Friday, December 4, 2015

2015 Fly Swap Prep

Every year, the Ozark Fly Fishers host a fly swap for their members. It's a simple idea. Each member ties a dozen or so flies, wraps them in a box with Christmas paper, and puts them in a big pile at the December meeting. When your number gets called, you pick a random box and see what flies you get. The trick here is not necessarily going for the biggest box. Not that I have anything against big bass flies, I'd just rather get a dozen trout flies. Last year I picked the smallest box I could find, and wound up with a dozen tiny dry flies that I had trouble even finding a tippet fine enough to thread them with - exactly what I wanted.

I've been lazy about tie flying lately. I suppose this is due to the fact that I spent most of my summer fishing (summer recap post coming soon-ish!), and still kept pretty well in stock as far as flies went. Add in the fact that I recently changed jobs, and can no longer fit the Tuesday night fly tying group in Maplewood into my schedule. It's a real bummer. But now the weather is getting colder every day and those impromptu fishing weekends are probably finished for this year until spring. I have plenty of time on my hands (well, on the weekends at least) to actually tie some flies, and I have some motivation to stay inside on a Saturday morning in my warm office with a hot cup of coffee and my tying vice.

This year for the OFF Fly Swap, I definitely wanted to tie my own dozen flies to give away. The first flies I tied were a novelty, not so much because of their pattern, but for their irregular materials.

The Royal Wulff, with Norma hair
#14 Royal Norma

I tied up a few size #14 Royal Wulffs, but was changed a few things. First, I swapped out the moose hair tail for a brown goose biot tail. For the life of me, I couldn't get the moose hair fibers to clump together at an equal length, and was having a hell of a time working with the material. I got frustrated and swapped them out for the biots. I'm not entirely sure if this will drastically change the fly, as far as a fish's appetite is concerned. The Royal Wulff is an attractor fly, meaning that it doesn't imitate anything specific found in nature. Fish are attracted to it simply for its many bug-like characteristics. I can't imagine that a clump of moose hair is any more attractive than a pair of goose biots, and I feel like the biots will help the fly float better anyway. I guess we'll see if the trout eat it. That's the true test.

The second change I made was less drastic, but more unconventional. Rather than using the traditional calf tail fur material for the fly's wing, I opted to use a clump of white hair that came off of my dog Norma's rear-end. Frankly, these clumps of hair have been showing up all over the hardwood floors in my house ever since the weather started changing, so at least I put them to good use here. Norma has since been groomed and Furminated, putting an end to this free source of tying material. Honestly, I can't imagine I'm the first idiot to try and use dog hair as material, but I think it worked great. It's a perfect, bright white color, and should be as easy to spot on the water as calf tail fur. Looking at the picture below, you might think I'm crazy claiming I pulled bright white fur off of this obviously black dog, but somehow most of her undercoat is stark white. Whenever she begins to shed, it looks like she's and old man turning salt and pepper (like my older brother, Ben) because the white starts to poke through. I wonder if anyone has tied a Royal Wulff with black dog fur.

Norma Voss
Good dog.
Next up, I stayed more traditional and tried tying some Claret Emergers. Again, these were size #14, and were made up primarily of brown dubbing material and a brown collar hackle. The body is wound with a gold tinsel, to give it that bit of pop and flash. As far as difficulty tying goes, it was a fairly easy fly to tie once I was able to get the dubbing material on my thread. My collar hackles still need some practice but at least I managed to keep the eyes of the hooks clear on these. That said, all of my flies could definitely still be a lot neater. I need to accept the fact that I have old man eyes and actually buy some sort of magnifying glass.

Below you can see a comparison of my fly and a professional's. On the top half of the picture is my Claret Emerger. The bottom half if the picture from "Fly Tying for Beginners." I don't think I'm too far off from what this fly was supposed to look like. Granted, it looks like their dubbing material was on their thread a bit tighter, and they used a thicker gold tinsel, but I'm still happy with my result. The book did say to trim off the bottom collar hackle fibers, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe I fish these emergers wrong, but I want them to stay on top of the water as long as possible, and to me, that means having as many collar hackle fibers on the fly that I can manage.

Claret Emerger

The rest of this week I plan to tie some more, possibly some Root Beer Emegers or some Prince Nymphs. I already made a trip to Hargrove's last week, so I'm well stocked and ready to tie a lot of flies this winter.

UPDATE (12/6/15):

I went ahead and tied some of those Prince Nymphs and Root Beer Emergers this morning. I officially have my dozen flies for this week's OFF Fly Swap. Take a look below.

Crystal Prince Nymph
Size #14 Crystal Prince Nymph

Root Beer Emerger
Size #18 Root Beer Emerger

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