Musings from last nights tying session

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Gary Knowels, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. I was sitting at my bench late last night whipping up some flies for a swap and doing a little experimenting when I came to some thoughts.

    It would be nice for new tyers on the site if there was a sticky or something that kinda gave a little description of what to look for when buying materials at a fly shop. I've come to the realization that not all deer/elk hair is created equal and some of the stuff I bought in the beginning is just crap. That purchase might have been avoided if I knew what I was supposed to look for when buying it.

    A list of basic tying techniques like how to spin deer hair or how the create parachutes written in a little more detail than standard SBS post already on the site might help a few entry level tyers get the hang of those techniques and have less frustration. Obviously these not not be in every SBS, but just a single post tucked away somewhere to reference when needed.

    As I develop as a tyer and improve on some skills I am loving spending time at the vise. So a thank you to many of you forum members for the help and encouragement as well as posting pictures of your creations to inspire me.
    Patrick Gould and Eyejuggler like this.
  2. Deer have hair...that's how I thought in the dark ages. It would be nice if the deer hair was identified as to where on the body it came from and what its usage was appropriate for. Sorta like an American Test Kitchen diagram on beef steak.
    Duane J likes this.
  3. By reading through the 5 pages of hair offered by Blue Ribbon Flies you can pick up some good information about deer, elk, moose, caribou and others. They offer suggestions about what to do with different hair types. I've bought various hair from them on a few different occasions and it really is top quality.

    I think an ungulate hair diagram along the lines of a butchers diagram would be great.

  4. Blue Ribbon Flies sells the best material I've ever found anywhere. I second TC's post.

    Most definately... some deer hair is better for spinning and some is better for wings. Once I started using bleached deer hair for my Elk Hair Caddis and other hair wing dry patterns, my tying life was made much easier. I didn't know there were so many different types of hair, deer and otherwise, until Gin and I started stopping in at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone on our annual YNP fishing trip.

    They stock materials I've never seen before and it is all grade A.

    I'd find so much stuff I wanted to buy and try... I'd finally need to run screaming from the shop before I went broke buying material.
  5. Deer hair and its relatives like elk, moose, caribou raindeer, mountain sheep, and antelope is both very useful and very frustrating until a tyer learns which type is best for what he is doing. There is some deer hair that is great for tailing dries because it barely flares, some that is great for mayfly wings, some that is wonderful for spinning, some truly exceptional for caddis wings, and lots that is not worth much at all. Same goes for the other animals I mentioned in the first sentence above.

    The real trick is learning how to decide which texture, length, and diameter body hair is best for what you wish to do. The fine texture, small diameter, short to mid-length hair from places the the mask (face) or upper leg is terrific for things like tails and dry fly wings on flies like a Paradun. The rough texture, large diameter long hair is very good for things like Muddler collars, but not good for things like spun hair bodies or wings. The medium texture, medium to large diameter, medium long hair is superb for spinning. It is usually found on the the flanks, rump (probably the best spinning hair),and the base of the neck at the back.

    And hair like caribou is superb for small spun hair bodies like on a Rat-faced McDougal tied in trout sizes or the Goddard Caddis. This is because it is short to medium, soft textured, and medium diameter. Thus, it spins readily, but is only suitable for smaller spun hair bodies. Elk rump, which is another superb spinning hair, is entirely unsuitable for the Goddard Caddis or Rat-faced McDougal and simllar spun hair bodies trout flies because it is both way to long and way to large a diameter. It makes an excellent hair for spun hair bass bugs or Bombers though.
  6. The Fly Tiers Benchside Reference by Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer is a phenomenal resource, which covers and illustrates in great detail, much of what has been discussed above. For those not familiar with this book, it contains volumes of fly tying techniques; it is not a book of fly patterns. I would have to rate this as one of my favorite fly tying books; a must for every fly tier. tiers benchside reference
    Jack Devlin likes this.
  7. Another thought that I forgot to include was that I used up my first spool of tying thread, UNI 6/0 in black. I remember buying thread and using it for the first time and thinking "its going to take forever to get through a spool of this stuff" I was shocked when I started peeling away the last layer on the spool and finally using the last of it. However, I think this means that I'm tying enough!
  8. Gary,
    I respect your passion for tying the fly.
    The short answer to your question(s) would fill volumes.
    While this format, as well as all the U-tubes and videos available, is a great venue for learning, it is limited. I think that most of the information you require will be found in good old books. As David suggested, I would start with "The Flytyers Benchside Reference". Still an invaluable resource. There are many others, old and new.
    You mentioned that you bought some deer hair that was "crap". Well, being a great believer in experience, I'll bet you now know what made it "crap" and that you won't buy it again.
    Fly tying has become very complex in many ways with new materials, techniques, and patterns coming out all the time. Sometimes it is hard to keep up let alone "jump on" at some point and try and catch up.
    WIth each fly you tie you will learn. Each new pattern or type of fly you tie the first time will require you to learn (quickly) the techniques involved. You will also have to acquire the materials and learn to work with them. And then someone will come up with a new fly you will want to tie and the process will repeat. You will be creating your own too.
    Don't mean to sound "preachy" here. Should have issued my standard generic disclaimer at the outset, "I am no expert". I'm still learning too.
    I'm goin fishin.
    Here is something which I have found helpful regarding deer/elk hair.
    Ja Scan 38.jpeg ck
  9. Rather than thinking the hair you bought was 'crap,' it might be that you were just using it for flies that it doesn't work very well for. It might be the cat's meow for a different style fly.

    That said, I had a patch of deer hair that came with a fly tying kit given to me when I started tying that was definitely 'crap.'

  10. Lately I've been watching videos on my tablet of good tyers like Hans W. and have really learned a lot. When it comes to materials you almost have to experiement with it to even know what someone is describing. Even from a video. I recently bought some CDC and that has kept me busy the last couple weeks figuring out what to do with it. I've learned quite a bit about different materials from the members on this site. Thank you all.
  11. Typically I find that all purpose deer is really no purpose deer. Its short, uneven, not strait, and too much fuzz
  12. I'm willing to help Gary compile a list of classic materials and their uses. It would be great if some experienced tiers would get in on it and maybe do some basic SBSs.
  13. I don't tie a lot of flies with deer hair but, over the years, I have gone through a lot of buck tails. I can tell you as far as buck tails (deer tails, male and female) go, no two are created equal. There are many variables involved in what a deer tail will be like: age of deer, when and where "harvested", how it was processed, dyed, washed etc. It is only after one ties a bunch of flies does he know what hair is best for the flies to be tied.
    Some of the hair I have found to be soft, some hard (and slippery like squirrel) , some "curly", some straight, coarse, fine etc. Just takes a little time I think to get to know what it is you want DSC01070.jpeg .
    For whatever it's worth!
  14. Thanks for the help guys. I guess that's where the problem does one still learning the techniques of fly tying figure out if the material is no good or if it is just the tiers imperfect technique?

    Jack you mentioned several qualities of bucktail, mind stating what kind of flies might be appropriate for certain hair properties?

    I'm on the path to figuring some of this stuff out. Thanks guys!
  15. Gary,
    My interest in deer tails is focused mainly on streamers - regular "bucktail streamers" and "flat wings". So, I am primarily looking for fine, soft, straight, and nicely tapered hair. Sometimes I end up re-washing purchased tails and using a hair conditioner to lend softness. Long hair is necessary for big flies but with length sometimes comes coarseness.
    I don't do that much spinning anymore.
  16. The master is Chris Helm. Learn, watch, and read everything you can from him. Here's a good video about the varieties of deer hair.

    I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the vice to get some other stuff done but when I start back up I'll look at doing more basic SBSs...maybe a beginners series is in order where the focus is on technique and materials rather than the pattern.

    I'm sure that between all the awesome tiers on here we can get you headed down the right path.
  17. Thanks guys! This stuff does definitely help, and some of the finer points are starting to make sense. Big E, that video was a great primer on deer hair.

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