it was Sunday and the good lumber yard was closed and I wanted to get started!)

I thought it would be fun to document the building process.  All Jamie's 18-rod rack requires in the way of lumber is four 1"X5"X8' premium white pine boards:

I suppose a person could use plywood for the top and bottom of the rack, but I prefer to glue up my own wide board.  I get pretty obsessive about matching up grain patterns so that its pretty tough to tell it isn't just one big board.  I take the long boards and slide them around to make matches, or cut a long board to see if it will match up with itself:

Once I get the matches figured out, I cut to approximate final size.  I cut maybe 4 inches longer than I need to account for possible sniping (a funny thing that happens sometimes to boards being run through a joiner) on the ends of the boards.  I usually use my radial arm saw:

Things look pretty good for creating a nice wide board:

To get perfect edges with no gaps for the glue-up, I run the boards through my joiner:

Makes for nice, tight, no-gap edge.  I like to use a plate (or bisquit) joiner to strengthen the bond between individual pieces of wood.  The bisquits also help with alignment during the glue-up process.  Here I've got the locations marked for the bisquits:

It's a handy tool to have. 

Here's what a bisquit looks like:

Bisquits and glue, ready to go:

All clamped up for about 24 hours:

Attention to grain lines makes for a nice board:

Out of the clamps and getting a first coarse sanding (I love that Bosch sander, it is a hog!):


Back to the table saw to rip material for the legs and trim:

The legs are made kind of like corner boards on a house...but you can see both sides of these legs, and the inside corner is a bear to sand, so it pays to be careful and wipe up and squeezed-out glue very carefully:

Legs, trim and top and bottom in the rough:

Time to layout the 18 holes on the top and bottom:

Over to the drill press to cut out a total of thirty six 2.5" holes (oh, so boring, all puns intended):

Then the router comes out to chamfer each hole with a 1/8" roundover bit:

Chamfered and not:

Time to pick out a stain.  I gave Jamie 4 choices from my Bag O' Stained wood:

He picked Min-Wax's English Chestnut.  A good choice on pine.

Back to woodworking.  Time to install the trim on the top and bottom.  I get to use my favorite tool for this, my nice big 12" Milwaukee Sliding Compound Mitre Saw (this is starting to sound like one of those outdoor writer's testimonial tales of a fishing trip, naming names of every single piece of equipment.  Hey, Milwaukee, you listening??):

It makes mitering a breeze.  Here's the top ready for trim installation and clamping:

And glued up:

I am the worst when it comes to cleaning up every night.  After just three days, the place is a disaster area:

So after a little policing of the area, all the pieces of the rod rack are completely sanded (I start with 100 grit, then 150, and I final-sand with 220) and ready for stain:

So I don the rubber gloves, grab a staining pad, and get it on:

All stained and ready for top coats:

I have been using Chem-Pak's Gun Sav'r Hunter Satin Gunstock finish on my projects for years.  I love this stuff (ok, ok, another testimonial.  Bear with me.  And Chem-Pak, are YOU listening, LOL).  It lays on beautifully, and dries within a couple hours.  It sands like a dream, and the final coat is tough and beautiful.  They have a gloss finish, too, but I've never used it.  The satin finish is just so warm and nice.

After one coat (oops, should have used the tack rag a little more, lots of dust to be sanded out):

I apply a total of three coats, sanding the first two coats with 220 grit sandpaper:

Three coats complete and the rack is ready for assembly:

I rabbeted the tops of the legs so that they would sit on the base correctly:

The legs get screwed to the top from the inside; the screws don't show (it pays to pre-drill everything):

Installing the base:

There's a stained board that goes on the underside of the base that I forgot to get a photo of.  Darn.

Anyway, all dressed up and ready for its spot at Jamie's house.  Now, wasn't that easy??

Hopefully, Jamie's won't look like mine usually does: