Last Thursday I went up Big Pine Creek, following PA Rt. 44 into the village of Waterville, located at the confluence of Big and Little Pine Creeks in Lycoming County. The shop is 22 miles from my house, all on back roads. But it’s a nice drive through beautiful country; I take PA Rt. 973 West from Quiggleville through Salladasburg to get to Rt. 44. I was on my way fishing, and I wanted to stop in McConnell’s Country Store & Fly Shop to get a few tying materials. Here is a link to their web site:
I was surprised since it was Thursday that my close friend Dave Rothrock, of Jersey Shore, was working in the fly shop. He normally works weekends. Dave and I chatted and caught up a little bit on things, but regarding the fishing, he said the shop had been completely cleaned out of March Brown fly patterns of every sort. This was due to the good fishing conditions on Big and Little Pine Creeks, in large part due to the warm winter, lack of snow pack, and stable stream flows. Good fishing created higher than normal demand for flies, consequently the shop was sold out. I haven’t tied commercially for quite a few years, but I figured I would tie up some March Brown Spinners for the shop to help them out, even though they didn’t order them, I reasoned they would be happy to get some. And I could use a little extra cash, can’t we all? ;-) So on Saturday afternoon, I tied up three dozen March Brown Spinners in size #10. Below is a group shot of my work:
After I did the first dozen, I thought for the heck of it, I wanted to see how my timing was. If I still “got it” for production tying. So I clocked myself, start to finish, one dozen. When I took the last fly from the vise, I hit my stopwatch and the timer read: thirty-nine minutes, twenty-eight seconds. That’s three minutes fifteen seconds per fly. I was kind of pleased with that, but I did mess with the tail for over a minute on the first fly right off the bat. The first fly was four minutes eighteen seconds…dismal for a commercial tying time.
I once had a visiting friend from England, who did not tie flies, but was curious about it, having never seen it done. He wanted to watch me one day. He sat there and timed me, commenting each time I finished a fly. I remember I was tying #14 Sulphur Spinners, my best time on those (with split tail) was two minutes, fifteen seconds. But I plodded on after my four-and-a-quarter minute March Brown Spinner. I did have the wing material prepped ahead of time. But that would really only add about two additional minutes, still keeping the average time -per-fly at about 3-1/2 minutes each.
Here is a macro of a single fly:
March Brown Spinner
The ingredients are listed in order of tying procedure.
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size #10. This hook is a Dia-Riki 300.
Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster, No. 47 Tobacco Brown. I’m going to start listing the Danville Chenille Company thread color numbers from their website for clarification with my fly patterns, after a recent forum discussion of the correct color of orange floss for Gray Ghost bodies.
Wing: Clear Hi-Vis or Enrico’s Sea Fibers (both are the same product, different name). This comes in a large hank or bundle, and it must be sorted – separated from the main bundle; and sized according to fly size – a bit tricky but not difficult once one does it a few times. Experience is a good teacher.
Tail: Two fibers of moose body hair. Moose body hair is very strong and durable.
Body – Abdomen: Brown Flexi-Floss, * wound over tying thread base.
Body – Thorax: Rusty brown rabbit dubbing.
Head: Tying thread, cemented.
* The footnote for the Flexi-floss – well, this is confusing. Like the Hi-Vis and Sea Fibers, fly tying material companies market the same product and call it by different names. I guess they have to do that. It is confusing, even to experienced fly tiers, to say the least.
Independently of other fly tiers, I began years ago using Flexi-floss for mayfly bodies, specifically for dry fly bodies. I made that decision because I discovered that Flexi-floss floats. Now, Flexi-floss, Sexi-Floss, Super-floss, Dyna-Floss, Floss-Flex, and I don’t know what else it is called, but this is a DuPont product. All the same. I googled “Flexi-Floss” and found a Fly Fisherman Magazine article by Mike Hogue, owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying Materials in Ithaca, New York. Mike would be a good material source to check out. http://www.eflytyer.com/
Mike’s article was about “The Flexi-Floss Dun.” I don’t get the photos on my computer for some reason, and Mike’s article of unknown date, was nevertheless informative. He did however lump Wapsi’s Span-Flex into the same group with Flexi-Floss, associating it as the same material. Span-Flex is not the same as Flexi-Floss, it is different. Span-Flex is a latex product. It has a dull, matte finish. It comes in different sizes, not diameters as the article stated because it is not round, but rather is rectangular or square depending on the size. Span Flex comes in three or four sizes. The Flexi-Floss is also of a squarish shape, but more oval, not cut flat like Span-Flex. Both products are very stretchy. Span-Flex, however, will eventually rot. So it is not a good material for a framed fly. I have some Latex Caddis Larva in my fly box, made from Span-flex, that are at least five years old, and the bodies came apart. So what, you say? The Latex Caddis Larva is a pattern I got from Rick Whorwood in Ontario back in the mid-90′s before Span-flex came on the market. Back then we used dental gum bands that your kids put on their braces. One round gum band would make three size #18 flies, but the material had to be wound with hackle pliers. Span-flex cured that difficulty. The Latex Caddis Larva is a great fly by the way, one I would have on a short list of nymph patterns for anywhere in the country, due to its imitative effectiveness of the net-spinning Hydropsyche caddis larva.
I often used a #18 Latex Caddis Larva on Spring Creek during my live, stream-side instructional nymph fishing demos, more than once resulting in hookups of six, eight, or more trout, prompting immediate and keen interest in the fly by onlookers and their desire to obtain the “magic bullet” pattern. I usually planned for this and had some for sale. ;-) I have another story about this fly too, for another time. Span-Flex is a good material, it provides translucence and is very much affected by different shades of the tying thread. Just don’t make more than a year’s supply of any pattern with it.
Flexi-floss – is a glossy material. Also very stretchy. It floats. Span-flex by comparison, sinks. You can put Span-flex in a glass of water and it will sink. Put Flexi-floss in some water, and even if you force it down, it rises back to the surface. Hence, a superior material to incorporate into dry fly bodies. It is also translucent, and is the best synthetic quill body substitute I have ever seen. It requires no soaking. It is durable. It comes in many colors, and like the Span-flex, is also of significant advantage for fly pattern design, due to its translucence and being effected by the color of tying thread used underneath it. One color of Flexi-floss can be made into a number of different shades by changing the base thread color. It has been used for legs, ribbing, etc., but its real boon to tiers of trout flies is its ability to mimic not only the appearance of, as A. K. Best, says the “smooth, waxy-looking bodies of mayflies,” but it excels beyond other materials with its translucence.
I have samples of Blue Quills, Baetis (different colors), Cornutas, Quill Gordons, Chocolate Duns, Mahogany Duns, Slate Drakes, March Brown Duns, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, and spinners for these patterns with the range of colors of Flexi-floss.
Step 1: The fly is tied by first setting a short thread base for the wing. Then set the wing about 1/3 the distance between the eye and hook point, attaching it with a thread wrap and then securing it with about ten tight figure-eight wraps.
Step 2: Wind tying thread to the hook point, stop and attach two moose body hairs. Begin winding to the barb. By placing your finger on top of the fibers, they will slid to the sides of the hook shank. Moderate thread tension will move them into place on the sides of the hook shank by the time you reach the end of the body. Note in the macro photo, the tail comes off both sides of the abdomen, like a real bug, not off the top like most other patterns.
Step 3: Wind thread forward to the thorax, and attach the Flexi-floss with one wrap. Maximize thread tension (to hold the body material in place, if it slips out you need more tension), and s-t-r-e-t-c-h the Flexi-floss, then wind over it to the base of the tail, stopping a smidgen ahead of the tail, and then wind thread forward to the thorax. Leave a little room behind the wings for the dubbed thorax.
Step 4: Wind the Flexi-floss forward, secure with at least 3, and no more than 4 wraps. And I mean tight. Cut off. One six-inch section of Flexi-Floss, cut from the cable tie bundle, will make 6 – 8 size #10 flies.
Step 5: Dub the thread and wind the dubbing in figure-eight wraps, keeping the wing at right angles to the hook shank. Some spinners I have seen have a thorax that is too sparse, skinny. I like to imitate the natural bulge of the thorax of mayfly spinners; a more realistic body silhouette triggers more strikes. Finish wrapping and whip finish the head, and the fly is done.
I just finished two dozen size #18 and #20 Dark Rusty CDC Comparaduns for an order; the nice thing about Flexi-floss, is it will split. Use your bodkin to skewer the middle of the material about a half-inch from one end, and pull the Flexi-floss away. This will split it; then simply grab the ends and pull it apart. This yields smaller width sections of material that can be used on tiny flies.
The bodies of these small patterns I dressed have a “quill body.” I’ll try to take photos tomorrow and add them to this post. That way folks can see the benefit of this stuff. Hope you like the flies!
(Edit – May 1st: One of these days I’m going to start making tying videos and put a few on Youtube I guess).