Monday, February 25, 2013

Solving Problems

For those of you who aren't aware, I am an engineer by trade...meaning an inherent problem solver. Or perhaps problem maker--then solver. So when recently presented with the problem of running out of some black hackle that is key for one of my most productive dry flies, I obviously had a problem to solve. The first solution that popped into my head was to go check out ebay. There were a few matches, but only a few and not really what I was hoping for. Mostly they were tiny saddles with short feathers that would probably only yield one fly each. What I wanted was a nice high quality saddle with long feathers that are all in the 16-20sz range.

Next stop was to google it. But again no satisfactory products could be found. Part of my problem was probably that it's impossible to really tell what you're getting just by looking at sample pictures, and I didn't want to end up paying $50 for something that wasn't what I needed.

Finally a good idea found its way through the neural maze in my head and I googled "dying hackle." And with a very short bit of research it sounded like a great idea and pretty simple solution. I have a bunch of nice grizzly hackle that should hopefully dye black. So, off to the crafts store to get some dye!

With the dye in hand I started pulling off a handful of feathers from the grizzly saddle that were the right size. A close-up of the feathers to be dyed:

And then came the fun part. In my research what I had discovered is that there are about six million modes to dye:  suggested means to getting stronger colors, best ways to set the dye, don't spill anywhere, etc. My simple mind doesn't do too well with that many options, so I just poured some water into a mug I don't drink from, mixed in an unmeasured amount of dye, heated it up and off I went. With a few feathers clipped to some forceps I mounted them over the mug and let them sit for a few minutes.

After the feathers had been in the dye for 5min or so I pulled them off, rinsed them, dried them, and took a look at how I had done. The result was a bit disappointing. They were certainly darker, but still more grey than black. This picture looks better than they do in real life:

Now it was time to experiment. I tried leaving a few feathers in overnight, I also tried putting some undiluted dye onto a spoon and spooling a feather into it, and then also tried leaving that one overnight. The undiluted dye made it slightly better, but not much. The overnight process surprisingly didn't seem to add any color. The next morning I tried nuking the dye in the microwave and getting it really hot, then putting one feather into it for 10min. That seemed to do the trick. Still not 100% black, but significantly darker than all previous trials. See below; it's pretty easy to see which was the better result.

And so with a good recipe, I made up a handful of other feathers and headed over to the vice to see how it turns out. My big complaint about making the following fly with grizzly hackle is that the body where the hackle is wrapped ends up looking discolored and lighter against the rest of the black body and thus, at least to my non-fish eyes, looks fake. Using black hackle keeps the body and hackle all nicely color-coordinated (unlike my wardrobe) and looks more real, again at least to me. 

Here is the tying process, which I might have posted previously.

Staring with a sz16-20 dry fly hook, wrap black thread to the bend, and add in some black hackle fibers for the tail of the baetis.

Next wrap up a thread body and tie in a newly dyed hackle feather. I don't particularly like dubbing, but you could dub up a black body. I prefer to keep this somewhat skinny and I also find that dubbing tends to attract water and cause dries to sink worse than thread wrapped bodies.

Wrap the hackle as you would with an Adams.

Tie off and trim hackle and thread, and if you like your flies to last glue it up. And you're done! Easy as that.

This fly can also be tied with a parachute, although in this mode it's less important for black hackle since the wrapping is around the post and doesn't discolor the body.  The fly pictured below was tied with undyed grizzly hackle.

I've had a lot of luck with this fly as a baetis pattern for trout, and last time I went for panfish it was a particularly good pattern. You might think it would be hard to pick out, but it's actually quite good for overcast days because the solid black sticks out amongst the bright haze of reflected clouds that is always on the water.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Timing is Everything

I have not failed to miss the Fly Fishing Film Tour since it's inception...what, about 6 years ago now? And apparently the people at F3T are not very appreciative of my unwavering support. This year they decided to schedule their singular Portland visit during a week of travels for me. And they didn't even call to clear this with me! Unacceptable!

I had expected my loyalty to be treated so much better than this. I'm never going to another F3T event again!

On the plus side, at least I won't be compulsively buying fishing videos this spring.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2012 Overview

This might be a bit late in coming but I was grappling with the decision to write this post or not. Yes, I know no one cares about my fishing statistics but me, but you're going to hear about them anyway. At least I'll keep it short though.

This past year was a pretty decent fishing year for me. Despite my lack of much Fall and early Winter fishing expeditions due to a home purchase, I made it out onto the water a respective 42 days.  More important, though, is that my efforts were met with a little more success relative to last year. That of course comes with a caveat that last year I spent a number of days bass fishing (which I don't know much about), which brought down my catch levels significantly. Last year the total haul was 359 fish (in 53 days); this year I managed 427 fish in 42 days on the water. More fish in fewer days: not bad!

Part of my improvements were honestly because of easier quarry, and easier locations, but I also like to think my skills are continuing to improve. Czech or tight line nymphing is something I never really did much before this year, and in a couple of instances this year it seemed to provide serious improvement in results. Plus there's something about it that I love: it really makes fishing seem more instinctual.

Looking forward to 2013 I have set myself a couple of vague goals that I will not write down other than a quick mention here. I don't like to have actual fishing goals because it makes this entire hobby feel too serious and I don't want it to become a job. Instead I just put it in the back of my head that I would like to do a TON more carp fishing this year once the season begins, and I'd like to take a serious effort at chasing some salmon and steelhead, which so far I haven't chased very hard. Yes I know it's a travesty that I live in the PacNW and haven't chased salmon and steelhead. That's why I want to remedy it.