Tying Demo – Attractors


DEFINITION:  ATTRACTOR:  An attractor is a set of states (points in the phase space), invariant under the dynamics, towards which neighboring states in a given basin of attraction asymptotically approach in the course of dynamic evolution.

That’s all well and good if you are into chaos theory in applied mathematics, but what I have in mind is flies!

There is not always a hatch to figure out.  Even when there is, it often pays to throw something bizarre that will stand out in the crowd.  This Saturday the theme is Attractor Flies.  These patterns don’t try to imitate a specific bug, but instead incorporate a number of “trigger” features that get reckless fish interested, or are ambiguous enough that a motivated fish is inclined to believe resembles something on the menu.  

I will be tying a few well known attractors such as the Prince, some dries like the Royal PMX, and, and a few of the more recent designs such as the Rainbow Prince, Rainbow Warrior, and Chili Pepper streamer.

If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of attractor flies, just look at the past winners of the Jackson Hole “One Fly” contest winners!


attractor image

An unusual complex attractor with a high degree of rotational symmetry

Open a copy of the recipe list for Saturday’s patterns




Saturday Tying Demo – Marty One More Time

Elkhorn Saturday Tying Demo and Bighorn Fishing Report

Let the Tying Demos Continue!   It’s still raining, so I’m still tying flies!.

Somewhere under there is my parade.  Photo by Haley Luna.

Somewhere under there is my parade. Photo by Haley Luna.

Sooner or later the weather will break, and the waters will recede, and then it will be “Fishermen, start your engines”!  Until then, Brian says to continue the Saturday tying program and have some fun.  I’ve been on the Bighorn River in Montana lately and didn’t get any fresh talent booked, so this week you will get another ration of Marty.  I’ve got some ideas for future Saturdays, so in the coming weeks we should have some variety.

This week’s theme will be “Dry Flies” (and I hope you appreciate the irony of that theme).  

I hear from a lot of tyers who just never got started tying dries, but would like to get into it a bit more.  So this session I will tie all dry flies,  including classic hackled catskill, a parachute, a “hackle stacker”,  Thorax duns, and a palmered Elk Hair Caddis.  I’ll also demonstrate some deer hair comparadun tying, and a couple of techniques for tying with CDC. 

Check back first thing in the morning and I will have a link for a PDF recipe list.


Afterbay, Bighorn River MT at about 14,000 cfs. Photo by Hale Harris, Bighorn Trout Shop


Did I say I just got back from the Bighorn?  14,000 cfs must have scared everyone away, because for three days it was pretty much my private river.

Highlights:   I had been waiting for 6 weeks to complain about hot weather, and I got my wish.  It rained once, I think, but the drops only hit two of the three people in my boat.  The water was clear, and the fishing was outstanding.  

(Our boat was manned by one Texan, one New Englander.  I was to serve as interpreter, but we soon learned that flyfishermen mostly speak the same language anyway.)


5: Ferrules

5: Ferrules

I’ll mention a couple of points about wrapping ferrules and the tip-top. When wrapping the tip-top, start at the tip-top and wrap away from it. This allow you to pack the wraps tight against it, and it’s easy to finish the wrap at the desired length.

Ferrule wraps start away from the female end of the blank and wrap toward the end. This allows you to get as close to the end as desired. I leave about a 1/16 inch unwrapped. Remember, we will be putting finish on these wraps and can’t allow finish into the ferrule. Also, starting away from the blank end allows you to pack the wrap against a guide wrap as you see on the upper two rod sections. Note, no wrap is necessary on the male ferrule, but if you do wrap it, leave at least a ¼ inch gap between the wrap and the female ferrule when the two sections are assFerrule Wrapsembled. This allows the female ferrule to be pushed further onto the male as wear occurs.

About those wraps. Trim thread close, but don’t worry about very short tag ends. A quick flame will burn most off. If any remains, it will cause a bump in the first coat of finish. This can be trimmed off and the next coat will cover the trim mark. See the loose thread on the top rod section. My wrap is coming loose, and I wanted you to see that that doesn’t just happen to you. I will have to re-wrap that half of the guide. By the way, the red bands are red tape that identify these sections as part of the same rod.

Ferrules can be identified as Tip Over Butt, Butt Over Tip, and Spigot. Spigot ferrules are rarely seen. The one pictured here is part of the 5 wt fiberglass rod I built a few years ago. It is solid, sleek, and won’t loosen like machined ferrules will. Read about it here; http://airstreamflyfish.com/fly-fishing/fly-rod/3-spigot-ferrules/.Ferrules

The Butt Over Tip is the most traditional, and is on every bamboo rod I have seen, and almost all fiberglass. I don’t believe I have seen one on a graphite rod. It means that the butt section is female and fits over the tip-ward male section. They work best where the rod is a continuous tapper from butt end toward tip. Fiberglass blanks were manufactured in this manner as one full length piece, and then cut where the ferrule would be placed.

Today all graphite rods are built with Tip Over Butt ferrules. The quality and consistency of manufacturing makes this possible. It is also why you can bring your broken section into Elkhorn and leave with a new section. The part are interchangeable. The B ferrule in the photo is in interesting transition. It is a very early Shakespeare graphite 10 wt with a larger part installed over the tip-ward section to form a female ferrule. This suggests that the blank was built in one piece and then cut. They must not have wanted to use a machined ferrule, so they created what you see here. I cast this rod last week, and it works fine.

The next post will be about assembling the handle and reel seat. Then we move on to finishing the wraps, followed by fishing the rod.

Read previous post: Guide Wrapping 

Saturday “Fly Tarring” Demo – Elkhorn May 30, 2015



Mark McMillan demonstrates his improved “iron on feathers” technique.

We all know that flies seem to work a little better when they have been chewed on a bit.  Saturday’s demo by Acme Paving will show how to pre-stress a season’s worth of flies in one short turn of the drum!  (It is highly recommended that you remove flies from your flybox before attempting this technique.)


Fly Tarring Demo this Saturday               (No Tying Demo)

You guys wore out our parking lot with our fantastic turnouts for Tying Demonstrations this season, so we will be resurfacing the parking areas west and east of the shop.  The only time we can do this falls on Saturday, and because parking will be limited we have reluctantly canceled the tying demo.

 It’s a real shame – Marty was going to tie 6 secret patterns that are easy to tie, using common materials, which always work, all year long, especially on bigger fish, and are best presented with short, sloppy casts and allowed to drag.  

The shop will still be open, and the parking in front unobstructed.  Stop by for 10% off fly tying materials anyway!


Saturday Tying Demo – Marty Staab

  Elkhorn Saturday Tying Demo Held Over Another Week

Fishing can be good in the rain.  But you do tend to get wet.

 If you’d rather stay dry and indoors this Saturday, drop by the shop for Marty Staab’s  Encore Presentation of our Saturday tying demo program.

“I will be tying a few patterns that have been good to me this spring on the Bighorn River in Montana, and some of the stillwater patterns I’ll plan on using to further my commitment to get better at  fishing the big lakes this season.”

The recipe list is not yet complete, but will include Bighorn patterns such as the Pinky, Root Beer Midge, JuJu PMD, and dries such as the Crippled Thor, Last Chance Cripple, and Film Critic.  The list will also include stillwater patterns such as Rickard’s Stillwater Nymph, Mother’s Midge, a Ray Delaney Scud, a Cowabunga Callibaetis spinner,  a Quigley Cripple, and a couple of dependable night fishing flies.

Tying program Elkhorn 052415 Marty Staab



TMF Chironomid

All Purpose Chironomid


Arty Damsel






4: Guide Wrapping

The tedious work has started – guide wrapping. It is also what makes our hand built rod stand out from the factory rod. Before we begin, there is preparation work to do, and it is very important. Each guide must be prepped. I file the bottom of each guide with a mill file and then hone it with a fine stone. The edges and top of the tip are honed also. There must not be any burrs that can catch a thread, and the tips must tapper to a fine edge so that the thread wrap will easily ride up onto the guide. I file down the tops of the strip guides for this reason. I am using high quality guides from American Tackle, and there is little prep required, but other manufacture’s guides may require more. Don’t skip this step.

Placing the guides on the rod blank is next, and it is critical. The guides must be placed on the spline side or the exact opposite. They must be aligned with each other so when looking from the top or bottom, no single guide appears misaligned. I use eight inch masking tape to hold the guides in place. After wrapping one side of a guide, I recheck its alignment. If it is not correct, it can sometimes be moved under the wrapping. If not, start over. Get this right, otherwise a misaligned guide will bug you every time you look at your rod.Guide Prep 640

Thread Start 2 640I’m going to describe how I start a thread wrap. It is the first challenge you will face. I use a piece of solid turquoise colored material for advisability. The wrapping station is a common Flex Coat product. You see the thread and tensioners in the background. They are set very low. The rubber band over the rod blank keeps it from turning unless you turn it. Note I have changed from a black accent color thread to yellow. It will really stand out. Start with three or four hand wraps over the top and around in the direction that you will build the wrap. Pull the tag end left under the thread and then over and slightly to the right. Now turn the rod the same direction as the hand wraps, keeping tension on the tag. You will see a tight wrap form and feel the tension in the tag suddenly increase when the start is complete. You can release the tag end now. Continue wrapping to the right of the tag end a couple turns and then cut off the tag with a razor blade.

Continue wrapping until about eight turns from the end. At this point you need to place a loop under the thread wraps so the the end can be pulled back under to finish. Now that I am fly tier, I have a bobbin threader to use, but a loop of thread or monofilament will also work. Once the remaining wraps are complete, put the thread through the loop and pull it back through.First Wrap 640

Pull Thru 640I won’t describe how to do accent wraps, but you can find description and videos on the internet. I have completed the first and hardest guide wrap. It’s hard because it is the first guide below the tip and the guide is large compared to the rod diameter. Notice the lumps under the wrapping. See the loose thread wraps on the right. These can be packed tight before finish is applied. I start my wraps 3/16 of an inch from the guide tip, and I should have placed two more wraps at the guide loop on the left.

In the next post, I will have finished guide wrapping on the three tip sections. I will be ready to discuss ferrule wraps and different types of ferrules. Then it will be back to wrapping guides on the two middle sections of three rods.


Previous: Guide Spacing

Saturday Demo – Czech Nymphing with Domingo Rodriguez


 Join us Saturday for a bonus program, “Czech Nymphing” with Domingo Rodriguez.

Czech Nymphing is a specialized method of presenting flies that utilizes short lines, weighted flies, sophisticated sighters and strike indicators, and stealthy approaches.   Domingo adopted this technique a few years ago and now has offered to share what he has learned.   Drop by for a presentation of techniques, the gear, and a tying demo.

 Czech Nymph Rig czeck flies


3: Fly Rod Building, Guide Spacing

When I picked up the rod blanks at Elkhorn, Brian provided a guide spacing chart, which listed the distance from the rod tip to each guide. This makes the job easy, but take care that you measure from the tip top guide. That moves the guides ½ inch forward from where they would be if measuring from the end of the blank. This is significant because it allows more space to wrap the ferrule separate from the guide closest to it. See the blue tape in the photo. It locates the center of the guide 1 and 1/8 inches from the ferrule. The green tape shows the location from the blank tip.Ferrule640

It is personal preference of mine to not combine the ferrule and guide foot wrap. This allows me to do an under layer wrap of Kevlar thread over the female ferrule, dramatically increasing its strength. I once split a female ferrule when it loosened during a double haul cast with a nine weight rod. I will explain this under wrap in more detail in the next post.

The green tape on the rod blank is for identification. Remember, I working on three different rods, and mixing the blank section would be a big inconvenience.

Rod blank suppliers like Elkhorn typically supply guide spacing data, but if not I can help.

The spreadsheet pictured below was developed when I had no spacing guidelines for a three piece fiberglass rod. The example would be for a nine foot four piece rod. All dimensions are from the tip except the first stripping guide to the butt end. You enter the information in yellow and the results are calculated. The location of the first guide and the stripping guide can varied until guides don’t fall on a ferrule. 32 inches to the strip guide and 3.5 inches the the first guide are good starting points. I varied these until until the 5th and 8th guide fell equal distance from a ferrule. If you would like a copy of this spreadsheet for your own use, email me at jimc@AirstreamFlyFish.com, and I will send it.

In the next post guide wrapping will be the hot topic.

Guide Spacing



Previous:  What About Spline?

Saturday Tying Demo – 5/9/15 Casey Prather

What to do on a rainy day in May?    How about a Saturday Doubleheader!  

 Hang out at a flyshop and watch Casey Prather tie flies, then stick around for a presentation by Tom Sabol on an interesting “Front Range Trout” App he designed as a resource for the flyfisherman.  

Casey will begin tying at 10AM to noon, and we can expect a crazy variety of baitfish patterns, including at least one he’s going to tie with an airbrush!  Many of us know Casey from JAX, and we always enjoy his enthusiasm for the fly and flyfishing.

Shortly following Casey’s demonstration, Tom Sabol will give a 30 minute presentation to  introduce us to an App he designed covering the South Platte River drainage, which includes the St. Vrain, Big T, Boulder Creek, and Poudre rivers, plus tributaries.  

” Front Range Trout” gives anglers a step by step path to intelligently fish the Front Range waters of the South Platte Drainage. This application has hundreds of access points for waters on the Big Thompson River, Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, Cache La Poudre River, and the South Platte River proper, and its many tributaries. More water than you could fish in a lifetime, as well as hatch charts and pattern recommendations for the rivers and streams.

 (And if that’s not enough, I think he’s working on training it to tie #26 midges!)



Links to the app can be found at: http://apps.appmachine.com/frontrangetrout 



and Thomas’ website,  can be found at: www.ecolutionshome.com

FrontRangeTrout image



Elkhorn Tying Demo 5/2/15 Thadd Strom


thadd strom photo

Thadd Strom              Image by Lonny Garris

 Thadd Strom is our guest tyer this Saturday.  It was my good fortune to sit next to him at the West Denver TU tying expo last Februrary, and got a chance to watch him work and interact with other tyers.  Many of you have met him, or seen him tie at the Rocky Mountain Flycasters tying expo, and you already know he’s a talented tyer and truly outgoing person.  We are pleased to have him appear at our Saturday tying demo.