Tag Archives: laser yak

The Real Deal On Streamers

I don’t often think. Really. Today was a different story. I was really curious as to why fishing with streamers hasn’t taken off like it should have, it still feels like a novelty. I heard grumblings about it in the nineties; Dahlberg Divers, Clousers, Deceivers, so on and so forth. I think the Hollow Fleye was also developed in that time frame. It was a huge era for streamers (so were the 40’s), but the only source of knowledge for a guy like me was magazines. Word spread at a snail’s pace then, but all these flies made it to the masses for good reason, they worked. Sure, maybe a wayward fly ended up in a magazine due to the buddy system, but was quickly and efficiently snubbed out if it failed to perform or benefit anyone.

Here’s my thought process on why streamers haven’t gained much traction in the last five or so years. Allow me to preface, FRESHWATER.

Theory 1: I’m involved in it.

Theory 2: Social media. Hear me out, this isn’t a big ol’ glass of haterade for social media. We can use it to advance the progress if we are patient. For popularity sake, for the sake of content, we internet people have teetered on the edge of running out of material to endow upon you. More often than not, information is regurgitated and accredited to a source from whom is most popular. The problem with this is much like the problem pre social media. Whatever buddy had his article published after he heard the story from the source, without citing the source, gets all the glory. Leading to dissemination of knowledge not fully understood by the writer who is now the leader in whatever field of knowledge they do not quite grasp. This came down the pipe roughly once a month in the world of magazines. Now, this happens every single day. In order to keep your social media followers alive, they need that daily hit of info. This leads content creators to throw out untested flies claiming they do what the creator said when this person has yet to get the fly wet, but it looks pretty, so that’s good enough right?

Let us not put the blame fully on social media content creators, let us also blame fly tying companies for not dropping the expense of streamers to the market and still plays the buddy system to create designers. On the backs of these content creators, companies also pick and choose based solely upon likes or followers. Who, by the way, get there for a reason (for the most part). It’s a lot of hard work to become a viable social media person. Believe me, I’m not viable and it is still a whole lot of work.

Companies and content creators aside, streamers are really hard. They take time and effort to tie and more often than not, you have no idea what you are going to get when it hits the water. The real water, not a bathtub with 5x tippet towing it along. The bathtub gives you a good idea of what the fly wants to do, but not what it actually does when confronted with proper tippet and a sinking line (or whatever). There is only one way to figure that out and that is to fish it. On top of all the time it takes to tie and develop, there is no telling if you will catch a fish with it. Add in the technique to cast and retrieve your unique fly properly, and many people who want to get into streamers fall flat on their face and give up. The terrible part of this scenario is that streamers can be far more effective in the long run for all species if an angler puts in the time.

Truth be told, sometimes you get lucky, like I did with the Laser Yak. Even then, it is a further development of Der Helmut, which was born from a fly called the Broadway (my first true glider) combined with the Arctic Yeti. If you look at it this way, it took me 6ish years to develop the Laser Yak. That timeframe does not mesh with social media. Had I cared for cranking out content, I would have sent some real garbage into the world by teaching you guys how to tie every pattern in between that turned out to be failures.

You are probably asking yourself, why does this guy feel that it is just streamers and not typical trout flies? Trout fishing is what it is, stuff wrapped around a hook that trout eat. We have had a few hundred years to work this out. The only innovation that can come out of this time period are new materials, iridescence, texture and color tinkering. We are entering an era of realism in trout flies. Something we would not have been capable of in the 90’s due to the advent of new materials. I’m not saying that we are following art history to the T, but we are following a certain progression and our changes in the future will be subtle (but quick) shifts in style rather than innovation. Trout flies are established and it is really easy based upon the common flies in the genre to excel by sticking to a certain equation. Streamers are not so easy and we who are looking to progress the streamer genre are reinventing the wheel, leaving the industry to play catch-up.

This is where it all breaks down. Unfortunately, you can’t slap some stuff on a hook and make a streamer work like you can with most trout flies. This truth can be seen on social media. You can see what will swim and what will just spin and side roll. Break it down. Think of all of the styles of trout flies, generally (take your time, there are a lot). Heck write them down and do the same with streamer patterns. Your streamer side is going to look really chaotic because a lot of these patterns are still being developed and mixed. It is evolution in motion. Don’t forget to put a giant question mark on streamers because the places some of us are going, there is no path. If this process is fogged by people cranking out a number of untested patterns, we will have far too many people claiming that “streamers don’t work” and cutting the head off of any progress we can make by being dissuaded and spreading info falsely to others.

This needs to be fixed before it breaks. How do we do that? I’m so glad you asked! First, get into streamer fishing no matter what anyone says. You don’t have to go all in, but keeping one handy when fishing is good and you get bored of throwing a bugger to bass or nymphs to trout. You’ll get good at it, I promise. Second, tie your brains out and don’t think twice about tossing a crap pattern (save the hooks though). Learn from what you have tied and use it to understand what to or not to do for the next pattern. If it works, constantly be thinking of ways to make it better. Third, just because you tied something that looks like a pattern you have seen, doesn’t mean you can accurately replicate what that fly does. Even watching a video may not help. Open up communication with tiers. Get a couple flies from them and physically touch what they have done. It will help with understanding how much of a certain material is used and where. We are (for the most part) normal people, give us honest feedback and forget who we are. We are not infallible either. Sometimes humans are wrong, it happens. Lastly, be careful of who you listen to in the social media world. One of the best tips I can give you is when people use always and never, they just don’t know enough yet. For example, “I always catch fish on _______”. If this is true, this person hasn’t fished enough to fail.

Keep it alive my people!

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 


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