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Fly Tying

Capt Bob LeMay

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Everything posted by Capt Bob LeMay

  1. Many years ago I had the same "lower back killing me" thing after an hour or two at the vise. Since I was doing four to six hours sessions I had to find a solution. What I came up with was one of those Danish modern, "knee chairs" (not sure of the correct name for the style of chair that has no back, but comes with a pad to rest your knees on). It forces you to assume a posture that saves your lower back. Now the hurting part is only in my neck and shoulders after too many hours at the bench. It allowed me to continue as a commercial tyer... without it I'd probably found something to do that paid a lot more money, but that's another proposition. Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  2. -very good looking bugs. I particularly like that they're fairly sparse, synthetics work better that way.
  3. That's another trick we call the "bait and switch" that works really well on big fish over shallow wrecks.... You tease the fish with a very active baitfish and keep taking it away (snatching it out of the water) each time the fish tries to eat it. All the while the boat it drifting away from the wreck and (hopefully) the target fish are following.... When you're far enough from the wreck you let the fish grab the bait then snatch what's left out of the water as the angler slaps down a large bushy chicken feather fly in its place. The angler feeds a bit of slack out into the water so the "teaser fly" can drift naturally like what's left of the baitfish. With a little luck the target turns around and comes back after what's left. If you try to impart any movement to the fly it will mess up the shot, but if the fish takes you really have a better shot at winning if you're away from the wreck. It works well for a variety of wreck species, 'cudas, cobia, etc. These days many of the shallow wrecks have "landlords" the big resident goliath grouper (jewfish for us politically incorrect types..) that will steal any hooked fish if it's near a wreck. The flies we use for bait and switch are simple things... Take 8 to 12 large white saddle hackles and tie them around any stout hook that you can use with a fly rod, and here's the best part - use the entire feather, tying in only the butt end all around the hook so it looks like a feather duster, no flash or any thing extra. It's probably a good idea to use the heaviest fly rod you have and a bit of wire to attach the fly to the rest of the leader... Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  4. Here's one other trick that will trigger a strike when you're tossing a fly at 'cudas in shallow water and not using any chum (if you really want to fire them up bring a well full of small live baits and you can get them so fired up they'll hit a fly when it lands...) The usual routine for a 'cuda on the flats it to follow a fly and not strike unless you're going at flank speed. You can beat the fish at his own game by not working it very fast, just erratic, then watching until the fish approaches. Instead of allowing him to follow, the moment the fish is near - pick up the fly with a long stroke so that it suddenly speeds up and disappears, then false cast once or twice and put the fly out there again. Repeat as the fish comes up and many times you'll never be able to pick the fly up fast enough to prevent a hard strike (and yes, it's fun to watch...). With a long shank hook, and no wire, a very simple fly will get shredded in no time using this tactic. I may have one or two around to photo and post up here. I like a six to ten inch long fly with a single very long grizzly hackle tied in on top, "flat wing" style to resemble a needlefish or ballyhoo.... Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  5. Back in the days when I'd venture into processing or dyeing my own materials (as a commercial tyer I had to quit doing my own.... and instead found more than one reliable wholesaler or direct source for buck or feathers) the bible that I followed was Eric Leiser's FLY-TYING MATERIALS, first published in 1973. Don't know if it's still in print but it will take anyone through the steps needed to clean, de-grease, preserve, or dye natural materials for tying. There might be a more modern book on the topic but it would have to go a long way to contain as much info. Nowadays the stuff availlable in shops or directly from the catalogue is far superior than what I started with (just the thought of some of the low quality materials I used to get in the mail.... is enough to make me glad I'm a lot older..). Hope this helps Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  6. Thanks for the interest.... Some years ago I developed the pattern for Randy Towe (who at that time was one of the top fly tournament guides out of Islamorada and had his own shop, World Class Outfitters). He liked it enough that he asked me to withhold it from any shops or other guides and he went on to win a few tournaments with it when other patterns/techniques weren't working. In an article written by Lefty Kreh he simply called it "that big black bastard" of a fly (it does take a bit of work to cast a large chicken feather fly that's between 6 and 8" long...). Years later I came back to guiding but had no clue how the pattern was being used - that sort of stuff I had to learn on my own... At any rate the bead chain eyes, as large as they are, add just the right sink rate and provide more of a profile (I'm convinced that fish in a little darker, or deeper, waters can actually feel food targets as they move through the water... I'll use lead eyes only when I have to in swift waters, the bead chain work just right. The fly stays perfectly upright in this configuration so I believe the hook has more effect than the eyes... I fish this with an intermediate line almost exclusively and can expect the fly, leader, and line combination to sink at about one foot per second. This allows us to count it down then get it moving about a foot above the bottom.... This sort of stuff is in rivers that might be smaller than 100 feet wide and hold some very large tarpon.... When we're in this mode I encourage my anglers to think of this as tarpon fishing - like they were going after salmon holding in favored spots, and that's exactly how it works...
  7. I have a few customers that have taken one of my patterns around the world, literally. It was developed for deep laying tarpon and is called the Tarpon Snake. If Giant Trevally and every other specie will eat it I'd rate it a good possible for Roosters (if you can cast it....). The original was done entirely in black but since I've done a fair number in red/white, fl grn/white, etc. It's on a 4/0 Tiemco 600sp hook or an Owner Aki 4/0 and is an all feather pattern. I'm working up an article on it for Flyfishing in Saltwaters magazine (and have to get it completed in the next few weeks. Here's the recipe.... Eyes: largest bead chain (at the hardware store ask for "plumber's chain" Tail: Eight large webby saddle hackle in the 6 to 8" length, four on a side tied in Deceiver style just forward of the bend of the hook Flash: Flashabou accent (the Fat Pack) in pearl, 8 to 12 strands on each side doubled and staggered (the short side 2", the long side almost 4"l. Body: The same large webby saddle hackles, 3 of them with as much of the "fluff" on the feathers as possible tied in at the butts then palmered forward. Weedguard: #5 coffee wire. Here's some pics, this pattern has been under contract to Umpqua Feather Merchants now for about 20 years.... Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  8. I enjoyed reading all the great posts on this thread (both old and new..). Since I'm a guide as well as a tyer I need a variety of flies for different situations whether it's back in the Everglades or out in Biscayne Bay... and the Clouser is a standard in many places and times of the year. Most of my Clousers are a bit removed from the original pattern since I'm mostly tying them the way Lefty Kreh suggested when he wrote that first article about them all those years ago - mostly with the entire wing on top.... Here are some pics of what I use in the salt, the last pic is of Clousers tied up for Peacock Bass that were tied the way the shop (the Ft. Lauderdal Fly Shop is the only shop I'm still tying for these days) wanted them. They must work since I do quite a few of them every year.... The first are bonefish Clousers in tan/white, I also do them in fl. grn/white, and pink/white - in sizes #6 up to #2, all with an "outrigger style" weedguard. The second pic is the Whitewater Bay Clouser, on a 2/0 hook - note the wire weedguard. We work this heavily dressed Clouser up into short mangrove roots along shallow dark water areas for snook, redfish, and other species. In use it's fired up into the tangles and worked back out. Yes, it's pretty big but very visible in the tannin stained waters of the interior Everglades brackish waters. The wire weedguard allows you to work it over, under, and around every snag... Lastly these Peacock Clousers in size #4 are used in urban drainage canals where the aggressive Peas will chase and attack anything that might be a baitfish (if Peas drove cars they'd be chartreuse and pink low-riders with loud mufflers...). Tight Lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666
  9. Since I'm a commercial tyer when I'm not on the water consistency is important to me. Here's something I wrote about in another thread that covers my take on it.... First thing, is consistency. If I generate a pattern or tie from a sample (I'm strictly saltwater and have great admiration for those working with smaller flies..) I save a copy of what I've come up with - and it's absolutely the best of the bunch... If tying a dozen or one hundred of a given pattern I'll tie one or two extra. When the run is finished completely and before the flies are packaged I line them all up and look at them critically... the absolutely best fly is saved and set aside as a "master pattern". That way whenever I get another order from a shop or individual for that pattern I can accurately reproduce it - that is in every sense, colors, proportions, amount of materials.... In some cases that means an exact copy of something I haven't done in 10 years or more if it's needed. It greatly speeds up my tying to have a sample right there on the bench that I'm tying to, particularly when cutting materials or sorting out tying in points. No need for anything other than a comparison before each portion is tied in, etc. Hope this helps.
  10. This whole color business is frustrating when you're trying to order materials in a specific color... The best outfit around that I ever dealt with is no longer around (Hobbes Feather Co). For a small cost (less than $20 if I remember correctly) they'd provide you a color catalogue of dyed samples, all on maribou puffs, of every color they worked with.... The materials I ordered (deertails, kiptails, feathers, etc. ) were always identical to the color sample I had in front of me when I worked up an order with them. If you ordered chartreuse, or fl. chartreuse, or lime green that's exactly what they provided. I wish other companies would do the same (if I'm going to be doing some wishing....). I know I'd sure be glad to pay for another color sample book that accurately reflected the color you'd be getting from them....
  11. Looks very nice. That will get bit by any fish that sees it... We had some very nice reds today up in Whitewater Bay that would have jumped all over it. Of course I was fishing guys with spinning gear... and two days before wtih fly anglers we only found one red and missed it completely.... just no justice..
  12. I'm one of those production tyers (be careful what you wish for....) so I've learned a few small tricks to speed things up and make me a more accurate consistent tyer. In the end, though, what I'm selling is my labor (and there's only so many flies an individual can tie). First thing, is consistency. If I generate a pattern or tie from a sample (I'm strictly saltwater and have great admiration for those working with smaller flies..) I save a copy of what I've come up with - and it's absolutely the best of the bunch... If tying a dozen or one hundred of a given pattern I'll tie one or two extra. When the run is finished completely and before the flies are packaged I line them all up and look at them critically... the absolutely best fly is saved and set aside as a "master pattern". That way whenever I get another order from a shop or individual for that pattern I can accurately reproduce it - that is in every sense, colors, proportions, amount of materials.... In some cases that means an exact copy of something I haven't done in 10 years or more if it's needed. It greatly speeds up my tying to have a sample right there on the bench that I'm tying to, particularly when cutting materials or sorting out tying in points. No need for anything other than a comparison before each portion is tied in, etc. The next item for me is to reduce the amount of trimming after a wing or other materials are in place to as close to zero as possible. Here's how I do it... Each part of the fly is pre-cut before tying in place so accurately that no trimming is needed later. It takes a bit of practice to achieve but makes the time on each fly the shortest possible. If I were tying a tarpon fly for instance with six neck hackles for the tail, I'd carefully match three at a time (tips even, feather curve matched, then place those three between the fingers of my serviing hand and repeat with the next three. These two sides are then mated for tip ends and the entire six feathers are then cut at the same time with exactly the amount of feather to be tied in place so that the tail is complete without having to come back and trim anything again.... Since I'm tying larger patterns I don't need to tie body materials (chenille, diamond braid, etc.) as carefully as a freshwater tyer would... I start the materials a ways from the actual point where they need to be wrapped into place, then work them down the shank with thread and return the thread to the ending point. This way the time it takes to tie in a body (and the 'smoothness' for want of a better word) looks like it was tied in very carefully when the opposite is true. I find it very helpful to reduce the various elements of a pattern to 'components'. If bead chain eyes are required I'll have cut more pairs than needed and have them is a small tub that's easy to take a pair at a time. Hooks will get the same treatment (in many cases I'll be filling an order for the same pattern in more than one size, say bonefish Clousers in size 6, 4, and 2). The tubs (I use old apples sauce individual serving containers) will stack together so that when I finish tying #6's the next tub is #4's, etc. Weedguards (whether mono or wire) will be ready to tie in and set in a standing tube so that I can pick out one at a time when needed. I only break down the actual tying of one fly into stages if it makes sense to do so (say tying in bead chain or lead eyes on all the hooks before beginning the rest of the pattern or tying in spreaders, that little puff of hair at the bend of most tarpon flies before everything else is done). The key thing is doing just one item something you can do so quickly that it will speed up the process if you do that item on every hook first.... Finishing flies can be time consuming (and I'm adding in "glue points" for lack of a better word as well). I use a lot of super glue in my tying but only in two small spots (and with as little of the glue as possible always). I prefer Krazy Glue because of it's small applicator and tip (I use the small plastic tube version). It stands in a holder on my bench and I use it like a pencil just touching the point where it's needed. The first point is after the first tailing materials are tied in place (the super glue locks them in place and usually prevents anything from turning as I tie the rest of the fly. The next and last time the glue is used is as a subtitute for head cement. I actually use the applicator as a tiny paint brush coating the head with a very thin coat (this not only glues the thread but also seals it since I'm going to be painting eyes in many cases). This last step in the tying process is only done when I have a dozen or more flies completed (and in some cases as many as a hundred...). As each head is completed and glued it's placed in a drying tub (I use the soft foam trays that many small vegetables come in these days for this purpose). Painting eyes for me is time consuming since the paint I use needs to dry for 24 hours between coats (you paint the background color one day, the pupil the next) and I have different sized painters for this purpose (see pics).... Once the eyes are dried (by the way without the sealing effect of the super glue you could never paint onto thread and get a satisfactory outcome - the paint would bleed into areas where you didn't want it...). The last finishing step for many of my patterns uses rod builders finish, Flex Coat. It goes on like honey and the painted item needs to rotate for two hours until the finish sets up. Instead of a foam wheel that most use for any type of epoxy I use short sections of fiberglass fishing rod blanks with cork rings mounted every five or six inches as drying rods. With four or five of them I can do two to four dozen per stick then hang each one when it comes off the rotisserie for 24 hours until the finish dries completely.... Once again I'm trying to reduce steps, shorten the time each one takes and come up with flies that really stand out (my bugs need to catch fishermen in the shop before they'll get a chance to see the water...). The pics I've attached show the eye painting tools as well as the paint I'm using, drying tubs, flies laid out for final inspection before packaging, and flies on drying sticks. Hope this helps and provides some ideas. Tight Lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666
  13. I'm based in south Florida. Like many guides here I work off of my trailer (and I'm on the road towing my skiff roughly 20,000 miles a year...). During the daytime I'm somewhere in Everglades National Park - either out of Flamingo or Everglades City. For those that don't know the Park it's roughly 90 miles by 90 miles, extending westward from the Keys as far south as Islamorada all the way to Everglades City/Chokoloskee (about 30 miles east of Naples). To the north it extends many miles all the way up into freshwater sawgrass (but south of the Tamiami Trail, US 41). At night I fish locally for small tarpon and snook in Biscayne Bay. The urban portions of Biscayne Bay have a substantial population of small tarpon (average 20-40lbs in winter, 10-30lbs in summer). They gang up at night under all the bridges that connect Miami to Miami Beach (and they hang out right at the surface where you can cast to them....). Our best fish yesterday was a nice snook way back up in a small bay near Everglades City, the day before our best fish was a giant tarpon over near Flamingo that didn't stay connected (but watching a really big tarpon eat a fly less than 20 feet from the boat in three feet of water made my day...). Here's a pic of the fish yesterday... The angler is Jeff Rasband, a med student from the Tampa area - and a very skilled fly caster. Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  14. Here's a second vote for the Billy Pate tarpon reel (particularly a direct drive one that's been used...). If I were going to any place where tackle shops were hard to find the Pate is the one I'd want with me (I have a Tarpon and a Bonefish model - the Bonefish model is great for a 10wt medium to large tarpon reel...). They're a bit heavy, not particularly modern, but as bullet proof as you'll find. Since they don't have any bearings at all there's just not much to go wrong (and they're as smooth as more modern reels with bearings...). You shouldn't have any trouble finding a good one in the $300 and under range (if you don't mind scratches, scrapes, and plain old battle scars you might find one as cheap as $200...). Since I'm a guide and we fish big tarpon at point blank range (100lbs + fish in rivers that might be less than 100 feet wide...) I don't favor the slip clutch reels, but many anglers like them. The Pates have a few drawbacks, changing a spool requires a tool and some care, and the direct drive reels aren't on the new market anymore... These days all they'll sell is a slip clutch reel or the newer Tibors (which are also good reels but not as tough as the original Billy Pates in my opinion...) For a much more modern and lightweight reel get a look at the Nautilus reels. I use four of them regularly (from an 8wt up to a 12wt) and they've taken the punishment. The Nautilus reels feature a quick change spool system that's very convenient, a sealed drag, and they have very good factory service. The shop that makes them is close to my house so I've been there more than a few times... You won't find many of their top quality reels available used these days. If you're looking for a Nautilus it will be a new one... Good luck. What the basic requirements are is pretty simple, a reel that holds at least 200 yards of 30lb dacron plus fly line, a smooth drag, and something that can handle a lot of stress (both fighting fish and what the airlines can dish out...) Tight lines Bob LeMay
  15. Back in the 'Glades any minnow that "swims funny" isn't long for this world... Just like in Africa where a limping wildebeest or impala doesn't last long as a cripple. Tight Lines Bob LeMay
  16. Just got back in town and I'm prepping for a booking tomorrow at Flamingo... so no time to fill you in on the wire weedguard. I wrote about in an article in Flyfishing in Saltwaters a year or two ago as part of how to tie up the Swamp Rabbit. By Tuesday I'll take the time to lay it out for you. The wire I'm using is nothing more than #5 trolling wire, coffee colored (I use Malin's but any SS trolling wire in that size should do). When the hooks get smaller than a #2 Mustad 34007 I do down to a #4 size. More later (although I'm intrigued by the guitar string it's probably a little pricey). Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666
  17. I need to start hitting the shows a bit more.... Those fish skulls have obviously been around for a while and this is the first time I've seen them. They definitely will get a call when I slow down a bit. Bet there won't be too many other tiers planning on using them in combination with wire weedguards, like this.... Tight LInes Bob LeMay
  18. I have to agree about the TICRX, the only one of TFO's rods on my skiff. I have that 9wt and it will certainly work a 10wt as well as it's listed weight. If you choose the X you'll be getting a much larger diameter butt section than most 9wts.... In just a few months my anglers have put it through the wringer with lots of tarpon up to about 30lbs, fishing at night around bridges. It's done everything we've asked it to....
  19. The Miami area sure has changed quite a bit since the years when Black Point was a small operation. Today it's one of the county's largest and busiest ramps (and the kind of place where more than one expensive boat trailer wasn't there when the owner returned from a day or two on the water... serious bad guy problems at many public ramps in Dade county these days, excuse me - Miami Dade county now... Stiltsville is still there (what's left of it). Some years back it became part of Biscayne National Park and the Park Service went after those privately owned houses (their lease of bottom land from the state expired in 1999 if I remember correctly). To make a long story a bit shorter there was lots of back and forth and court time involved but the Park finally prevailed and the remaining houses are not occupied at all and are just waiting for the next hurricane... Every one that disappears will not be replaced and many locals, me included, wish they'd been allowed to remain in use. It was always an un-written rule that you could shelter up under one of them in bad weather and I've caught everything from bonefish and permit on down within casting distance of one stilt house or another... just another part of Miami that will be a memory some day soon. I landed in town back in 1971, fresh out of the Army (and back from a very bad place) to go to school so I've seen a few changes over the years. The good news is that those same finger channels will always be there along with those great flats bordering each channel all the down to Soldier's Key and beyond. For those not familiar with the area the finger channels start just south of Key Biscayne. Key Largo is not the farthest north Key at all but the ones to the north never had roads or bridges, thank heavens.... Miami can be a pain at times but the nearby fishing is still very good. If you want you can head west and never see another boat fishing out of Flamingo or the rest of the 'Glades. Can't think of another place with as many different fishing scenes - year 'round.
  20. Nova Scotia... that's a long ways from warm weather.
  21. I guide both day and night down in south Florida, during days I'm somewhere in the salty portions of Everglades National Park either out of Flamingo (on the mainland roughly 30 miles due north of Islamorada) or Everglades City (at the far northwestern edge of the Park). At night I'm strictly local, sightfishing tarpon and snook in Biscayne Bay... At night all the bridges between Miami and Miami Beach load up with small tarpon right at the surface in the shadows. In winter they average 20-40lbs in summer 10-30... and any night you can run into a few that are a lot bigger, all feeding on shrimp on a falling tide. Nearby there are docklights that hold snook, more tarpon, and lots of other species. Sorry for the bubble wrap showing on one of the photos, most were shot as trials while working up orders to go to local shops or guides. I've long used available materials for the things I do since when I got started there just weren't some of the nice tools and equipment that's currently available. By the way I never use head cement, preferring instead to use a touch of super glue, then either Sally Hansen's for small flies (mostly bonefish stuff) or FlexCoat for larger bugs.
  22. Finally joined up here (couldn't view the photos otherwise...). I've been a commercial tyer for many years (and one of Umpqua's stable since the late eighties) when I'm not guiding. When I'm guiding the tying desk doesn't get much attention.... Thought that I'd post up a couple of pics that are suitable as screensavers that everyone is welcome to use for those dreaming about being out on the water. Hope they're of some use. The first pic is Swamp Rabbits ready for final finish coat, the second is my version of the Stu Apte ready for packaging, the last is the Sand Devil.... Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666
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