Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November program recap

Despite freezing rain and a winter storm warning for areas just north of town, ten of us braved the conditions and met for what was an interesting session.

The program itself was a quick overview of fly tying basics: the tools, some sample materials, and the demonstration of a simple but very effective fly that works great for panfish (the fluff butt). A fluff butt is basically a woolybugger tied with a beadhead or a micro-jig hook and without a hackle feather.

Here are some tips for beginners...

1. Check out the many resources available on the web.

  • Here is a primer written by Catch Cormier in his Fly Lines column in Louisiana Sportsman, Art of the Sport.  It details some of the basic tools and what to look for in each.
  • Yet another tools list compiled by the late Mark Delaney for the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) Gulf Coast Council newsletter.  Mark was one of Louisiana's premier fly tiers and tying instructors.   Mark's website is still active and contains photos of some of his epic fly swaps.  Check it out here.
  • Luke McCoy of New Orleans has one of the best tying sites found anywhere on the web, OnTheVise.com. In addition to a large and growing database of patterns, there are blogs by members of the OTV Pro Staff, and a very active forum.  Check out Luke's advise for beginner tiers in "12 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Started".
 2. Videos can be a great tool for learning to tie a particular fly...  depending on the source.  Youtube videos can range from very good to very bad.  Most of the commercial videos are good; in order to sell they have to be.  One of Catch's favorite tying instructional videos is "Tying Trout Flies" by Gary Borger which came out 25 years ago and is only available on VHS.  Despite the name, and being a bit outdated, it remains a solid instructional video.

Several books - such as those by Skip Morris - provide an excellent pictorial database for tying techniques and even patterns that use each technique. Don't worry that the book may be slanted towards trout.  You'll find these type books more handy in the long run than one that simply shows a list of flies.  However, if you plan on tying a particular group of flies - saltwater for example - then a book with patterns that relate to our local fishing is a good option, eg. "Flies of the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coast". 

3. There is no substitute for hands-on learning and personal observation.  This is why activities such as "conclaves" and fly tying clinics are so important.  A fly fishing conclave (aka, festival, fair, expo) is usually a 1 or 2 day event featuring programs, fly tying demos, casting, vendors, and much more. The tying demos are an opportunity to learn a particular fly or category of flies (eg, saltwater streamers) from veteran tiers.  Fortunately, our region (AR, LA, OK, TX) has more of these events each year than any other region in the country.  Most if not all are posted on the KFF Calendar.

4. The KISS philosophy applies. Catch showed two tote bags.  Each contains everything he needs to tie the majority of flies he uses most often, one bag for freshwater (panfish and trout) and one bag for saltwater.  At home, he keeps a few boxes with other less-used materials for making flies such as balsa pencil poppers,  hair bugs, etc.  This makes it real easy to take your tying along on trips to Arkansas or the coast.

For beginners, this minimalist approach serves another purpose. Too often beginners try to learn too many flies too quickly, and become masters of none.  Learn to tie (a) what you know you will use most often and (b) what is either too expensive or unavailable commercially.  Later on, as your skills evolve, you can expand your materials base.

Fluff Butts - originated by Mark Hester