Readers Cast


Neil M. Travis - December 05, 2011

If you were limited to just the essentials for tying flies what would make your list? That was my quandary as I prepared to close up our Montana home and head for our winter digs in Arizona. In previous winters I had not carried any fly tying stuff with me but this year I thought I might tie a few flies during those times when I wasn't otherwise engaged. I'm not the type that can sit around and watch TV or even just twiddle my thumbs, and when I find myself at loose ends I tend to fall asleep. Although I don't really need any more flies, since I have flies that I don't use now, to keep from falling victim to boredom I packed up my tools and then I had to select what materials I would need. If I only had a limited amount of fly tying material it would not be a difficult task, but since I have been tying flies for nearly 50 years my stash is considerable. Since I could not take all of it I had to whittle it down to the essentials. Ah, there is the rub.

Some things were easy. I needed a vice and my tying tools. I wanted a vice that would handle a variety of hook sizes so I picked up my Marryat Multi-purpose Vice with its interchangeable jaws that will allow me to tie flies down to size 32. [Like I have any intention of tying anything that small] The rest of the tools; bobbin, bodkin, hackle pliers, and other miscellaneous items were easy to choose. I grabbed a goodly selection of my favorite hooks, copper wire and several thread colors. The hard part came when I picked out the tying material.

I prefer to use natural materials whenever possible. I guess that I'm 'old fashioned' in that way but I'm old enough to remember when artificial flies were constructed mostly of fur and feathers. The first material that I put in my box of fly tying stuff that was headed for Arizona is a collection of furs and hair. I tossed in a bag of various furs; muskrat, mole, beaver, and rabbit. In addition I added a bag of hair; deer, elk, and moose.

With all the advances in fly tying materials there is one thing that is essential to most artificial flies; feathers. I started out with a several necks; grizzly, blue dun, brown, and cree. However, hackle is only part of the feather needs. I picked out some peacock herl, mallard and wood duck breast feathers, gray partridge, turkey flats and tail feathers, marabou in various color, a complete ring-necked and golden pheasant skin including tails, a complete starling skin and several colors of goose biots.

These are my selections that will allow me to tie a few flies this winter. What sort of materials would you pick out if you were going to be gone from home base for several months?

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