Break Point

The last time I published a technical article, I was met with some really positive feedback. So, Im going to follow this rabbit hole a little further. Since I have been writing everyday, there seems to be plenty of time to explore a little. Plus, my computer decided to completely clean itself out. Everything (and I really mean everything including my sign in for wordpress) was deleted, buried in an unknown digital graveyard to live out its afterlife.

Typically, people will refer to a joint in a streamer as articulation. A place where the fly is designed to flex with a rigid shank on either side of the joint. As fond as people are of articulated streamers (both dual hook and looped shank), there is a far more subtle area of the fly I like to refer to as the “Break Point”. This break point is a transition between materials tied on the hook and is often destroyed by an articulation. Greater motion with less force can be applied to a fly with a break point. It’s all about delivering the energy you create by stripping a streamer and its ability to continue that motion through momentum. An articulation will flex and absorb that energy by folding in half. It’s very much like wiggling a chain and a fly rod. The chain will hang lifeless, and when force is applied, the movement is absorbed by each link in the chain. The fly rod, given the same force, will continue wiggling after force is applied. To make this more direct, a broken fly rod doesn’t wiggle like it should either. Hence, underwater, an articulated fly must rely on constant and greater force to move as it should and you should spend a little more time thinking about material transitions.

Put simply, the break point is the point in the fly where dense, sturdy materials meet those of a typically longer and more supple sort. Usually these transitions are found at the rear of the hook shank. The break point is easy to point out in flies like the Dahlberg Diver, but can often be much more complex and hidden as the break point is elongated. For example, bunny leeches with a bunny tail have a break point at the tie in for the tail. Whereas, in a fly such as the Derp, the break point is at the center of the more rigid structure (more on this in a minute, I promise) and creates a curve rather than a hard angle. Like the bunny leech, most streamers have a “hard break point” where the fly has soft, long fibers tied in on the rear of the fly. The harder a break point is (how sharp the angle is at the transition), the more likely the fly is to foul and have its tail wrapped around the hook shank.

How flexible the break point is can be a two-edged sword. Sometimes you want a hard break point when you are oriented vertically over structure. That wiggly tail can provide movement in a place where linear movement is difficult. However, that same fly stripped over open water will fold in half on the pause. In my experience, fish hate this. I mean, when I see a cow in pasture, I look at its cuts. Where my burger is going to come from is important. If the cow is unhealthy, it is apparent. Now, imagine that same cow walking along normally and suddenly folding in half and emerging again walking normally. I don’t want that burger anymore. I think this hitch is what drives a smallie to haul over to your fly and suddenly spook when you stop retrieving, only to come back once it moves again. If you see this often, you are probably almost there in design. Continue tinkering.

There is an exception to the rule. Moving water. If you are fishing moving water, the fly is constantly on the move and great force is constantly being applied to your streamer. Kinda like one of those silly “fly tester” aquarium things. Yes, it does give you a read on how the fly will swim under constant motion in perfect conditions, but we aren’t always fishing moving water with our flies. For me, it is incredibly rare. Quite frankly, because our moving water usually has no warm water fish and when it does, access is near impossible. If you do fish a lot of moving water, the break point has less importance. Hook orientation and balance are the keys to success there.

Maintaining shape and profile are critical under stillwater conditions. Back to the cow, either folded in half or front legs jutting out vertically from its shoulders, you will notice that. But three legs or one horn or an odd color can be overlooked in the proper circumstances. The same can be said for your flies. Sure, you tied a perfectly stereotypical brown cow, which is mostly what the streamer world focuses on. However, the most important aspects of streamers deal with profile and motion. Your perfectly tied brown cow that is levitating and turning inside out like a cheap 80’s horror movie will attract the wrong kind of attention.

This is getting long, bear with me.

Break point elongation is critical in flies that you want to work with long pauses. Accomplishing this is quite the easy task indeed. First, the fly must be light. rather than using extra mass on the fly, use a weighted fly line to drag your fly to the depths. This creates a slight forward motion on the fly to keep it from binding. Now, for the big number two.

Decide where you want the break point to be in terms of total length of the fly. Like last time, break it down into thirds. This time, only work in the center third. The forward third is reserved for techniques enough to write a book. The rear third is pointless.

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In this example, the Derp has a slightly rearward and very soft break point with the hook far in front. It is a very unexaggerated motion, more of a drifting, legato motion on the pause. No hard turns or anything of the like. It can be worked with speed, but designed to be general purpose. And such are rear break point flies. The elongation of the break point is created by making a kind of mesh. Both EP and bucktail are notoriously grabby and the use of polar flash binds it all together. When the hook drops due to gravity, the structural integrity of these materials spreads the force over a longer distance and keeps the overall profile in tact. Even though the tie in transition is on the rear of the hook, through different types of materials like the sturdy bucktail add rigidity and structure to the more supple and lengthy EP.

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Transversely, the Laser Yak has a forward and slightly harder break point with mass behind the transition tie in. The break point is elongated again, but not as much, by utilizing structural materials (in this case laser dub) interlocked into longer, softer fibers. The elongation is shorter due to the suppleness of the fibers but creates more lateral motion when mass and resistance are properly added into the equation.

Keep your break point in mind next time you are staring down that fly on the vice. How can you manipulate it to get your fly to do what you want? The more forward the break point, the more lateral motion the fly will have. The more rear, more subtle motion. The harder a break point, the sharper the flex and more loss in momentum. The softer the break point, the more momentum can be maintained. Have fun and go tinker!

 

 

 

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The Call

It is a sickness, similar to being laid up in a hospital bed with unfinished business. You left your oven on and you know it. The constant tug pulling you away from where you are. A place you do not wish to be. Any excuse seems legitimate.

There is no reprieve, no detox, no helpline. No friends to help with the itch beckoning you to your release. The friends are only enablers. Even in those moments of joy and excitement the memory seems dull and uneventful. Times spent around people numbingly tedious. Deep down, you want to enjoy those moments, but the oven is on. You left your home unlocked and your focus on the world around you fades.

The itch, the pull, the ever active light in your head. To be there in the cold while yearning for warmth. Surrounded by a safe place. To escape the relentless barrage of people breathing the same air, choking what oxygen is left. To be free of neon lights and unsmiling faces walking with no other care for the others who, blank-faced and emotionless, do the same. To be in that place again, to be in a place of non-judgement, to be free in that vast expanse of nothing. Those are the thoughts that dominate.

Until then, walking head down with my hands in my pockets, you will know what I am thinking and where I want to be. That person hiding in his cloak in public with the end goal of casting it off. To be who and what I really am, even though I might not know what that is. Even with age, I should know how to block it out, but I can not. A burden I have carried since childhood still wants me, still calls.


Point-Center Mass

This may be the first time I have written a post about a technique used in fly tying. Kind of scary to share knowledge this way here. I do not normally find myself specifically writing from a technical perspective. Dear Diary, I’m not going to get terribly artsy today.

Before you begin reading it may be beneficial to understand when I refer to WEIGHT, I mean it as the application for the purposes of downward force. MASS is a reference to mass applying force and typically forward motion.

Mass is very typically overlooked. Most people use it to get deeper and that is the sole purpose, “cause that is where the fish are”. Although this is true in most cases, it is not necessarily the case for where they are currently eating. A sub par fly will function a whole lot more effectively when it is presented 5mm from the mouth of a fish. Those fish are usually snuggled up to some sort of structure. Trout live in the soft spots with great food sources, bass, in and around lots of different kinds of debris. When we present a fly to these fish, we feel like we should get closer and closer until we bug them enough to eat. It works. However, when you watch the fish you are targeting, it will often move from the feeding zone to eat something else. Not your fly.

Outside of midges, craw patterns, clousers and deceivers, we see a different sort of reaction to our flies (fish dependent). In order to move a fish (bass, trout, pike, musky, carp, etc..) you have to give it something it not only wants, but something it can wisely use its energy on. Two specific memories come to mind with this thought.

The first, when I fished the Blue River in town, the first cast with a black emerger thingy I tied, a 22″ trout shot across the cable hole 30′ to be the first to grab it. I had never seen that happen in a river full of “tight-lipped” trout. The second, an X-tail brought a musky zipping just sub-surface from at least 50′ to eat.

These are two opposing ends of the spectrum, but they both had a reaction in common. What can one glean from this information? You guessed it (whether you did or didn’t doesn’t matter at this point cause I’m going to tell you anyway), they both resembled something the fish was going to eat. Realism. Not in the “wow, that looks like the real thing” to the human eye, but the “Oh my gosh a bear! No, wait, that’s a trash bag”.

If we, with our powerful brain capacity and reason, can not tell the difference between sasquatch and a tree stump, why would we expect a fish to do the same? The same reference can be applied to how some people are unable to differentiate chicken and pork in some dishes. Or when people say, “wow, this vegan burger tastes great!”

I ran slightly off topic, but I feel like you need to know a little deeper about my thought processes of why fish eat certain things. A different approach to realism. Motion. The proper motion in the water can make the difference between a fish laying mundane in a spot and moving far out of its way to eat.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, slapping weight on the front of a streamer kills any motion the fly could potentially gain. Unless, you are only going for vertical motion. You can also get some nifty motion from combinations of front mass and head resistance (a topic for a different day). Today, I’m diving into “Point-Center Mass”. If you divide you hook into thirds, you’ll end up with front, center and rear. Side note: I typically refer to the “head” as the front third with added materials. I definitely want to make that difference clear as they will become very different things.

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Every hook will be different and we will use this 2/0 Gamakatsu B10S as an example.

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Point-Center Mass starts from the hook point and travels into the front third of the hook but is slightly off of true center depending on the hook. In this example, .035″ lead-free round wire is used to get the proper weight.

The mass distribution in every hook is different, especially in terms of mass around the bend of the hook. This should be taken into account when figuring weight distribution. In the case of this B10S, the bend starts early and is (when straightened) 1.5ish times the length of the shank. Weighing roughly 800 milligrams in total, that means the bend weighs roughly 500 milligrams. Exact numbers do not matter, but knowing roughly where you are can make a great deal of difference. Does that mean you should you buy a scale and be put on an FBI watch list? Probably.

The full idea behind Point-Center Mass is to add mass between the point and the eye of the hook to further balance the end product. Although it is one of the more complex aspects of design, it is the most simple in terms of application and has very broad coverage of different flies. You can put nearly anything on this hook and it will do exactly what you want. Essentially, you are adding the weight of the bend again into the center third of the hook. Your weight distribution in thirds from front to rear is 150-500-500 milligrams. If the weight ends up being over the point, you are adding unnecessary mass to the rear third. The transition when adding weight from the point forward is smooth. When you look at its distribution in terms of numbers, you’ll notice that the front is light. This is when it gets interesting (as if it weren’t interesting enough already, amiright!?).

When the head is light and creates a lot of resistance, the resistance slows the head and the mass behind the head tries to catch up. A lot like slamming the brakes in your car and the rear tires lock up. Your car will turn backward. But, when you add a tail, (depending on the materials) it will calm the swing of the fly and tighten the swerve. When the weight shifts, a magical thing happens. The mass continues pushing and, because it is so close to the head, the fly rocks back and forth when no force is applied by the act of stripping. The motion continues slightly even when force is applied. Giving your fly realistic mimicry of a fish and prolonged motion when you aren’t working for it. In most cases, this will make a fish move from anywhere it is at to eat. Some flies are great on the strip and terrible on the pause and some opposite of that. In those cases your fly is only working half of the time. If you increase the effectiveness of both types of motion, you double your total time on the water.

Try point-center mass techniques in your favorite single hook, non-articulated flies. A couple great ones for the technique are Dahlberg Divers and Bohen’s Buford or even Zimmerman’s Stuntman Eddie (you’d have to break some rules though). Not to mention my Laser Yak. Go crazy with it, the simple rule is making a fluffy head.

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The Horde

There comes a time in every fly tier’s life where there is an insurmountable task ahead. For some it is design and the pressures that follow it. For me, the act of tying is the clincher. I do not support using anything remotely close to free labor unless it is my own. I know and understand there are others out there like me. I would not mind one iota if there was fair labor overseas. Even if they were paid slightly under our own minimum wage. They aren’t and there is no cushy way to put it even if you are supporting an entire colony of people for pennies a day.

My issue here is, as much as it does help one from a third world country, it could be more. There are no strictly enforced labor laws, no regulations. If you were really looking to sincerely help those from other countries, import the people here or export our regulations and American pay rates. You are, after all, selling to Americans with American dollars.

In no way will I use this blog for political rants (cause I hate politics) or pursuing any agenda, but the influx of products made through cheap labor is astounding. This is all encompassing in the fly fishing world. Unavoidable. I’m only one guy, but chasing that dream of someday having flies tied by people who fish in the same places I do, is something maybe I can help attain. It seems futile with all the deal chasers and the myth that a full fly box catches more fish.

That scheme, “hand-tied” flies to novices is like a moth to flame. Fluttering toward the prospective that real hands attached to people that live and die by the river touched the fly they desire. And it is only ninety-nine cents! Even “pros” get sucked into this mess. “designed by so-and-so”, to which all flies are cheapened and tied differently from the original design (if any real time or processes are involved). Should really say “fly pattern inspired by” as though they are loosely based on a true story. Tie it how it was intended, take the extra .0001 cent and eight seconds to slap on the extra marabou.

My frustration with the industry as a whole reveals itself. I know that it can’t be changed.   I have no net positive or negative outcome on it. The clock keeps ticking and the horde keeps flowing in on ships to saturate this industry as well. Caught up by industrialist inspired work in an industry with a need for craftsmanship and personal interaction. From people, no matter where in the world, who stand behind their work whole-heartedly and with pride.

While the incoming horde grows, I sit contemplating my own. Every detail, every rotation of thread carefully and willfully planned. Not because I am told to. Not because I can make that dollar if I hit my quota. Because I want to see people catch fish on a well executed fly they can connect with. To bring back the sense of non-mechanical joy.

75 down 225 to go… Oh yeah, then I have to actually tie them.IMG_1437

 


The New Guy

Throughout school and beyond, I was an awkward person. I guess it rings true today as well. I don’t dress right, never did, or fit in within social groups. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends. They just happened to be in that same “the weird people” social class. It was the waiting room of sorts, the people you hung out with while you were waiting to be a cool kid. Not me though. I was a permanent fixture. I was made fun of a lot for having big ears or just being generally weird looking. Totally ok with that if you are concerned.

Bluewater Lake seems to be that same sort of outcast, the underdog. If anyone knows me, they know that I constantly root for the things and people I see great amounts of potential in. This lake, as sad as it has become to watch a struggling environment, is one of those places. I’ve asked and suggested on numerous occasion to stock new and interesting fish to fill the gap between super predator and minnow. The state usually responded with a canned “no” and a slew of reasons why my ideas were not the best courses of action. Understandable, I’m quite used to it.

Last year, we heard rumors that a couple of private ponds on the west end of the lake had overfilled their boundaries. Ponds loaded to the brim with sunfish and largemouth. We didn’t think much of it, but hoped that something cool would come of it. Time went by and we fished for trout with the back-handed excuse that we were really fishing for something else. To fit in. Come May, nothing interesting happened. We did see a couple of photos of perch and sunfish, but using these fish as bait is both common and illegal. We thought nothing of it. There is no way a dumped bait bucket could survive in a population density of musky that rivals all other lakes on the planet. It would take tens of thousands of perfectly placed fish for them to take hold.

In my years, I’ve gone through the rounds of seeing this lake ride the rollercoaster of having loads of fish and having none. I’ve fished the creek when it flowed year round and was chock-full of little rainbow trout who made their way up the creek. I watched it dry up and die. I’ve seen the white sucker population explode and been through throwing 5-6lbers on the banks for the crows. After that, goldfish. The state response, at first, was the implementation of largemouth bass. They grew to great size very quickly, but suddenly disappeared after the musky were stocked. This was all over the course of about 6 years. Then in 2004, 1.1 million sterile trout were stocked, a deviation from the norm due to whirling disease in the hatcheries. For 7 years, things remained the same and the goldfish were gone. The muskies were huge. After 3,000 adult muskies were released, things quickly spiraled out of control. Their food quickly disappeared and the muskies began to starve. The stocking program could not support it. By the end 2016, the lake had reached a low I had never seen and the future looked dismal.

This lake has held (at some point or another) multiple records for every fish that has lived in it. Even rainbow trout. The distribution of the food web for minnow, insect and algae eaters is one of the best in the state and can grow fish to their full potential. Pair that with the long growing seasons and cool summers and you have a lake of great potential.

Enter the new guy, overlooked and typically made fun of. Not targeted or desired, just invisible. Not instagram worthy. A fish full of potential in a lake full of potential. A fish that I am very happy to have. One of the most exciting days that I have had on the water in years. Two undesirables hanging out on the water together.IMG_1417


Acting On A Myth…

Short and sweet this morning. Not often do I have the opportunity to find new water or new fish. It did happen a couple years ago and might just happen again today. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to find new things in New Mexico, we don’t have much to find. Water, at least. I mean the accidental fish in waters you normally fish is cool and all, but I get to hunt one, to see if rumors are true.

Having a great deal of experience with the fish I’m searching for. But from experience in Illinois, no matter how stupid a fish seems to be, they can also be very elusive. Today, I’m strapping on the hiking boots and darting across fields of boulders to (literally) find the best news of my life.

The crazy part of all of this is, my life does depend on it. My future decisions depend on this fish. It seems mundane an unexciting to some, but I’ll see you later and hope to come back with fantastic news. As anticlimactic as that news may be. Until tomorrow!

To be continued…

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A Day In The Life, Folie à Deux

Whether Rita Mae Brown, Albert Einstein or Narcotics Anonymous mentioned it, the saying holds true. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I wouldn’t define it as insanity, but rather, the human condition. We are unrealistically repetitive in our actions. I have mentioned Game Theory before, but at what point in the game do both competitors rely on pure delusion? Thus, giving rise to Folie à Deux.

The conditions were perfect. A gentle breeze blew across the lake, erasing rise forms as they appeared, but a keen eye can detect a musky’s slow surface roll. “Hoppers” (the minnows who flip out of the water when they are balled up tight) splashed on the surface, heightening my senses. The wind picked up just enough to send lapping waves to shore. Every splash, flip, slip, slop, glop and whoosh diverted my attention. The delusion had set in.

Rookie anglers typically ask what you are using, where you were fishing or how you caught fish. The five W’s and the H. All questions can be answered with one word, time. You can literally throw anything, and if you do it long enough, you will eventually catch a fish. The best anglers are the ones who follow the golden fishing rule; Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Time is one of the only things that humans can’t manipulate. We can’t sense it, it is not concrete. We use it to measure things and psychologists are notorious for making money with it. Unlike money, you can’t get more. Time is both infinite and finite, held perpetually in obscurity.

The one hour clock was ticking. That big, inevitable fire bomb began to fall below the horizon. Sand tainted line slid through the guides of the fly rod with a familiar drone of repetitiveness, a constant reminder of my delusion. Bumping sticks and rocks sent adrenaline to my fingertips. Hold. Wait. Time was slipping away and in my deepest moments of delusion, a crayfish.

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The feel is so similar at first. Much like a large perch can crush a fly with the voracity of a pike. The delusions creep in and make you do things. You set and feel weight before rationality sets in. With time, the process becomes mechanical. Move, cast, differentiate rocks and crayfish, repeat. With each move the outcome seems it will be different. The shoulders slump from running out of time, the depression becomes physical, the body is giving up. The mind remains delusional, incited by muskies out of reach crashing the surface violently. They are on the feed. Keep going.

There comes a moment in every anglers day when the body and mind are in disagreement. Your body is telling you to give up, to leave. The mind, like a child in a bluegill pond, wants you to press on. I should have listened to my body and left. It was not at all prepared for what was about to happen. I made a musky angler’s greatest mistake. I didn’t wait.

Standing on a rock that dropped around three feet into the water, I brought my fly in through the murk washed in by the rain. When in front of a drop like this, it is good to linger for a solid minute or so. Indecisive muskies love to eat right at the shore and sometimes they need a little time to readjust and attack. I didn’t. My body said to move or go home, I lifted instead of lingered. From the hazy depths rose a shadow behind it. My face waxed curious, I kept lifting. The fly broke the surface as the musky exploded behind it. Missed.

I knew that was my only chance for the evening, but the delusion took over entirely. I blame the muskies. Yet, I walked the banks pounding the shoreline. Searching for something I wouldn’t find. Repeating until finished just like the fly that I had tied just minutes ago. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results because the musky told me to.

To be continued…

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