Friday August 22, 2014

Tying one on for a fun night

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Welcome to Week XC of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

Last week I had the opportunity to gather with a small group of like-minded individuals in the city to have some hands-on instruction in fly tying.

Now the image of people hunched over fly tying vices turning thread and feathers over tiny hooks is something usually associated with the pursuit of trout.

In our area that means somewhat limited fishing options, those which do exist being primarily lake fishing for trout, requiring a boat of some sort. In most cases the boats are rather specific too, in that they cannot have gas motors.

But in this case our instructor Myron Bali, a pro staffer with Amundson Outdoors, was teaching techniques for larger flies, flies designed to attract northern pike and walleye.

The flies are still designed to toss with a fly rod, something I am sadly still barely a novice at, but the thought of pike on a fly is about as alluring as any when it comes to fishing.

All right, maybe the idea of a thick shouldered carp running off with a fly, the reel spinning as it takes line, is a more enticing daydream than a pike, but I suspect my meagre fly fishing skills would be pitifully inadequate up against even the most modest carp.

But back to the evening of instruction.

Myron was great as an instructor, starting with an admittance perfection in most flies is more for the tyer's eye than for the fish.

Certainly in some cases with trout, when you are trying to match the fly to a particular insect hatch, matching size and appearance is important.

But pike and walleye are predatory fish which hone in on movement and flashes of light and colour.

Think about how many pike you have taken over the years on a red and white spoon which looks very little like anything the fish would feed on naturally.

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The red and black five of diamond spoons in an abstract fashion might resemble a perch or small walleye, but the appearance is not close enough it should fool a fish, but it does.

So the flies Myron was talking about tended to be large, gaudy affairs, in red and white rabbit fur, or with sparkly pieces of string and piping.

It is clear a fly tiers desk would quickly look much like somebody took the remnants of a fabric store and a taxidermist's bench, mixed the materials and poured it out.

It is a hobby where a man has to find their feminist side. As my son pointed out, as only a 25-year-old who is not married could do, he will have to buy clear nail polish, not something he relishes doing.

The hobby will mean going through a fabric store too looking for piping and coloured threads and anything else that catches our eye that we think will catch a fish's eye.

There is also a possibility a fly tier will start to stop at fresh road kill, a knife and scissors at hand.

The tail hair of a whitetail deer is an often used component of flies. I can imagine a raccoon tail would be useful in the same way.

And I do hope next fall I can connect with a duck/goose hunter for a few feathers.

I'll add here you don't have to collect such material yourself.

There are options.

In my case, the day after the workshop I contacted Ian Bugera at Dam Beaver Trapping Supplies at Rhein (see related story Page A3), asking about a possible source of animal fur for flies.

And there are of course commercial sources, including Patrick Thomson here in the city ( Patrick organized the mini-workshop, and is a source for not only fly tying materials, but vices and other equipment required by fly fishermen.

Since the flies we were working on were are for predator fish, Myron noted that perfection was not paramount to creating a fly which will catch fish.

For new tiers that in itself was a pretty enabling statement.

Read a lot of trout fishing books, as I have the last couple of years and you can be left with the impression anything short of perfect in a fly is a creation best tossed in the trash than fished. That is a daunting thought for the beginner.

That Myron said a flawed, maybe ugly little pike fly, can still catch fish, meant as new tiers we could make a mistake and still achieve a result worth fishing.

When it comes to flies, there are literally thousands of patterns one can tie, especially for trout and salmon.

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Grab a book such as The Freshwater Angler's 'The Art of Fly Tying' and you have a good entry point.

The book has details for a couple of hundred patterns, again think trout, but equally important is a basic introduction to the tools of the trade, the all important vice, knot tiers, bobbins and bodkins.

Like most hobbies, there is a language to fly tying.

With the tying fraternity the term hackle is well-understood.

To a novice it might as well be a word in Latin.

For the record hackle has two different meanings in fly tying. It is used to describe the collar of fibers near the head of a fly; but it also refers to the neck, back or tail feathers of a domestic or wild fowl. These feathers are used for tying tails, wongs and of course, hackle, explained 'The Art of Fly Tying'.

The book is also good at giving a basic description of basic skills; hair tails, weighting hooks, using piping etc.

As good as the book is, watching is better.

That is where has become a great tool for tiers. There are numerous tiers who have videoed tying particular patterns, and uploaded them to share.

It is a resource every new tier is likely to turn to as they look to expand upon the first few patterns they learn.

But the best way to learn is to be with the 'expert' in person. Working hands-on with someone like Myron is great.

In large part that is because you can ask questions, and he can customize his instruction to those questions.

I mentioned red and white spoon success for pike. Myron turned out a red and white rabbit fur fly that is nice and simple. Once I get my hands on some fur I am pretty sure I can manage the pattern on my own.

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Change colours and I can do up a reasonable fur leech in black.

And Myron is a fan of green, so that is on my tie list too.

But I also plan to try a few ties which will not be tossed with my fly rod.

The 2014 Walleye Guide from In-Fisherman is on magazine racks right now.

Given Walleye are a primary game fish locally, I count the special edition as one of the must buy magazines of the pre-opening day season.

In this year's edition there is an article in a renewed interest in using hair lead heads.

When I was young hair jigs were pretty much the go-to walleye lure.

And with good reason according to the magazine article by Matt Straw.

"Pros and guides know the value of having good hair. Not haute coiffure for photo sessions (well, that too). I'm talking hair jigs for walleyes. Anglers entering the game in recent decades may stare blankly. Deploying a hair jig for walleyes, especially in still water could be considered an archaic pursuit.

"Check the box of a river rar, however – no matter how old – and you won't have to dig deep to find bucktail. Rivers get cloudy. It happens at least once a year in every river where walleyes swim. River rats know hair bulks up the profile of a lure while slowing its fall, giving fish more time to see it," related the article.

Then the world of rubber blew up within the industry, and hair became rare.

But with a vice and materials -- well the ideas are percolating.

I see no reason why I can't tie some feather and fur lead heads for use with my regular gear.

And that is exciting to me.

While a long way from the artistry and skill of tying flies, as regular readers will know, I have dabbled with making lures from bottle caps, wine corks and old kitchen spoons.

It's a relaxing endeavour and catching fish on something you have created certainly adds to the overall joy of the fishing experience.

I have no doubt tying feather and fur, whether as flies for pike, or lead heads for walleye, it will add to the fishing experience as well.

And the best news, there was some chatter as we tied, of gathering on a more regular basis, not purely for instruction, but for camaraderie in tying, mutual support to master particular skills and of course to share a few fishing tales.

Such a group would be great for Yorkton so if any readers are interested, get a hold of me, as it would be great to see more people involved.



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