Before tying batches of flies, I always spend time preparing the materials that need preparing. Many don’t and many needs so little fine tuning that it’s just as fast to do it as you tie. But some materials really gain from a bit of preparation. A notable example is artic fox. For big flies, the best quality I know is marble fox from Pro Sportfisher - that’s always excellent quality.
But even the best quality materials can get better and straight out of the bag, even Pro Sportsfisher’s marble fox needs some love.
I begin by cutting the generously large piece into 4-5 smaller pieces, cutting from the skin side using a scalpel. This makes it easier to thoroughly comb through the hairs and remove all the underfur that you’ll otherwise spend time combing out when you’re tying. Another advantage is that by cutting the hide into smaller pieces, you get a better overview of the lengths of hair.
After combing through I wash it, just in hot tab water and ordinary hair shampoo. This removes any excess dye. Even the best quality materials can have a little excess dye in them, which will eventually bleed into lighter coloured materials on the fly. A brown wing over a yellow overwing can quickly make the whole thing a nice brown as the fly dries.
In the end, it saves a lot of time as the hair just needs a quick draw over the velcro brush to align the fibers before tying in.
Do you catch more fish spending this time? No, absolutely not. But you save time at the vice and it definitely leads to better looking flies and I like tying on a good looking fly. Removing underfur and aligning the fibers before tying in will also make the fly a little more mobile and while that doesn’t catch you more fish either, it might give a little more confidence in the fly. I know it does for me.
Have a great weekend!
PoD: The fiery brown has been combed, washed and dries and the blue hasn’t (yet). The difference is clear.