Only A Fly Tier – Part II

Last spring in late March I wrote a post about my brother’s comment on the fact that a little cubbyhole in my car contained a bottle of Grif’s head cement in it, instead of gum, or lifesavers, or Altoids. Could have been loose change, paper clips, AAA batteries, aspirin; anything but head cement. I thought it perfectly normal, because I’m a fly tier. Well, I have another installment to make along the same topic. In other words, I’m confessing another habit that is normal only to fly tiers.

To understand what I’m talking about, please view the photo below:

My laundry from earlier this week.

What is so unusual about this? A load of bed-linen laundry hanging out to dry. We all know, or at least those of us who have ever had the privilege to sleep on freshly-laundered bed sheets that have been hanging in the open air – there’s no smell quite like it. Or not much that compares to the sensation of falling into bed, tired and clean, when you doze off to the soothing aromatherapy of this fresh, natural scent. And I use scent-free detergent and no softener. It’s au naturel. Some of you won’t even know that I’m talking about. No matter. This is not about what your laundry smells like. Or should smell like. This laundry on the line is all perfectly normal, and would not cause passersby to raise an eyebrow. Look closer:

Buck tail laundry.

Yup. You’re eyes are not playing tricks on you, unless perhaps you have been recently exposed to a large container of weapons-grade blackberry-flavored head cement thinner. That’s a natural, not-dyed deer tail. Why is it on my clothesline?

I was tying some streamers with white bucktail bellies, and I like to stack my bucktail bellies just a little bit. Even the tips, not to perfection, just clean ’em up a bit. This tail was contrary. It felt tacky. The hairs didn’t want to let go of each other and stack nice and orderly as they should. I finally had enough of it, remembering my issue last March tying Footer Specials with dark blue bucktail. I had one that was tacky to the point of being hopeless as far as any loosening of the hair to stack. At that time I’d had it with that tail, and threw it in my brother’s kitchen sink and gave it a good wash ‘n’ rinse in hot water. Stood it to dry on his porch railing. See the post – Washing Bucktail and Cleaning Hairstackers – or something to that effect. You can also click on the tags at the end of this post.

I was watching a bunch of AK Best videos with my friend, TG, the last time were were at my cabin. AK says, “Never let a feather run your life.” Good advice. And I expanded that to include bucktails.

In the sink, wash it, rinse it, no need to repeat, shake it and hang it to dry. It cleaned up good! Nice & soft, like your hair is when you’ve washed it and used creme rinse.

In fact it worked so well that I just might take the next step and empty the contents of my bucktail drawer into the washer and do a whole load. A hot water wash ‘n’ rinse will do wonders for any bugs too. And the hide stays soft. And, they come out smelling better than before. Must be the outside air…

Think about it…if you don’t stack but rather align and try to even the hair tips by hand, it takes you  30 – 45 seconds to do that. Clean bucktail stacks in 3 seconds. You’ll save yourself time and aggravation.

8 comments on “Only A Fly Tier – Part II

  1. Dan Glover says:

    I can see my spouse opening the washer with bucktails in it. Ha, ha. But I did wash some wet fly necks once and have never told her. You can also identify fly tiers when they look for road kill. Anyway, thanks for the stacking tip.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Dan;
      You’re a naughty boy! You washed necks and never told you wife…! Well, sometimes what they don’t know won’t hurt them. 😉 However, in Steve’s case, another comment to this post…he apparently did not clean the dryer thoroughly after he used it to dry a deer hide. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Nice post, Don. We tiers appear an unusual lot to those who don’t share our affliction or habits. Like slowing down to survey roadkill for freshness and/or useability. Or being in a bigger hurry to get to the craft store than your wife, or mother-in-law, or grandmother ever is. Or…well, you know. You should see the looks I get from my fellow employees when leaving work and I stop to pluck that night’s freshly hatched caddis and mayflies off the building and lightpoles. “What are you doing??” they incredulously ask. I reply, “This is an Ephemera Simulans, also known as the Brown Drake” or something like that. When I see that they still wear a blank look, I just shrug and say, “Trout food”. Usually, they nod and walk away, but most of ’em know by now that I’m a fly fisher, so they regard me with some benign bemusement. And as a corollary to A.K.’s “Don’t let a feather…” maxim, let me offer Howard Cole’s advice: “Don’t take sh*t from your materials!”

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bob;
      Your observations are right on with the line of our “quirky” habits. My friends and I have often been the subject of stares and puzzled looks as we inspect the mayflies, caddis, and such on the windows of a mini-mart, or examining the contents of a spider web in the door frame. To the rest of the world, we are a weird lot. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Steve Nack says:

    Let me warn you…don’t put it in the dryer!! Last year I tanned an entire deer hide given to me by one of the hospital pharmacists…beautiful hide that tanned up nicely. When my family was not home I dried it in the laundry dryer. It was winter and too cold to hang it up outside. The hide came out well but the dryer was a mess!! I thought I cleaned it out but then my daughter, who was home from college, decided to do her laundry. “DAD, THERE IS DEER HAIR ALL OVER MY CLEAN CLOTHES!!!!!!!!” I never heard the end of it from she and my wife. My fly tying materials are now banned from the laundry room!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Steve;
      Your story is very funny! Reading it made me laugh! 🙂 I can just see that; if only the rest of my readers knew your profession. 😉 Before reading the advice in your comment I had already decided that I was not even going to wash my bucktails in the washer; there just may be enough loose hair and it could wreak havoc with my drain pipes or septic system. Even though, if I decide to wash ALL my bucktails – 14 – 16 full tails, plus a bunch of smaller pieces, it would be a small load and I’ll do it by hand. Now that I’m thinking about it I suppose I could get one of those mesh bags that women use to place their “unmentionables” and “delicates” in so they don’t get thrashed around and “abused” with the rest of the wash. If, no, when, I do my “bucktail laundry” you can bet there will be a photo of it on here. Thanks for sharing your story!
      The contents of the freezer would be another topic for fly tier’s discussion…

  4. JOHN HOFFMANN says:

    Hi Don,
    I have a bleached partridge skin that has feathers that seem to be “stuck” together and won’t separate nicely when wound. Could this be oil from the skin fats? Do you think a wash in warm water would solve this problem? You don’t use any sort of mild detergent?

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi John;
      Probably so..thus far what I have washed re: tying materials, I’ve just used regular dish detergent. After all, that stuff is supposed to clean and remove grease, right? I’d say that should work on your partridge skin…hang it up to dry, outdoors on a breezy day would work, or maybe even use a blow dryer. They do get wet when it rains, so it should be fine. 😉 Thanks for your comment!

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