Ceramic flies- What they are, what they do and how to make them

they don’t look like anything in particular, just some general bug-type shape with just enough bug-type elements that suggest food and colour contrasts to set them apart from river debris and nothing more. in a sense, they epitomise the presentation over imitation concept. here’s a few examples:

ceramic nymphs flyfishing.co.uk.jpg
at first glance they look like nuclear waste candies and as always and specially when dealing with non-immitative flies, colours are mostly up to the tier’s whim. personally, and since i never specifically target grayling because i can’t stand the f’n things… preferring to focus my attention on trout and other less offensive creatures, i like them best in naturalish tones with a black head. that’s my whim.

these things consist of a lead or lead substitute wire wound around the hook shank to form the body followed by several layers of ceramic hobby paint to finish the fly. Pébéo seems to be the preferred brand, it’s available in small pots and even in pen form. i’m not familiar with the pens but it seems to be a fast, easy and maybe less expensive alternative for the person who might want to just try these out or make just a few.

there’s no traditional ‘tying’ involved in the process. traditionalists will of course poo-poo these things and not even consider them as flies but the hell with them. traditional flies can’t do what these do which brings us to the ‘what they do’ part-
apart from the Perdigon style of nymphs, every other style of nymph that i know of has sink-restraining elements: feathers, fur, dubbing, rubber or whatever protuberances that slow down and make it more difficult to get the flies on or near the bottom and that’s what these deep-divers are supposed to do. sink-restraining flies can get to the bottom too but they need more time and an enormous amount of weight to counter their sink-restraining properties but once there, and even if they catch fish sometimes and look ‘good’, they’ll tend to drift like big lifeless, unnatural lumps.

sleek deep-divers like Perdigons and Ceramics do indeed have some form of weight but much less. being super-sleek they cut through currents faster, get where they’re supposed to go faster, meaning the angler doesn’t have to cast as far upstream and wait for it to settle, making the presentation a lot more accurate in drift management while freely tumbling downstream with the current much closer to what a natural would do and that’s a lot more important and fish-catching than bits and pieces wound on a hook that attract the angler more than the fish.

an added bonus is lighter flies are a lot easier to cast (and safer) specially when using industry standard fly lines as opposed to Dynamic/Euro/TightLine/monofilament-only rigs.
ceramic nymphs 2 flyfishing.co.uk.jpg

as we’ll see in Stanislas Freyheit‘s video below this particular type of paint has some really interesting properties, the only drawback might be that its best (and highly recommended!) to wait approximately 24 hrs between coats. this means making them in batches and being patient, sort of like making babies and having to wait nine months before they pop out.

lastly, a bit of unofficial Ceramic nymph history. this kind of info with any kind of veracity isn’t easy to obtain but i can confirm their French origin. although relatively new to the global fly fishing world, i’ve known about them for about fifteen or so years.
frogs tend to not share their secrets… however, Stanislas, who ties these bugs commercially happily shares all his trade secrets for all to see, all in a very understandable english, big kudos for that. enjoy !

fly images via flyfishing.co.uk/Google images

Fly Tying- Like Jim Said

as promised, here’s a special-guest fly tying nugget via buddy Tim Trengrove from Wellington, North Island New Zealand.

Wellington happens to be as far away on the other side of the globe from me as possible, any further and he would have to come from space !, and i know this because i have an app on my phone that once leveled, shows what’s on the other side of our beautiful planet as if we where looking straight through it. it looks like this. cool, huh ?

wellington
hmmm, spelling isn’t all that but i still think this is really cool…

ok, now that i’m finished with my pointless interjection… today’s topic is about traditional influences in contemporary fly tying and durability and more specifically, hackle durability by using the Reversed Hackling method. Tim’s explanation is straightforward and should suffice in itself but if it isn’t i’ll include the link to previously posted video in the comment section that explains it well. enjoy !

thanks for your contribution Tim, it’s greatly appreciated. i know your trout season’s about to start and i hope it’s a grand one !


Like Jim said
Tiny caddis were already crawling up my back when the first trout began rising. In the Southern Hemisphere summer, no rain for some weeks meant the flow was much lower for the post-Christmas period. Perhaps that and the extra hot day brought the caddis on as daytime hatches in this river were an unusual sight.

My normal fly choice would have been a caddis pupa but, having tied up some Partridge and Yellow spiders, I was keen to use them instead. The results were astounding, but unfortunately not for all the right reasons.

Browns and rainbows up to 3.5 pounds grabbed the fly and tore off down the pool. Some cartwheeling across the surface, others leaping high. There were break-offs and other midstream releases. What upset me way more than losing fish was the sight of seeing some of my flies unravelling. Flies that looked pretty in the box, but now were not surviving these fish. My spider tying technique was rubbish.

Later, after reading The North Country Fly by Robert L Smith, I adopted the traditional tying method for spiders. This made for much more robust flies and I’ve been waiting for another daytime caddis rise since then.

tim-trengrove-3
Photo by Paul Slaney

The whole “robust” thing got me thinking about fly construction. There will always be a place in my fly box for North Country fly designs like this Woodcock and Hare’s Ear.

The hackle is tied using the traditional tip-first method then wound once the body is constructed.

What I wanted was a fuller-bodied fly which was as strong as or stronger than the umbrella-shaped spider.

tim-trengrove-2
Photo by Paul Slaney

Starling with hare’s mask on a Kamasan B160 #16. Something along the lines of a Stewart’s Spider but not as unruly in appearance. This led me to reading how Jim Leisenring constructed his flies in The Art of Tying The Wet Fly & Fishing The Flymph. Jim typically used the reverse hackle tie-in for his soft hackle wet flies and instead of making a narrow collar of hackle, he spiralled the hackle rearward. The tying thread was then wound forward through the hackle to the tie- off position. This gave the hackle a fuller appearance and helped make the fly incredibly strong. I took those ideas and incorporated them into spiders.

If you can see differences in hackle construction looking at the two photos, your eyesight is very good! When both flies are moved about in the water together, the differences are seen more clearly. I tie these in #16 for slow, clear water and #14 for faster water. In the last season this pattern accounted for brown trout in slower rivers near my home in Wellington and the Mataura in the South Island, and rainbows in the fast flowing Tongariro. So long as I tie a decent knot and work on not being stupid after hooking fish, most of these flies make it back home. That is a big improvement on my first spiders.

When it comes to tying wingless wet flies, I like to tie the hackle in a similar way.
tim-trengrove-1

As Jim Leisenring has been such an inspiration, I will leave the last words to him.

“The art of tying the wet fly rests upon a knowledge of trout-stream insect life, a knowledge of materials used for imitating the insect life, and an ability to select, prepare, blend, and use the proper materials to create neat, durable, and lifelike imitations of the natural insects”.
(The Art of Tying The Wet Fly & Fishing The Flymph by James E. Leisenring and Vernon S. Hidy, 1971, page 34)

Tim Trengrove, New Zealand

Fly Tying- Should upsidedown flies be tied rightside up ?

this recent article from Devin Olsen at Tactical Fly Fisher brings up some very interesting points on nymph design, particularly and as the article’s titled-
Wingcases, shelbacks and wings: To invert or not to invert ? that is the question.

among other great observational insights found in the article, one of the most pertinent, easily verifiable by anyone who takes the time to actually look at how a nymph swims when attached to tippet facts is:
– whether the fly is tied on a standard or jig hook, it doesn’t drift horizontally or in other words, its attached by only one end and therefore tilts and it does its thing in a position that has nothing to do with the usual horizontal fly-in-the-vise or fly photo perspective.
– with this in mind another factor worth considering is, due to water turbulence and all the bazillion currents/countercurrents found in flowing water, nymphs and any subsurface fly tumbles, rocks back and forth, spins and twists while they’re swimming and this again destroys the perfect side view described above, once again reminding us that our 2D perspective and subsequent fly designs may indeed catch us fish but we’re probably not seeing a greater picture that might maybe help to make more fish-attractive designs or simply to have a better understanding how our imitations work and finally, if its worth including or subtracting elements to our patterns.

nymph design Devin Olsen-Tactical Fly Fisher

i do like Devin’s conclusion and it definitely fits in with my own experience-
“Last and most importantly, I’ve tried both methods of wingcase placement with inverted flies. Those tied with wing cases in the normal fashion have fished as well or better for me than those tied inverted. Drift theory aside, this is the only real reason that counts much to me.”

this is good stuff so be sure to click either the pic or the link at the top of the page for the complete article. enjoy !

Winged Nymphs for Dynamic Nymphing

winged-nymph-Lucian-Vasies

some high-level fly design from Lucian Vasies any and every nymph fisher might (read should) take into consideration: it’s that good.

Winged Nymphs for Dynamic Nymphing could be considered a new frontier in fishing nymphs and a new way to tie flies. Some fly tiers consider them ugly. In terms of a classic construction and after the traditional rules to tie a nymph, these flies are quite ugly. These flies don’t follow the rules for conical bodies or for the tail made from feather fibers. What about the typical streamer wings? Something like these was never seen on nymphs. But appearance is not important to these nymphs. Their goal is not to please the fisherman, but to catch fish.”

winged-nymph-tail-Lucian-Vasies
the two key elements setting this beast apart from the rest, both of CDC fibres for the reasons explained in Lucian’s complete text and step-by-step you can access by clicking either pic.
winged-nymph-wing-Lucian-Vasies


Lucian’s a buddy and i know he won’t take this sideways but the fold-over wing isn’t exactly new but that’s of no importance. what is however is this concept is as hot as it gets when it comes to wet fly and nymph design.
here’s my ever so succesful ‘bladge i started tinkering with four years ago. it’s a black midge just subsurface wet, size 20 where the soft,Bladge 25-1-13 fold-over wing was inspired by Peter Dobbs’ Shwartza (bottom pic) created in the early ’90s for the UK reservoir competition scene which in turn might have been inspired by the soft wing tied semi-upright  Clyde style flies from a hundred and more years ago. Clyde wings are typically tied with wings slips from game birds. they’re nowhere as stiff as genetic cock hackles but they retain their wing shape a lot more than the marabou used in the Shwartza or fuzzy fibres found at the base of starling feathers i use for the ‘bladge.

what they do have in common with Lucian’s ingenious idea of using CDC fibres is all these super-soft materials collapse back when wet. since they’re tied in wing-style every fibre is free to move around, both undulating with the current and creating a very life-like ‘outer shell’ of the imitation’s body, something any other tying method has a very hard time replicating. play around with the concept, i promise you won’t regret.


for more on the Shwartza click the pic

Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks- Weight shift/Attitude adjustment

Davy Wotton needs no introduction. for me, he’s one of those few people that when he speaks and shares his wisdom, i’m all ears because those words are the fruit of many, many years of experience and always lead to not only learning something new but also a new mental approach to that particular subject and today’s ‘Attitude Adjustment’ does just that.
it’s not just a super-easy way to very quickly get our flies at the right depth but also gets us thinking about how flies move and how we can alter those moments during the drift or retrieve.

here’s just a few text tidbits to wet your appetite:

“There is no doubt that bead headed fly patterns have a place but not always. That said by a simple process the fly fisher can for the same fly pattern used have many options in so far as altering how that fly will fish and by what attitude or movement it can be presented be that dead drift or with animated movement such as fishing wet fly, soft hackles and streamers.”

Davy Wotton 'Attitude Adjustment'
“So here is the deal. l carry with me a box which contains tungsten beads of different sizes and colors, size of bead is of course related to the weight. Many of my fly patterns are not adorned with a bead head included on the hook shank.
l now have many options to change the fly by the addition of bead size and color, or number of beads used, more to the point by the addition of the bead to the tippet or leader above the hook eye it will cause the fly to fish hook up.”

click the pic to access Davy’s complete article. enjoy !
and HERE for previous articles on Davy’s wisdom posted here on TLC

A few thoughts on streamer fishing

shared here in its entirety with Mac Brown‘s kind permission.

it’s rant-o’clock ! but i don’t see it as ranting for the sake of ranting, more like a hey, lets kinda forgo the commercialism and sensationalism of contemporary fly tying/fishing for a while and get real about flies, fly design and fly fishing in general.
Mac’s parting words sum up how a lot of us feel quite well, enjoy !  “and remember it is more about your technique than the fly!”…

Bullhead-Sculpin-Gary Borger

“Streamer fishing has been around for a very long time in fly fishing. The workhorse patterns I used mostly as a youngster include the simplistic Black Ghost, Mickey Finn, Wooly Bugger, and Muddler Minnow. There are hundreds of new streamer patterns the past decade with so many new choices of materials. Many of the newer patterns have eye appeal more for the tying community than the fish!
A successful pattern is the one you can tie simply and fast and that is what I think is lacking more today than in years past.

A lot of egos at play in this game of fly fishing to think of lashing a different material to a piece of wire and a new invention that every one tries to get in a catalog for their pride basically. It is actually quite funny when you think about it.
Think about judging your streamer patterns by how many steps does it involve? Can you produce it in a short time period? Naturally color, shape, and size are also at play just like every other recipe in fly tying. The action of the fly may be important at times, however there are also times it really does not matter! I remember tying up some really bizarre streamer patterns in the mid 90’s when I capitalized on what I refer to as “impulse strikes”. These patterns made use of things like a silver beer tab glued to a hook or a piece of coffee cup Styrofoam attached to a hook. One material basically attached to a hook! They worked on many test occasions for trout just like the simple buck-tail streamers used in 1930’s. Keep it simple with your patterns and you will get more time on the water, which is always better than time at the vice as far as I am concerned.

There is no doubt that streamer fishing puts up the majority of really large fish throughout the year. It is also among the simplest technique to learn for a youngster. Both of my kids have had plenty of action at very young ages swinging streamers over active fish. One of the reasons it is the perfect technique for folks new to fly fishing is that the fly line remains under tension as the pattern swings in the current. When a fish strikes it virtually hooks itself!

Here are a few other streamers that have served me well over the years. The Bullhead Sculpin from Gary Borger (you can find it on his blog) is one of the best producers on the stream and is among the most simplistic patterns to tie. One of the best days on the lower Nanty a few springs ago had 6 brown trout to the boat while floating that all went over 6 pounds. Not a bad day to kick off the season since this is no New Zealand in Western North Carolina. We have to compete against hardware fisherman, worm drowners, and corn chunkers-many of our best tailwaters in the Southeast are open game with little regulation.
The acoustic footprint and color of the bullhead sculpin make it among my favorite overall streamer patterns! The other fly is a pattern I learned from Rich Brostic here in Bryson City back in the early 90’s. It uses only two materials which include black chenille body and an olive marabou wing as long as the hook shank. This simple pattern has caught thousands of really big fish all over the globe. You can tie it in under a minute at the vice. Mike Sexton’s “Blank Saver” is another smallish streamer that works great and deserves a row of them in your flybox! You can tie a ton of them in one evening!
I think over time folks progress to really big streamers that are articulated. I know I went that direction in the late nineties tying 6-8 inch streamers. The drawbacks of getting too big include air resistance increases may require a much heavier line. I am sure that over the years the one to three inch streamers have been the most productive. I have hooked many Muskie in western North Carolina when fishing for trout with three inch streamers.

Streamer fishing is all about movement so over time you will play with all kind of retrieval rates and mends on the water. Changing direction of the streamer through use of mends is more advanced but it often can be productive against a bank or differential water current. Play around with different fly line configurations and densities for streamer fishing. One of the most common mistakes I see is the overuse of floating lines used for attempting to catch big fish that hold near the bottom in big water. Build some high density lines that get your flies down where the fish are holding.
When fishing with other folks try to get your group to mix it up rather than everyone chucking thingamabobbers all day long! Your group will learn far more about a watershed throwing nymphs, dries, streamers, and wets! They will all produce fish. Bigger nymphs are often fished like a streamer just for the sake of mixing it up. Enjoy playing around with streamer fishing and remember it is more about your technique than the fly!”

Fly Tying- Mix dubbing easily

a nifty, super-easy to understand tutorial from my buddy and über fly tier Holger Lachmann.

after re-reading Denis Shaw’s fantabulous A Complete Dubbing Techniques Tutorial i noticed that even though the flea comb is shown and used for other purposes, it isn’t used for mixing different types or different shades of material so Holger’s video fills this little gap perfectly. while there are several very good alternatives when mixing larger batches of dubbing, the standard for smaller amounts is simply using our fingers to pull, separate and regroup the materials.
this of course works very well but some materials, notably synthetics that tend to intertwine more than naturals make this task a little more difficult and that’s where the flea comb shines.

a lot of tiers simply buy pre-mixed blends that are readily available and that’s more than fine but in a way, they’re missing out on the possibility of customising the final result’s appearance and in the long run, perhaps its effectiveness in fooling the fish. another aspect of interest when mixing your own is the possibilities are endless. many, many ‘household’ or rather, not-out-of-a-fly shop things can be used to make dubbing, further enhancing creativity which is in my opinion a very big bonus to our craft because its another area where we can put in our own little personal touch while greatly reducing costs.
its all good. enjoy !