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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Week Away From Steelheading

I recently spent a week away from steelheading when our family took a trip to Disneyland during the week of Christmas.  This year we took our daughter Yolanda, husband Kanoe, and our 8yo grandson KJ.  Last year we did the same thing, again during the week of Christmas with our son TJ, daughter in law Stephanie, daughter Felicia, boyfriend Shaun, and grand kids (at the time, Harmony-9mos, Zaden-2yo) to be able to see Mickey and all the fun rides and shows in the Magic Kingdom.  However, for a guy who shies away from crowds by escaping to steelhead rivers, the mob scene in Disneyland, California Adventure, and Knott's berry farm were a bit much.  Last year we all received a special gift from the crowds as well - a bad stomach bug which had us all dropping like flies in turn with vomiting, body aches, and the runs.  Several of us were throwing up on the plane ride home, including poor little Harmony so we were pretty glad when the plane touched back down in Eugene.

I had a pleasant surprise this year when I ran into Marty and Mia Sheppard in the line for the Pirates of the Carribean ride.  Knowing of the Sheppards through their reputations as talented steelhead guides, Mia's championship casting, thier articles in Swing the Fly, and through mutual friends, I decided to introduce myself.  Of course we got to chatting about fishing and I enjoyed visiting with them very much.

Since returning home, I've been coming down from the trauma of being in the midst of the mind numbing crowds:

I don't belong here

Not my Happy Place

Get me outta here!!

But it's all about the grandkids:

KJ (8)
Harmony (21 months)
Zaden (3)

Gotta admit, I've been glad to come back to this:

Home sweet home

Gotta be a steelhead out there somewhere

Holding water

May His Grace and Peace be with you and wishing you all a Happy New Year!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Homewaters Fly Shop under new ownership

In our little community of local steelheaders, it is common for friendships to be made on the water.  Such was the case last fall when I kept running into a kind fellow named Jason Mitzner who was floating the same stretch of the Willamette on my typical fridays off.  We would chat at the put in and tried to make plans to fish together, but we never put those plans into place until earlier this fall when we took a September trip to the North Umpqua.  During that trip, Jason informed that he was in the final stages of closing the deal on purchasing Homewaters fly shop in Eugene. 

It was exciting to hear of Jason's new venture into the fly shop business and very encouraging to talk of Jason's plans to revitalize this long established fixture in Willamette valley flyfishing.  Of course getting a newly owned business off the ground takes some hard work and Jason is going a great job of modernizing the arrangement of the shop, making connections with distributors, and bringing the inventory up to date with items modern fly fishers want and need.

Jason is an experienced angler who is intimately familiar with the local trout and steelhead flyfishing on the McKenzie and Willamette.  As time goes on, he will be getting his guiding operation up and running as well. 

Jason is a easy going guy that folks will enjoy visiting with about anything fly fishing.  It will be great to watch Jason's shop develop and grow.  Stop in for a visit for personal service, good local advice, and a great selection of tying materials and other fly fishing accoutrements.

Homewaters is located at:
444 W 3rd Ave, Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 342-6691        

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Purely Functional Skater (aka Little Wang) Step by Step

I started tying the first versions of my current skater in the fall of 2012 and I've been honored and humbled that there are folks out there that like my pattern and have asked for step by step tying instructions for it.  I apologize to those who have waited on me for so long - I'm such a steelhead fanatic that every spare moment of my time is spent taking advantage of those windows of opportunity to fish so it is only now that I have finally gotten around to putting this together.   I also apologize that this is coming out after the summar/fall skating season has ended for most of us.  This "tweener" time between summer steel and winter steel, has finally given me some forced down time from fishing to keep my word on finally getting this step by step done.  Hopefully, folks can start tying their supply of skaters for next summer!

My Pentax point and shoot sucks and with it's built in flash and not being able to utilize natural outdoor lighting, the photos exhibit harsh contrast, annoying shadows, and hot spots, but I hope they will suffice for now to get the tying steps across.

My skater was born out of the necessities of of pure function, so efforts to create a pattern that stays on top and has good visibility were the key goals in it's conceptualization.  Over time, the pattern continues to evolve and I continue to tinker with colors, visibility posts, flash, etc.  This pattern is one that lends itself to many color combos, but I'll just use the purple/black/green butt version in this SBS.

Materials list:

hook:  Mustad R73 (9671 equivalent), 2xl streamer hook.  The Tiemco 5262 or other similar hook can be substituted.  I most frequently use size 6's and 4's.

tail:  Moose body

thread (rear half):  white 3/0

Flash:  purple holographic flashabou, over tail and cross wrapped up front

butt:  florescent green floss, use a single strand

tinsel:  Lagurtan fine oval silver

body:  purple globrite floss

Foam shellback/lip:  pink 2mm foam, cut into a tapered piece approx 1" x 3/8" x 3/16"

Flash ball:  Large purple cactus chenielle (distributed by Hareline)

Thread (front half):  140 denier black gelspun, for strength in tying down the elk hair wing

Wing:  Black Cow Elk, select a patch with as straight hairs as you can find.  Too much curvature in the hair makes tying down difficult.

Rear facing visibility post:  yellow 2mm foam, cut into a rectangular piece about 3/8" x 3/4".  Cut a V into one side.

Front facing visibility post:  orange 2mm foam, cut to approximately 3/16" x 1/8" x 7/8"

This is not a difficult fly to tie, but it is labor intensive, so be patient in learning to tie it.  Even when I'm on a roll, I can take 20-30 minutes to tie each one.

So here we go - hope you have fun with this one and even get to experience seeing it disappear in a surface steelhead attack sometime!

Materials laid out

I start by flattening the barb and putting a slight dropping bend in the hook using needle nose pliers. 

Putting the bend in the shank is probably not a big deal, just appeals to my sense of aesthetics

Start the white 3/0 on the rear half of the hook.  Wrap until even with the barb of the hook.  This marks the body proportions I use on this fly.

Stack a small bunch of moose body, measure so that the overall length of the tail is equal to or slightly longer than the body length.  Trim butts even at the mid body point.  I also take a couple loose wraps around the base of the moose, at the rear of the fly, just to help keep the tail fibers gathered together

Add four strands of holographic flashabou on each side of the tail if desired.  Trim even with the tips of the tail.

Tie in the butt using one strand of floss.  Tie the floss down until it is a bit short of the tail.  Wind the floss to the tail and then back onto itself making sure the floss covers the white thread underneath.  This is the purpose of using white thread here, to give the floss a bright underbody.  A minor detail, but who knows, it might make a difference.

Tie in tinsel rib

Tie in two strands of purple floss in front of the rear body section.

Wind the floss to the butt then wind forward, being sure to cover the white thread, tie down.  As you can see, I left a bit of white thread showing, but I'm not too much of a perfectionist so will let it slide and hope the steelhead don't care too much.

Wind the tinsel forward.  I like to make 5 wraps for some strange reason.  tie down securely.

Cut a tapered piece of pink foam about yey big.  (This piece is 1" x 3/16" x 3/8").  This size works for both size 4s and 6s and will ultimately be trimmed in the end.

Tie pink foam in by the tip.

Tie in the the cactus chenielle by it's core, right in front of the foam.

Take three tight wraps, tie off.

Cross wrap 8 strands of purple holographic flashabou in front of the cactus chenielle.

Pull up on the flashabou and cut to even them out.

Cut a clump of black cow elk about yey big, Remove fluff and guard hair and even tips in a large hair stacker, set aside.

Tie off the white thread and start the black gelspun to facilitate tying down the elk.  Wind the gelspun back until it is right in front of the cross wrapped flashabou.

Carefully gather the black cow elk from the hair stacker.  Holding the clump in the right hand, evenly distribute the hair around the perimeter of the hook, making sure there is roughly an equal amount of hair on top and bottom.  Measure the hair so the tips are even with the bend of the hook as seen above.

Carefully transfer holding of the hair by the tips to the left hand, being sure to also gather the flash as well.  Take the thread and make a couple soft wraps around the hair and slowly tighten down with firm pressure.  The object is to flare the hair in place, not to spin the hair around the shank.  Make another wrap or two at most to secure the hair down.  DO NOT LET GO OF THE TIPS OF THE HAIR WITH THE LEFT HAND AT THIS POINT.  KEEPING A HOLD OF THE TIPS SERVES AS A GUARD WHEN THE BUTTS ARE TRIMMED IN THE NEXT STEP BELOW.

While still holding on the the tips of the elk with the left hand, grab your scissors and roughly trim the butts of the elk down.

At this point, snug down on the gelspun a bit more, push back on the trimmed butts, work the tread to the front of the butts and make a few wraps behind the eye of the hook.  Trim the butts very short/flush and the hair on the bottom can be trimmed flat at this point as well.

Evenly part the top section of hair with the closed tip of your scissors to allow the pink foam to be brought through.

I make an upward facing pinch in the pink foam and make a couple soft wraps and slowly tighten down.  Be careful not to apply too much pressure or the thread will cut through the foam.

Cut a piece of yellow 2mm foam 3/8" x 3/4" for the rear facing visibility post.

Cut a V into half of this foam piece.

Upward pinch on the yellow foam before tie down.

Tie down with 2-3 wraps, tighen slowly, again careful not to apply too much pressure. 

Cut a piece of orange 2mm foam for the front facing visibility post.  I cut this one to approximately 1/8" x 3/16" x 7/8"

Tie the orange foam down with the wider side on the bottom, 2-3 wraps as seen above.

Work your thread under the fly and around just the eye of the hook, make a couple wraps.

This part may be a bit tricky for some - At this point, hold the foam back while making a whip finish, then follow up with making a second whip finish around the first one to secure everything.  Since head cement would not hold very well to gelspun, I have resorted to this double whip finish routine.  I typically do the whip finishes manually without a tool, but I have been able to use a whip finish tool as well, it's just a bit clumsier.

Cut off the gelspun close to the eye.  This is what fly looks like at this point, the foam lip still needs a trim.  You'll note that some white thread is showing.  I could have afforded to have pushed the elk wing closer to the chenielle when I tied it down.  Again, I'm not a perfectionist and am not about to tear this fly apart as I don't think Mr. Steelhead will mind.  It's all about pure function!

Foam lip trimmed, this about what I like it to look like.

Side view

Top view - BC here I come!  Oh darn, that's next fall....

Other flavors - black/blue, purple/black, green butt, October caddis, yellow/orange

A few extra flies

I have been finding that the orange/yellow color combination for the visibility posts are probably the most easily seen under varied conditions.

I hope this SBS may help ease us into the winter season!  Please feel free to comment with any questions or ideas you may have regarding my weird fly!

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving and holiday season,