Monday, March 27, 2017

"Sector E2" - A Painting by Val Kropiwnicki


A fish, a fly, a river, a run

     I have a basement music studio I use for practice, teaching, and rehearsals. It's a bigger room than what I need so, a few months ago, I decided to make it a more comfortable place to hang out. I added a couch, a chair, house plants, and a couple of tables. It's a great little spot to relax and listen to music. The walls were too bare, though. I have a painting and framed fly by my fishing buddy, visual artist Val Kropiwnicki, as well as some other decorative odds and ends. I felt like the room needed another big piece, so I called Val and asked him to paint something else for me. I described the scene to him in great detail and told him to interpret it however he wanted. 

     Val's summary of the work is far more to the point than was my description. He called the painting "Sector E2" and said it's about "A fish, a fly, a river, a run." Below is Val's process, followed by the finished painting. As you will see, there was some editing involved, which implies improvisation...perfect for a jazz musician's practice studio. 

(click images to enlarge and view as a slideshow)













     The image below is the completed painting as it hangs on my wall. It's hard to capture the detail in a small, crude picture. The texture can only be fully appreciated in person. The close-up scales of the salmon are incredible. While I enjoy more traditional pieces of angling art, this is not a traditional room, at least not in terms of its use. Val's "Sector E2" perfectly complements the attitude of the space it's in. 

Sector E2





Monday, March 20, 2017

An Introduction to Tube Fly Tying Tools


The vast majority of my tube flies are tied on either a tapered
needle or a modified hook shank. 

     
     I've received a few questions about tube fly tying tools recently. Instead of writing a new article, I am going to post an excerpt from my ebook Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them. There is a plenty of information about tying salmon flies of all varieties, and not just for broodstock salmon fishing here in Connecticut. In fact, most of the flies are common Atlantic salmon patterns used in either North America or Europe. For those new to tying and fishing tube flies, rigging, tools, materials, fishing strategies, and fly recipes are covered in depth. The text below is a small part of Chapter 1: Tools, Materials & Salmon Fly Anatomy. 


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Additional Tools for Tying Tube Flies

     Since tubes are not held directly in the jaws of a vise, a means with which to hold them is necessary. Most tube fly systems use either tapered mandrels or tapered needles. The taper is important because it prevents the fly from rotating under thread tension. Special tube vises can cost $150 or more. On the other end of the spectrum, objects found around the house might work as well as anything and they don’t cost a penny. I am not going to explain every brand and option. There are books and websites that can weigh all the options for you. Instead, I will tell you what works well for me. I take a sort of “middle of the road” approach. Listed below are the tube fly tools I use on a regular basis.

ProTube Flexineedle

     Tapered Needle - It helps to have a tapered needle with a flat profile. The flat profile helps prevent the tube from spinning under thread tension. My needle of choice is the Pro Tube Flexineedle. There are no additional tools required to hold the needle. It fits into the jaws of any conventional fly tying vise. The Flexineedle works best for medium sized tube flies, both plastic and metal. The vast majority of my tube flies are tied on this $17 item.

Blind eye and modified hooks for tying different size tube flies

     Modified Hooks - When tying very short tube flies, I prefer to use modified hooks. A short tube sits too far back on the Flexineedle to make tying comfortable. A hook shank is much shorter than a tapered needle. It’s easier to wrap thread on a short tube when there isn’t two inches of tapered needle extending from the open- ing of the tube fly. 

     In my experience, the most suitable hooks are large double hooks. Because the wire eventually splits to form both hook bends, a natural taper exists. A tube can easily be pushed back against the taper. Old blind eye hooks work well too, especially large, heavy iron hooks.

     Almost any large fishing hook will work, though. With a Dremel tool, I remove the eye and grind the side of the shank flat. If the hook doesn’t already have a taper built in, I grind one with the Dremel. Also, I cut the hook points off to avoid catching the thread. I had suitable hooks laying around, so these tube tools didn’t cost me anything.


HMH Standard vise with tube vise converter jaws 

      Tube Vise Tool or Converter Jaws - This is the least useful tool of the three, but it is the most expensive. I use the HMH Tube Vise Converter. It is a set of “jaws” that screw directly into my HMH Standard vise. The converter costs $65, but is only useful for those who already own an HMH vise. In lieu of buying new jaws or a dedicated tube vise, the most economical option is to buy what’s known as a “tube tool.” These tools come with pins or tapered mandrels and fit in the securely jaws of most standard vises. They can be usually be found for $20-$45.

     I only use my HMH tube jaws for tying one specific type of fly (the Snaelda/Frances, found in Chapter 4). The HMH converter works perfectly for those flies. If I didn’t need to tie either the Snaelda or the Frances, I would have no use for the HMH jaw. Other than those two flies, all of my Atlantic salmon tube flies are tied on the Flexineedle or on a modified hook shank.

     The only other tools needed to tie tube flies are a lighter (or candle) and a supply of single edge razor blades. If you use a whip finish tool, an extended-reach model is helpful. As you can see, making the leap to tying tube flies doesn’t have to cost much money.

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The Frances and Snaelda (pictured above) are the only flies I don't tie
on either a tapered needle or modified hook shank. 

     As always, don't hesitate to comment below or  contact me with any questions you might have about tying tube flies or anything else. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Product Review: Loon Outdoors Ergo Bobbin


The Loon Ergo Bobbin fits nicely in hand.

     They say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Despite the recent influx of premium bobbins, I've used only basic bobbins since I began tying flies at age 13. The spectrum of premium bobbins is vast. A standard Rite Bobbin costs about $25, while an Ekich Ultimate Bobbin can set the tyer back over $100. I usually don't spend more than $8 or so on a basic bobbin, but I decided to give the new Loon Outdoors Ergo Bobbin a shot. 

     The Ergo Bobbins retails for $19.95. It doesn't offer any sort of fancy thread tension adjustment like the Rite or Ekich bobbins. In that sense, the Ergo Bobbin is more similar to a basic bobbin than what we consider a "premium bobbin." That's fine, I use my hand to fine tune thread tension when necessary (more on that later). What sets the Ergo Bobbin apart from other basic bobbins, as well as some premium models, is the shape of the handle. Instead of wrapping one's fingers around a fine metal tube, the tyer's fingers grip a wide yellow handle. 

     I wasn't sure how much I'd like the handle, but I wound up loving it. I was amazed at how much more control I had over my thread when my hand was gripping the bobbin in a more natural position. I felt like I could lay down wraps of thread with more precision than I could with a standard bobbin. The Ergo Bobbin was just the right size for my hand. My thumb and index fingers grip the handle, while my pinky finger can rest on, or next to, the spool. 

Only 1 inch of thread separates the hook from the pedestal. 
     
     There was one big "strike" against the Ergo Bobbin, however. Look at the picture above. Because the Ergo Bobbin is so long, there was very little room between the bottom of the bobbin and the top of my vise pedestal when the bobbin was perpendicular to the hook shank. This was a problem when securing materials such as an oval tinsel rib. After wrapping an oval tinsel tip or rib, I try to keep as much tension on the material as possible until I get about three tight wraps of thread over it. I tend to move the bobbin back and forth between hands to keep maximum tension on both the material and the thread. Because of this, I need more than 1" of thread out of the tip of the bobbin. Also, I need to be able to totally stop the spool from spinning, which I do by squeezing the spool between my pinky and my palm. Because of the length of the Ergo Bobbin, this was an impossible move when switching hands and trying to keep tension on the tinsel. The bobbin was too long and the vise's pedestal base kept getting in the way.

     This would cease to be an issue if I had more room between the vise head and the pedestal (or if I used a C-clamp instead of a pedestal). I've considered adding a 3" vise stem extension for a while, mainly to get the hook closer to my eye level. This should solve the Ergo Bobbin length "problem." However, it might be nice to have the option of buying a smaller, "midge" sized Ergo Bobbin for when I need more clearance. 

     In all, the positives far outweighed the negatives. The enhanced thread control was so noticeable, I figure I can devise a solution for the above problem. The Ergo Bobbin is noticeably more comfortable than any other bobbin I've ever used. The Ekich S-Bobbin looks quite comfortable, too. But for a quarter of the price, I think I will stick with Loon's Ergo Bobbin. 


Monday, March 6, 2017

Ernest Crosfield: His Salmon Flies and Fishing (C. Innes)



     Ernest Crosfield is one of those people who should be more widely known than he actually is. Of the anglers active in the late-to-post Victoria era, it seems like Arthur H.E. Wood gets most of the press. It is understandable, given Wood's contributions to fly fishing. A book about Wood's greased line technique has been widely available since it was first published in 1935. Crosfield's exploits, on the other hand, were not as well recorded as Wood's, despite being a very important contributor to the sport. 

     Ernest Crosfield: His Salmon Flies and Fishing, compiled and edited by Colin Innes, is a collection of the relatively few pieces written by or about Crosfield. Those of us who were previously aware of Crosfield have read most of the contents of the book already. Many of the pieces within the book can be found either online or in other books, such as Fly Tying for Salmon by Eric Taverner and  Greased Line Fishing for Salmon by "Jock Scott" (Donald G. Ferris Rudd). Prior to reading Innes's book, I had already done the research and read most of the pieces. There were a few that had previously escaped me, the piece from Fisherman's Pie being one of them. 

     In my opinion, the best part of the book were the pictures of flies actually tied by Crosfield. I hadn't seen most of them before. Crosfield had a very unique style of dressing flies, later emulated by luminaries such as Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt and Syd Glasso. Crosfield's flies had one foot in the past and one foot in the future. His basic method came from the Rogan school of Irish fly tying, but with a slimmer, sparser, and more streamlined appearance, one that would eventually become the norm, paving the way for modern salmon fly tyers. Innes book has pictures of a dozen or so Crosfield originals and adaptations, as well as the dressings for each. 

     Ernest Crosfield: His Salmon Flies and Fishing is a good read. Like I said, most of it is already available. The beauty of Innes's book is that it is now available all in one place. I was on a Crosfield kick a few years ago. I went through a lot of trouble to dig up the information found in Innes's book and I didn't even find it all. It would have been much easier (and less expensive) to buy this book if it was available back then! For those interested in learning about Ernest Crosfield, his fishing methods, and flies, I highly recommend this book. It is a short, quick read, but contains as much information about Crosfield as any of us are likely to find on our own. 

Crosfield's Black Silk


Monday, February 13, 2017

Read a Book

Winter reading

     Interpret this post however you choose. Read a book. Please. Maybe read a few books. Fiction or non-fiction, just read a book. If you don't want to spend the money, go to your local library. If your local library has nothing of interest, find a book via interlibrary loan. A library card costs nothing. Where else can you find a free entertainment/education?

     The internet is a great research tool, especially for those who have developed good research skills. It is easy to find answers (or opinions) with a Google search. Writing a book takes mores of a commitment than writing a few Facebook comments or, dare I say, blog posts. Most of the non-fiction angling books I have read have been very helpful. Some weren't so great, but they were in the minority. Most fly fishing authors have extensive experience in the subject matter of their books. They write books so anglers like you and I can learn things more quickly than if we were to do it entirely on our own.

     There are more important reasons to read books, however. Reading reduces stress. Reading helps build the ability to concentrate, which is essential in fly fishing. Reading also hones our critical thinking skills which, unfortunately, seem to be at an all-time low at the moment.

   I didn't plan it, but my winter reading list is completely focused on saltwater angling. The change of pace will probably serve me well. Seemingly unrelated bits of information have a way of "cross-pollinating" in our minds. Study, mixed with creativity, ultimately leads to innovation.

Here is my winter fly fishing/tying reading list:

Pop Fleyes by Ed Jaworowski and Bob Popovics (Stackpole Books)

A Passion for Tarpon by Andy Mill (Wild River Press)

Fly Rodding Estuaries by Ed Mitchell (Stackpole Books)

Fly-Fishing the Saltwater Shoreline by Ed Mitchell (Stackpole Books)


Read a book. Please.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Governor & "Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies" by Paul C. Marriner

This is one Governor for whom I would vote. 


     Last June, while I was fishing the Cascapedia, my friend sent me an update on his trip there the week prior. He did well, but his boat partner crushed it. I can't remember the exact details. I think his partner landed seven or eight fish. I can't remember how many were over twenty pounds, but I think it was most of them. I believe two or three were over thirty pounds. There are two details I distinctly remember. First, his partner's largest salmon topped the forty pound mark. Also, the Governor was the killer arrow in this angler's quiver. 

     Created by Motel Restigouche proprietor Peter Dubé, the Governor is a primarily Matapedia/Restigouche fly. I have not yet fished either of those rivers and had not been exposed to the pattern prior to my friend asking me to tie him a half dozen for next season. Being a "book guy,"  I tend to research the old fashioned way before I do a Google search. 


Marriner's book is on my "must have" list.

     When I need to find the recipe for a Miramichi fly, I have several places to look. I like Stewart & Allen's book, Flies for Atlantic Salmon, Fulsher and Krom's book, Hair-Wing Atlantic Salmon Flies, and Col. Joseph Bates' book, Atlantic Salmon Flies & Fishing. When I need the dressing for a more recent Miramichi tie, I consult the Dieppe Fly Tying Club's book, Atlantic Salmon Flies. In my opinion, there are no shortage of resources for Miramichi/New Brunswick salmon fly patterns. 

     Fly recipes for the other provinces are not as well documented. The other provinces are represented in the first three books mentioned above but, since these books are old, the patterns are fairly old. Of course, new flies are being created all the time and it is impossible to keep up with all of them. For the most diverse selection of contemporary Canadian salmon flies, my go-to book is Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies by Paul C. Marriner.  

     When I needed the recipe for the Governor, Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies is where I found it. Marriner's book is the best source for many of the patterns used in Canadian rivers right now. Each fly has some biographical information and some tips on when and where it works best. Best of all, many of the flies pictured were tied by their creators, so we can see the flies' exact dressings and proportions. When the fly wasn't tied by its originator, it was tied by an expert known for tying that particular type of fly.  Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies is the only book I know of in which the reader can see a Jones Special tied by Marc LeBlanc, a Carter Bug tied by Bill Carter, or a Ghost Stonefly tied by Todd Cochrane. 

     Unfortunately, the second edition of Marriner's book is out-of-print. There are probably a few copies out there for sale somewhere. The good news is that a new digital edition is now available. I highly recommend this book. As many times as I've read it, I realize that there are some patterns I've glossed over which inevitably surface in the future (i.e. the Governor). Actually, it's probably time I look the book over again, so I am going to put it on my bedside table as soon as I'm done here. 


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Governor on a size 2 Sprite double


Anyhow, back to the Governor. Here is Dubé's dressing from Marriner's book (with my substitutions in parentheses):

Governor

Hook: Partridge CS10/1, sizes 3/0 - 8 (Alec Jackson Steelhead Iron, sizes 3/0-7)
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread
Tag: Gold oval tinsel and rust floss
Tail: Rust floss
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Rib: Gold oval tinsel
Body: Gold embossed tinsel (gold flat diamond braid)
Throat: Mixed bucktail (arctic fox), half orange, half chartreuse 
Wing: Mixed, three-quarters black bucktail (arctic fox), one-quarter gold Krystal Flash 
Cheek: Jungle cock


The only thing left to do is to find a fresh forty-pounder! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blue Charm: Salmon Fishing in Scotland with Ian Gordon


Ian Gordon - your host on a tour of Scottish salmon rivers

     It took longer than normal for the annual holiday binge/purge cycle to go away this year. Last night, I finally had enough of it. I decided to dig out my running shoes and dust off the treadmill. I hate the treadmill. I don't really like running outside, either. I always preferred playing a sport to running. I miss living near the beach and going surfing. I've been considering getting my tennis skills back together this summer and possibly joining an indoor tennis club next winter. Anyhow...

     The treadmill is much more pleasant when I have angling videos to watch. I've been aware of Ian Gordon's movie Blue Charm for a while, but never saw more than the trailer. Last night was as good as any to watch it, so I found it streaming on fishingtv.com.

     Based on the trailer, I knew I would see beautiful footage of Scottish salmon rivers. The movie did not disappoint. I got a good look at the Rivers Dee, Spey, and Findhorn. At 84 minutes, Gordon's movie is a combination of history lessons, interviews, fishing strategy, and traditional spey casting instruction. Gordon even demonstrates fishing with an antique 15' greenheart rod, which was particularly interesting.

     In the past, Scotland was never at the top of my list of salmon fishing destinations, but I have been reconsidering it. The beauty of the landscape and the wealth of angling history is starting to push Scotland near the top of my list (Iceland is still #1). Watching Blue Charm reinforced this my changing opinion. With the USD to GBP exchange rate still favorable, the gears in my mind are turning.

     I'm glad I rented this movie and didn't purchase it. I'm not sure how often I would rewatch it. However, the DVD would be a wise purchase for a beginning Atlantic salmon angler. Gordon covers the rudiments of Atlantic salmon fishing in a way that is easy to understand, yet still entertaining. In my opinion, the best part was how he broke down pool coverage. Sometimes the longest cast isn't the best cast!

     In all, it was about as enjoyable as a treadmill workout can be. Every fly angler should watch this at least once. For those who are curious about or just beginning to fish for Atlantic salmon, I recommend buying the Blue Charm DVD and watching it a few times. After some time watching Ian Gordon present the basics, DVDs with alternative/advanced strategies (i.e. Henrik Mortensen's Fly Fishing Academy series) will makes more sense.