swing pattern

Fly Tying Beverages

swing pattern

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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!


yeti low ball

Yeti Rambler – Keeps ice Longer

If you have not experienced the advantages of the Yeti Rambler Series yet, stop by your local fly shop and pick one up.  From early morning coffee runs, to cold drinks on summer days, to dropping a cube in your favorite adult brown water, the Yeti Rambler series has changed the way liquids are enjoyed.

Erik Rambo shot a short time lapse of the newest Yeti Product the Low Ball ,  with 4 oz of his favorite Rum poured into the Low Ball.  He added one ice cube that was approximately 2″ square into the Low Ball.  The initial reading on the digital thermometer was 74 degrees, after the ice cube was added, the temperature dropped to 33 degrees after 3 min.  At the end of the short time lapse video, you can see the temperature on the thermometer says 34 degrees.  This was after 6 hours of filming.  The camera battery died, but there was still ice in the glass.


Stainless SteelVacuum InsulationSweat Free

What’s in my flask…

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.


Welcome Jon Ingham (Speybstrd) to Mangled Fly Blog and his first Contribution.


tra·di·tion– noun trə-ˈdi-shən
: a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time

This is the common definition for 2 things near and dear to my heart- fly fishing and whisk(e)y. I like my Bourbon from Kentucky and my malts from the British Isles.  I like to catch trout and steelhead on my own flies tied late at night, with visions of a huge snout sipping in my dry or getting my two handed rod yanked out of my hand from that viscous pull on a swung fly.How can bourbon be from MI, Indiana or heaven for bid, Tennessee?  For me, it needs to be from 51% corn and aged for at least 2 years in in newly charred American oak barrels. It has to be made by old men with first names like Booker, Bill, Elmer or Jim, who have taught their children, grandchildren and possibly their great grandchildren the art and science of mashing, fermenting & running the pot still.  They also will have taught the next generation how to choose the “right”oak for their barrels, how long to age them and what it should taste like for their family style. You can’t teach passion, you either have it or you don’t, but enthusiasm is contagious, while tradition is passed down from those who are devoted unequivocally to their passions for generations.When it comes to fly fishing, far and away my two favorite techniques for fishing to salmonoids are traditional- dries on the surface and wets on the swing. I love stalking that elusive rising trout, casting to them from downstream, floating the fly right down the feeding lane, all the while keeping the fly line, leader and tippet out of their view. Waiting for their snout to break the surface and suck down my offering is full of suspense.  Sometimes the take is so dainty and stealth, you barely see their nose, just the rings of water after your fly disappears. Then, there are those other times where it’s like you’ve handed me a thick Ribeye medium rare,  after a long day of fishing and it’s devoured in a lustful binge of violence- the fly is gone and the fish is screaming downstream afterwards to its favorite “hidey”hole, much like me to the couch with a glass of bourbon in my hand.When it comes to fishing the swing, I do it 7/8ths of the year. If I’m trout fishing and there are no fish eating bugs on the surface, I’m going to cover as much water as I can swinging soft hackles and wets while walking downstream. Sometimes, if the trout are slashing at the bugs on the surface, I’ll take the same approach with my flies and swing a fly tied to “match” the hatch.

Now, Steelhead fishing, it’s all about the tug on a well swung fly, getting that aggressive fish to move to your offering.  It’s the wait, the eternal wait, watching that line swing in front of you, slowly working its way through a greasy seam on its way to the hang down. It’s about hoping that the tension in the line increases and I mutter some of my favorite words, “hmmm, that feels funny”. It’s about the jolt of electricity and all your synapses going ape shit as the rod jolts forward, the drag sings it’s fateful tune and you watch a bar of silver leap it’s way downstream.

If you see me fishing for steelhead with any other method, I’m with one  of my guide buddies, boat and we are “checking out new water”.  There have been more than one occasion that I have been introduced to a fellow fisherman and they look at me and say “Oh, you’re that dude who is always swinging flies at_ _ _ run”. It’s how I was taught to fish for our magnificent foe, Mr/Mrs steelhead, which is a tradition we borrowed from my/our ancestors across the pond for fishing Salmo Salár, aka the leaper.

If you see me fishing for steelhead with any other method, I’m with one  of my guide buddies, boat and we are “checking out new water”.  There have been more than one occasion that I have been introduced to a fellow fisherman and they look at me and say “Oh, you’re that dude who is always swinging flies at_ _ _ run”. It’s how I was taught to fish for our magnificent foe, Mr/Mrs steelhead, which is a tradition we borrowed from my/our ancestors across the pond for fishing Salmo Salár, aka the leaper.

We usually learn our fishing from family and friends, most likely your father or someone else’s father. Maybe a brother. We are taught the skills to catch fish by these mentors and if you are lucky, the why’s too.  My father took me fishing whenever he could manage when I was a kid.  He isn’t a fly fisherman and I did not learn to fly fish until I was in my late 20’s when I moved to Wyoming and go into cahoots with some guides.  I had not fished in a long time, but it was in my soul from the times my dad and I went. I think of him often when I am fishing and thank him for passing on my for love of the outdoors and tell him so frequently. My love of the brown stuff comes from him too- he once told me that while having some J&B, “Scotch is an acquired taste, son”. I’ve certainly acquired it!

I heard lately that we stand on the shoulders of the great fisherman who have come before us and we should honor them by our actions a stream. We should also honor those great distillers who have taught this latest generation of young bucks. I appreciate some of the innovations that we are seeing in the whiskey world, but we should never forget where it all came from.  This past summer, of the greats left our world. Elmer T. Lee, we miss you. May your apprentices and disciples please you.

If you see some Elmer T. Lee on the shelf of your local, buy it, because the supply will all too soon dry up. It’s a full bodied, traditional mash with a tempered and restrained heat I have come to expect from a well made Kentuckian beverage. Soft caramel notes with hints of honey with a twinge of smoke and spice on the finish.

You can thank me later by offering me a wee dram stream side. I will be taking my own advice soon and buying a few bottles and hiding them in the basement, only to bring out for special occasions or for friends who understand, for hoarding whiskey is a tradition too!