Monthly Archives: October 2018

Fly Science (Building a Better Bugger)

In 2017, a team of scientists used a transmission polariscope to measure optical retardation as a red LED passed through Prince Rupert’s Drop. Crazy, right? I pretty much copy and pasted that from wikipedia cause it had smart words. I have to get you into the science mood after all.

Prince Rupert’s Drop is quite fascinating. It is nearly bullet proof and dare I say, indestructible. But! It has an achilles heel, the tail. If the tail is broken, the entire thing literally explodes. For real, it’s cool. What does this have to do with flies? I’m really glad you asked. Basically, internal structure of a Prince Rupert’s Drop is constantly under a state of tension. The outside compressive stress is around 100,000psi. The application into fly tying is not as great as far as pressure and tension (or material for that matter), but we can take the basic principal and apply it here by applying differing tensions from the inside out.

It seems really silly to take something this complex and use it in a situation such as tying. One thing I have always been a proponent of is simplicity and bullet-proofing in fly tying. Basically, I roll with like one fly and if it can’t hold up to a hundred fish, bummer dude. In the past, I have played with epoxy and glue and things meant to travel into space. I missed basic design and found that materials that are under a constant state of tension will withstand the most abuse. Now, we can’t just start heating and cooling flies to create a bullet proof drop, but we can utilize different materials and technique to emulate those same tensions.

Enter the woolly bugger. The most destructive and most easily destroyed fly that I know of (aside from Dahlberg Divers, but that’s a different story altogether). The most major issue for the bugger is the gosh darn hackle. Scrap it. The last thing you need is a point of failure. Secondly, chenille, scrap that too. Literally anything that fails to hold tension or create it should be tossed out the window. Wire also fails to create tension as does marabou. But wait… Can we create tension with marabou!? That is rhetorical, you can’t really answer that cause it is essentially the topic of this post. Just read on…

Step 1: Start your bugger as you normally would. I use a 6/0 Veevus thread. You do not want a stranded thread in this case. Use strong round stuff. Nothing that lays flat. I wrapped a #8 hook with .025 lead free round wire. You can use lead too, but that is on you. I am not the one polluting the environment. 😉


Step 2: Marabou. I like to stack two feathers for a more fluffy tail. However, this is dangerous as it can add too much torque to the thread wrapped around the hook shank and can come undone from the back. Countermeasures are involved here.


Step 3: 6-7 wraps from the tie-in point to the eye is good, cut off the marabou and clean up the extra fuzzies with thread. Tying in the cut off ends will add rigidity to the center of the marabou and will make it harder to twist. Tie back to the original tie-in point. Your thread should be between the point of the hook and the barb. Trust me, it is important.

Step 4: (this isn’t really a step, but I have a theme going here) The top marabou should not have a stiff quill. Find one that is soft and will flex. I like to buy them in 1-ounce packs to get what I want. The quill on the left is rigid and will shatter and the fly will fall apart from the inside out. Use one like shown on the right.IMG_1717

Step 5: Tie your marabou in from the back toward the eye just to where your thread ramps down from the marabou underneath. This is your countermeasure. It will hold the marabou further away, opposing any torque applied to the fly. Essentially, the longer the tie in point with multiple fibers, the more torque is required to loosen it. Such is the case with Clousers, the top tie-in of bucktail always comes loose first.


Step 6: Advance your thread to the back of the bead leaving the marabou in place. Don’t you trim it! It is the entire purpose of this post!


Step 7: Twist the marabou tightly and wrap the hook with it. If the tail becomes loose, you did it wrong. Untie and put more thread tension on the tail. We are creating tension by twisting the marabou to a point that it is in a constant state of tension. Not only is it pulling against itself, but it is also pulling against the thread. It wants to be in a natural position of rest and when you force it into a position in this manner, it is always pulling on something. This act retains tension upon materials like thread that loosen by elongation. Keep in mind that you’ll want to wrap the marabou in the same direction as the thread. However, over time the materials eventually become forced into a state of rest as they will develop what looks like line memory as they stretch and set.


Step 7: Clean up the marabou and throw some flash in that tail. It matters not what flash, pick your favorite. I just use your standard dyed pearl flash for this. I just fold one strand in half to give two little flashy guys on either side by using the loop to rotate the flat to the opposing side of the hook. You’ll just cut that loop off at length and boom, done. No, not with the whole fly, but you are halfway there!

Step 8: Typically, I’ll use that piece of scrap flash to wrap the fly, but in this case we are aiming for bombproof. Any elastic material will do here. I am in love with stretch tubing for this purpose. It makes an excellent replacement to wire, especially with brittle materials like pheasant tails and peacock. Disregard how messy your fly is at this point, we are about to clean it up.


Step 9: Dub! This is just a coating for the fly, the only thing it does is add a little bulk. It is the metaphoric icing on the cake. I mix ice dub and some natural hair like goat or at least a finer dubbing material to bind the ice dub a little better. It turns out similar to laser dub, just chunkier. Try not to pile the dubbing on, just coat the fly and fill gaps. Its ok, as this fly catches fish, it catches more fish.


Step 10: Wrap the stretch tubing and make a collar to compress the materials behind the bead. It helps to center the bead and keep it from spinning.


Step 11: Touch up with a little more dub and whip finish. That is all. Now you are done. Go fish.


This fly has bagged, trout, bass, pike, musky, carp, crappie, bluegill, sunfish etc… It really does outperform its hackled brethren. I’ve caught some 3lb+ smallmouth on this too, so it can be effective for large fish as well. Go tie some!!!




Oh! The Smell

September and October ring in a sense of delusion here in New Mexico. The world seems as though it remains in a state of imbalance, swinging wildly out of control. As I type this, hurricane Michael is slowly reaching shore, the temperature in Augusta, Maine is 80 degrees and winter is beginning to settle in the northern rockies. The normal patterns for this time of year (except Maine, that is a bit extreme). The prediction in other places seems quite doable, but here, we get delusional.

Our first mountain snow fell while I was asleep on Monday night. The accompanying rain in our lower elevations lulled me to sleep with a feel of excitement. Rain is scarce, and like a sleeping child waking to see if mother was still there, I awoke to make sure it was still raining. For comfort. I knew from the smell, the crisp, damp freshness culminated into one thing. Snow. No matter rain or snow, the smell remains, the smell of the freeze. Instinct recognizes the smell as a time to end the growing season. It brings us an ancient and primal feeling of excitement, “the work is over”.

It is hard to beat the feeling of the first snow or frost. Waking with a thick flannel and being able to see your breath. Sitting in front of a crackling fire filled with wood cut with your own hand, it is a sigh of relief. A delusion. No matter how much I know that it will warm, I still settle in and get comfortable. It’s only a trick. The sudden, abrupt change is a reminder but not persistent. I know what is coming now, 50 degree temperature swings from morning to afternoon, 70 one day 50 the next, flooding or snow. It is expected and anticipated. For us, fall is a great big prank. For now, I will enjoy my delusion that it already is winter and enjoy a nice warm cup of hot cocoa.

Quantify and Scrutinize

Call me #triggered or whatever you like. Sometimes, things become an automatic switch flipper. Things that I feel as though I need to lash out irrationally upon. As of yet, I have not wanted to soak my computer in lantern fuel and set it ablaze, until yesterday. I mean, turning it off is a great option too… No, this is not about politics.

Yesterday, on a post in a place, there were talks of a “bobbin shootout”. For those who do not know, a bobbin is the thingy that thread is spooled onto. Getting super technical here, we in the fly tying industry have called the thing that holds the bobbin a “bobbin” for like eternity, when the reality is that it is actually a “bobbin holder” due to the lack of a technical term. All technicalities aside, bobbin holders are pretty much based on price. A $10 bobbin holder is not remotely built as well as a $30 one and the $100 type blow everything out of the water. My opinion stands that after $30, you are just paying for art. There is a certain cool factor of unique bobbin holders. Whether that means vintage or really neat and futuristic. That hand carved chunk of wood grip may not feel great, but it took a lot of work and it is a beautiful addition and show of care a company took to give you something cool. The mechanics are really simple, so long as the tip is ultra polished and it keeps a moderate amount of tension, you are in the clear. The rest is just fun.

One does not just rank the work of artisans in terms of function. I get it if you go on ranking utilitarian style bobbin holders or ones within the same price point. Comparing a $4 chunk of bent wire and tube to a $150 piece of similar idea, you lost me. We all know the answer. Heck, even at a $30 price point, none is “better” than any other. It becomes a matter of preference at this point. We want something that fits our hand and has a cool aesthetic with the features we need for our individual style. Who the heck is going to compare watches this way? Let alone, toss an Apple Watch into the mix… Announcer Voice: “And the best time-telling piece is…” (frankly, I think it is the one attached to the satellites)

This is not totally what triggered me. The fact that someone is trying to persuade others to believe there is a hierarchy in bobbin holders aside from end user opinion is absolutely ludicrous. The “best in the world” in comparison to other bobbin holders highlights the idea that one bobbin holder and the one that yields it is part of an elite few. Reality check! It is art. Plain and simple. How many times have you heard “cool bobbin (holder)” as opposed to “that looks like a well functioning bobbin (holder)”? The more we try to quantify products in this industry, the more the industry has a need to react by puking out companies like YETI. Let companies explore these little things. Let them make $100+ bobbin holders and leave them be, admire them rather than scrutinize and quantify them. Not one of those companies will ever put a $4 tip on it. Personally, I love seeing the art and designs, the craftsmanship. It shows individuality and it should reflect yours as well. Sheesh!


It is very difficult to be in the position that I am, the “all talk” ambition that falls short of coming through. That ambitious pimple just continues to grow and irritate me and it is time to pop the pimple. Just get on with it. I will admit it is quite difficult in today’s social media style economy that really drives start-ups to be a cusp-millennial/Gen-X person. One that did not grow up with smartphones and “friends” as actual friends hold more value to me than a number. It seems in our business environment, your “friends” are also your bank account. The difficult position I find myself in is a position in which I am incapable of acquiring “friends” just by the click of a button. I always wonder who the person is and why they would want to be friends with a person like me. Furthermore, why would I want to be “friends” with them. I literally have no idea who they are and that stops me from confirming these countless numbers of people who have every ability to benefit a business.

Just recently, I watched an episode of “Black Mirror” and almost threw away ALL of my electronics. The episode was based on the ability to rate a person at any given time for any reason. The higher rated you were, the higher you stood in social class, your ability to get a high paying job, plane tickets, and what car you drove was all rooted in being highly rated. It hit WAY too close to home for me. Seeing the social media platform from a business perspective where I scoff at anything less than a 5-star rating, I have seen myself go to good lengths to recover from a single 4-star rating. We are after all, humans. This episode threw me into a spin considering interaction. How the social platform has been shifted to sell products, just like every other business. From news to politics to religion and back again, everyone is using social media as an outlet for getting themselves higher on the platform of the social elite. Internet famous. So, we watch our words and actions and we choose our friends well so that we can tiptoe around being who we really are. I will say, the person I am on social media is definitely not the real life me.

Due to my imbalance of social media skills and also my stepping away from it time to time, I have realized that gaining the traction I need to continue growth or simply momentum is a difficult task. It is the mark of a terrible magician. Now you see me, now you don’t… for an indeterminate amount of time. In those times of disappearance, things become more and more frustrating, which is exactly why I step away in the first place. Some Joe Shmoe off the street who has never tied or fished more than one day a year goes on to repeat something heard from someone who heard something else from someone. Thus, an expert on ALL subject matter. I have previously expressed this before.

In growing frustration, I have felt there is a way to go about things properly. Without trying to pinch pennies to do so. When you dive into things associated with manufacturing, you can see the utterly brutal side of the fly fishing industry. A place where flies cost pennies to produce, tying materials are fractions of pennies and things are done the way they are expressly for cost management. These moments of thought are often sidelined by my ability to process the fact that a large company and the loyal hashtags can absolutely hold down an at home manufacturer. The money they can throw around and the loyalty they have can make a guy like me appear to be the fool for being reasonable.

The elephant in the room is what holds me back. Myself. The frustrations that I have, the lack of money, all excuses to hold me back to a goal that I could easily achieve. In the words of A Perfect Circle, “Just begin”.

This process will take some time indeed. At least 3 months. I’ll keep those who want to know, in the know. As this process of blogging has turned into a personal venting space. A place for thoughts where only my fingers are the guides.