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fbhenry

Razoring Flies and Re-using Hooks

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Hey all,

 

I've gotten back into tying after a twenty year hiatus--and I got some fantastic advice from you guys a while back when upgrading my vise. Now I'm in the situation of tying like crazy but, given my general awareness of aesthetic ideals and proportions, I'm happy on average with about 2 out of 10 flies I tie. Also since my old materials were limited in quantity, I've been spending a lot. Not to mention capes and necks...ye gods I've wandered into a black hole for my wallet.

 

So I was looking at this pile of classic mosquitos I tied (bc I have an excess of grizzly and moose mane) and a good portion of them are just mediocre or worse. Tonight I took one of the more egregiously bad specimens and razor-bladed it and retied on the hook and made a better fly. So I'm wasting materials but saving the hook.

 

What is your advice for a relative beginner on the problem of perfectionism and poorly tied flies. Should I razor or just suppress my high ideals and fish them? What is the cut-off point for a fishable fly--let's say a dry fly--if it isn't ideally proportioned?

 

cheers,

 

Fred

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Good evening Fred,

 

Couple things may help you out.

 

1 - Try not to secure the material to the hook if you aren't happy with proportions and such. Take threads off and try it again.

 

2- razor blades can surely cut you fast.... I have found that using flat needle nose pliers to "crush" the materials and thread wraps. Much easier to do then using a blade.

 

Glad to hear you came back to fly tying!

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Here's my take on it. Keep in mind that I do not tie "display" flies, I tie for fishing. That said, I do like to tie some of my flies a little more accurately than others.

If you are tying up a bunch of flies for fishing, don't be too critical of the finished fly. The fish, almost certainly, will not be quite so picky.

If you are tying for perfection (what I consider "display" flies), then stop when you see the fly "going wrong". There's no reason to have 10 "bad" flies. Pay attention to every wrap of the thread. If you are getting off track, unwrap and redo it, right there as you tie.

 

In shorten version.

For fishing ... tie 'em and fish 'em.

For display ... tie it right the first time.

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I understand your struggles...money, perfectionism, drive to improve. I think you should do what you want. It sounds like you're a perfectionist. I see nothing wrong with that...that may be your style. Having said that, there's also nothing wrong with using fishable flies...they can't all be perfect. A razor is also a learning tool...failures can spur improvement. If you're the sort that wants perfect flies, then get that razor out and go at it [i get it, me too]. I'll bet you look back on this as a good time. Cheers, Ed

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I agree with Mike about fishing them. You'll probably find that the fish are not as picky as you might be. You can razor them later if you like, but I'd suggest keeping a few for comparison later on so you can see how far you've come. Also if you keep destroying them, you'll never have any to fish with.

 

As far as buying tons of new materials, .... why??? Are you trying to tie a whole lot of different flies, each with some prescribed (by someone) material? I suggest you work on one fly pattern till you've got the technique more or less mastered. Then you can move on to other flies, one at a time. Don't worry if you only have brown hackle, and the pattern calls for red. The shape is the thing, at least while you're developing technique. And again, the fish won't fault you for not using red.

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Here is my view as based on my own experience. When a fly comes out sub parri tend not to fish it and if I do it's without faith in the fly. So might just as well scrap it. if it's close to what it should be I keep it and fish it though. Also, if something about teh performance ( floatation for instance) will surely be compromised, that constitutes automatic scrapping. Fortunately, as others have mentioned, I've made it to the stage where I see the outcome developing and stop tying the fly and back up a step most of the time these days. So I tend not to end up with six bloopers !! lol

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in 35+ years of tying flies i have NEVER tied a PERFECT fly and never will. i don't think anybody else on this forum has either

 

"I'm happy on average with about 2 out of 10 flies I tie."

 

what is so drastically wrong with the other 8? why cant they be fished?

 

sometimes the shittiest looking flies catch fish. ive had wooly bugger hackle come loose and unwind and that was some of the best fishing i had in a long time.

 

as others have said, dont continue tying the fly if you see it going in the wrong direction! stop! unwind the thread and start over!

 

variables in the quality of materials can mean less than ideal flies

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Flytire

I followed you up to the last statement about "variables in the quality of materials". Seems inconsistent with the rest of your statements. Could you elucidate?

 

In my reply I was trying to address his financial dilemma. Such as, if he's doing a streamer whose pattern calls for white marabou and he only has pink... then go ahead and use pink. Don't go out and buy a whole bunch of white (at least not just yet).

 

I think I should point out that I fish for panfish and they don't seem to be so insistent on appearance of reality. I don't trout fish, never have, but from what I read, they want a bug to look like the other bugs that are hatching. I can see that might be a problem, but as far as developing technique, probably not... in fact if his pattern is a size 14, maybe he should start out bigger, like 10 or 12, till he gets the hang of it.

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in 35+ years of tying flies i have NEVER tied a PERFECT fly and never will. i don't think anybody else on this forum has either

 

"I'm happy on average with about 2 out of 10 flies I tie."

 

what is so drastically wrong with the other 8? why cant they be fished?

 

sometimes the shittiest looking flies catch fish. ive had wooly bugger hackle come loose and unwind and that was some of the best fishing i had in a long time.

 

as others have said, dont continue tying the fly if you see it going in the wrong direction! stop! unwind the thread and start over!

 

variables in the quality of materials can mean less than ideal flies

I hear what you're saying and in my response above I'm talking about obvious mistakes to where I just don't like the fly. In my experience it just sits in the fly box. I have a whole set of BWO dry size 14 I tied probably 20 years ago, maybe a dozen that sit in a fly case essentially unfished. I tried one or two, didn't like how they floated, didn't like the coloration and when I did fish them I didn't catch fish. But they look nice in the box and they are tied to memories of fishing in Maine with my boys back then ! I always say I will strip them and start over and never do. I think probably because I've caught more fish on the nymph anyway. Sometimes I swear fishing is half spirit level, think it AND it happens. Well with these flies I think they won't catch fish.

 

Sometimes I get a crappy tie, it just isn't right and just doesn't perform right. And rather than put it back in the case, try it again and again as I used to do, I just toss out in the river. There, Now It's Gone ! Good Bye ! And move on to one that ends up working. Ya I tossed $.80 in materials but I moved on.

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The flies I razor are the ones that have been fished and no longer useable. I use a single edge razor and have never cut myself.

 

Put the fly in the vise and razor along the top of the fly.

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I appreciate all the comments, they are immensely helpful.

 

I've been working on backing off and re-doing on each stage of the fly (setting wings, tail, body, hackle). Taking all of your advice into consideration, I just sifted through the pile of mosquitos and adams I have been tying the past couple weeks and picked out the obviously malformed ones to reuse the hooks. By malformed I mean wings way too tall, hackle way too big, etc.--things that will cause the fly to float or ride poorly, or otherwise just too glaring overlook. I will most definitely leave the passable, mediocre flies in my box and fish them. No way do I want to razor away all my grizzly.

 

And I am indeed focusing on one or two patterns and tying the heck out of them. My past experience ended in a decent competence in many patterns of dries, nymphs, streamers, and bugs, but I'm trying now to reboot my tying with dry flies.

 

I'm not going nuts with purchasing materials, just trying to acquire the needed stuff for some patterns I would like to tie, not trying to accumulate a pro's decades' deep stash all at once.

 

cheers,

 

Fred

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The flies I razor are the ones that have been fished and no longer useable. I use a single edge razor and have never cut myself.

 

Put the fly in the vise and razor along the top of the fly.

 

Yes this is how I do it, and I store the blade in a slit wine cork. Gently sawing motion along the top of the shank from tail toward eye (L-R).

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Good evening Fred,

 

Couple things may help you out.

 

1 - Try not to secure the material to the hook if you aren't happy with proportions and such. Take threads off and try it again.

 

2- razor blades can surely cut you fast.... I have found that using flat needle nose pliers to "crush" the materials and thread wraps. Much easier to do then using a blade.

 

Glad to hear you came back to fly tying!

Thanks NoSlack, I'm super careful with the razor, but I did just try some forceps/hemostat (didn't have the needle nose on my desk) on a quill body that I guess I put some extra laquer on and they worked great. I'll use both! Thanks for the tip!

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I try to be as accurate at possible with proportions to the extent I measure them when I'm tying. May sound like a hassle but its very simple and fast just use the points of your scissors, if the tail is suppose to be the length of the body just set the points on the hook shank, hold them in place and transfer the measurement to the tail. I do this because I want to be consistent and I want my flies to look as good as I can make them. They may all come out looking like crap but at least they'll all look crappy in the same way.

 

I think I would rate flies in three ways. Flies that look great, flies that "are fishable" real meaning, it looks really bad but it might catch fish, and last are the ones you look at when your finished tying and say to yourself, "I don't know what that is!", those are the ones I take the razor to before they come out of the vise.

 

You talked about the materials black hole. Today I left my black lab home for a couple hours when I got back he wasn't acting normal, I went up to my office and fly tying area, he stayed downstairs, not normal for him, I found a few small feathers on the floor by my bench. The only thing left of my new ginger saddle hackle, he even ate the plastic bag it was in. $$$$$

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