Lars Christian Bentsen, famous Danish flyfisherman, master fly-tier, archaeologist and bag-fetisher reveals his secret tips...
Here's the latest tip!
Flytying - Half Hitching tool:
Tying half hitches in awkward places on the fly can be just that, awkward! Especially if you belong to the tyers who finish parachute flies around the wing-base. I do this myself and I like to do so by throwing in a few half hitches. You can whipfinish around the base too, but with the half hitch it's easier to avoid catching hackle fibres in the finish (personal tip for Paul: please whipfinish around the base, you will catch some of the hackle fibres and effectively perform the much famed whipfuck manoeuvre :). For this operation I've taken a bodkin and bent the point to about 60 degrees. I use this little hook to ease in the loop as I tighten the half hitch. It makes it so much easier and quicker too. For the locking of thread-wraps I either apply a small drop of thin varnish (for this I like to use Flytite, nontoxic solvent by the makers of FlyRite dubbing), or you can add a small drop of Light of AAPGAI to the thread and then half hitch, this also works well, but is a little more difficult to control! Oliver Edwards once showed me another method involving Light of AAPGAI - run a drop of LoA along the thread (in this case Spiderweb) before half hitching and the thread is locked in place immediately. Never done this myself, though!!!
When tying flies, whether you're left or right-handed, you put a half twist into the thread every time you make a wrap. This isn't necessarily bad as some might suggest. For example, a spun thread is stronger than a flat one and a spun thread has a better grip on materials as it has a tendency to bite-down a little more. On the other hand, a flat thread covers a larger area per turn, so the differences may be marginal, but they the marginals are what it's all about.
Problems occur when tying small dries or perhaps salmon flies with several bunches of hair in the wing; a spun thread produces more bulk than a flat one. And a flat thread accepts varnish better for the finish and even gives a glossier head after a few coats.
If minimum bulk is a concern, remember to undo the twists in the tying thread every once in a while. Do this by spinning the bobbin right to left (right handed tyer assumed, clockwise tying direction assumed, if you're tying anticlockwise like myself, spin the bobbin left to right). And if you need maximum strength from the thread to bite into a squirrel hair wing for instance, you may do the opposite and spin it tighter!
Flytying - hackles:
Here's a problem: If one wishes to use a particular hackle or type of hackle on a fly and the hackle is too big, what do you do? Well, Paul just ties the fly anyway and incorporates the whipfuck and he's happy :). I had an idea some years ago when I was tying up a batch of small salmonflies and the pattern called for a fronthackle of a tealfeather. From the bag that I had I quickly used up the small, correctly sized feathers, so I had to do somehing else. I tried tying in fibres all around the shank, but that takes a long time!!! I eventually came up with the idea to tie a batch of hackle onto sewingneedles - one hackle on each needle, placed right at the tip of the needle. What the hell for you might ask. Well, having tied the hackle to the needle I have the fibres evenly distributed 360 degrees and I can simply ease the fibres onto the hookshank and with just two wraps of thread I have the hackle in place and in the size I require.
So... what does it all mean?
Not the Liverpool-boys (which is spelt differently, Lars), but the real deal the often black little creatures that are abundant along the rivers in late summer. The fish like them, although they must rely on the beetle to suffer the occasional accident and lose grip and end up in the river. Often on slightly windy days, presenting a beetle can be a temptation a trout or grayling cannot resist. So a few beetle-imitations in the box is worth the trouble of the tying.
Beetles are not all that common on trout and graylings menus, so when tying imitations I find it important to really focus on the triggers and for me it's legs (funny how trout and man sometimes are alike :). When I tie my beetles I want them to have long, lifelike sturdy legs. I usually tie them quite simple with a foam head and back.
The best source for legs I've found is the supermarket. Go to the department for dishwashing and look for dishwashing-brushes. They have all sorts of different colors of hair on them nylon hair, that is (and that's important). Buy a few with black, brown and green hairs and when you get home, cut them off and store them in film-cannisters (3 dishwashing brushes in the flytying-kit seems to trigger a series of embarassing questions that might as well be avoided). Sometimes you'll be able to find brushes with hairs of different thicknesses.
Now the realism comes in when you take a pair of fine-nosed tweezers, heat them slightly over a candle-light flame and kink the legs. Make sure the tweezers aren't too hot or else you'll burn the legs over (but hey, a crippled beetle may be even more attractive to trout and grayling and maybe they can count after all who knows?)
Simple, quick, cheap and (sometimes) very effective.