A Touch of Midas

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

you tackle deer hair flies.

Dubbing is spinning animal fur on thread to make fly bodies. The thread is heavily waxed, then small amounts of fur are pinched on the thread and spun between the thumb and finger. Most tiers make the mistake of trying to apply too much fur to the thread at one time. Practice dubbing when you are tying nymphs on large hooks; don't wait until the session where you want to produce some tiny dry flies on impossibly small hooks.

One of the pleasures of fly tying is gathering a collection of materials, everything from feathers, fur and hides to new synthetics. Most fly tying materials are inexpensive; high quality rooster necks and saddles for tying dry flies are the exception. Searching through the catalogs and fly shops for a certain type and size of feathers, or just that particular shade of fur you need, is as much fun as hunting for collectibles, but cheaper.

My collection includes some strange items - ostrich herl and Australian opossum fur. I have quail wings and squirrel fur I collected myself with a gun, and I have grouse wings, duck feathers and turkey feathers that other hunters have given me.

I've bought, or collected, over the years, three kinds of deer hair, plus elk hair and deer tails. I have muskrat fur and beaver fur, pheasant tails, rabbit and deer masks and mink. I have thread, chenille and floss in a rainbow of colors. Synthetic material I use includes wing material, synthetic yarn, synthetic sparkle material and kevlar thread. My hook cache includes hooks made in the U.S.A, Japan and England. I have saddle hackles (soft feathers for wet flies) and rooster necks (stiff hackles for dry flies) that I protect with the perseverance of a bank guard.

In his book American Fly Fishing, Paul Schullery wrote, "Most fly tiers have some touch of Midas in their soul - they hoard materials, they look for new ones, they listen eagerly to new applications for old ones. They may be interested in synthetic materials, but the advent of synthetics proved that even fly tying materials generate loyalty in fly fishers, who show every sign of increased enthusiasm for chicken necks, duck flank and wing feathers, deer hair, and dozens of other organic materials, an enthusiasm supported by such impressive advances in fly-tying materials as the stunning 'genetic' hackles ..."


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