Tag Archives: Fly tying

Mitosis Egg!

I set out filming Fly Hacks to help people understand the “why” and “how come” that I find myself asking when watching other videos. Anyone can bake a cake by recipe, but knowing how and why certain ingredients are used can lead you to make better cakes. I feel the same with flies. We can copy other patterns, but when we understand what we are doing, we can take an idea further. I hope my readers and watchers can take my patterns further. It is more about how you can use a material than it is about what new materials are out there.

 

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Here Comes the Ice Cream Truck!

When I was a kid, it was a bell, it was a child’s call to arms. These days it is bad digital music through a megaphone often precluded by a child’s voice saying “Hello!?”. A process that further complicated the simple world of the ice cream man. I do not wonder why hordes of kids carrying pitchforks are not chasing these big white box trucks around. They have gone too far trying to make the truck acceptable and cool. What ever happened to good ol’ bright colors? Unusual, bright color combinations that just attracted children. Blue ice cream and hot pink sprinkles!? Yes please! There is something otherworldly about the colors, as they are not commonly edible. Why do kids love them? The answer is ultra simple. Curiosity.

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It is common in science to conclude that animals have minds equivalent to young humans. They can accomplish seemingly complex tasks in the wild, but when it comes to processing new information or training, animals seem to have trouble. We can teach them to speak sign language, yet it does not give us much insight into the way they think. We can only observe. Maybe observing a young child’s behavior when it comes to food can give us insight into highly educated fish. Which takes me right back to ice cream.

When I was young, chasing after the ice cream truck was a habit. If my parents did give me money, it might have been a dollar. Enough to get an ice cream cone, probably bubble gum. Yes, I wanted something more than bubble gum ice cream, the coveted “Rocket Pop”. It was $2.50 if I remember correctly. Never had enough to buy one. Something about it called to me and I can’t quite pinpoint why. It just looked like unending bliss, or maybe I would fly to the moon after eating one. Who knows?

Nothing has changed over the years. I was digging through my materials one day, looking for some that were rarely used. I saw it. A hot pink northern bucktail. Not something I would normally buy, but this one was perfect. I proceeded to tie some muskie flies. For some reason, I combined it with chartreuse and my brain exploded. Working with the hair took too long and I needed a quick and easy go-to pattern for the times when I’m in a hurry to go fishing (always). I bought up a handful of materials and began to tie. What I came up with was an articulating and suspending, not really fishy looking fly. It was the colors that looked delicious. The “Rocket Pop”.

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I know, it doesn’t look like a fish, but it was never meant to. It was meant to tap into the brain of a child, to make things that looked delicious and unreal. It was the idea that maybe children also have the same primitive instinct and curiosity as a predatory fish. The same fish that spends his entire life hunting prey, knowing exactly which fish to eat. One with senses about as sharp as his teeth. One quick in his reflexes and right in his choices. One with a weakness, the ice cream truck.

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Lesson #20: Be a kid. You never know when it might come in handy.


The San Juan Devil

There isn’t much that can be said about the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. It is big and easy to fish. Once you understand the how, then you can begin to concentrate on what. I mean, there are only so many different thread midges one can have before you just start getting downright bored. To give you a heads up, everyone is going to tell you to fish a cream thread midge and a chocolate emerger from sizes 20-26 (and even smaller). To be honest, this is a good example of people trying to outsmart a half-witted fish. I made it a goal this year to begin picking off large tailwater fish with patterns in sizes of 16-20 based solely upon triggers. Despite what the world says, you can do this. Here is one such pattern…

Introducing the San Juan Devil! It’s a bloodworm pattern really. Typically red thread and red stretch tube or D-rib on a red hook. *Yawn* How bout…

Hook: Tiemco 206 BL #16-20

Thread: UTC 70 Denier Red

Body wrap: Red Stripped Peacock Hurl

Wire: SM red

Step 1: It is very important that you start your thread close to the eye of the hook and short. any lump in this fly is really obvious.

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Step 2: Tie in the wire. Start precisely where your last thread wrap is. Make sure your wire ends near the eye, the head of the fly is the only place where there is a little room for error.

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Step 3: Wrap thread back and keep it in the rear position. This is the part where you strip some peacock hurl (Plumule?). Just pinch between your thumb and forefinger and pull. Sometimes it will break in the process, but they are long enough to do it again in a lower position. Tie it in at the rear of the fly and wrap the thread forward. Do not do the typical three wraps and tie forward, this will create an unforgiving lump in the rear of the fly.

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Step 4: Wrap peacock forward and tie it in. Using hackle pliers will more than likely break the peacock (Note: I am dodging the term quill). Use your fingers with a light touch. It takes a while to get the feel, but the end product is better. If you start with a couple wraps a bit loose (yet still tight to the hook), the rest will go easy.

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Step 5: First, I see now that I wrapped the peacock over the wire… So, that is going to bunch up a bit. Anyway, wrap the wire forward in the same direction. Trust me here, this works a lot better than counter-ribbing in this situation. I have found that it breaks less this way… Finish your wire on the opposing side you started it on and build the head as high as the wire. You can whip finish here, cover it with epoxy or do whatever you want at this point. It is done. I only whip finish, no head cement. I like to keep it as slim and dull as possible.

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The Ghost of the Ark and Other Conjured Spirits

Sometime in March, somewhere in the ethereal world of note-making, it was penciled in. Maybe a floating red X on the grid of a calendar that marked Sundays and new moons, but never an old one. Calendars who document the past and loosely plan the future can also be viewed as being human in a way. We vividly remember the good and bad times, but only look to the future. We know that the sixth is on Thursday, but the things that happen that day are up to the Gods that dictate randomly unplanned events in life as the lesser Gods follow up and mark a black X on the days that have passed. The X’s creating a trail like breadcrumbs on a path that is leading somewhere unknown. It is that essential element of life that leads us here. Those damned black X’s. Sometimes it feels as though they know. They are on the inside, collecting memos from unseen corporate entities that flank us like hidden armies in the distance. Yet, we find ourselves waiting for the calendar to be that one day that may or may not be set in stone, marked loosely in red.

The asphalt pushes tar between cracks in an aged road that thumps beneath tires. Rhythmically, like a progressive jazz drummer in a metal band, he somehow keeps track of time in his odd way. The seconds melt away in 13/9 time as I build polyrhythms by beating thumbs against the steering wheel. The waiting game. Waiting while moving. Irony in motion. I was not the only one in this predicament. From the north came a man more than willing to meet halfway. Sanders. Although I can not speak for him, I’m sure he was in his car singing along to the radio, I would like to think he was milling over some last minute paperwork. As a friend, he made the trip. Like old friends, we met.

Life catches up to everyone at some point. That calendar and the X never marks the day your life changes completely, it just happens. As humans, we are accepting and adapting to those changes all of the time. Our greatest works come from some of the most troubling times. Our moment to shine is often humbled by our minds terrible way of holding on to matters that are out of our hands. Matters that may not matter at all in the grand scheme of things. Since Sanders and I found ourselves in the same place at the same time, our plans were now etched and we had to deal with our matters in the only way possible. To fish.

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After a small tumble, Sanders said that it wasn’t a good sign. I know otherwise. A fall, a broken finger, bruised and bloody elbow, torn waders, all mean that your day will end with a bang. Maybe that bang doesn’t happen on the river, maybe a realization long after the fact. In time, that not so great day of fishing turns into a reflection of why you are on Earth. A rememberence of being alive. The day the world threw stones and you stood up. You shook your fist and the world fought you tooth and nail. In the end, you find that she was against you but you made her bend to your will just slightly. A day that you inevitably won. A day that would shake the foundation of any other man. At the end of it all, I couldn’t ask for more fitting friend, a more fitting fisherman, a more fitting writer.

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Meanwhile, in a snow covered canyon, flurries of thoughts left fresh powder in a room heated by a small wood stove fueled by perseverance. Something overlooked in our push-button society, but not by any who has ever collected wood. Around a table we sat, cultivating a garden of feathers and fur between us. Much like the conjuration of a spirit, three minds in a trance, spirits were created as spirits of another kind were consumed. Alchemy dripped from pillars of brass and steel. The fur of a squirrel, a wire of gold, the eye of a newt, sew together on steel barbs, just another magic trick in the book. Does it float? Will it swim? Does it fly? This was the mantra in the back of our minds and we all knew it. It is all part of the order. Behind the spinning of thread and wire, of bead and fur, of feather and glass, we created. New life was born, new red X’s appeared. Thank you Erin and Jay for being welcoming as usual.erin and jay


Eleven Years to Realize

IMGP0312Writing, deleting, tying, untying, the two foot by three foot table looks like the unorganized spillage of my mind. Spewed forth like a snake-in-a-can birthday surprise of creativity, it reflects itself upon my desk. Like a child and it’s box of Legos, our first reaction is to just dump it all out on the floor and start playing. If I still had the agility to do so, I would be on the floor, hunched over, digging through a shoe box of materials, making space ships that were designed to obliterate enemy Cobra G.I. Joe forces. This is now, and Lego as well as G.I. Joe toys of my childhood are now more expensive than my habit of tying and fly fishing. Not to mention my explosion sounds have gone unpracticed for years. The same principle applies today, my childhood creativity taught me a craft that I will take with me until I die.

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My first vise was a gift, unwrapped alongside a fishing watch that replaced my calculator watch. No book that would teach me the art of fly tying, just a box with some random materials and hooks. Materials that look like the type that are found only at craft stores for ten cents a bag. With a little help from the library’s microfiche at my elementary school (this was before the internet), I had finally tied my first blue dun. Into my teens, it was no longer important. The vise was buried in a box of my old stuff and instead of honing my skill, I pushed the easy button. I purchased flies (this is where you gasp).

High school brought on new things, mainly wedgies and girls. To my surprise, as I reflect upon it now, an English teacher changed my fly fishing life forever. His name was Clayton Rowley, and he was usually found behind his desk reading or mulling over some sort of teenage rendition of a movie they had watched instead of reading the book. Probably angrily, and it was probably mine. There was always something different about Mr. Rowley, and it really was his way of teaching. Progression. He stopped me one day after class and said something to me about a literary work that I had written. I had genuinely looked at something from a different perspective and he rewarded me for it. Thinking outside the box was cool in his eyes and his reward of a simple, “I really enjoyed that, why don’t you write like that all of the time?” was imprinted for the rest of my life.

Now, upon my Arkansas thinking rock, there were no shadows darting beneath the graceful current. I drifted flies to no avail for a while before seeing a large rise out of the corner of my eye. The riffle downstream. They were moving. Seems a little early to begin the spawning process, but the colors of the fish were becoming vivid and their bellies full. Practically running across the river, I began digging through my box to tie on a prototype bug. One of many I had tied the week before. One that I was not completely sure would work. Within a matter of seconds after the first cast into the riffle, I was into my first big fish of the day. It had worked. All of the prototypes after, all working and working well. One stood above the rest, one that I really should keep myself from sharing. A new type and color of the “Halo Midge”.

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Last week, I poured out my box of Legos and made a spaceship. A deceptive ship that fooled leviathans. As I brought them to hand, I smiled. Not because I had caught a fish. Not because I tied a fly to catch that fish. The reason for my smile was knowing I had held onto my childhood imagination long enough for it to be effective. When I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, I sat on the riverbank wondering if Mr. Rowley ever fly fished. If he had never felt the bending of a fly rod, maybe my thought of him would allow him the chance. Although our paths of life only crossed briefly, his effect upon my future was great. For that I thank him.

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Formal Introductions

I hate writing, there is so much I have to learn. Does a semi-colon go here? Is semi-colon hyphenated? Did I spell hyphen correctly? Is hyphenated a word!? Do not ask me what I think a preposition is. If you have ever fished with me, you know how I feel about rules. You know, matching hatches and whatnot. I feel the same about writing. With that being said, there is something about writing. It is not a passion, it is not a love nor vanity, you are just drawn to it. Sometimes it feels like you have to. With that feeling, I think the next phase of writing in my life has begun. Focus. Great writers have something that you just can not explain. I am not saying that I am, I have a very long way to go and picking up a third grade english book would be a great start. No matter the skill of writing (I think I was supposed to capitalize “English”), writing is about telling a story and conveying that story in such a manner that it is gripping. My family and others know me for being the most anti-climactic storyteller alive. It is true, and embarrassing. I can not end a story with power unless I am writing. Even then, I read the draft and think, “Wow, this sucks.”

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Prepare your brain to change pace, I hope the picture helped. Habits are hard to break. When you finally notice that you are developing a habit it is too late. Commas are my Achilles Heal as well as boulders that I can sit on in the river. Who would think that commas could be a habit?  Recently, I realized that there is a certain rock on the Arkansas that I sit and think on. Every single time I fish this river, I head directly to this rock and sit. I sit for a period of time watching fish feed near the surface. Waiting for the long black shadows streak across the seams as I pick feeding lanes and flies. Recently, the Arkansas has been releasing its treasure.

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On the thinking rock, the past and this page began to flash before me. Two years have gone by and I have sat in this room telling stories to passers-by. Random people who deem my writing good enough to read. Some say that I am a good writer, but at times I do not feel that way. The same feeling came along at times when I was a musician. I didn’t feel as though I was good enough. I heard other guitarists that would blow me away. Ultimately, it lead to the demise of my rock stardom. I felt like I was at the apex of my ability (not the apex of playing guitar). In writing and fly fishing, people blow me away on a daily basis. There are better fly fisherman, better writers, but mostly people better at marketing than I. People that know an industry that I have excluded myself from for years. Upon this thinking rock, a chain of thought and the surface was broken by a fish and a big smile across my face.IMGP0056

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Last year on the Arkansas I have been using different colors of the same pattern. Quite frankly, I have been using that pattern everywhere to some success. The bug today, a cream/brown Hail Mary, a new addition to the color scheme. After catching a few fish out of one hole, it was time to move on down the river to a different thinking rock. A rock that faced me a tad bit northward and on an odd side of a run that nobody really fishes. Watching countless fish rise, my thoughts came back to this page.

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Thoughts to this page reflected my attitude about the guitar. I didn’t really want to be known. I wanted to be in the background, to be invisible. I wanted the right people to find me. People who would go out of their way to support my… Well, for lack of a better term, addiction to writing. These people found me. Every comment you see down there are people that have stumbled across this page and deserve that same support from you who read this. We aren’t searching for popularity, it is something else entirely. Maybe we just want to spread our enjoyment to other readers. There is a fine line between people who “write” for popularity and we who just write. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I was being egocentric and vain. Inner turmoil was overflowing and for a time I just sat on the rock, thinking about things that shouldn’t matter.

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What does matter is that I fish, take pictures, and write. The only reason, “because”. For those who may have never known, my name is David Goodrich and I am a fly fisherman. I hope the people who have been reading for the past couple years stick around for a few more. You might get some special surprises. To the people who have promoted and read this page, I can not thank you as much as you deserve. I am ready for this next year.


Divulging Secrets

Sometimes we keep things to ourselves that shouldn’t be kept. They slowly become skeletons in a closet littered with cobwebs. There they sit on shelves barely able to hold the weight of the matter, waiting to be dusted off and shared. Like books in the Library of Alexandria, scrolls of wisdom with whom some use for pure power. We read the book again to be sure it is one we want to allow the world to uncover.

I could probably write about the secret of eternal life, time travel, or the answer to the meaning of life. If I did, only a certain few would know. Heck, most of you would probably not believe me. I don’t think I need to remind you that I am a fisherman and a stereotypical fisherman might bend the truth at times. Whether or not I am stereotypical is decided by one who reads this. Even the secrets I allow through the filter of my meandering style of writing might even be kept secret by some reader out there. Yet another trunk of secrets in a distant Alexandria similar to my own, collecting dust and cobwebs until the moment they pass along an idea that becomes a legend. Progress is the key to the trunk. The oldest ideas die the hardest.

When I tie a fly, I like to mix it up. Automatically, we who tie gain an upper hand. Why? Well, it is simple. We can tie something different, and in head and tailwaters alike, we catch fish based solely upon the idea that sometimes all that is required is a subtle change to a working pattern. Today the secret being shared is based upon the RS2. A fly, that for years I denied and disrespected based upon the idea that it has a certain lack of pizazz. In short, the traditional fly sickens me. Why on Earth do we tie these on straight-shank hooks? Tradition? The fly has been seen by every western fish, lets change it up. Let us progress the sport rather than get bogged down in some traditions. Tying flies is a legacy, not tradition, things don’t work like they used to. We can build a fly rod from bamboo, machine a reel by hand, forge steel for guides and be as traditional as possible with the art. I’ll be damned if I tie a Royal Coachman on the end of it. We have to move away from tradition yet keep it alive to progress in the art of tying.

Tailwater fishing for me is a challenge. Technical fish, easy to read water. It is the best place to hone certain skills or weed out non-working patterns. The Arkansas River is the test water for most of my flies. It is close and I know the water well enough to say, with conviction, that a pattern will not work. Still, the fish are dumb enough to take certain patterns that might work in a different season on a different river, but not so dumb that they will eat any fly you throw. Fishing was slowing enough on the river that I would not return without some new designs. I returned home from work one day and began to research the RS2 and to see all of the ways that this fly is butchered. It is really sickening to see that horrible straight-shank, scissor cut, over dubbed, no taper, monstrosity. On the flip side of the coin, the ultra flashy, under dubbed, over garnished, fly brings my blood to boil. The idea of the original fly is fantastic. It is a naturally shaped, naturally colored, hatching insect. Build from here.

Lets welcome the RS2D2…

The first thing to go was the hook. I can’t describe my disdain of them. Threw out the old 100 and started the size 18, 2457 with 8/0 gray uni.

Simple enough… Start the fly behind the eye and build a thread base to the tail, just past the bend of the hook in the 45 degree area. Here is where I put a twist on the same old thing. I used blue peacock feathers for a single split tail. The original idea here was to see if tails matter by making one naturally flashy. I still conclude that the theory is only that, but the blue tail does attract attention and fished better than its microfibbet brother. You can use a piece of thread to split the tails, you don’t have to. Peacock is a fantastic material to tie with, very strong and adjustable and just pulling them apart works fine. If you do use a thread, fold it around the curve of the hook and bring it up between the tail. A good tip here is to spin the thread together before splitting the tail.  I like to make some things that I feel are triggers on a fly a bit more dramatic, in this case, I like longer tails. Next is to dub. I use a mix of some superfine dub. This mix is only a secret because I can’t remember what exactly went into the grinder before hand. It is oliveish… Again, here is another thing I dislike about the bug. No one ties this thing with any taper. Instead of having an even taper on your thread and building a taper on the fly, build the taper on the thread and adjust it on the fly. Double wraps are bad.Do the tails look sideways? Yup, they are. Not on purpose. Anyway, wrap the dub just past the point of the hook. This will help you taper back down to the eye. This will help to avoid that pronounced lump in most RS2’s. Remember, the wings are out, no need for a giant lump. I know, I know, the tails are still crooked. My apologies to the perfectionist. Next is the wing. Traditionally it is tied with the under feathers of a hen saddle (when you do research on this damn bug you will get a lot of differing theories). Here is another fun, interesting and exciting thing about the peacock. The feather is softer on the fluffy side than most, and it breaks in roughly the same area. That bit of info comes in handy in a second. So, tear some off and tie it in just above the base.The deeper gray fluff is more sturdy and typically I can only get two flies from one feather, but you can use the higher fluff if you want to cut it off. Now, trim all this stuff, even the taper with thread and build a reverse taper dub that will thin as you wrap it to the front of the hook. Maybe that tail thing is an optical illusion. At this point, just finish the fly. Another thing I dislike is cutting the wing. It leaves a flat top that mimics nothing. If you have ever seen a fly struggling with his wings, it isnt pretty. Plus, I enjoy fishing slightly messy bugs. Instead of cutting here, just pinch and pull the feathers. Trust me on this, you got this far, right?Then you are done.
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…and enjoy.

Up next, the halo midge.