Soft hackle – by Mike Connor

The vast majority of soft hackle flies depicted here are tied in the sizes 14 or 16, with quite a few in size 18 if the feathers are obtainable in this size. If in doubt, go one size smaller. Many of the older experts were of the opinion that the small flies were much more effective, but also complained constantly that feathers in these sizes were often difficult or impossible to obtain.

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Preserving materials – by Mike Connor

We have managed to collect and prepare a range of items for our fly-dressing requirements. How do we store them properly and safely?

Preserving materials is a vast subject. For our purposes, we must ensure that our collections are stored airtight and secure, preferably with chemical pest inhibitors. For this purpose “tupperware” or “rubber maid” and similar plastic containers are best.

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Preparing Materials & blending – by Mike Connor

So we have managed to collect vast amounts of various furs and feathers, either cheaply or for nothing, by the various means at our disposal, how do we sort it out, how do we prepare and use it? 

One of the best and simplest ways of improving some furs and feathers for use in fly dressing, including the purchased ones, is simply washing them in warm soapy water, rinsing well to remove all traces of soap and then blow drying with a hair drier, without letting the material get too warm. One may also let them dry naturally, but one must be careful to get them completely dry before storage.

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Road kill – by Mike Connor

Road kills are also an excellent source of cheap and very useful material, I have a very large collection of materials obtained in this way. Cost? A bit of borax and salt, and the time spent in preparing them. 

If you do find birds it is often best to clip off or pluck the feathers you require and not bother trying to skin them. Birds, especially small ones, are very difficult to skin unless you have a lot of practice. 

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Materials collector – by Mike Connor

 I have had a lot of requests from people at my classes, and elsewhere, to explain where and how I obtained some of my seemingly vast collection of materials, so here are some of the answers. 

First of all, if you wish to collect “bits and pieces” from domestic pets or similar animals, ask the owners first, and be careful how you ask! Some people are very sensitive in this respect.

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Camouflage – by Mike Connor

I was squatting in a large bush on a small stream I fish regularly, watching a beautiful brown trout of about two pounds gracefully rising slowly and confidently to a series of olives which were hatching steadily. I had been watching the fish for about fifteen minutes, and was trying to figure out how best to get a cast at him without putting him down. The fish suddenly “stiffened” and sank slowly into the depths, and two other fish, smaller ones which I had not noticed up to that point, flashed past going downstream as if the devil was after them.

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Grayling – by Mike Connor

Thymallus thymallus, the European grayling, a fish surrounded by contradictions.  Although most definitely a salmonid, as clearly demonstrated by the presence of an adipose fin, in many places classed, and indeed treated more or less as a coarse fish, due to its spawning times. Although many anglers now consider it a worthy quarry, and travel a long way for the opportunity to catch them. Unique among salmonids, grayling spawn in late spring and summer. All other salmonids are autumn and winter spawners.

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