Sunday, April 2, 2017

Eyes




One of the most frequently asked questions about my baitfish patterns concern eyes. What eyes did you use? How did you attach the eyes? The list goes on and on... So here's a few thoughts about the subject.

What kind of eyes do I use?

Many types to make it short. From synthetic JC eyes to glow in the dark paper eyes. I used to use natural JC eyes too, but I am not very comfy about that idea anymore. The bulk of my eyes I buy from China. Kinda ashamed to say that, but that's the truth. Plain silver and red eyes from China are just soooo much cheaper than buying the same stuff from a fly shop and they work just the same. The more special eyes are fly shop material. By special I mean the ones that have shifting colors in them. You know, the cool ones. Same goes for the synthetic JC eyes. They are all fly shop material. I also some times use tab eyes that are also fly shop material or home made. The range of eyes that I use go from 4 mm to 10 mm. Sure, I got some bigger ones too, but very rarely use them. Eyes that are too big don't look good to my eye and they usually require extra steps to attach them properly. So, I try to match the size of the eye to the fly I'm tying. The synthetic JC eyes range from 10-30 mm. Mostly I use something between 20-30 mm.

Lots of options around for the fly tier. These cool eyes were found from Ebay from a Swedish/Norwegian seller.


Deer Creek makes the coolest eyes on the market. Great colors to choose from.



How to attach your eyes to the fly?

There are several ways to do it and it really depends on what you're looking for. I will write about different methods I use categorized by what I am looking for.

As light as possible.

I start by attaching the eye with super glue. The gel versions work very well for this and are easier to apply than the liquid, runny ones. For flies that are made to fish in shallow spots like flats or shallow reed banks for cold water pike, I frequently use only gel super glue and nothing else. This however requires you to use something soft at the end of your fly to make the eyes stick so that they can endure fishing. Something like craft fur, snow runner or arctic fox. A soft synthetic fiber like EP fiber or Sculpting fiber works pretty well also. There are eyes on the market that don't react well to super glue. The adhesive used on the back of the eye is usually the problem. You can use Bish's Tear Mender for eyes like that as it reacts well with what ever is used on the background of the eye. Tear Mender is a great and durable choice for the "as light as possible" category. However it is a bit tricky to apply and you need to let it dry for at least 4 hours before it touches water. The synthetic JC eyes work very well for this category too. I usually attach them reversed and then turn them the right way. This will give them a "double lock" of thread. Finish with a drop of super glue and you have yourself a pretty durable solution. The final option is to use tab eyes. I like to attach them in the same way that I would attach the JC's.

These paper backed glow in the dark eyes are really easy to attach with gel super glue. They stay on forever.

Bish's Tear Mender makes a great connection between the eye and soft materials. You need a chainsaw to brake them off. Remember to let the resin dry out fully.
A solid way to attach the JC eyes is to reverse tie them in. Deer Creeks versions are my favorite.

Tab eyes offer another light option.


Semi light

If I want the head to be pretty light, round and airy, I use something soft at the end of my fly. Just like I would on the "as light as possible" category. I start by attaching the eye with gel super glue. After that there are two options. A coating of urethane resin like Liquid Fusion or fabric fusion or a light coat of thick UV resin. Urethane resin thinned out with some water goes straight through the soft material and leaves a very airy and flexible head to the fly. It also keeps the eyes attached very firmly. The resin does not add a lot of weight to the head and gives it a very neutral buoyancy. The other option is to use thick UV so that it does not penetrate the material fully. This will leave air in the head so the fly will not sink head first quickly. This is not however as durable as using urethane resin and can brake if there's a lot of tension brought to the head. UV resins like Deer Creek Builder, Solarez thick and flex and Loon thick work very well for this type of option. Coating the eye with UV will make it stick very well, unless of course the whole resin coating starts to brake.

Soft and durable.

The tube on the left has a hollow head made with UV.



Solid heavy heads

You start these also by attaching the eye with gel super glue. Pushing the eye as tight a possible to the shank of the hook. Then make a solid coat of UV or epoxy between and over the eyes. If using UV remember to let it really soak in so the head is solid, with no air in the head. With epoxy this happens naturally. Especially if you heat up the epoxy a bit before use. A head like this will make the fly sink head first. So the fly will jig a bit when you stop it. It will of course add some weight to the fly also. These bullet head flies do however cast very well. That little extra weight on the front will turn the fly over very positively.

These things are awesome to cast.
Big synthetic flies are a lot better to fish and cast when they have a solid epoxy head.


How important are the eyes on your flies?

To be honest, not that important. Sure, there can be situations when the fish can shoot and focus on eyes, but 89,65% of the time they don't matter. There can also be times when a fly that "matches the hatch" very well overall, but has different eyes works better than a fly that matches the bait in every way. Like adding pink or orange eyes on a anchovy fly. In the big picture they are however a big confidence booster for the angler and give the flies a finished look. A fly usually works just as well after loosing its eyes tha n it did when it had them on, but having the eyes on will give you more confidence on it. That been said, I would suggest you work on the profile, action and castability first and then worry about the eyes on your flies.

Big Bob Popovics BULKheads fish just as well without eyes as they do with them.


Things to think about

- Take your time and let the fly rest before getting it wet. I've been tying for quite some time now and still make the mistake regularly of wetting the fly too soon and messing up the attachment.

- If you happen to have some eyes that don't react well to super glue, you can always try attaching them two times. Let the glue dry the first time, take the eyes off and then do it again on the same exact spot. This will also give them a more solid foundation if you decide to cover  them with epoxy.

- Have fun. This thing can't be said too much. Have fun and try different options. Don't fear failure.

- Head shape and weight effects how the fly swims. This is a critical thing to know when thinking about different eye options and how to attach them.

Tight lines!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Vision Merisuola


Vision Fly fishing released its premium saltwater rod series in late last year. The good folks at Vision's product development gave me a chance to test drive the pre-production models during last summer and fall, so here's a few thoughts about the rods.

I had a chance to fish with the 10wt and 12wt  Merisuola rods for pike, sharks, albies and a myriad of other species. The 10wt got most of the action, but me and my fishing buddies did give the 12wt a good workout too.



PassMeTheSalt

Big Brown fish. Nasty.




The rods look and certainly feel like a million bucks. The finish on them is high end and the components used are quality stuff. I love the dark gray color and the details on the rod. It is a very pleasing rod to look at.

The reel seats two lock rings lock up your reel really well and are very easy to work with. The fighting butt is made from composite rubber cork.

REC titanium stripping and snake guides.

The ferrules at first sight look kinda like spigot ferrules, but are actually normal sleeve ferrules.

Quality cork and a nicely shaped handle.



What the Merisuola rods are all about is their action. They are fast, responsive and very efficient fishing tools. They just work like a dream. Merisuola rods are in the top five of the best fly rods I have ever cast. Very similar feel to the Scott Meridian series and Sage Method rods. These new, "next generation" fast action rods are no broomsticks. They have just enough responsiveness to make fishing with them very enjoyable. That I think is the biggest change in rods when you compare the new ones with older, fast action rods that lacked feel. I used the 10wt with Vision Big Daddy pike lines at 23grams and their 10wt Merisuola floating line, but mainly with the Airflo Tarpon line. If you need a set up that can cut through heavy head winds, this is the one. Merisuola's action matches the Tarpon line perfectly and you can get high line speed and super tight loops that cut through the wind like a hot knife cuts butter. The 12wt was used with a 12wt Airflo Tarpon, 12wt Merisuola line and a 500gr Rio Leviathan.

There's really very little I can critique these rods on. The only thing that bugs me is the short reel seat and fighting butt. The reel sits too close to my belly when fighting a fish. Other then that the rods are great fish fighting tools. They can take a beating and have a nice backbone to lift a fish vertically.

Finishing this post up with a traditional pros and cons section...

+ The looks. I love them.
+ The action. Just perfect. If your in to fast rods. you will love the Merisuola rod series.
+ Plenty of backbone to fight vertical.
+ The 10wt was an awesome pike rod too. I like my pike rods fast and it did a great job at throwing big pike flies to the edges of the reeds.

- Reel seat and fighting butt are too short for my liking. Not a big deal if your fighting fish horizontally, but surely a hindrance when lifting a fish from the deeps. There's really no cons to making a reel seat and butt that's 3-5cm longer then they are now. Only pros.
- The 12wt would use a longer handle or a extra fighting handle on it. It would add comfort to its fish fighting capability's.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Beast



Howdy folks! It's been a while since I last wrote here in my english blog. Trying to make a comeback so stay tuned.

First up is some thoughts about Bob Popovics' Beast fly and how you can modify it to suit your own needs and style of tying and fishing.

I started hearing rumors and the odd picture of the Beast about three years ago. The Beast is a Hollow tied bucktail deceiver with an extended body to add length and profile behind the hook. It is a specialty fly when you need a fly that's big and easy to cast. Nothing casts like a well tied Beast. The original way is to use a thick mono to tie the extension on and then attach it to the hook. You will find specific instructions on how to tie the Beast and some additional background info on Bob's new book about the Beast. I highly recommend you buy it.

The Book.


Bob told me that when he first started tying the Beasts he tied them big and really full. They ended up being pretty nasty to cast. Since then the Beast has evolved. Less material and wider gaps between the ties. This has made the Beast the ultimate big fly design which is easy to cast and has lots of movement. It has also become much more enjoyable to tie and does not consume so much material.

Bob's book is a classic. Honestly the best fly tying book ever.

Sensei Bob with his Beast.

Bob's early Beasts had a lot of material.

The new ones are sparse and nice to cast.


After tying it the original way, I started experimenting on alternative ways to tie the extension as the original way takes some time to get used to. I do still tie it the original way on occasion. I will now go through some pros and cons about each way and give a detailed SBS on how to tie one version of the Beast with a tube extension.

The original

The original way of tying the extension takes a special touch to tie them right. I won't go into much detail on how to tie it as Bob's book explains it so much better than I can. I use a mono or fluorocarbon line that has a diameter of 0,80-1 mm. You can get away with a 0,70 mm too but I prefer something thicker.  I prefer to spin the bobbin and don't use a vise at all when doing the extension on the mono.

+ The taper. I think the original way makes it very easy to tie a perfect, uniform taper on your Beast. You know the ones that master tyer Andrew drops out of his vise all the time.

+ The mono adds zero weight to the fly and can not foul.

+ As the mono is very stiff it will let the materials only to move and pulse in the water. It will also make the fly to swim very straight.

+ It is easier to use sparse ties of bucktail on the mono extension than it is on the other options (especially the tube version) as the diameter of the mono is relatively thin.

+ I think the original is the best way to make super big Beasts that are 12" or longer.

- The tying technique takes some time to get used to and when you do get the hang of it, it still takes quite a bit of time to tie the extension.

- Getting the mono to be straight takes some preparation.

This is a small Beast at just 6" tied the original way. The extension is there just for the profile.



This one is a long extension for a big Beast.



Big whopper. These Mega big Beasts are best tied the Original way.

Andrew Warshawer ties the prettiest Beast in the business. The taper is always perfect and the quality of the bucktail used on these is just presidential. I am a big fan.


Shank version

The extension can be tied on a shank too. You can position the hook at the back of the shank or the shank at the back of the hook. I personally prefer the shank behind the hook as it's not that nice to tie it the other way around. There are many types of shanks available in the market. I prefer to use the lightest possible shank around. If you use the hook at the back you can just attach the hook straight to the shank. If you're using the shank as an extension, you have to attach it to the hook with wire, fluoro or mono. You can also use multiple shanks if you want to and make a Game Changer out of your Beast.

+ The platform of the shank is similar to tie on than if you are just tying a fly on a regular hook.

+ The added weight sinks the fly quicker than the other ways.

+ You can get that tail wiggle action on these if you attach the shank with a loop.

- Even though the platform of the shank is very similar to a hook, it's still different as the wire (or double wire) of the shank is flat and not round as a hook wire. This may cause some problems in the hollow tying process.

- The added weight will make the fly harder to cast.

- Did I already mention the added weight? The bigger and longer the shank is, the more it adds weight to the fly.

- If tying the hook at the back of the shank, the first two ties are very awkward to tie.

I tie most of my shank versions this way with the shank at the back.

This one is made with two shanks. A small one and a medium one.



A different type of vise would suit this way better with the hook at the back.





Tube extension


The tube version was born from frustration of tying the original version. I talked with my fishing buddy Pasi about how weird it feels to tie the extension on mono and even though we just loved the design and finished product, the process felt too much to handle. Pasi then suggested that I should tie the extension on a tube, as I am tying on tubes regularly anyway. After a lot of different versions I started hitting this right. I tried many different ways to attach the tube to the hook and have pretty much settled on mono or fluoro that range from 0,60-0,70 mm in diameter (around 40-45 lb for my american friends) or a 35 lb plastic coated wire. The attachment is simple and quick to make. I go through the tube with the line, make a loop knot at the end, cut the loop and pull the knot tight in to the tube. It has never failed me so I just stopped looking for alternative ways. The diameter of the line that I have settled on lets the extension move after the stop, but is thick enough so it does not foul on a bad cast. The tube of choice for me is the M size from Eumer, but the brand is really not that important. Just make sure you don't use a tube that's too thick. An outer diameter of around 3 mm is the thickest you should use. A really thick tube will float the rear too much and makes tying the hollow ties of bucktail more difficult. If you feel that the tube floats the rear too much, you can add a drop of UV resin between the hollow ties. The tube version is one that I tie the most and fish the most. It works really really well as a Pike fly.

+ The tube platform is very natural to tie on for me. It really makes tying a Beast quick and easy. For me that is.

+ I just love the natural swaying movement that the tube gives the fly when you stop the strip.

+ The tube adds almost zero weight to the fly.

+ Did I already say that it's fast?

+/- Tying the extension on a tube makes it look less translucent and more opaque than if you're tying on mono.

- You can't really make a super long extension from a tube. First of all it is really hard to tie on a really long tube and second, it will start to effect the balance of the fly if the tube is too long.

- You need to take the few extra steps to attach the tube to the hook properly.

I have caught most of my biggest Pikes with the tube Beast. I do give more credit to luck than the fly though, but I always feel confident that the Beast will catch when I tie it on.
You can adjust the length of the line that you use to attach the tube to the hook to position the tube. This will effect the flies general appearance. 


This one was a real quick Beast. 25 min from start to finish. Not that it's a competition or anything like that. Tying only one color of bucktail on one tie makes the tying really fast. Also the fact that this one has no eyes or any "extras" makes the fly a lot faster to tie.







How to tie a tube Beast


Start by inserting your tube to your tube needle and wrapping up your thread on it. Then tie some bucktail 360 around the tube.

Add thin and long hackles on both sides of the tail. 

Move your thread forward and hollow tie some bucktail. 

Push the hair back and start working on your thread dam in front of the bucktail.

Add some flash in front. SW angel hair or Sybai Saltwater flash are my favorite flash to use on these.

Move your thread forward. It's good to leave at least 7 mm of room between the ties. Hollow tie some more bucktail. 


Move your thread again and tie one more hollow tie of bucktail.


Add some flash to the end of the tube.

Cut the excess tube off and use a lighter to melt the end a bit. This will make it look smoother and also act as an blocker so that the knot on the attachment line does not pass through the tube.

Pass your line in from the front of the tube and through it. Make a loop knot at the end of the line and cut the loop off of it. 

Pull the knot tight in to the tube.There you go.

Use pliers to flatten down the line. This will make it easier to attach to the hook.

Attach the line on the hook. At this point you can adjust the gap between the hook and the extension.

Make sure you have a good base of thread under the attachment and use lots of super glue to secure the connection.

Hollow tie some bucktail at the back of the hook. If you leave a bigger gap between the hook and the extension, it is good to tie one normal tie of bucktail at this point to "bridge the gap". Then follow it by a hollow tie to get the profile right again.


Move your thread forward again and start another hollow tie. Normally I tighten up the gaps between ties when I get to the hook by a few millimeters. This will give the front more bulk and it balances the fly.


Add your flash again in front of this tie.

Another hollow tie.


Hollow tie some gray bucktail on top and orange at the bottom.

Push back and build your dam.


Add one more hollow tie of the same colors. 

Finalize the fly with a pair of synthetic JC eyes from Deer Creek. They are so cool! 


Give the fly a wash and your done. Go fishing!

Final thoughts about the Beast

I'm sure that by now everyone knows that I just love this pattern. They are so fun to tie and really fun to fish with. I would say that I tie 65% of my Beasts on tube, 25% on mono and the rest with shanks. The most important thing though is to find your favorite way of making them and understanding the fundamentals of this pattern. That's why I started writing this article. There are a few pointers that I would like to add to close up this article.

- Practice your hollow tying on a "normal" Hollow fly before advancing to the Beast. You can get some really good instructions on it from Bob's new book.

- Control the gaps, the amount of material and flare/angle of the hollow ties. If you feel that it's off, then re-do it. Better to spend some extra time on each step than to feel bad about the finished product.

- Remember that many sparse ties make a pretty full fly at the end, but too sparse is too sparse. Practice makes perfect.

- Try to match the hook to the size of the Beast that you're tying. Too small a hook and it won't keel the fly properly. Too big a hook and it will make the Beast harder to cast and unbalanced.

A big thank you to Bob Popovics for sharing your knowledge and pictures. A warm thank you to Andrew Warshawer as well for all the help over the years and sharing your pictures with me.



Tight lines!!