Having been hit by the worst case of the flu I've ever had over Christmas break, the road to recovery has been slow, and frustrating. I have been able to keep orders filled, and still work my day job teaching, but it's been about all I can handle. Today, my body just said, No! I stayed home from work, and tried to schedule an appointment with the doctor. I decided to look through some dusty boxes in the shop, and found a nice little stash of low water hooks. Not having the energy to do much else, I decided to tie a few low water flies. These are probably #6 in size, and were inspired by Preston Jennings. Maybe they'll get wet this fall.
The last year has been an adventure to say the least......Here's a brief timeline:
May 2016 took job operating heavy equipment (lots of hours!)
October 2016 Closed feather business
January 2017 found out we are having another baby
March 2017 Transfer to new job operating equipment
May 2017 Transfer to different job operating equipment
July 2017 Offered new job Teaching School starting In September
July 2017 Travel to Illinois for Curriculum training
August 2017 Have new baby girl!!
AUGUST 26, 2017 OPEN BACK UP ONLINE CATALOG
So, that's what's been going on in my world. Steelhead fishing has been poor to say the least this summer, so I haven't been doing that. And, preparation for a new baby and a total career change has left little free time. But, there has been one constant throughout all of the change listed above. THE GIANT MOUNTAIN OF FLY TYING MATERIAL IN OUR GARAGE! Every time I need a tool, every time the wife does laundry, every time I take my fiddle down to play.....it is there. There reminding me that it's not doing anybody any good in totes, and that It would be nice to pass it on to people who might actually use it. That said....The shop is back open for business. I won't have quite as much to offer as I used to, since I'll be teaching full time. But, it will be available for purchase through the online catalog. I look forward to serving you again, and hope you find something of use for your tying projects.
Since I've announced the closing of our web shop/online catalog, I've been swamped with orders. Filling feather orders in addition to working a 50 hour a week day job has lead to a bit of burn out. I needed to take a break today, and decided to tie a fly I've had on my mind for a couple of years. It's called the "Steelhead Riach"..
It's pictured with the classic "Gold Riach" spey fly. The dressing for the Steehead version is as follows:
Body: Rear third, UV Pink wool yarn, front 2/3 UV Purple wool yarn
Rib: Flat medium silver and fine oval silver on each side
Hackle: Purple Schlappen
Wing: Purple dyed Mottled turkey tail with Bronze mallard over
I'd also like to thank everyone for the support these last few years with our business. I will miss being your supplier, but I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family and doing some fishing and tying. All the best, AO
Burnt Goose shoulder is one of the best looking heron substitutes I know of. But, it's biggest downfall is the thick rachis (stem) and trying to wrap it. Some people will soak it, others (like our AO Spey hackle) have a shaved down rachis, but still aren't as nice as the real thing.
We recently received a large order of Natural Grey Goose shoulder feathers. These feathers looked amazing when burned. The natural grey color matched the color of heron much better than a dyed grey feather. But.....that stem. If I could only find a way to reduce the rachis to a manageable size, it would be a perfect heron sub.
I started thinking of other non-user friendly feathers I've had to wrap as hackle, such as Macaw body feathers, and Jay. There was a technique for splitting them to make them easier to use. Then, I remembered an illustration in Kelson's "Salmon Fly" which shows how to split a jay feather.
Although it is a little tricky. This method of splitting a feather works perfectly on burnt goose. It leaves you with two thin membranes of rachis with fibers the whole length. It is flexible enough, you do not need to soak it, and you can easily get 4 or 5 wraps per membrane, and you get a membrane from each side of the rachis. I've taken step by step photos to hopefully make the process a little bit easier to understand.
You can buy the burned goose hackles here to strip for yourself. This method also works with pheasant tails and turkey tail feathers, (but they should be soaked before stripping) . The potential for this technique is pretty much endless as you can see with this fly below, which was wrapped with burned and stripped lady amherst center tail feathers. Now, get busy and start stripping those burned feathers!
It looks like the forecast for an el nino winter has come to fruition. Since I enjoy fishing larger rivers that can often take weeks to drop back into shape after major rain events, that means alot of time not fishing for me this winter. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since when I'm not fishing, I'm getting alot of work done and in the evenings I have a chance to get caught up on my tying.
But, when the rivers just keep on roaring at near bank-full, my mind starts to think some pretty crazy thoughts. Just how much visibility do I really need to fish? I wonder if I can catch fish inside the willows when the water is up on my favorite run? I wonder if they are holding in clear tributary mouths? All of these thoughts are the product of a sort of "fisherman's cabin fever." When I can fish often, I hardly even have "creative" thoughts. I just grab my waders, rod and fly box and just go fish.
So in the spirit of creative thinking.... enter "Articu-Royd" . ( I know it probably sounds like some new hemmorhoidal ointment, but it's the best name I could think of...)
In case you've been living under a rock, I'll let you in on some fly tying intel: Articulated flies are a big hit. With all of the the new shank systems and components available, a tyer can create and simulate some of the most complex swimbaits that gear fisherman use, and produce very lifelike baitfish patterns.
They're not only a hit with tyers, but the fish seem to like them too.
Now, as many of my close friends can attest..... I'm no purist. When the chips are down, I've been known to pull some pretty dirty tricks out of my hat to put fish on the beach. But, if I had to chose a fly to fish, I'd chose a classic pattern over most of the newer Intruder-ish stuff any day.
So with all of this high, dirty water, I needed a fly that would have a big profile, and alot of movement. Plus, I needed a pattern with bright colors, and contrast. So, that's how the Articu-Royd was born. The original pattern has great black and white contrast which is proven to show up in any water color. Also, the addition of a UV tail and hackle improves visibility in all but the soupiest of water. Put a hinge in the middle of the big fly, and you've instantly got movement. Another big bonus of the articulated body, is better fish holding since you don't have a 3" long hook shank acting like a lever trying to pry the fly out of the fish's mouth every time you try to turn him.
Some tying notes: For a rear hook, I just used some old mustad 2/0 worm hooks I had laying around. Any straight eye hook will do. For a front shank, you can use alot of things. Commercial shanks made for the purpose will do nicely. Being a natural born cheap-skate, I made my own from a 2/0 open eye siwash salmon hook. I straightened the hook and clipped the barb and point off. The open eye left on the shank is very handy. I just tie the rear fly, then crimp the front shank onto it. I attach a gut substitute blind eye and then tie the fly as per normal.
Hopefully this little post will inspire you to add some articulated classics to your arsenal. Happy fishing!
Its hard to believe that another Christmas is here already. I'm looking outside at a beautiful blanket of white snow covering the ground, a fire is cheerfully crackling in the fireplace and my family is soundly sleeping in their beds. True Peace.
It seems during the holiday season, I'm always more prone to slow down, reflect and think about those thing I have been so blessed with. This is something I need to do more often all year. I guess when you've been given a gift you know you can never pay back, you can't help but think of the Grace and Mercy poured out on you. That Grace and Mercy brings peace. My wish this Christmas is that you to may experience that peace.
On behalf of myself and my family, I want to thank each and every one of you for choosing us to serve you. As you anxiously open your package of feathers to see what you've gotten from us, you'd never know that there's a chance a little girl put the label on the box, or another little girl might have stuffed the feathers in the bag, or that my patient wife may have held our new born son and talked to me as I tended a dyepot in our shop. Our business is truly a family affair, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to not only serve you, but that your business allows us to also serve others in our community.
Thanks to each and every one of you for your business and support this year! THANK YOU, AND MERRY CHRISTMAS! PEACE BE WITH YOU!
It's funny how things can come full circle. Over 20 years ago I tied flies commercially. I was a tying machine. Dozens and dozens of trout flies spewed forth from my young hands and into the bins of fly shops and sporting goods stores. It pretty much cured me of ever wanting to tie trout flies in any quantity again. But what it did do was teach me how to quickly tie a quality fly.
As the years went on, I started becoming more immersed in salmon fly tying. I loved the challenge of creating miniature works of art. I cringed if someone might accidentally touch one of them at a fly tying show, or drop an uncased fly on the table, shaking the carefully placed feathers out of order. But, over time, this type of tying became less fun for me. It became sterile and ridged. An exacting science of counting thread wraps and measuring body segments. Not exactly my idea of a fun time. I found myself tying salmon flies less and less, since it had become stressful.
A few years back, I met Adrian Cortes. He was tying full dress salmon flies in hand. He was tying them to fish with. We instantly hit it off, and I was inspired to tie some salmon flies to fish with. When I started fishing these flies, I was able to appreciate what the original creators of the flies were thinking as they designed them. Toppings were no longer ridged feathers, they came alive with sparkle in the water when the current caught them. Yellows turned olive and some feathers changed colors under water. It was a fascinating experience.
So, now I find myself with fly boxes filled to the brim with full dress salmon flies. You really don't lose too many of them while fishing. What is a guy to do if he still enjoys tying them? Well, this guy is going to offer some for sale. I would love others to enjoy the excitement of hooking up on a pattern that is over 100 years old. I would love for people to marvel at the strength of a gut eye connection as the salmon makes run after spirited run trying to shake it.
I have always admired the flies of Malloch, Boyd, Martinez and the Hardy tiers. They are still beautiful, but built for the rigors of luring a fish. That's what I've attempted to do with my flies. They all have multiple toppings in the tails (that's the first glimmering feather the fish sees in front of it!), Wool butts for durability (instead of fragile ostrich), and feathers placed for proper swimming of the fly, instead of just looks (although I still find them attractive). They are quite simply.....Bred to kill.
(You kind find them for sale here.)
Thankfully, I've been able to get a lot of tying done this summer. We decided to ditch our TV (like we don't have one anymore) a couple of months ago, and amazingly, I've had lots of time to do something productive in the evenings after the kids go to bed. (like tie some fishing flies) Here's a little sampling of some flies I've been tying.
Although I've done lots of tying, I've done little fishing. I'm anxiously awaiting a few days of summer steelhead fishing next week. Hopefully one of these jewels will find a home in the corner of a bright fishes mouth.
Its one of those kind of summer days. You know... warm, muggy, cloudy. Not totally unpleasant, but still not the kind of day that really makes you want to hop up and go do something. So, today became a Silver Grey kind of day. And rightly so. The colors of this pattern almost mirror what I see outside. Beautiful greens, yellows and a hint of blue. Silver capped grey clouds. Just a perfect reflection of my environment wrapped around a hook.
I've always liked this pattern. In fact, I like just about any tinsel bodied fly. I have a feeling that my spin fishing beginnings have taken root deep inside of me, and the lure of flashing metal in the water is as hypnotic to me as it is the fish. Regardless, I know that flashy metal catches fish, and that's what this fly was tied to do.
As far as the pattern goes, its a Silver Grey (or maybe a Silver Gray, depending on what you were taught in school). I'm not sure what great salmon fly author's pattern it most represents. These days when I tie classics, I pretty much go by memory. I know most varieties of this pattern have got a silver body, widgeon throat, distinctive silver badger hackle and some form of yellow and green swan in the wing. The rest is just my whim, which suits me (and the fish) just fine.
Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted to my blog.
Better late than never, I guess.
Today, as I was cleaning up my shop (a never ending job) I stumbled across a fly I tied last fall to fish for late summer steelhead.
This fly is a Tribute to two tiers who have both been a great influence in my tying style. First, Jon Harrang. Jon's pattern, the "Copper and Claret" provided the pallet for this fly. Jon is a great friend of mine and a wicked-good tier who has a knack for incorporating Northwest steelhead style into classic salmon fly patterns.
The second tier is Bill Chinn. Bill has had a huge influence on my full dress salmon fly tying. He is an innovator who is not afraid to mix modern materials and techniques into classic patterns and somehow manages to make his flies elegant and sleek no matter what materials are in them. Bill gave me a genetic hackle tip winged, spey-dee style type fly that had a flashabou tail, no rib, a palmered schlappen body hackle and long throat of guinea. It was given to me with strict instructions to fish it (which I cautiously have), but it looked so good and fishy in the water, I knew the pattern and style had unlimited color possibilities.
So, with all that said, the grafting of two creative tying vines has produced this fruit:
A Copper and Claret, Hackle tip, Flash tail, Palmered Spey-Dee:
Hook: A long dee blind iron
Tail: Copper Flashabou
Body Hackle: Claret Schlappen, palmered
Body: Claret seal
Throat: Black pheasant rump with a turn of claret guinea over
Wing: Two cree hackle tips set low and splayed, dee style
Aaron M. Ostoj
Feather pusher, hook tweeker, boat builder, fisherman, husband, dad.....