Saturday, April 23, 2011

S & M Bobbin is the name I was looking for

I got an email from a friend letting me know that the bobbin I was questioning in a post earlier this month is an S&M Bobbin. Now that he mentioned it, I remember that there were letters engraved on one of  the bobbin ears.  The engraving actually isn't all that noticable, unless you get the ight just right (see below.)

The bobbin I showed in the earlier post (and shown below with the wood handle) is a recent "upgrade" of the original. The original was created by Walt Stockman and Charlie Malley who were owners of S&M Fly Shop in Connecticut.

The shop was sold to John Marona in the early 1990s and he closed the shop about 2005. Based on some forum posts from 2008, it seems that John then continued to sell old stock on ebay for a few more years after closing the shop.

I can't recall where I bought my "original"; perhaps from Ed Gallop at It cost about $5 around 2006 or 2007.

I think you either hate or love the old product, with its steel tube and big ears. I have read that this is the favored bobbin of A.K. Best. 

For me, I will only use the original design for my heavy thread (such as Danville 3/0) as I keep breaking finer thread. The pressure of the metal ears against the thread spool is hard to adjust, and most of the time they create too much pressure agains the thread spool.

The "upgrade" model costs about $16 and has a wood handle and ceramic inserts on both ends of the steel tube. If you are interested, I saw it on the Web site.  I find tubes with ceramic inserts difficult to thread.

I saw on the Website an even newer model! It said "new for 2009", and was built with a ceramic tube, and is priced at about $18. I don't have one of these, but would expect (for me) that the extra $2 is worth it for the full ceramic tube.  But I won't be buying it, as I have a lifetime supply of bobbins.  (On the other hand, I continued to buy feathers even after buying my first lifetime supply *LOL*)

It is my understanding that these upgraded models with their fancy wood handles are made by Wasatch. I read somewhere that Wasatch bought the rights to manufacture the bobbins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

(After two years.... continued) Step 3: set a hook in the vise and get started

In the prior two posts I wrote about getting going on fly tying after two years, with a simple clipped-hackle woolly called the Henry's Lake Special.  I read about it in Gary Soucie's Woolly Wisdom and also found the pattern in Terry Hellekson's Fishing Flies.

Very simple:  brown biots for tail, herl body, and clipped palmered brown hackle.  I was actually all set to substitute black biots and grizzly hackle, and wrote about this in the first post,  but changed my mind at the last minute. 

So... after work on Friday I finally sat down and got started.  Here's a look at my first tied fly in two years.  Pretty easy, but that's my kind of fly!

Insert hook and cover with thread.

Ten wraps of lead wire.  I used .20mm to match the shank diameter.

Tie in two brown biots for tail.

Four herls tied in (spellcheck tells me there's no such word as herls).  Hackle tied in by the butt end.

Wrap herl forward, once first behind the feather butt.  Tie off.

Palmer hackle forward.  Tie off.

Clumsily tie a small head using whip finish tool. No picture taken.

Give the little beast a haircut. (I'd never make it as a barber!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Getting back to fly tying (after two years). Step 2: Sitting down at the tying table and hoping it all comes back to me

After setting up the tools and materials to tie for the first time in two years (see previous post), it is now time to get re-acquainted with the tools and techniques of the trade.

I have several nice vises and the JVice is perhaps my favorite. Designed and built by Jay Smit in South Africa I acquired mine in 2004 and wrote a review of it on my Website. My vise is #43 and was the second one sent to America... pretty cool.

Jay is always tinkering and has come up with many unique accessories. Check out his Web site. In particular he had developed a new jaw design and gooseneck arm which he sent to me perhaps two years ago. I did the retrofit per his instructions, and found the time to tie a bit with the new jaws before my hiatus from the tying table began.

Admiring the jaws today, they look like they'll be able to handle all the freshwater hooks I'm likely to tie with. As I recall, I liked the gooseneck arm because it made it easy to get my left hand behind the hook to hold materials. This is a rotary vise which I much prefer over standard designs.

After setting the vise on the table, I grabbed a couple of pairs of scissors from my tool box. One has straight tips and the other has curved tips. I have no recollection as to which I prefer or when I use one over the other. I will figure that out as I go along. These are Tiemco brand scissors, and therefore of reasonable quality.

My threads are pretty straight forward. Basically two dimensions of Danville: 6/0 and 3/0. I have flat-waxed too. I don't recall if 3/0 is something different from flat-waxed. My tying brain cells feel like they have a sock over them. I hope this all comes back to me.

I believe the black Danville thread I've got in the bobbin is 6/0. I can't remember what the bobbin brand is. I'm surprised that I don't remember, because I went out of my way to buy a couple of them. They are considered a classic, old design. But I think they were cheap. I think the brand disappeared for a while and then was re-introduced in recent years perhaps under a new manufacturer or distributor. The spool doesn't move too smoothly through this bobbin as I remember, and I used to break the thread often. If I start breaking thread again, I'll switch to one of the other bobbins in my kit with "ears". Can someone help me with the name of this brand of bobbin?

I did see in my tool box a bag of blue dental floss threaders. They work very nicely for threading bobbins, though I also remember sucking the end of the tube trying to get the thread through.

I grabbed my little whip finishing tool. I have a longer reaching one, too. They are very nice tools. I think they are something like Martinetti, or some other Italian name that starts with an "M". I never learned to whip finish with my fingers. Probably because it is so much fun to use the tool. I can't recall, however, how to use it. I am hoping that it comes back to me, and it probably will... unless I start thinking too hard about it. I have several brass half-hitch tools. I think I used them more for hackled flies and parachutes. Maybe the half-hitch tool will be better for the Henry's Lake Special. We'll soon see.

It was easy to find my hooks. They are kept in the original boxes inside bank check boxes. I have an entire box labeled R72. These are 2x wet fly hooks made by Mustad. I was pleased the see that this exact model is actually one of the listed hooks for the Henry's Lake Special as described in Terry Hellikson's Fish Flies.

Lead wire. That's another easy one. My lead wire spools are also in a bank check box, and I have a complete collection, starting at .10" and ending with .35". I almost always use 10 wraps of lead of a diameter to match the hook wire diameter.

I often finish my flies with a little nail polish on the head. It looks like I should buy some new bottles, or at least thin them out with _____ (heck, I don't recall what you thin nail polish with, but its the same stuff they make nail polish remover with, perhaps starting with the letter "a" or "e" ??)

The last tool I can think of is a set of magnifiers. I think mine are called Mag-eyes.

Now, let me get started.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Getting back to fly tying (after two years). Step 1 - getting out the materials and tools

I just checked the notebook I keep with my tying gear, in which I write down the flies I've tied, when I've tied them, and in what sizes I tied them. The last entry in the notebook was two years ago. No wonder a couple of my favorite beadheads and nymphs are completely missing from my boxes... I must have run out!

But what got me thinking about setting up the vise again is the very simple "clipped woolly worm" pattern Fred Bridge tied for me and which I featured in a post here on the blog in March and which become another "fly with a story" on the Web site. The simple fly is called a Wonder Bug. 

I checked out my copy of Gary Soucie's book, Woolly Wisdom, and found quite a number of clipped hackle woollys.  And I felt the urge to do some tying.  In particular I picked out the Henry's Lake Special on page 53. It's basically a peacock herl woolly worm with two brown biots for a tail (stonefly nymph?) and clipped brown hackle.  However, I think I will tie it with black biots and clipped grizzly hackle.

I certainly can appreciate well-tied and difficult-to-tie flies.  They are usually works of art.  But for me, I really like simple flies.  This is perhaps why I will never be an "expert" tier.  I am happy to tie and fish the easy flies.  In fact, I am always thrilled when I catch  fish on a fly that was made from only one or two materials. The Henry's Lake Special is right up my alley.

But step one was to set up my stuff, which I did this evening before catching up with my wife to watch some baseball on TV.  I took the peacock herl and grizzly hackle and biots out of the Sterilite box labeled "feathers".  I set up my J-Vice and put a couple of tools into its oak base.  My brain was a bit groggy as I tried to remember what was needed.  Let's see: scissors, whip finish tool, thread and bobbin.  Oh, in addition to the feathers, I would need lead wire and hooks.  I think that should do the trick.  Oh, and magnifiers!

So, here's my set up.  I have an L-shaped desk with the tying table actually inside a closet.  Overall, this gives me a very nice little office inside an extra bedroom.  This is as neat and clean as it will ever get.  Remember, I haven't started tying yet *LOL*.

I've got all my materials and I am ready to go!  The hooks are size 10 Mustad Signature R72s.  And I like hackling my small woolly worms with Whiting hen neck hackle. 

Tomorrow I will begin!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just posted: The Peacock Caddis Larva as tied by Fred Bridge

In a March blog post I mentioned a few flies I'd received from my friend from Pennsylvannia, Fred Bridge. A week ago I posted a closeup photo and the tying sequence for one of these flies, the Wonder Bug.  This evening I just posted a closeup photo and the tying sequence for the Peacock Caddis Larva.

Once again it is clear that Fred knows two to the greatest nymph tying materials: (1) lead and (2) peacock herl.

Check it out here: