Thursday, December 11, 2014

Under Appreciated Hen.

           Under the theme of being a poor student, I am always looking to cut corners in fly tying, but still produce excellent flies. Sometimes this approach, just does not work. There is no substitute for DRY FLY HACKLE!!!! Suck it up, buy one light and one dark pelt and your bases will be covered.
            As I step off my soap box, I can return to the point of this article: Quality hen capes are incredibly versatile feathers for the frugal fly tier. In general, a Whiting Herbert Miner cape runs about $10. If you consider the high number of feathers on a cape this will be a worthwhile investment. Hen feathers seem under appreciated because everyone wants rooster hackle for flies like woolly buggers and dries. Admittedly a full high quality rooster saddle is a beautiful thing to just look at let alone use to tie flies.  However, with a price point of about $50 for a middle grade saddle, I do not use these feathers on anything that does not need them.  Thus, I love versatile feathers at good prices.       
From left to right: Rooster saddle, Brahma Hen cape, India hen saddle, Coq de Leon hen saddle, and Herbert Miner saddle.
Hen represents one of the more recent additions of my “often used” materials list. A hen cape feather can do many different things, when loosely palmered it makes for a very buggy woolly bugger hackle, when tightly palmered at the head of fly it can make the legs of a nymph or the collar on a soft hackle. The fibers can make a beard on streamer patterns. Paired with other feathers, they can be made into a classic wet fly wing, or form the entire wing as four feathers do in matuka style flies. They are also commonly used to make claws on crawfish patterns and the legs/tails on top water patterns.
            There really is not much that these versatile feathers cannot do. Hen feathers also come in a variety of types, and I have come to use them in different ways. I have recently been tying Tenkara flies and using a Whiting Brahma hen neck because the fibers are soft (as hen should be), but lack the webby fibers that cling together like the aforementioned Herbert Miner. However, that all depends on the look and action I want in my fly. I have tenkara flies tied with both types. Additionally, I have used olive Coq de Leon hen capes to make collars on a bugger/softhackle style pattern I found online. The Coq de Leon is heavily mottled and makes great bug like legs on a fly.
            On the whole I think hen has become one of my favorite feathers and the price point works for me personally. I figure as long as teen idols do not take any interest in using these feathers for fashion, we fly tiers will be ok. Now go chase some capes down and hit the vise.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Woolly Bugger Free Life

Well first of all I'm glad to be back writing again for Siren Flies. Finishing up a masters degree will throw a monkey wrench in anyone's blog writing.

Let me say that I have fished and tied woolly buggers plenty of times and in a number of varieties. However, I am a tier and fisherman that is always trying new things. Thus, moving beyond woolly buggers was an inevitable consequence of tying new flies. Please do not misunderstand, a number of fly patterns in my box represent more derived versions of a "bugger" pattern, but there are not any true woolly buggers.

Rather then saying you should throw all your buggers out what want the readers to take away from this article is to move beyond the bugger. I took two primary steps to a woolly bugger free life.

Step 1: Take on the challenge of developing a pattern that has features of your favorite bugger, but with a different twist.  For example, if you prefer a bugger with a grizzly hackle incorporate that into a zonker pattern as either a full palmered hackle or even just a collar.

Step 2: A woolly bugger free life is not for the feint of heart. You need to stop fishing your woolly buggers. One possible consequence of this step is that there will be a brief period of fewer fish days until you develop new confidence patterns that reliably catch fish. These days can perhaps be shortened by asking around at local clubs and fly shops for new "non-bugger" patterns.

My primary fishing quarry are sunfish and bass in the rivers of Central Texas. On any given day fishing for these species, a woolly bugger variant in the right size will likely work. However, I usually fish an assortment of size 10 and 12 flies in several colors (Bully's bluegill spider in chartreuse and white, white foam poppers, and black foam ants with white legs). I promise that if you have several colors of poppers and bully's you can find some success of on any central Texas river if you cast as close enough to the river bank.

Good luck on becoming woolly bugger free.

PS: Its ok to relapse back to woolly buggers if the situation calls for it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grab and Go Boxes

by Nick Bertrand (primary contributor to Siren Flies)

This will probably not be a new concept for many of our members, but a “Grab and Go Box” for flyfishing has become a must for myself. I also know for a fact several of our members keep these boxes ready to go.

The idea is simple: One box that I can grab and then go fishing because I know it will have all I need for a day of flyfishing.

This box allows me to centralize the gear I use most and ensures some essentials are always with me.

The recipe for the box’s contents will very from person to person and certain things do will have to change seasonally.

Year round:

·      Fly bag
            The bag I will actually carry on the water with all its necessary contents.

·      Wading boots (if they fit in the box…mine do not)

·      Spare polarized sunglasses

·      Flash light

·      Spare glow sticks
I keep one of these in my bag incase I end up fishing late without a flash light)

·      First aid kit
I like the one or two man camping sets. They come prepackaged in small bags and come with all the essentials to deal with most small first aid needs on the water

·      Bug repellent and Sunscreen
I keep fluids like these in a plastic bag to protect against leaks. A reel covered in greasy sunscreen is not fun to use.

·      Multi tool (leatherman)
                        It can deal with all kinds of potential problems.

·      Waterproof Rain Shell Jack
I use something lightweight without insolation in case I decide I need to carry it with me and so I can use it any season.

·      Spare reel
                        I change it to match the rod and circumstances of the trip.
·      Spare fly box
Usually a box of big meaty flies.


·      Buff style face cover

·      Sun Gloves

·      Waders
                        If they fit in the box that is great mine usually don’t.

·      Spare Change of Clothes

The first time I ever fished with a club member in winter, I went five steps into the water and I went down. Completely soaked clothes end a day of winter fishing…period! However, a spare set means you change and get back on the water once you have emptied your waders.

·      Additional clothing layers
I usually keep a down vest available as a very warm core inner layer.

The goal of the box is to keep life simple, over packing it is easy and keeping the physical size of the box small enough to move without a buddy is a good rule of thumb.
            Also remember to properly dry any wet gear that goes into the box. I usually leave the lid off my box for about 24 hrs before repacking it.

Hopefully this will help stream line your fly fishing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Materials make New Flies

This happens fairly regularly, but often as tiers we come across some new material in either our own exploration or because a dealer comes out with something new.

For myself these moments are just another opportunity knocking.

However, opportunities always come with the possibility of failure.

Thus I try to approach new materials with a bit of critical thinking.

So lets break it down:
1. Do I have a plan on how I can first use the material?

I won't buy a material without at least one use for the material in mind already. Often tying with the material will inspire other applications. Think Jujubee midge .

2. Do I just need one or several colors?

This goes back to the planned application. I'll give a real life example.

I recently picked up some of Fly Fish Food's Bruiser Blend dubbing.  I knew I wanted to use it to make a head on a baitfish pattern and use in a similar fashion to Senyo's laser dubbing. Knowing this I can assess the usual colors I make my baitfish patterns and purchase those: White, black, grey, chartreuse, olive, cream.

Alternatively I might need only need a specific color to represent a certain feature on a fly that I have been working to prefect for a while.

After playing with the bruiser blend for a while I discovered that its length and fluid nature would be ideal for crawfish claws. Always keep your eye open for unseen potential with fly tying materials.

Friday, June 20, 2014

#3 A small Carpenter's square

I keep a Carpenters square at my tying desk mainly because it works great for cutting 6mm foam. But it also doubles as a ruler and straight edge whenever it comes up.

For 6mm foam I can get really nice level cuts because the 6mm fits just under the ruler. An under used technique in fly tying is simple measuring. You will discover that you can produce very consistent looking flies by taking a few measurements along the way.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Item #2 for your Tying Desk: Sharps Container

This item is probably coming directly from my experiences in the ichthyology lab.

I keep a sharp item disposal jar in my tying desk.

Anyone who works with razor blades knows being careful while using them is important, but so is dealing with them once they are dull. I use an old wide mouthed prescription bottle as my disposal place for razors and craft knife blades.

Once it fills completely I can throw the entire jar away with out fearing the razors could cut a trash bag or a blade unexpectedly getting somewhere it shouldn't be.

Finally it means I don't have to leave dull blades lying around my desk if I get into a marathon tying frenzy and go through several blades. It can also alleviate wondering which is the new blade or dull blade.
Add one to your desk and see if it makes your life easier.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Things you didn't know your tying desk was missing...Item #1

The boar hair shaving brush.

This is the first of a series of short posts about things I keep at my tying desk that are a little out of the ordinary.

One of the other hobbies/endeavors I enjoy is classic wet shaving with a straight razor. As a consequence of this hobby I picked up a cheap boar hair brush for use with shaving soaps (FYI: the best of these brushes are badger hair).

Awhile back, I found myself needing to dust off my desk after some marathon tying escapade. I looked over and saw this brush which I never shave with and thought "I bet that would work." Sure enough it works great for sweeping off all the little bits that accumulate on my desk.

If seeking out a shaving brush for this purpose look for a cheap boar hair brush. Inevitably some sort of adhesive is going to get on it, and shave brushes (usually badger) can be very expensive. Leave the pricey ones for shaving. Go cheap...this is for sweeping up garbage.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Troutfest in Review

(republished from the Alamo Fly Fishers March 2014 Newsletter) 

Troutfest in Review

By Nick Bertrand 
Siren Flies Creator and Blogger

Each year the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited Chapter puts on Troutfest. This event is one of the better opportunities in Texas for fly fishermen to gather for camaraderie and learning about the sport they find so enthralling.

Don’t be deceived by the name of the event. Troutfest covers all waters. Seminars and speakers come from all the genres of fly fishing and it should not surprise any one that like many of us, these speakers fish many waters and in many different ways. Thus, keynote speakers such as Charlie Craven, Dave Whitlock, and Duane Hada who spoke this year each covered a huge variety of topics and techniques.

In brief, Craven covered salt and freshwater fly patterns, Whitlock spoke on casting and his super versatile fox squirrel fly pattern, and Hada spoke on sculpin and crayfish approaches for both bass and trout.  The keynote speakers are the highlight of the weekend for most attendees, but the exhibition tent in many ways is the secret path to an awesome weekend experience.
Variations of Dave Whitlock's Fox Squirrel Nymph. The largest fly is a red fish fly and the others include trout and bass fly variants.
Between vendors that represent local fly shops, brand representatives and exotic destination fly fishing agencies there is a wealth of information and gear to check out. It can easily become overwhelming. The secret is to attend on both Saturday and Sunday to see all that is available.

Amidst the various business booths are booths from fly fishing clubs from across Texas. There is a great opportunity to network around the state. Does your son or daughter go to college in some other part of the state? Are you in need a convenient local fishing spot near the university? These clubs are the resources you need. It’s a great chance to talk with folks who know the water in their region and might even be willing to personally get you into fish. Additionally, there are usually tiers at the table cranking out flies. These are the flies that are really worth examining because they are under the scrutiny of their fellow club members and often come with club heritage. This heritage means they have been improved and modified in all kinds interesting ways by various club members. You never know…. these flies might just be something you want to add to your fly box.

The Alamo Fly Fishers were at Troutfest and we offer our thanks to GRTU for allowing us to promote our club. Additional thanks go out to all the club members who gave up their time to sit at the table doing the meet and greet or tying flies. Working the booth also offers the chance to dialogue with folks from around the state in addition to meeting potential new members.

Additionally, GRTU invites fly tiers and professional guides to tie flies in the exhibit tent each year. With them comes an assortment of new tips and tricks to the make flies from various Texas waters and for targeting a whole diversity of species. AFF members Todd Flemming and Steve Flanagan we among those tiers.

For those new to fly fishing I highly recommend planning to attend this annual event next year. Classes for learning cast and tie flies are always held and make for a great learning opportunity. There are also a number of children’s activities held throughout the weekend so bring the whole family.

I look forward to seeing lots of Alamo Fly Fishers there next year. Thanks again to GRTU for putting together one of Texas’ best fly fishing weekends.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Some big nymphs I like

Lately, I have been chasing trout on the Guadalupe River in Central Texas. While I don't exclusively nymph, it has been the go to means of catching fish most of this season. Well that and finding the hole that the fish are in....low water does seem to concentrate trout.

Inspired by my most recent trip, I thought I would mention a couple of large nymphs I like to use in my two nymph rig. These nymphs are not always fish catchers, and I'm personally not a big subscriber to the "attractor nymph" philosophy. However, I do think that how the large nymph drifts can be critical to how the smaller nymph trailing behind it drifts. Taking a two fly interaction approach I generally choose a large nymph to achieve a certain goal in my drift rather then expect it be a fish slayer.

Nymph #1

The main hole I have been fishing for most of the season is about 4 foot deep, at best 10 foot long with about 3 feet of densely packed fish at the bottom width. The flow is pretty fast in that little stretch so getting down has to be very fast to get into fish. In such a situation I turn to....

Case Closed Caddis by Rich Strolis
Links above are to video tutorials.

I load mine with a lot of lead wraps (covering as much 3/4 of the hook shank), and it drops like a rock and takes the little nymph down with it. It has also accounted for several fish on its own this season.

Nymph #2

While the above nymph has been the one I have fished most this season. My plan B has been a bastardized version of the Chimera from the guys at Fly Fish Food. (My thanks for developing this fly). I say bastardized because I have substituted similar, but not the same materials for the ones they used, but the fly is essentially the same. However it is lighter then the above fly and my olive version is significantly more subdued and natural looking. The latter is what I attribute my success with this fly to more then any other feature.

Chimera by Curtis Fry

This fly took a a 16-18 inch trout just this week.

Nymph #3

No big nymph.

Forget the big nymph and do it all with split shot. Sometimes the fish get wise to complex rigs....or at least thats my two sense. In these cases sometimes ditching all the big nymphs can make all the difference. Now be sure to consider that your small fly's drift will dynamically change once the other fly is removed and it will take some serious readjustments to get back in the fishing zone if you are already there, but I could be the difference between a made day and getting skunked.

Hopefully this prompted some thoughts about planning out large nymphs in a two nymph rigs.