With it being streamer tying season we have a new video on our Vimeo page to share. Russ Maddin shares another streamer that is a must tie. Using Egg Yarn for the head gives this Maddin creation great action. Add a few of his techniques to your box and have a great trout season. Make sure to watch until the end, as Russ breaks down what line and leader setup to use when fishing this great fly.
Ed McCoy is one of the best fly tiers and I’ve had the opportunity to spend many of sessions watching him master his craft. Erik Rambo captured this picture of Ed tying flies and as usual paying extra attention to the little details.
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Mangled Fly contributor Erik Rambo captures Ed McCoy tying big flies late at night. Something about the process of tying a new fly for the next day, that gives the angler more confidence. Taking what you have learned from the previous day and implementing that knowledge. Ed McCoy is a master at this craft.
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Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ve inventoried my fly boxes and I am scrambling to fill my spring, summer & fall fly boxes for the upcoming seasons, as old man winter starts thinking about taking his nap, I hope! This winter has been full of tinkering with new materials and techniques for favorite fishing, steelhead on the swing. Per usual, I completely forgot to do what I always intend, which is to fill the holes in my boxes from a spring, summer and fall of fishing. Ugh, production tying. Not a fan.
The most enjoyable part of tying for me is the development stage or learning of new patterns. When I sit down to let my mind wander and relax into it’s artistic side & start free styling, my default is steelhead streamers. The array of colors and materials that one could imagine using and attracting this quarry is astounding. So I play with color combos and styles of flies deep into the night while sipping on something brown. Bourbon, rye and scotch being the likely suspects. Sometimes the next day I awake with a headache, grab some coffee and go critique my flies from the night before. The bigger the headache, the more likely it’s “WTF was I thinking!” Sometimes I impress myself and sometimes the razor comes out & the hook is shorn of the monstrosity.
Which begets a question that I hinted to in the title- what are my beverages for tying flies? Sure, whiskey has turned my brain and fingers into madness & what transpired on the vice was abominable, but some nights it’s more about the drink than the tying. Then there are the nights that a neat dram of whiskey is the perfect accompaniment, as a sip every so often soothes my soul and the whiskey’s temperature does not change & some of the resulting flies have found permanent places in my boxes.
So, here’s my guide to what to drink when tying flies. Yours may very as we all have preferences.
- Production/Repetitive tying- I have three schools of thought here…
#1 Drink coffee to keep you rolling and the mind free from the numbing effects of doing a dozens of the same pattern. I know a few guides who really like tying production, as it gives them a “check out time” when they don’t have to think about what they are doing as they done the fly hundreds or thousands of times. Especially the dreaded egg patterns.
#2 Drink water- no better time to hydrate. Until it catches up with you and you spend more time in the bathroom than at the vice.
#3 Drink a low alcohol beer. Think macro brew or old world Pilsener. Pabst has been a fly tying staple for some for many years. Personally, I go with a craft “Session” beer. Short’s “Ale la Reverend” is my favorite when it’s available and Founders “All Day IPA” is good to go all year long and comes in 12 pack cans.
- Dry Flies/Nymphs- kind of falls in to the same category as above. They are not my strong point, so I stick to H2O. Sometimes red wine is a good option. It’s a sipper, doesn’t loose it’s temperature and gets better as the air mixes in and it “opens up”.
- Wet flies/Soft Hackles- tradition would call for a fine dram of Irish or Scotch as these patterns were originally from the British Isles. But be careful, as once you start working on the wet flies with tented or married wings, your fingers and mind need to be nimble. On the other hand, simple soft hackles like the Partridge and Red/Yellow/ Orange that work so well, can be done when a wee bit addled. The other traditional drink that I partake in if it’s summer and I am refilling the Wheatley box would be a tall Gin and Tonic. Nothing says summer like a G&T while tying wets/soft hackles!
- Traditional Steelhead and Atlantic Flies- Once again a glass of whiskey does well and for me, it has to be a Single Malt Scotch, likely from Speyside and even more likely it’s Mortlach 15yr or Macallan 10yr Fine Oak. I savor this traditional beverage slowly, maybe only taking a sip as I put the hook in the vice and when I take the finished fly out. I need all my wits about me when trying some of these complicated beauties.
- Streamers- Beer, beer and more beer! I love tying streamers and nothing goes better than beer. Likely something with a little kick, like a Stone IPA or a Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”. Beer keeps my juices flowing and my thirst quenched. I tend to wet down and pull back materials on my streamers as they can get in the way of the next step. Usually all that is needed is a little saliva and beer aides in this process!
- Freestyle/Creative Session- Bourbon…on the rocks. When I’m messing around testing new ideas or materials, bourbon fuels the fire! It is also my go to spirit, period. When I am creating new flies, my concern is not for the immediate finished product, as it’s very rare that something comes off the vice and doesn’t get tweaked and refined. Most of the time it’s put somewhere on the desk where I look at it and critique the shape, size & proportions of materials. Then I tie it a second time with my improvements. Then I repeat this a third time. But I stop there until I can see them all on or in the water. Some patterns of mine have looked great until water tested and afterwards, straight into the garbage or under the razor.
One last thought…when it comes time to clean up your tying area, as I know most of us let it go until we can’t stand it, I advise a strong cocktail to ease the pain! Maybe a Dark & Stormy, a Moscow Mule or a Manhattan. My desk is a mess right now and will be until I knock out all my spring & summer flies. Then it will get cleaned up and likely stay that way until after the summer, as I will be too busy fishing & not tying. Unless I blow through a certain pattern that is lighting them up, then it’s back to it and the dreaded production tying begins. Ugh, production tying…and you better bet there will be an adult beverage involved!
- Happy February! For those ski bums out there, better get it in before it’s gone. Winter is already on the downhill slide. In the world of unemployed fishing guide (like myself), what February means is only 1 more month until Prime Time starts again. New fishing reports for the Manistee River and the Muskegon River after a great weekend of weather. With a good mix of steelhead around on the west side of the state, and new fish starting to already show up for the Spring push, things are looking good. February has been a long time favorite, with plenty of fish around and less people. Makes for some good fishing.
- Fly Tying Event at Muskegon River Fly Shop , I’ll be tying February 19th and will be focusing on baitfish patterns for Pike / Muskie. Contact Justin to sign up. If you can’t make the 19th, check out Drew Rosema on February 5th , Drew will be tying Steelhead Patterns. Check out Kevin Feenstra on February 26th as well, you will not be disappointed. Should be a great couple events, if you haven’t stopped by Justin’s shop he has one of the best fly tying selections in northern Michigan.
- February 12-14th I’ll be in Milwaukee , WI at the Muskie Expo, if you happen to be in the area stop by. I’ll be hanging out with Brad Petzke of Rivers North, with some new things (that I can’t talk about yet) in the booth. Plus I’ll have the new muskie shirts available, they just showed up this weekend. They look great. Will get them on the web here soon as well. I’m looking to expand my Muskie calendar, if your interested in a trip contact me. Going on my 5th year of chasing these amazing predators. I look forward to learning additional water this year, and piecing together more of the puzzle.
Here is a comment from a happy customer regarding the Midnight Creeper.
Downloaded the Midnight Creeper video, amazed myself that I could do it given my Luddite acumen with computers. In looking at the fly’s action in the water wonderfully illustrated from a below the water shot I figured there was no way an average fly tier like myself could possibly tie it. The rabbit strip legs move like a real frogs and the foam cap would be way too complex for me to cut out. However, in a very well filmed illustration it is really a fly that anyone with basic tying skills can readily do. Ed’s clear and stepwise tying prompted by Jon Ray’s questions, that often were the very ones I was thinking of, makes this a great video to watch if you want a killer fly for night time fishing. The one thing that can drive you a bit crazy is Ed wraps backwards around the hook. I tried tying the Midnight Creeper but on a large streamer hook because I don’t have a bass hook yet and got a great result if its action in my bathtub is any test. As I don’t have that neat cutter to use on the foam I free hand cut it out and got a passable result. Now if I can just get a chance to use it! – Doc
Ed McCoy and I (Jon Ray) will be tying some signature trout and steelhead patterns on Jan 28th at Schmohz Brewery , contact Brian at Nomad Anglers . To sign up for the seminar call the Grand Rapids location (616) 805-4393. This is a first come first serve and space is limited. Looking forward to the good night of tying and some new beer.
So, what’s in my flask, you ask?
9 out of 10 times it’s something brown, especially now that it’s wicked cold here in the north. Lately, it’s been Irish, McFadden’s Irish Whiskey to be exact. This whiskey goes against my heartfelt belief that all southern Irish Whiskey is shite, but this ones lovely!!!
McFadden’s is from West Cork Distillers in Union Hall, West Cork, Ireland and is aged in Irish oak and sherry casks. With a high malt bill, it is truly malt driven, with nice biscuit aromas and none of the over powering sweetness of the ever popular and over rated Jameson. Put the Jamey in your soda or ginger ale where it belongs!
This is a handcrafted beverage that deserves to be drunk neat, as it’s complexity and depth will shine through this way. Now, that being said, the way I really have been enjoying it is in some fine Irish Black Tea(Barry’s, Bewley’s or if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they have an awesome version too!) which makes for a nice warm up on a winters day of fishing. Brew up enough strong tea to fill your insulated thermos in the morning before you head out the door for your winter adventure…make sure to warm the thermos up with hot water before putting the tea in so that it stays nice and hot. When you are feeling a little cold or need some inspiration, pour an once or two in a your mug and top with steaming hot tea. Instant attitude changer! This hot drink is also great to have next to you as you work on filling your fly boxes for next summers trout fishing.
With a fresh 13″ of snow that fell have a couple days off to hit the vise pretty hard. Have a new product I’ve been wanting to play with. They are called Mis Fit Heads you can find them here at the Lund Fly Shop. I think one of the hardest parts of finishing big flies, is making your heads look nice and sexy. Also epoxy products can weigh down your patterns, so I’m excited to see how these new flies swim in open water once we thaw out.