Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Southern Belize Fly Tying Initiative - Placencia Session

(If you missed the first post in this series, please circle back and start with the Hopkins Session before continuing on.)

The next morning we were up early, ate breakfast (yes, a couple more fry jacks), packed up all our gear and the three of us jumped into the shuttle from Hopkins to Placencia.  Our next stop would be at the Belize Ocean Club as they would be host to the next session of the Southern Belize Fly Tying Initiative.  The drive to get there was beautiful as we passed fruit fields and drove along the edge of the the jungle mountains and then traveled our way back to the ocean.

There was a lot of anticipation on the drive down as we all wondered at how many would show for this next session.  The response and experience from the day before was so positive that we hoped that the stoke would continue.  On our arrival, we had just enough time to check in to our rooms, eat an early lunch by the ocean side pool and then went to the upstairs conference room to prepare for what we hoped would be a room full of eager students. 

While Dave Student of Umpqua Feather Merchants prepped an area with his vise, tools and materials for group instruction, Scott Thompson and I set up the room by putting up round tables and chairs for each student to sit and tie.  As we were finishing up, a group of over a dozen men, most in their late teens to young adult, walked up the stairs and into the room.  Everyone shook hands, exchanged names and within just a few of minutes Dave had everyone crowding around him as he began his introductory lesson on fly tying.

As the day before, everyone attending was completely focused on learning and you could see they were locked into everything that Dave did behind the vise, recording videos on their mobile phones and asking questions.  Dave handled this group like the professional that he is and it was so evident that he not only has the knowledge to teach fly tying but the skills in communicating and connecting with everyone in the room.  It was really impressive to watch him throughout the session and without a doubt, each knew that he intensely wanted them to learn and know everything that he was showing them.

With the instructional portion done, everyone found a seat around the tables and got acquainted with their tying kits and materials that were set before them.  Vises were attached to table edges and the process of tying their first Gotcha fly began while Dave and Scott went student to student helping and showing is it was needed.  If someone was stumped with a technique or a step in tying a fly, Dave would go one on one with them at his vise carefully with careful explanation while having the student show him that he understood it.

Do you see the fellow in the red shirt in the right corner of the above photograph and below in the left corner?  That is Marlon Leslie of Blue Horizon Belize and even though he's a rock star permit guide (along with being one of the nicest guys you could meet) who grew up on the back deck of a panga guiding anglers from all over the world for permit, bonefish and tarpon, he had never learned to tie his own flies.  This session was a revelation to him and as a guide, Marlon quickly saw the importance of knowing how to tie flies in not only keeping his fly boxes full but also having the ability to tweak patterns exactly how he needed them for the places that he fishes.

Marlon's interest in learning was infectious and while tying a few Gotchas, he explained the importance of learning how to tie flies to the group which had many realizing this could be a turning point for each of them.  Some in the room already aspired to be a guide or somehow connected to the local angling industry and learning these skills could certainly open many doors to their futures. 

As this session was winding down, each person was not only given a vise and tools but Dave evenly divided up all the remaining materials to make sure that everyone had what they needed to hone their newfound skills on a few dozen Gotcha flies.

It was amazing to see each of their first fly attempts and how quickly their skills improved to the last Gotcha they tied before leaving.  These flies would catch a bonefish for sure and it really makes you wonder what fly 100 and 1,000 would look like?    

Where has this program gone from these two introductory sessions?  Look for an upcoming update on T.F.M. of what's happened since we left and the next steps forward as the Southern Belize Fly Tying Initiative continues on. 

Scott Thompson and Dave Student had an exceptional idea with this initiative and there are plans to keep this growing for the benefit of local Belizeans who today might be learning how to tie their first fly but tomorrow may be guiding you to your first permit, bonefish or tarpon.

Lastly, a special thanks to Blue Horizon Belize and Muy'Ono as they were host and sponsor to this event along with putting Scott, Dave and I up two beautiful waterfront suites while in Placencia.

Abel + Spyderco Native® 5

When I started my career in law enforcement over 20 years ago, one of the first purchases I was told to make was to buy a good knife which led me to Spyderco and one has been in my pocket ever since.  The blade is unbelievably sharp and the one time I had to use the lifetime warranty, a brand new knife was sent to me with no questions asked.  I'll never not have one in my pocket.  I'm a fan for life.

The recent collaboration with the Abel + Spyderco Native® 5 is neat in that here's two exceptional Colorado companies working together on a project that is both eye catching art and flawless utility made into one stellar piece of gear.  This is something that will last a lifetime.  If not several after you're gone. 

File this under "Gear Envy" even if I'm not sure which I'd pick if I was going to get one.

From the Abel website...

The Abel Native® 5 is the proud culmination of two years' research and development between two American manufacturers: Abel and Spyderco. The results are simply stunning.  

This re-engineered and re-designed Native® 5 features a fully-machined handle, made from aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, which has upgraded by the engineers at Abel for enhanced grip security and hand positioning. The handle scales are polished and Type II anodized by hand in Abel's custom shop in California. It is available in three hand-painted fish graphics: Bonefish, Native Brown Trout, and Native Rainbow Trout.

The new blade, engineered at Spyderco in Colorado, features a full-flat grind, a distal taper, and an understated swedge that combine to offer both a distinctive appearance and exceptional edge geometry. It is precision machined from a nitrogen-based, ultra-corrosion resistant stainless steel called LC200N. This extraordinary material is produced by a combination of the PESR (Pressurized Electric Slag Remelting) process and “smart forging” technology to yield a significant increase in the steel’s purity and homogenous microstructure. Regarded as the material of choice for applications involving high static and dynamic loads in corrosive environments, LC200N is best known as NASA’s preferred material for use in their high-performance aerospace equipment.

A forefinger choil (finger groove) at the base of the blade supports the option of a “choked up” forward grip for increased leverage and control during use. To ensure swift, positive opening with either hand, the blade includes a fully accessible Trademark Round Hole™. This feature compliments the back lock and stout four-position hourglass clip to make all aspects of the Abel Native® 5’s carry, deployment, and operation completely ambidextrous.

The linerless construction style reduces weight while ensuring structural strength and solid support for the knife’s highly refined back lock mechanism, which offers unparalleled strength, an exceptionally smooth action, an improved self-close function, and even greater resistance to wear and tear than previous generations of the Native.

The Abel + Spyderco Native® 5 knives are available in Native Brown, Native Rainbow and Bonefish hand painted finishes.  These knives can be pre-ordered now and should ship in February 2019.  Theses knives are priced at $495 and come with a lifetime warranty.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

DESTINATION FLIES - Doyle's Floating Crab

I constantly have my eyes open for new flies to tuck into my carp, smallmouth, redfish, permit and anything else fly boxes that look "munchy" and when Kevin Doyle of Destination Flies posted a few images of his Doyle's Floating Crab on Instagram, I asked if he would mind putting together a step by step to show others how he ties this fly.  Grab your vise, tying materials and get to work.

Hook - 2/0 Mustad C-68 SNP-DT
Thread - Tan 210 Danville Flat Waxed
Claws - Ginger Color Hareline Barred Rabbit Strips/3mm Tan Craft Foam
Shrimp Eyes - Homemade Epoxy and Glass Bead
Red Hot Spot - Estaz –Opal Salmon #ES26 
Legs - Bone Color - Silicone Flutter Legs
Body - Tan Congo Hair - Spun into a brush (EP fibers can be used as a substitute)
Head: Montana Fly Company Tan 4mm Foam Cylinder

STEP #1 - Wrap hook with thread and glue, tie in Estaz equal to the hook barb, and complete three wraps on top of each other loosely.

STEP #2 - Tie in Shrimp Eyes, the end of the shrimp eye ball should be close to equal with the hook bend.

STEP #3 - Tie in 3 MM foam outside of the eyes, cut the corners off of the foam at the tie in point to allow for less bulk once wrapped over.  Trim tip of claw at approximately 30 degree’s.

STEP #4 – Cut Rabbit strip claw to approximately 2.5” and tie in outside of the foam.  Super glue the hide side of the rabbit strip to the foam and this will keep the rabbit strip from fouling.

STEP #5 – Tie in 4 silicone legs on the side of the hook shank, similar to how the rabbit and foam claws were tied in.  Leave the silicone legs as a full piece and tie in the tip on each side.  You will cut the center of the silicone legs later one once the body is shaped.  This helps keep the legs out of the way while tying.

STEP #6 – Wrap Synthetic body hair material brush forward 4-7 wraps depending on brush thickness.  This can also be completed with a dubbing loop if brushes are not used.  Tie in 4mm foam cylinder and then whip finish.

STEP #7 – Tease out synthetic fibers and trim.  Trim foam and synthetic fibers at the same time to get the taper right.  Glue finished thread wraps once completed for durability.  Width of the foam and crab body will vary dependent on size of crab you are trying to imitate.  Wider crab body and foam will float a little higher.  Preferred Body shape shown below.

Oh yeah, and they work.  Your results may vary however but keep trying.  Practice pays off.  Eventually.

Find Destination Flies on Instagram and send a DM to get an order in if you'd rather not tie your own.

LOST COAST OUTFITTERS - California Steelhead on the Swing

Here's a few minutes of California steelhead on the swing Zen with George Revel and the crew from Lost Coast Outfitters.  Please PLAY and enjoy.

I had the opportunity to spend a morning with George a few years ago (see the post HERE) at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club and at Lost Coast Outfitters and it's pretty neat to see how far he's grown the shop through the years.  It's also a reminder that I need to get back out there for another visit soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

JENSEN MADE - Hadley's Custom Cigar Box Ukulele

Thirteen years ago when our daughter Hadley was born, I wanted to celebrate her birth and purchased a box of Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story to hand out cigars to friends.  It didn't take too long before the twenty-five cigars were gone and the box was filled with mementos of Hadley's birth.  This little cigar box was placed in my wife's hope chest where it likely would have stayed if it had not been for connecting with Kristopher Jensen about a year ago.  I was selling a few fiberglass fly rods and he inquired about one of them along with mentioning that he had seen a video posted of Hadley playing her ukulele.  That email started a back and forth conversation about his hobby of building cigar box guitars and I asked if he could build up a ukulele with the Hemingway Short Story box in trade for the fly rod that he had inquired about.

Fast forward a few months and a slender box arrived with the most beautiful thing inside.  It might be a somewhat unusually shaped cigar box ukulele that doesn't make a lot of noise when picked or strummed  but this steel stringed beauty is certainly something special.  This little cigar box was already full of memories but now lives on in Hadley's hands making sweet music.

I asked Kristopher if he would photograph this cigar box ukulele build as it went along and he also provided some background to this story as well.  Enjoy and if you make it to the end of this post, you can hear this cigar box ukulele played by Hadley from New Years Eve.

Kristopher wrote...  "I didn’t know what to expect when I first emailed Cameron about swapping a cigar box guitar for a fiberglass fly rod that he had listed for sale.  After a couple emails back and forth, a deal had been struck and I agreed to build a custom, cigar box ukulele using the box from cigars that he purchased when his daughter was born.  He also said that he wanted to document the build on The Fiberglass Manifesto.  A custom build from a special box, pictures documenting the process and a write up to tie it all together.  No pressure there.  So, while I waited for the box to arrive, I cleaned my shop so it wouldn’t look like such a disaster in the pictures and started thinking about what direction to go with the build and the article for the website.  Honestly, the article turned out to be the hard part as it only took me about six months longer to write this than it did to build the ukulele.

I thought about a how-to article, walking step-by-step through the build process.  I thought about discussing the history of cigar box guitars and homemade instruments.  Ultimately, I decided that all of the detail and history was available at the tip of your fingers as you just need to type “cigar box guitar” into your favorite search engine and settle in for information overload.  Eliminating the how-to and history aspects pretty much left me with talking about why I build cigar box guitars.  What leads a generally unmusical, late 30's guy with a wife, four kids, a crazy dog, two jobs, a bunch of other hobbies and a pretty serious fishing problem to spend the winter turning empty cigar boxes into musical instruments?

I’ve been a tinkerer ever since I was a kid.  I could never leave well enough alone and have always had this urge to take things apart, change them, make them “better” or different or more personalized. My wife jokes that it would be cheaper if I just bought the thing I want than it ends up being after I’ve acquired all the pieces and parts to make it myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t the new piece of gear that I want, but rather the experience of studying, learning, making the preliminary attempts and finally seeing a finished product that is unique, different and special in its own way.

A couple years ago, completely out of the blue, I got the urge to learn to play the guitar.  None of the teach yourself guitar info I found seemed to be what I was looking for, but one night I came across a guy wailing the guts out of a homemade, three string cigar box guitar and was immediately hooked. Here was something that not only scratched my guitar playing itch but was a project to dive into as well.  The first attempt was made from a piece of bamboo flooring stuck through a box just to see if I could make a something that resembled a guitar.   It was pretty crude with a piece of threaded rod for a bridge and fret markers burned into the neck with a soldering iron, but it had this great bluesy sound. I made a slide from a scrap of pipe and played "Bad to the Bone" (the easiest slide guitar song ever) about a million times.  That first guitar quickly led to a second and third.  Since the original guitar, I’ve learned a lot about frets, scale length, string gauges and a whole list of other things that makes a guitar a guitar.  Each instrument I build now is an attempt to blend that original rattling, handmade imperfection with the qualities and playability of a “real” guitar.  I’ve lost track of how many guitars I’ve built, but with each one I learn something new that makes the next one some small degree better.

I get the same charge out of fishing as I do from building cigar box guitars (and all the other random projects that are on my work bench at any given time).  I love the detail, the desire to know more and the seemingly endless ways you can combine all the variables to get a different result. The moment when it all comes together and you feel that tug on the end of your line or hear the first sounds from what used to be a cigar box is pretty sweet too."

Would you like to see more of Kristopher Jensen's work?  Consider following him on Instagram or Facebook (his wife is crazy talented with the crochet needles) and maybe inquire about your own cigar box guitar.