Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

Fly Tying Wax (era 1940)

Compiled by Deanna Lee Birkholm

"There are a great many different kinds of waxes for use on tying thread and many methods of applying them to the tying thread. These are the purposes waxes should serve:

First, it must be waterproof the tying thread and also make it adhere to the hook and the materials wound on the hook. A soft, not tacky, solid type of wax will not meet these qualifications.

Second, in making fur bodies flies, a sticky, tacky, solid type of wax is very desireable on your tying thread. Otherwise the fur sticks to the thread poorly. Most firms use a fairly hard solid wax for regular fly tying and a very tacky wax for tying fur-bodied flies. Cobbler's wax, which contains various tropical waxes taken from trees. These tropical waxes are used in the making of expensive piano waxes. These tropical waxes increase the hardness of the mixture and thereby make the wax more resistant to heat. Some firms make a tacky wax by adding tallow and resin to the wax until the desired tackiness in gained. The three are melted together, thoroughly stirred and poured into molds. Never use wax that is any softer or tackier than necessary. Softer waxes are usually less durable and lasting.

The most common trouble with any wax having a tallow or lard content is that they both have a low melting point. On a hot day, such wax will often soften and lose strength. Certain natural waxes can be mixed with harder waxes to soften them without the addition of tallow or lard, but the formulas are trade secrets.

In Britain, soft tacky wax is usually made as follows: Take two parts by weight, of the best resin (clean burgundy pitch if you can get it, but any resin will do) and one-fourth part, by weight, of clean tallow or lard. Melt this blend for fifteen minutes. When the ingredients are well fused together, pour the wax into a pail of cold water and work it up well with the fingers until it is tough and pliable. The more it is pulled and worked, the better it turns out. Break it up in pieces suitable for use and keep them in a jar of water. If the wax is too hard or brittle, melt it again and add more tallow or lard; if it is too soft, or not tacky enough, add more resin. To clean your fingers of wax, use methylated spirits of alcohol or any dry-cleaning preparation.

When using sticky or tacky wax (or, for that matter, any fly tying wax that is solid enough to permit it) cut out a small square of leather, or heavy cloth and place it around the wax on two sides. Thus, you can handle the wax without getting your hands sticky. If your hands become sticky from handling the wax while waxing your tying thread, it is difficult to handle body materials, feathers, etc.

Some firms use automobile and furniture wax pastes or liquids, applying them with the finger tips to the tying thread. It is not a general or recommended practice, however.

The fly tying wax is heated in a metal container until it is liquid. (When possible, place the wax container in a larger kettle containing water. Heated wax is highly combustible and all cautions should be observed.) Then the tying thread, spooled just as you buy it, is placed in a small screen basket and lowered into the hot wax for a short time. It is then taken out, and the surplus wax is wiped off. The spools are then left to cool. Hot wax is one of the greatest known penetrators. It will penetrate quickly and evenly into every fiber of all the thread on a spool.

It is best to wax only enough spools for a week's work. If left stand over long periods of time, the wax will lose some of its adhering qualities.

The use of electric wax pots and waxers is no longer necessary.

Herter's, up until 1944, manufactured electric wax pots for waxing tying thread. These have been discontinued as there is no longer any need for them, if you use the above described methods.

Avoid buying pre-waxed tying threads, as the wax has usually dried much too long before you receive them. ~ George Leonard Herter

Credits: From Professional Fly Tying, Spinning and Tackle Making Manual and Manufacturers' Guide.

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