Fly tying for older folk - and some modern fly tying developments generally.
Just as fly fishing becomes more difficult with advancing age, so too does fly tying.
Vision deteriorates and the hands start to tremble
Although a lack of balance now makes angling impossible for me, I still enjoy tying flies for friends.
This would be impossible in my case without my prescription reading glasses and my magnifying Optivisor which I bought at Cape Watch. I'm also indebted to professional fly tyer Jan Korrubel who said his life changed for the better when he bought the ProLight Dual LED lamp through Morne Bayman at the African Fly Angler.
I have used brush-on superglue for years, transferring tiny drops to the tip of a dental pick. Invariably the top of bottle would become clogged even when I trimmed the brush to a narrow point and I would end up discarding a half-full bottle.
All that changed when I spotted Zap Flexy Tips in the Hareline catalogue. No longer do I have to unscrew the top of a superglue bottle and gingerly remove the brush. Now a squeeze of the Zap-A-Gap bottle deposits a tiny drop of glue precisely where I want it. Very liberating.
The Italian company, Stonfo, has now produced what it calls the U-shaped bodkin as an alternative to the dental pick. Marvellous advance.
Click in images to enlarge them
A Zap-A-Gap bottle equipped with a Flexy Tip. The new Stonfo bodkin is in the foreground.
The UV-torchlight-cured resins have largely supplanted the messy, two-part epoxies which were used until a few years ago on saltwater flies.
When Loon produced its fluorescing resin, I started using it on the eyes of dragonfly nymphs, covering it with a protective second layer of more viscous Solarez flexible resin.
If you don’t want to invest in UV torches and resins then Loon Fluorescing Hard Head is the answer. It’s Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails with fluorescence and it dries in about five minutes to give your bead chain eyes a lovely blueish glow.
Some of the UV resins, head cement and torches I use are illustrated in the photo above. The black Deer Creek resin is top left.
The C&F rotary drier which runs on AA batteries is useful if you are tying a few flies with bead chain or other eyes at a time. Just put it on the window sill and let it whir away while the sunlight helps the drying and hardening process.
Frontier Flyfishing’s compact C&F rotary drier runs on AA batteries and its lightness makes it very portable
Hugh Huntley made a serendipitous discovery when he added red chenille eyes to his damselfly nymphs and Roger Baert followed suit with red Edge Bright eyes on his Hover Dragon. You can add red spots to black bead chain eyes with red nail varnish or Loon Hard Head varnish in red. For adding black eyes to orange beads I use black Deer Creek UV resin.
A Dragon Mop Fly with red nail varnish eyes covered with UV resin
The Solarez UV torch, which retails for about a thousand rand, produces the brightest beam at the moment and I think this is a result of its powerful 3.7 volt rechargeable battery. Cape Piscatorial Society secretary, Louis de Jager, alerted me, however, to an intriguing alternative which is being used by fly fishing professionals like Jacques Marais and James Christmas.
Google 5 second Fix + YouTube and you will see several demonstrations of a product much like a large fountain pen which combines a reservoir of UV resin with a built-in UV light. It’s available from Verimark stores and costs about a tenth of the price of the Solarez torch.
The advantage of its nozzle is that you can apply small amounts of resin very accurately.
I am using the new Jig Head tungsten beads on flies I am tying for friends to use at Lakenvlei Dam and the nozzle of the 5-Second Fix ‘pen’ enables one to place resin very precisely in just the right amount in the hole of the bead.
The nozzle of the 5-second Fix applicator enables one to precisely apply just sufficient UV resin to secure Jig Head beads to the hook shank
(If you tip a slotted tungsten bead away from the hook shank and lock it in place with UV resin it helps to tip the fly over so that it drifts hook point up.)
The orange version of this bead fluoresces strongly under UV light and I tie a Mop Fly variation to imitate daphnia by combining this bead with an abdomen made from an orange Floorwiz replacement mop pad. It is sold by Verimark, and also glows brightly under UV light.
The Daphnia Mop Fly is completed with a thorax of orange rabbit zonker strip fur, spun in a dubbing loop. The inspiration for this fly came after Andrew Ingram told me of a fishless day at Lakenvlei which changed suddenly when they tried orange Wooly Buggers. The late Hugh Huntley tied a daphnia imitation with an orange chenille body and a palmered golden pheasant tippet hackle which worked well and I hope my fluorescent orange concoction will proved similarly successful.
The author’s Mop Fly version of Hugh Huntley’s Orangeade glows under UV light
I tied this fly on the barbless #8 Fulling Mill Grab Gape hook which is an extremely sharp, heavy-wire exemplar of the hook maker’s craft. Morne Bayman of the African Fly Angler also stocks the barbless Fulling Mill jig hooks which are available from #8 to #18 and use a heavier wire than the Hanak jig hooks I have used up to now
Which brings me to another liberating product for those whose hands tremble – 18/0 Semperfli Nanosilk thread which is extremely thin and very strong.
Splitting thread and inserting the CDC fibres for Darryl Lampert’s High-Vis Midge is a frustrating struggle if your hands shake and the answer for me is a dubbing loop made of waxed Nanosilk combined with the CDC feathers spun into a chenille with a dubbing twister.
I use the same technique to spin zonker strip fur or marabou in creating dragon fly nymph imitations with lots of inherent movement.
Marc Petitjean’s dubbing twister is a brilliant product, but I found when tying these flies that I struggled to get the bottom of the dubbing loop into its small hooks which curve backwards. What I found easier to use is the C&F dubbing twister with its fast-spinning, ball bearing handle.
The C&F dubbing twister in the foreground with the MP version behind it
Two bobbin holders recently arrived on the market, allow one to adjust the tension of the thread as one feeds it onto the hook shank. The superb new Tiemco bobbin holder does this with magnetic force. The less expensive Stonfo Bobtec bobbin holder does this with a sliding rubber clip. On the Stonfo bobbin I lubricate the interface between the bobbin arms and the thread spool with silicone floatant to make the spool turn with less friction.
The new TMC bobbin holder (foreground) and Stonfo Bobtec bobbin holders equipped with spools of Semperfli 18/0 Nanosilk thread.
In order to save time and thus money, professional fly tyers keep their scissors cupped in the palm of the bobbin holder hand but I have never felt comfortable with that. Two brands of scissors are bent in such a way that they are easy to pick up. The one is the Kai 5130 Double Curve embroidery scissors which I got from Gordon van der Spuy and the other is the Dr Slick 3.5 inch bent shaft scissor which has a slightly finer tip and one of the blades is serrated.
The Dr Slick bent shaft scissor in the foreground with the Kai embroider scissor behind it