Jump to content
Maine Fly Fish
gunner

Teaching Moments

Recommended Posts

The "discussion" on marabou feathers raised some issues that did not get addressed. A lot of the members are or have learned to tie flies on their own, using books and videos. Some, like me, have taken a few classes and then only tie a few flies a year. Most of the pattern books tell you what to use to tie a fly or how to tie it but are really short on things like how to pick out good bucktail, squirrel tail, feathers, etc. That might be tangentally covered in a fly tieing class, but then you are trying to remember technique and forget some of the other important stuff that you need to know later.

When someone asks how do you know what is bad and what is good, please take a moment to use it as a teaching moment. Give us some facts as to what to look for. I mean, we just had two teachers arguing most feathers are crap or all feathers are good, which taught us little -- keep the personalities out of it and TEACH.

Tom said in one post there are some brands that are so bad he doesn't even consider them when tieing -- please tell us what to avoid. I'll gladly make the 100 mile roundtrip trip to Eldredge Bros to learn what to look for if necessary, but if you can tell us on this site, please do, to help the most members possible.

So, I'll start by asking -- are there brands you stay away from? Why?

What do you look for in hackle? Marabou? Schlappen? Pheasant? Turkey? Etc.? Stuff just suitable for saltwater flies and not freshwater flies, and vice versa, and why - what is the difference?

Please consider this a teaching moment and pass on some knowledge beyond the opinion that 50% of the feathers we buy are crap -- We need to know what to look for, how to find it, where to find it.

Thanks.

Joe

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Geez Joe,

I thought i explained quite a bit about what I considered important in marabou...that being no bugs...the feathers are'nt moth eaten and falling apart....correct colors....and an even dye jobs( but i said that even that sometimes can be good if you like the mottled effect that a bad dye job can give you)...

as far as other materials this all holds true....if a buck tail smells and the hair is falling out...I'd pass on it....If turkey flats have holes in them...I'd pass....

For marabou if we are given all of the the above, i9e no bugs and good colors, after that obviously there are variables which determine which fetaher maty be better for one job and which might be better for another....longer barbs and flexible stems work for palmering and making collars on larger flies and those feathers generally cost more..you can use shorter feathers with flexible stems and you might have to use several feathers rather than one to yield the correct "palmer job"...or you might have to tie smaller sized flies with them...but that is ok too...This is just common sense Joe.

Feathers with thicker and less (non!) flexible stems are usually in the cheaper feather packages and obviously you can not palmer them...but if they are the correct color and not moth eaten... you can still strip the feather barbs from that thick stem and use them for most of the stuff you use marabou for anyway, as in wings or tails or in making leach flies...or what have you.

I don't think it is that big a deal...even in saddles and necks because materials today are so far ahead of what they were in days gone by...it takes some of "the magic" out if actually...

as far as saddles and necks...if you buy Whiting or Metz you are good to go...Alvin Therriault has some nice bird skins too. And Ron Mckusick gets some nicer no name feathers. I'm talking hackle for dries and soft webby hen hackles....

But even the really cheap Indian necks can be used for saltwater tying...

I think alot of the mystery about materials was when there were wicked large differences between a genetic hckle and all the rest...I think you will get way better stuff today than you did 30 years ago....

Not only that most everything is put out by a few large distributors like Umpqua Feather Merchants anyway...and you are good to go for 99% of it.

i get a lot of tying materials at Jo Ann fabric actually.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dry fly hackles should be without any webiness...and soft hen hackles should have lots of web..

so if you go to the fly shop and you want to buy a hen skin...size it up and eyeball the one that looks to have the webbiest feathers...and if you want dry flies...look for the skin with the longest and least webby feathers and that have the size feathers you want to tie the size flies you want to tie...

again i don't think this is magic or anything...

a more expensive bird skin may have longer and more variety of sizes...but with todays genetically engineered birds you are good to go for most of it...in fact say you have purchased a skin with no small feathers...no worries...just buy some Whiting feathers that are pre sorted and packaged in the size you want....

It's probably a tad more expensive this way...but those feathers are sweet....and there is less waste..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joe................ here is a good primer on hen hackle and what to look for http://globalflyfisher.com/staff/petti/garage/hen/

I still wish someone would tell me why they only got a couple of "good marabou feathers" out of whole bag of feathers.....?????

What was the so special technique that required such special feathers?

Some guys drive fancy cars down my street that has a speed limit of 20 MPH that would do a fair to midlin' job at the Grand Prix in Italy. Seeing how the speed limit on I-95 is at most 65 MPH, it makes perfect sense to drive acar that goes 200 miles an hour. Just like guys who have whiz bang computers to read email....I'm not knocking it...Just making observations....

I see guys in traffic jams in Boston doing the "stop and go" in cars that would be great at Indy or LeMans all the time...if you got the money? Hey what the heck.....????

Maybe that is what we are talking about with feathers here? When guys seem to need something better than is in the bag?????

i just don't get it actually...it plum evades me......???????

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I shop for bucktail, I go through each option in the color I'm seeking and choose the bucktail with greatest amount of the longest hair possible. I also want the hair to be as fine {not hollow) as possible in my opinion they are the easiest to tie with and have the best action. To a large degree, Cap is right. Fishing flies can be tied without the best material, but since I'm paying good money for my materials, I like to go through what I am about to buy and get the quality that will best suit my needs.

Here is another trick that might seem obvious, but I didn't do this until the last couple of years. When you are cutting bucktail to tie onto a fly, don't cut it to the length you need right off of the hide. Always cut the hair as close to it's base as possible. It keeps the bucktail much easier to work with. Same goes for flashabou as well. I used to cut those in all different lengths and it makes them impossible to work with after you have tied a few flies. Now I always cut the entire length and then double it (or triple it) over to use in the fly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, a good start. Thanks to both of you. Sorry you had to repeat yourself Cap, but now that info is in one spot that I hope Kevin makes a sticky (or I will at least print off when the thread has run its course.

Comment about the bucktail -- before jcoops' post, I thought all bucktail was not hollow (as I have used in on streamers, grocery pollacks) and that I had to use elk hair if I wanted hollow, e.g. for elkhair caddis.

Come on you experienced tiers, give us the benefit of some of your knowledge and recommend good books or site links. And you new tiers, ask questions here so we have one spot to go to for info.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I am going to cut and paste some of the comments into this thread, so it is all in one place:

spector82 said:

"For palmered flies personally good marabou would be long barbs(fluff) with a thin stem...easier to palmer and better action in the water.

Woolly buggers (small ones under size 8) I use turkey flats, the fluff from the base, it has good action in the water.

Larger ones I use a bunch of blood quill material, works/looks just fine for me.

Standard smelt streamers using marabou I use a good quality blood feather(thin stem good amount of fluff)

tie it in and snip the center of the tip so it tapers to a minnow shape nicely....so basically the definition of good vs. bad is there is no good or bad, what is good for a certain pattern may be bad for another,.... "

Tom said:

"from a tyer's perspective (which after all was what the post was originally all about) there is absolutely a difference in marabou. I tie a lot with marabou (hundreds of dozens per year), purchase/rummage through different brands versions of 'different' products just to know what's out there. There are some brands I stay away from because their quality is consistently poor for what I am looking for.

In the case of marabou, this comes in feathers from immature birds whose feathers have not fully plumed, feathers which will be too short for my needs, feathers which have been infested by bugs yet still sold, feathers whose poor dye jobs have burnt off the marabou fibers, poor packaging which crimps or damages th feathers, stress on the bird during its life which affects feather development (feathers which have bands lacking the fully plumed look of the rest of the feather), feathers with stems too thick and brittle to wrap or tie in with any length, feathers with varying/broken tips. This is just a start of the myraid ways a feather can/does suck from the fly tyer's perspective."

Water Rat said:

"To add to Cap's post - if you don't like the ends or want a fluffier leach style look, instead of "cutting" the ends off, wet you fingers and pull the ends off. It will look much better, both to you and to the fish.

If you don't know what to look for, have someone show you. Anybody in pretty much any fly shop will show you. I very often ask for help picking out materials, especially when I leave my reading glasses home Both Cap and Tom gave some great tips on what to look for, but it is tough to explain without showing. You pull the marabou out of the package, hold it by the butt end, and then run you finger through the tips. You need to both look and feel for quality."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I doubt I'll ever be one to give good advice on "how to tie" or on "best material", but Cap posted a link to http://globalflyfisher.com/ and I highly endorse this web site for referencing lots of info regarding flies, tying and more. Some others: http://flyanglersonline.com/, http://www.flyguysoutfitting.com/, http://hffa.net/?cat=9. There are so many more... you can always "google" and find info. and don't forget sites like this http://www.maineflyfish.com/. There are some very good tiers who post on this board and also on others. You will find their work on the other boards, too. And you can always ask them a question and usually find a solution to a problem;

:rolleyes: though, sometimes there maybe some varying opinions. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

since I'm paying good money for my materials, I like to go through what I am about to buy and get the quality that will best suit my needs.

Exactlly. Good point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just noticed this thread, even though it's been up a while. I think that you've got something going here, Joe! It's nice to have all these sources in one spot! Thanks!.....Butch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is an addition to the hook info, they are the charts that I like to use:

Daiichi cross reference guide:

http://www.anglersportgroup.com/pdfs/fly_tyers_guide.pdf

Daiichi pocket hook guide:

http://www.anglersportgroup.com/pdfs/daiichi_hook_pocket_guide.pdf

And I also have to add Charlie's Fly Box, a great spot to get patterns and step by step's:

http://www.charliesflyboxinc.com/flybox/index.cfm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

from spector82's post on 5-19: http://www.maineflyfish.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=19631&pid=159640&st=0entry159640

Just a word of advice on Marabou type streamers,...either tie them very long on a shorter hook or tie them on a longer hook with the ends just beyond the bend, if tied on a long shank hook and tied long the fly tends to foul often, and there is nothing worse than bringing in a large salmon or brook trout on a streamer, fish just misses the fly the first time, a quick recast for an almost certain hookup only to have the fly foul up come in like a propeller and spook the fish away. a small amount of similar colored bucktail underwing will help prevent fouling as well.

You will find what works best for you in time, hard to improve the old standards, I gave up long ago trying to do so...look at the bait you are trying to imitate, find materials that would have the colors and come up with your own, with smelt it is hard to go wrong with pearls/olives/greys...those combos just look fishy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

word of caution, in my opinion, do not buy marabou from METZ. the feathers are short and most of the fibers are the ugly clumped bottom ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my favorite fly tying forums can be found at the Speypages website, http://speypages.com/speyclave/forumdisplay.php?f=95 . It is frequented mostly by Pacific Northwesterners and British Columbians, but there are some Midwestern/Great Lakers, Eastern Canadians, and a few European guys who post, too. You won't find much in the way of traditional trout stuff, but the steelhead and salmon patterns will knock your socks off. Even if you don't tie or fish those patterns, there is MUCH to learn and be inspired by, particularly with the step-by-step postings.

This little site also has some excellent tutorials covering flies for a wide variety of species: http://www.beaucatcher.com/flys.html .

As for materials, the best advice is to handle it in person before you buy, if at all possible. You can have good luck or bad if you buy mail order; I have never had 100% of either when buying on-line or over the phone from anyone - with one exception. I ALWAYS got top shelf stuff from Hunter's, but alas, they are no longer with us. I don't know if their successor, Stone River Outfitters (?) is good, or even still in business. I have heard several people rave about the quality and service they have received from Blue Ribbon Flies of West Yellowstone, MT, but have no first hand experience with them.

What I look for when buying:

Deer hair for spinning - thick hairs, well anchored to the hide, not brittle or easily broken when bent; the patch should have a firm, but spongy feeling when you squeeze it between a thumb and forefinger.

Saddle / streamer hackle - long, fine, straight stems; barbules should taper smoothly from fairly short near the tip to longish at the base; a little web from the midsection through the base is fine. Cheap Chinese strung stuff is okay for big saltwater flies and some bass flies where it will be used for tails / wings, but the more expensive genetic stuff is much better for palmering bodies and making wings on trout, salmon, or steelhead patterns.

Marabou - really good stuff is surprisingly hard to find...If anybody has a steady, reliable source, please let me know! I look for the long, thin, straight stems with long, sparse barbules. Often, the feathers sold as "X-Large", "Magnum", etc. have a stem that is waaaayyy too thick to be useful. I get by at Bean's and Cabela's by sifting through the packages on the wall, but even the best of those have about 35% useful feathers. In the interests of full disclosure, I am extremely picky about marabou, as I use it as a spey hackle substitute, so I need really long, really thin, really straight stems and barbules. For small trout and landlocked salmon streamers like the black ghost, even mediocre marabou will do.

Hooks, fresh water - My favorites are made by Gamakatsu, and Kittery Trading Post has lots of that line - very strong, very "sticky", and not extremely expensive. Daiichi and Tiemco are always good bets but pricey, and the upper end of the Mustad line though not quite as sharp (or varied in styles) is solid and less expensive.

Hooks, salt water - Gamakatsu is my favorite again. Tiemcos are good, but pricey. Mustads are easier on the wallet, but need some sharpening out of the box and more frequently while being used. I suppose everyone has experienced a straightened or broken hook with one brand or another; I have with Tiemco, Partridge, and Mustad. But it has been so rare that I'm not going to let it turn me off from those brands completely.

Great thread, Gunner - glad you started it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great info been tying for forty years give or take, know one thing for sure keep tying . You need to practice keep tying!,,,,,if it doesn't work the first time.... Try again. Buy a neck or saddle cost of learning. Try again. Just keep it up you'll get it. Happy Tying'. cub. PS: catchin a fish on fly you'made is worth the headache.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×