Category Archives: DIY

Getting Organized.

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The messy old vice.

For several years now, I’ve done all my fly tying on the little travel vise you see in the image above. I picked it up at a Bass Pro in Las Vegas for about thirty dollars, and it came with some tools nestled in a nice, but cheap wooden case. I tie more now than I used to, but while I may one day, I’m not prepared just yet to splurge the few hundred bucks on a nice professional level vice. There is always a smarter way to use that money. Such as rods, lines, materials, beer…..

So far, this vice has been sufficient, but the drawbacks were mounting. For one, the base of this vice is just the box. It can move very easily when applying any pressure while tying. Secondly, because the vice lives inside the box, any clippings of fur, hackle, marabou or flash falls directly into the box, on top of the tools, and then – because of what I see as a flaw in design – sticks to the felt that lines the interior. In short, it became a hell of a mess. I find myself picking the materials out of the tools before I can use them. This will not do.

I decided on a simple plan to cure the lost tools, the mess, and the shifting vice. I picked up a couple of pieces of inexpensive wood from a craft store. One was a simple ten inch block for wood carving, the second a good sized, appropriately heavy plaque.

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Then, I attached the block to the base with a few nails, drilled some holes in the block for an organized tool keeper, gave everything a good sanding, and then began applying a light wood stain.

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Once the stain was dry, I removed the old vise from the travel box. Unfortunately, the box didn’t survive the abuse, but the vice came away, and after sanding down the dry glue that had attached it to the case, I was able to mount it to it’s new base with a few screws. What I was left with is a much more organized and functional tying station that actually looks pretty good, if I may say so. It took about an hour and cost less than twenty dollars for all the materials.

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I’d still like one of those fancy vises someday, but this will do just fine for now.


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Filed under DIY, El-Cheapo, Fly Tying, Gear

Occupy Dining Room.

The Garage is just too cold now. You can’t sit out there at the fly tying desk, teeth chattering and wrapped in a winter coat and expect to get anything done, and it would amount to self inflicted punishment to try in the first place. So, I gathered up my materials and boxes and set up camp indoors. I chose the dining table. All of it. Because that couldn’t possibly be in anybody’s way.

My goal was simple – I needed to stock up on some of my Zap Bugs; a simple fly of hackle and flash chenille in chartreuse or white, concocted with bass, bluegill and other panfish in mind. I was also looking ahead to an impending trip to White Clay Creek in search of winter trout. I plan on spending a couple of days fishing there, so I wanted to begin to stock up on local favorites.

I have always tied flies alone, and therefore don’t know for sure, but I have a hunch that almost everybody that sits down to tie flies at home approaches it, as I do, like an event. You don’t tie a couple of flies between paying the cable bill and fixing the leaky faucet. You announce you will be tying flies tonight in the same way you might announce that you are watching the ballgame tonight. The act has been allotted a significant block of your time, and you will make sure all other things are done, and you are comfortable when you begin. For me that includes lighting the fire, opening a bottle of cheap wine, and putting on some tunes.

By all accounts, this time of year on the White Clay is a great time to try, among other things, one of three particular types of flies, all that look entirely different from each other. The first is the nymph, a winter staple. While there is no particular nymph that jumps out as the obvious choice, you instead make your best educated guess from one of many. I managed to procure a nice collection of trout nymphs in the fall for pennies each, and so rather than tie any, I simply organized what I had; gold bead pheasant tail, gold bead hares ear, and gold ribbed hares ear, prince nymphs and the like.

Other staples of White Clay winter fishing include the Greenie Weenie and the golden retriever, so I set up to tie several of both. The Greenie is a simple fly, the kind that a lot of younger trout fisherman learn to tie first. The only real point of preference is the shape or design of the tail and if the fly will carry additional weight, or not. In my case, I tie them both ways. I like to experiment with a bead head, or with copper wire running along the hook shank, or as otherwise weightless flies. I’ve seen some variations of the preferred material, too. I tied mine with simple chenille and looped or single tails.

The Golden Retriever enjoys a great reputation amongst local winter trout aficionados. I’m not sure why, or what it imitates, but I’m not one to argue with facts. I’ve never fished one, but have had this fly suggested to me by far too many local resources for it to have been a coincidence.

The fly, essentially a modified woolly bugger, is usually tied with either root beer or gold estaz, but I had none available in local shops, and paying the five bucks for shipping for one strand of dressing is out of the question. Instead I tied them with yellow crystal chenille and red thread, as close as I could come. It remains to be seen how they will perform on the water, but I’m happy with them, and happy to have recently heard a report from the creek that included catching rainbow trout on a standard yellow chenille-dressed retriever.

As the bottle got lighter, the flies got a little more sloppy, but that was an observation I wouldn’t make until morning. With material and hooks left over, and time to kill, I managed a few extra woollies, saltwater streamers and a couple of poppers to join the fleet of trout flies. I’ll let you know how they perform…..


Youtube Video on tying the Golden Retriever.

Mossy Creek Fly Shop on the Golden Retriever. 

Youtube Video on tying the Greene Weenie.

Snap Dragon Wine.



Filed under Booze, DIY, Fly, Fly Tying

The Stationery Set Fly Box.

With all the fly boxes I’ve made over time, I find myself rotating them in and out of service depending on the flies I’ll be carrying and if I’m hiking to water or fishing 20 feet from my vehicle. The latest, however, has a few perks and a little more size than the old Altoid box, and assuming it performs well out on the water, it might well become the mainstay of my collection.

Over Christmas, I was rummaging through some boxes in an attic space at my parents house that were full of stuff thats been around since I was a kid. Toys, books, magazines, clothes, and the like. Amongst the clutter, I found a red stationery box that I remembered had been with us a long time. I though it belonged to my brother, but apparently it had belonged to my Dad. It contained the usual items; scissors, glue, a small stapler, some tape.

The Stationery box, as found.....

Removing the inner material was a simple matter of peeling back the molded layers of foam designed to keep the contents of the box in place, which left a thin layer of closed-cell foam on the bottom; enough, it turns out, to securely hold a fly, which eliminated having to cut and glue a new pad to set my flies on. On the lid side of the box, I left the tape measure in it’s place. I’m not one for measuring my catch very often, but there have been times I’d have liked to, but had no tape. I’d resort to the old time-tested method of measuring with my rod, but the tape is more accurate and since it remains enclosed in a fly box, I’m not carrying an extra item in my bag. I also left the small, latched container space in its place.

…and was all there was to it. I loaded the box with some select flies I’ve been using frequently as of late in the various nearby waters, and used the small latch-able space to store some smaller dry flies, nymphs, and a few split shot, so that I’d never find myself on the water again, wondering where the hell my split shot was when I needed it.

Spacious, functional, and multi-purpose, and best of all, free.

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Filed under DIY, Fly Boxes, Gear

Give ’em Green.

Walking through the woods on a thick layer of crunching brown leaves last week, in the dying light of a rather unproductive afternoon of fishing, I came across two men at the make-shift boat ramp, red faced and soaked to the waist, attempting to remove their small Jon boat from the lake. It was particularly cold, but I was dry and well layered, and had been fishing from the shore in the lee of a small stand of woods that had kept me comfortable. These two exhausted looking gentleman had been skating across the lakes surface, in direct contact with the elements, and now were standing in lake water looking ever more as if they were about to croak. I walked down to the boat ramp and grabbed a free line and helped muscle the boat toward the waiting trailer. Without a word, one of the men, his beard collecting ice crystals, waded out of the water and around me, and into the truck. He lurched the trailer from the drink, and the boat transitioned from vessel to cargo.

The man climbed out from the truck and smiled at me, offering his hand, which was icy to the touch. Catching his breath, he thanked me for helping, and then looked at me with wide eyes, and said. “Chartreuse. It’s Chartreuse this  year. Bass, Crappie, whatever. Try Chartreuse”.

Of course, I knew what he meant. He had noticed my fly rod and the brown and olive colored woolly in the hook keeper. He was a spinning reel fisherman, but this was his home water, and he knew what the fish were biting at any given time, fly or Rapala, it didn’t matter. The way he relayed that information, though, made me think perhaps he didn’t give it away very often or very easily.

The next day, I once again found myself with time to fish. I considered my options, and decided that I’d go back to that same lake, and try some form of chartreuse fly on the frozen man’s advice. I looked in my fly boxes, and realized I didn’t even have anything in that color, other than a couple of poppers that weren’t the best choice for winter fishing when the fish are low and slow. With the truck warming up in the driveway, I sat down at my vice and very quickly tied up some flies; the kind I though might be of use. A small woolly worm, and a couple of my own creations I like to call zap bugs. Simple affairs; some pearl and chartreuse chenille wrapped around a size 8 hook, and tail tipped with a small, but sturdy piece of hackle. I find that, if tied well, this fly can stay on the surface and be fished dry, or can be retrieved and fished as a small streamer. In fact, I’ve often found that the transition from floating to the diving and swimming action it produces when retrieved is when most of the strikes take place.

I had ignored chartreuse, as the search of my fly boxes proved. I’d been relying on more natural colors of browns and olives, and the occasional white in my tying and fishing. Complacency.

I would soon learn that this was an oversight, as I went on to catch enough fish to lose count of, and four species; Bluegill, Calico Bass, Largemouth Bass and a Golden Shiner, a big minnow I’d never taken on a fly rod before.

Not big fish, but fish none the less, and that’s the point in the end. For a dark, cold day in late december, this was a treat.

The moral of this tale? Don’t forget to change something when what you’re doing isn’t working; advice I knew, yet foolishly neglected. If your local freshwater isn’t giving up fish, chartreuse and white with a sparkle have been the ticket for me. You can tie up flies in any number of ways with any number of materials and have a good day catching fish.

Oh, and always help a man with his boat……


Filed under Bluegill, Bug, Calico Bass, Crappie, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Places, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Winter, Woolly Bugger

The Plano Bug Box.

This one is kind of a cheat.


The container is a $9 Plano Guide Series waterproof box. But, with a touch of yellow sticky-backed foam cut to size, I now have a home for my new poppers. This is now the most expensive fly box I own.


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Howling winds are rattling the windows and depositing the trash cans in the neighbors yard here at the South bay Lodge. So it became that instead of a morning fishing, I have an embarrassingly messy fly tying desk and am well on my way to a few new poppers.

The Largemouth Bass at the local grounds have been favoring poppers over streamers as of late. I’m hoping to try a few of my own out tomorrow, assuming the blow subsides, and I do hope the trend hasn’t changed. Hunting bass in the shallows and weeds with a streamer is fun, but nothing beats watching the fish break the surface like a titan missile to eat a few bits of hair and flash I tied to a hook and popper body.

My initial experiences with poppers were not good. While the added hackle, rubber legs and other dressings bring these baits to life even while they lie dormant on the water, I’ve learned that my first experiences with poppers were not productive ones simply because I wasn’t aggressive enough with the fly; a common case of underestimating the fish. On glassy water, giving the fly a good gurgling, thrusting tug seemed like overkill to the inexperienced me. I thought it would scare fish. Since, I have learned, especially on running water, that the gurgling thrust and movement of the popper is what gets the fish to strike. You can certainly add pauses to your retrieve, as a means of providing a more life-like presentation, but I’m no longer afraid to use the popper to accomplish what it was designed for; causing enough commotion to attract a hungry bass.

Fall is a great time time to catch bass on a fly rod. As the temperatures cool, (albeit barely and slowly, at least in my neck of the woods so far…) you can go beyond the usual casting to structure that makes the most sense in the summer months. In fall, the fish leave the safety of cover often in search of food. Assuming you can track down what they are feeding on, you can tie on an imitation bait fish, bug or bottom feeder, and try your luck. Another good idea is to increase the speed of your retrieve or action during the cooler months. The fish and food are picking up speed as the water cools, and so should the wary fisherman.

As an aside, I was thumbing through Gierach’s “Unknown Fisherman” last night. In chapter 2, Gierach names the deer haired diving frog as his go-to fly for bass. Maybe I’ll try on one of those next……

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Filed under Books, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Uncategorized, Writers

Quick Hits/Link Pond

It’s been all work and fishing, (wah!) so I’m just going to toss a few loose ends in here and call it a blog post. Some stuff more worthy of your time coming soon…..


The Wino’s Fly Box

Old painted Altoid can, a few botles of wine, some glue, and there you have it.



Why, I oughta…..


You are NOT a trout! But it was fun catching you anyway…..



I think a Pickeral got my popper. It was brand new and had endured a whopping two casts before this….


Around the web….


Moldy Chum on Wild B.C. salmon testing positive for ‘lethal’ virus linked to fish farms .

Fishing Jones posts a video of Albacore blitzing that will make your palms sweat.

MidCurrent on the proper procedures for setting reel drag.

Field & Stream’s Fly Talk demonstrates the No-Tool Whip Finish.





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Filed under Blogs, Booze, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Gear, Link Pond