Saturday I had the pleasure of watching and listening to a master fly tyer, fly fisher and guide as he demonstrated his tying skills at the Fly Shop of the Bighorns in Sheridan, Wyoming. Brett Smith has been in the forefront of innovative fly patterns ever since he developed his midge emerger pattern, The Palomino, around 1984.
Since then, Smith hasn't stopped inventing fly patterns, fishing or guiding. He became more dedicated to the cause when he retired from the Sheridan Fire Department in 2016. Now he has even more time to expand his skills.
One of the patterns that Smith tied Saturday was the old standby pink Bighorn shrimp. Smith contended that he tries to tie a large inventory of these flies before the season starts. He also pointed out that tying them entailed a lot of dubbing.
“I have found that it is much easier to tie this fly with a dubbing loop rather than standard dubbing,” he said.
Dubbing loops have been used by fly tyers for quite some time, but Smith's technique caught my attention pretty darned quick. He constructed three dubbing loops and locked them together. He contended that the 8/0 tying thread that he used wasn't strong enough to spin the loop tightly; the triple loop was much stronger and able to withstand some serious spinning.
Another variation on the Pink Scud pattern was that Smith utilized pink braid for the back of the scud. Before Smith had started dubbing, he had tied in a section of pink braid as well as some fine silver wire. After he had completed his dubbing, he drew a bead of Loctite on the back of the fly and pulled the braid over, ribbed it and tied it off. (Smith said that Loctite doesn't turn white and is an extremely durable head cement that he uses frequently.)
One of the advantages of the dubbing loop method is that it allows for a fuzzy appearance without much teasing, but Smith wanted more of a “leggy” outline for his fly. He hauled out a dubbing brush that Hareline makes and teased the dubbing a bit. To get even more legginess, Smith produced an eyelash brush that a fellow fly tyer, Ray McCarn, had alerted him to. Suffice it to say that with a minimal amount of brushing, the Pink Scud looked like it could swim off the table.
Smith then demonstrated a Mahogany Spinner pattern that had a couple of techniques that I hadn't seen before.
Smith started off with tying in five or so micro fibbets.
“I want to have some flotation with the tail material, and I have yet to run across a trout that can count the number of tails on a fly,” he said.
He ran his 8/0 thread back up toward the eye and left it while he dug out a 6-inch length of synthetic wing material. He twisted one end of the fibers and then burnt them to stick them together. He cut the wing material to about an inch-and-a-half and burnt the other end. He placed the wing material over the hook about an eighth-of-an-inch from the eye and then did a wrap of thread over the wing. He pulled on the thread a tad and the wing slipped underneath. He made quick ex wraps to secure the wing underneath the hook and then cut the wings to about a shank length. He applied Loctite to the wing base at the hook and then spun on some fine mahogany dubbing and dubbed the body and thorax. After he tied off the fly and whip finished it, he placed a drop of Loctite on the head and called it good.
“By placing the wings underneath the hook, along with the head cement at the base, the wings will float more naturally in the surface film,” he said.
Throughout his tying session Smith expounded on some of his theories of fly fishing. As was stated earlier, he doesn't put much credence in how many tails a mayfly pattern has, but he had another statement that struck me as true.
I had mentioned to Smith and the other guys present, “I think that the amount of weight when nymph fishing is nearly as important as having the right fly tied on.”
Smith countered, “I think having the correct amount of weight is more important than having the right fly.”
He went on to explain, “If you have the right fly or flies on, but you aren't getting down to where the fish are, you are wasting your time. In the Bighorn River, several flies are usually going to get the job done, but if you don't have the correct amount of weight you aren't going to be nearly as successful.”
Suffice it to say that I learned a lot from Smith, and I can hardly wait to try out some of his tying techniques. Learning more about my favorite pastimes can only help me to enjoy them better.