A friend recently showed me this video & I think it's truly amazing. Here we see a bird attempting to catch a fish with a piece of bread. What really impresses me about this bird is that it had the foresight to use the bread - what would be an easy meal - to bait a fish. Most birds would have just eaten the bread. Obviously, this bird is a dry fly angler!!!
Peacock is one of the staple materials of flies. It's traditional on many patterns, it's use dating back centuries. Still in use today, it is a time-tested material for very effective flies. There's just something about it's color & the way the light plays off of it that trout seem to love. It has the same translucence of mayflies, caddis, & stone flies.
For the uninitiated, strands of peacock tail feather can be used to tie up bodies on dry flies & nymphs. The strands of feather can also be stripped to make quill body flies as well. Many saltwater patterns call for peacock, too. A brief look at any collection of flies will show you just how many patterns use this material.
In fact, any pattern can be spruced up by adding some peacock - even those that don't call for it. Add a head of a few turns of peacock for a head on that nymph pattern you just tied up & the trout will like it even more. Add a thorax of peacock just behind the hackle on that wet fly - it makes the hackle stand away from the hook & adds a bit of attention-getting sparkle to the fly. Try winding it up the length of that caddis larva pattern, rib-style, to better imitate those free-living (non-case making) caddis that are in the drift. The possibilities of using peacock to enhance your fly patterns are limited only by your imagination.
Here are a few tips for tying flies with peacock:
1.) Tie in more than one strand - at least 2 on very small flies (#18 & up) & normally 3 strands (#10 - #16 hooks). This makes for a better, fuller body.
2.) Always tie the herl in at the tip ends. This is where the better fibers are, towards the tip.
3.) You can (but don't have to) stroke the herl before winding it around the hook so that the fibers stand away from the stem.
4.) Some folks make a "rope" of herl by twisting it around the wrapping thread before they wrap the peacock up the hook. This is supposed to make the fly stronger & it looks the same as if you didn't do this - so no loss of appearance.
5.) It's a good idea to make an under-body of the herl & thread before wrapping the herl up the hook. This helps to give the fly a nice flat, even shaped body. Some folks even apply a few dabs of instant glue to this under-body. Doing this will literally glue your peacock wraps in place on the hook, which will make for a very strong fly.
6.) If you're tying a peacock body on a fly that also calls for palmered hackle &/or ribbing of some kind, it's a good idea to wind the rib or hackle in the opposite direction that you wound the peacock. This helps to lock it in place & holds it down & together better when a fish tries to eat it.
The main drawback of peacock as a fly tying material is that it can be brittle & break easily, if you're not careful. After a good chomp or two from a fish, the peacock will become tattered or broken & thus ineffective. But these drawbacks do not outweigh the benefits of using peacock.
As a fly material it goes well with gold ribbing, brown hackle, mallard side feathers, & many different colors of dubbing & hair. There's a reason why fly anglers have been using peacock for all this time. Try enhancing some of your favorite fly patterns with it, dry or wet, & you'll see why so many patterns call for it's use.
Welcome to spring, everybody!! As this is the first weekend of spring, I'm really starting to feel the itch from the 'ol fishin' bug (even if it is still snowing on some of us).
So I thought I'd share one of my favorite fishing songs with all of you in order to celebrate the end of this looooong, cold winter (at least on the calender). Here is a video of "Fishin' Blues" recorded by the Lovin' Spoonful back in the mid-1960's. While it's a very old tune (originally recorded back in 1924 by Henry Thomas, I believe), I think this upbeat version is just fun.
I hope you all have a chance in the near future to get out & wet a line - even before the "main" trout season gets here. Happy spring!!!
Over on the Available Rods page, I just listed a new fly rod. It's a split-bamboo 7 ft, 3 pc / 2 tips, 4 weight rod. It has a nice moderate action that will cast dries, nymphs, & small streamers quite well. The 3 pc configuration makes this rod very portable.
This rod is brand new & has never been fished. It features:
-Chromed stainless steel line guides & hook keeper
-Nickle-silver winding check just above the grip
-Down-locking "cap & ring" style aluminum reel seat with a beautifully figured walnut wood spacer.
-Rust brown / red silk thread wraps with black tipping wraps.
-It comes in a soft brown flannel rod bag with black embellishment stitches & a PVC canvas-covered rod tube with padded ends, zippered top, & leather tag describing the rod inside.
To read more about this rod & to see more photos of it, please take a trip over to the Available Rods page. If you have any questions about it, please contact me. This will be a very fun rod to use on just about any trout stream.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, Everyone!!!
I thought I'd take a moment to discuss, on this St. Patty's Day, the fly called the green weenie. It is a simple pattern that has magical powers to catch fish. Yup, that's right, it's a magical fly. Why? Because it seems to catch fish on days when nothing else will. It works in all seasons, too.
Seriously though, the green weenie is a fly that seems to attract trout both because of it's shape & color - bright chartreuse green. It can imitate some green caddis flies & also green inch worms, too. It's effective as both a wet / nymph fly & also great when fished as a streamer.
I've heard many different versions of the history of this fly. Mostly though, it's considered to have originated in Western PA. It supposedly gets it's name from the green weenies used at Pittsburgh Pirates games through the years. Those green weenies would hex the opposing baseball team while giving good luck to the Pirate players when the weenie was pointed at them. Read more about the green weenie of the Pirates, HERE.
No matter where it came from, or how it got it's name, the green weenie remains an effective fly for trout as well as steelhead in many places outside of Western PA. It is a great fly to start someone out with in fly tying, too, because of how simple it is. The legendary PA outdoor sports writer Charlie Meck called this one of his "one minute flies" because that's about how long it takes to tie one.
Here's a short video showing how to tie this pattern:
(one note: this is a slight variation of the green weenie in this video. It's traditionally made with medium, or even micro, chenille - not the fuzzy stuff shown here. It's also usually bright or fluorescent green. I'm showing you this video because the tying is spot on, the colors are close, & it's the best video I could find to show how to tie it.)
If you happen to be looking for trout rather than a pot of gold, the green weenie is an excellent pattern to try. You'll have a lot of luck when you try this magical fly!!
Last month Richard Cabela, founder of the large retail & mail order business Cabela's, passed away at the age of 77 at his home in Nebraska.
To call Dick Cabela an important figure in the outdoor sporting world is an understatement. His business may very well have outfitted & supplied more outdoor sportsmen & women than any one else. Last year alone, Cabela's sales brought in $3.6 billion in revenue.
But, of course, it didn't start out that big. The business got started back in 1961 when Dick offered some flies through the mail. That was a huge success & gave him a customer base to begin selling outdoor supplies to interested buyers. The rest, as they say, is history. The business did nothing but continue to grow through the years.
Now as a custom rod maker, my rods & business stand in direct opposite of the model that Cabela's uses. I hand make each rod to specific requests of my clients while Cabela's sells mass-produced rods where cost is the one of biggest factors in designing the rod to keep prices low. This might lead you to believe that I don't care for Cabela's as a business, but that would be wrong. I have the greatest respect for folks like Dick Cabela & the business that he created. Just consider how many different people he helped to enjoy the outdoors. Think of all the folks who took up fly fishing (or hunting, camping, etc) & geared up through a Cabela's catalog. No, my custom rods don't stand against that because sooner or later many of those anglers are going to want a custom rod. In that way Dick Cabela did more for bringing people to fly fishing than many. For that alone, I'm thankful to him.
Our thoughts & prayers are with his family & loved ones.
To read more about Dick Cabela & his business, click HERE.
I often get emails from folks who need information about a vintage rod they've got. Many times, the numbers written on the shafts of the butt section, just above the grip, don't make any sense. That's understandable, since back when many of these vintage rods were new, we used different codes to mark fly line weight, etc. Many of these companies are gone now, so you can't just call them up & ask.
One of the strangest rod markings were those that were on bamboo fly rods made by the South Bend Company. They don't look like anything else on other rods, so it's a little confusing to even guess what those numbers mean.
There are sources available that you can find on the internet telling you what your rod might be, if you go looking for a specific rod model, but that doesn't help you if you happen upon a rod for sale at an outdoor show, a yard sale, or anywhere else you might happen to see one. Well, there is a code to these model number markings on South Bend rods & once you know it, it's not very complicated at all.
On just about every South Bend fly rod made throughout the 1940's & 50's (the heyday of the company) you'll find either a two or three digit code number, then a dash, followed by the rod's length. The two or three digit number indicates the rod's action. These rods all had actions designated as "Trout", "Bass", & "Dry Fly". Models that used a three digit number were all Dry Fly action. Those that used a two digit number were either "Bass" or "Trout" actions.
Below is a list of all the South Bend models with a description of their action, the number of pieces they were, etc. This list covers most, if not all, the rods from the companies busiest years & the rods you're most likely to come across. It is a handy reference to use when researching these rods.
If you prefer, you can download a PDF copy of the same South Bend list here:
Hopefully this info will help you understand exactly what rod you're looking at when examining a South Bend fly rod. Just to be sure, let's look at an example.
Below is a photo of an old South Bend rod that I have laying around the rod shop:
As you can see, this rod is coded 59 - 9'. Without even looking at the chart above, we immediately know that this rod is either a "Trout" or a "Bass" action rod. When we look at the chart we see that it is, in fact, a 9 ft, 3pc, Bass action rod of single build construction (we'll cover the differences between single & double built rods in a later article).
So now you have some idea of what those strange numbers on the old South Bend bamboo fly rods mean. The next time you happen onto one you'll have a better idea of what rod you're looking at & what the rod was made to do.
Folks, I love to make fly rods. It gets me up out of bed every morning & keeps me going all day long. What's really rewarding for me is when I make a rod for someone & they like the rod. The more they like it, the happier I am.
So you can imagine how jazzed I am when i get happy notes from rod clients, like this one from an angler who just received a new rod from me made to their specifications.
After casting the rod & trying it out they wrote this review of the rod to me:
-Lined it up with a 3 wt forward that I own. Casts nicely at all distances.
-Reel fits on nicely
-Case is cool
-Can’t wait to get it out on some water.
-Gimme a break this rod is awesome!
Man,oh man!! When I get letters or emails like that one it makes my week. Thanks to this client for sharing their thoughts with me. Now, can I help you get the fly rod you really want?
For those of you who are out there along the stream, fighting the cold winter conditions to get some fly fishing in, you often have to deal with ice building up in your guides. It can be a real problem & even dangerous to your rod if you're not careful in how you deal with frozen guides.
First off I should say, never try to break the ice off a line guide with your hand. The colder it gets the more brittle your rod becomes & you could easily break the rod without exerting too much pressure. This is especially true at the small-diameter tip section.
The first course of dealing with ice in the guides is to prevent it from forming in the first place. One way to do that is lightly wax the guides before you go out in the cold. Use a carnauba wax, the kind you'd use on an automobile, without any added cleaners. Go over each line guide & be sure to buff the wax off with a soft, clean rag. Do this inside where it's warm. The wax will help to repel the water from hanging around on the guides & hopefully will keep ice from forming. In addition to this, make sure your fly line is clean. A clean line will repel water, too.
Some anglers will use chap stick or lip balm on their guides. I've never done this myself, but I've heard that it works really well. If you go this route, just make sure you get the chap stick cleaned off your guides at the end of each day. Chap stick is cheap, easily carried in your pocket, & you might even use it on your lips while fishing, too!!
I've also heard rumors of anglers who spray their rods down with a non-stick cooking spray to keep the ice away. Again, this isn't something I've ever done. So, who knows? I can't imagine that it's not messy & I wouldn't want to have to clean that olive oily-ish substance off my fly rod at the end of the day. I certainly wouldn't do this with a bamboo rod. In fact I have a personal rule that if it's cold enough for ice to form in the guides, I leave the bamboo rods at home. The cold can make breakage in any rod more probable, so why chance it with my bamboo rods?
Oh, & I should mention that there are products on the market made just for this problem & marketed to fly anglers. You could always go with one of those products if you're not the adventuresome type!
Of course, you could just remove ice the old fashioned way: dip the iced part of your rod in the stream. That will melt the ice as the water's warmer than the air temp. This is how we used to do it. However this is only a temporary fix & there's nothing like fighting a fish as your guides begin to freeze shut!!
A while back, a good friend of mine sent me this old ad from the legendary rod maker Walton Powell. The ad comes from the 1990 November/December issue of Fly Rod & Reel magazine.
It's interesting to look at this ad, as Walton was not the type of rod maker to go in for commercials of any kind. He believed in marketing his rods one-on-one. I think that's why this ad, if you want to call it that, is so different than what you normally see. It's authentic & personal.
Here, Walton is discussing graphite fly rods, particularly the "high modulus graphite" craze that was taking place in the late 80's. Back then everyone just had to get a rod made with higher & higher modulus graphite.....or so every rod company would have you believe. Some of the claims back then were nothing short of outlandish (that wouldn't happen today, would it?).
In the ad, Walton offers folks a chance to read an in-depth article he wrote concerning fly rods. I haven't been able to find a copy of it anywhere. Should you know where I can read it, please let me know.
You can read Powell's ad below:
For those of you not familiar with Powell rods, you're missing out on some real fly fishing history. Walton's father, E.C., was a very famous rod maker in the first half of the twentieth century. In fact he was one of the first single-craftsmen rod shops to make rods specifically to special order for individual anglers. Back then the majority of rods were made in production shops - even special order rods.
Walt carried on the family business & became a household name in many fly fishing homes around the world. His son, Press, carried on the tradition as well with both Walton & Press expanding the company into graphite & fiberglass rods. Ever heard of the Hexagraph fly rod? Walton Powell did that & many other things, too.
Unfortunately Walton lost the company in a deal gone wrong with the Wall Street stockbroker Charles Schwab in 1996. As a result, Walton was not allowed to build rods under his own name. He died in 2001 while suing Schwab to get his name back. In fact, you can read the whole history of the Powell's by going HERE.
Walton was an interesting guy & very knowledgeable about rods & fly fishing. The fact that he was such a skilled angler, I think, is why his rods were so popular - because he knew how to talk to fellow anglers & knew what they wanted & needed. The Powell name today evokes a long story of 20th century American fly fishing.
The Pliant Rod
News from the shop of Chris Lantzy, Custom Rod Maker along with industry news, profiles of interesting characters, reviews, history, & whatever else strikes our fancy. Your comments & feedback are welcome. Please email me your thoughts.
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