From the desk of Bob Boese


Bob Boese - Jul 16, 2012

Jolene Gastineau went to visit an art exhibition at the Lafayette museum. 
As she wandered through a collection of modern art, one unusual abstract painting caught her eye.

"What on earth," she asked the artist, who was standing nearby, "is that?"

He smiled condescendingly. "That, my dear lady, is supposed to be a mother and her child."
"Well, then," answered Jolene, "why isn't it?"

Congratulations.  You just finished your finest foam Popinator.  Sitting in your vise, this star of your collection looks like something you're sure any bass would be proud to eat.  On a beautiful day you head to a favorite bass-filled lake.  Two hours of fishing later, without a strike or swirl, you curse the weather, the lake and the fish.  Sorry, not their fault. You don't want to hear this, but your perfect fly is to blame. What?  No way.  Uh, yeah. Way.  Tyers often forget that what fishermen see is not what fish see.  Look at the bottom of your Popinator.  Whoa!  That's your perfect fly?  What happened to its excellent stippling, the exquisite top contour and radiant colors?  OMG!  What happened to it's bottom?

An attractive top side on foam dry fly or popper doesn't mean it won't look dull as limestone from the underside.  Poppers, gurglers, beetles and spiders made from foam are particularly susceptible to this appearance fault because, duh, it's not a natural material.  Fishermen like admiring their handywork on the water. fish care how it looks on the upside?  Nuh-uh.

Unfortunately, your favorite quarry will only see a fly from the bottom and a bit of the side.  Decor that is on neither of these is not there for the fish.  Because use of foam is becoming more common, greater attention should be paid to tying a fly that is attractive from any angle. What you want is a fly silhouette that looks reasonably prey-ish. Here are a few hints to approach this problem.  Please note, however, that bass are so aggressive that noise and motion often are much more important than shape or color.
1. Make a habit of rotating your vise to study the underside of your creation.  Look for edges, shapes and contours that appear unnatural and soften these.  Closed  cell foam is particularly susceptible to ending up with shapes not usually found in nature.  Outside of special effects films, few real creatures have geometric lines and angles.  Consider the silhouette of beetles and grasshoppers.  If your body has a sharp angle, you can soften this with wings and such which will modify the silhouette.

2.  There's a contradiction here, but color selection of flies should first match the prey in the waterbody and, when that fails, consider contrast (because fish see contrast best). Cover the hook shank completely in a thread color that matches the body color of the fly.  In many instances, it's preferable to use coordinating colors, preferably identical thread, wing and foam colors in dark shades.  Importantly, a solid black, brown or olive in the right shape will hide flaws in your design.  In this case, you're  surrendering the allure of contrast to camouflage a less than perfect fly.  Few creatures have a dark bronze or silver line running down the length of their underbody.

Thibeaux woke up ready for the first day of deer season and donned his camouflage. He walked to the kitchen and found his wife, Marie, waiting, fully dressed in camouflage. Thibeaux asked: "What are you made up for?"  Marie smiled and said, "I'm going hunting with you!" Marie had never hunted a day in her life, but Thibeaux knew better than to try and figure out what he wife was thinking and took her along.  He set Marie up in a tree stand and explained: "If you see a deer, take your time, aim carefully, squeeze the triger, and I'll come running back as soon as I hear the shot."  Marie promised to do just that and Thibeaux walked away with a smile, knowing that Marie would never have a chance to shoot.   But, in less than ten minutes, he heard a shot and started running back.  As he got closer he could hear Marie shouting, "Get away from my deer!"  Now worried and confused, Thibeaux ran even faster toward Marie.  Again he heard her yell, "Get away from my deer!" followed by another rifle shot. Soon he came within sight of Marie and saw a cowboy, with his hands high in the air. The cowboy, clearly shaken, said, "Okay, lady, okay! You can have your deer! Just let me get my saddle off it!"

3.  Similarly, use chenille wrapped around the shank to add camouflage, sparkle, movement or texture to the underside of beetles and gurglers.  Crystal chenille adds more motion and soft chenille adds texture and softer mouth feel for the fish.  Soft chenille will also hold attract. 
4.  Use palmered hackle on the hook shank under a beetle to do the same.  This is one of the best uses for webby soft hackle and hen hackle.
5.  Add legs, collars and tail materials as appropriate to improve the silhouette.  They can also add glitz or realism, but don't get so carried away you make the shape to busy.

6.  If you are adding lines, dots or stippling, decorate both the top and bottom of the fly, but, make a point to check out the natural color of the creature you are imitating.  For example, ladybugs are not polka dotted on the belly.  Colorful grasshoppers are usually plain on the bottom.  The belly of frogs commonly found around American lakes and streams will be variants of white, cream, yellow or olive.  A polka dot frog may get a fish's attention because of contrast, but closer inspection may make the fish cautious.
7.  Many insects have bulging eyes.  A "bug eyed" look can be accomplished easier than you might think.  Craft stores carry hole punches in many sizes that can make tiny dots from sheet foam.  This leaves a lot of room for imagination when gluing dots onto the back of a beetle, or as hopper eyes.                         
9.  Try not to make your fly taller than it is wide.  Tall flies tend to lay over on their side in the water, completely ruining a silhouette. 

10.  Insects generally exist in body and appendage colors that provide camouflage from predators.  However, a green hopper may have yellow/green legs, or visa versa.  There are 350,000 types of beetles and most have black or dark brown legs.  Many beetle legs are thin and extra fine rubber legs or hackle can work well to imitate these.
More than any other suggestion, the best advice is to study your fly from all angles and do what you can to camouflage a bad silhouette and remember that an artistic piece should represent your tying talent on all sides.

Devereaux was trying hard to concentrate on his painting of a nude, but the desire he had for his model finally became irresistible. He threw down his palette, took her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
The model pushed him away.  "Please, Devereaux.  Maybe your other models let you kiss them, but not me" she said.
"I've never tried to kiss a model before," he swore.
"Really," she said, softening. "How many models have there been?"
"Four," he replied. "A jug, two apples and a vase."


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