So one of the upsides of lockdown has been a lot more spare time on one’s hands to fuck around at the vice. I think since March I have tied enough flies for a dozen trips or more. Having the creative outlet at the vice has certainly done a lot to stave off the darkness and hopelessness many of us have been feeling.
A possible downside to all that spare time is that some of us tend to go down a rabbit hole with certain things. One of those certain things for me has been getting obsessed with painting flies, and figuring out different methods and techniques to get different colours, patterns, flash, sparkle and all manner of other shit into flies. Do these make a difference to the fish at the end of the day? Fuck knows. Do I care? Not really. I’ve always been a magpie, and shiny flashy shit makes me happy!
Thankfully, alotta other folks have also had plenty of time on their hands over lock down, and vastly better tiers than me have been coming up with some brilliant techniques and they’ve kindly shared them. A specific pattern that comes to mind is Conrad’s amazing FlatNose Silicone Mullet, a pattern that Conna has been fishing for years and has had superb success with on Kob here in the Western Cape. It’s a relatively simple pattern to tie, but time consuming and “finicky” with the silicone involved. It is an exceptional pattern though, generally fished on an intermediate line, or sink tip/sink line. Despite the look of that flat front, it’s NOT a popper, rather it’s designed to fish subsurface, and with hard strips achieves a fantastic erratic action, due to that flat front.
I tied a few, and while struggling with getting a perfect finish to the silicone (and getting frustrated my silicone work looked nothing like Jimmy Eagelton’s mastery), I decided to try a Pattex 100 finish over the silicone, which was something of a revelation. Now, a glass-smooth, clear, tough and flexible finish was pretty damn simple…
Wizard UK based tyer Ru Harvey (@rupertharveyflies ) also discovered Conrad’s FN Silcone Mullet, and being the mad man he is, started tying them exquisitely as a pattern for UK Seabass. Ru ties some of the world’s finest saltwater patterns. Being a commercial tier, he’s always looking for ways to make tying easier, faster, and more consistent. He came up with a brilliant “Hack/Technique” for tying the FN Silicone Mullet, based off Conrad’s pattern, but his technique really speeds up the process, as well as enabling you to very simply “Batch Tie” large numbers of these with incredible consistency.
“I free style and fuck around far too much… and it irritates me”
Consistency is something I’ve always struggled with. I free style and fuck around far too much… and it irritates me, cause I want nothing more than a fly box with multiple perfectly matching patterns, but it just never happens so when I saw this method of Ru’s, and he sent some videos on how he gets it done, I had to try it.
Of course I then felt the need to throw my completely unnecessary desire for an intricate painted chrome bellies and glass smooth finish at it. I blame Giovanni De Pace, (@giannidepace ) the mad scientist of Fly Tying. Gio’s approach to tying is ridiculous. I highly recommend watching his Youtube videos. I learnt an enormous amount from watching his thread and materials control. But then I started watching his videos on how he builds/ties/paints his incredible Ultimate Candies. And I had no choice, but to go down that rabbit hole.
I’ve tied about a dozen of these now, so pretty happy with them, so figured I’d share this.
Massive thanks to Conrad Botes for sharing this original pattern..
Huge thanks to Ru Harvey for applying his incredible problem solving mind to this, and coming up with this technique variation, and sharing it.
Massive thanks to Giovanni de Pace for the inspirational artwork on his flies.
I’ll stop waffling on now. Here is my Tweaked Airy Fairy Way Over the Top Blinged version of the FN Silicone Mullet..
Hook: Ahrex SA 280 Minnow in 2/0 ( This hook has pretty much the same gape as an SL12 4/0 )
Thread: 140 White
Bucktail: ( I’ve used Tan & White for this version )
Flash of Choice: ( I’ve used Sybai Saltwater in UV, which I use on pretty much any saltweter pattern )
2mm Foam – White
4 or 5mm Foam – Colour doesnt really matter.. I only had brown on hand
Clear Marine Silicone
Super Glue – Gel
Super Glue – Regular/brush on
Copic Air Brush System – Optional
Silver Chrome Paint – Optional
Flat eyes of Choice – I like the offset pupil versions from Fishient.
Cheap Paint Brush
Thinners for cleaning your Brush
First thing is to prep your foam “sections”. The beauty of this method is you can do a couple of these at a time.
Cut a sheet of 2mm White Foam into 2cm x 3cm pieces.
Take some of your marine silicone and spread it thickly and evenly over the foam. You can use a spatula or paint scraper to make this easier.
For the next step, which was a little hard to try shoot pics of, cut sections of bucktail and lay them down as shown into the silicone. I’ve done tan in the middle as this will be the back/dorsal section of the finished fly.
Hold the tips down firmly with one hand and use the spatula to squash the Bucktail down into the silicone, always working towards the butts. You can add a bit more silicone if you need to, you wanna make sure all the BT is coated. I then use a spit-moistened finger to smooth the silicone nicely.
Set them aside to dry. You’re done with this portion of the tying, but you can make up as many as you want of these and then set them aside to dry.
Get your hook into the vice.
Tie in a decent Bucktail Tail. Note I have the BT only on the top of the shank, not spread around, as the final fly sits almost exclusively ABOVE the hook.
Add your flash of choice ( Sybai Saltwater Angel hair in UV in this case )
I like to add a few hackles, which is optional of course.. If I was not using hackle I’d likely go a little thicker on the BT. I like to tie in 3 hackles, and position them over the top 3rd of the hook. One on either side, but “upper side” and the final one straight down the middle.
Tie in a section of Tan bucktail (or whatever colour you are wanting, preferably something that matches the dorsal section on your silicone foam piece). Then hit the wraps with some Superglue.
Cut a small section of foam.. you want to measure it up so that it doesn’t push the tail materials down. I like to cut the back end at an angle to kind of match the thread wrap bump from the tail section. You then wrap this loosely to the top of the shank.
Apologies for the quality of these pics, but you wanna wrap the rattle to the top of the foam, pretty tightly.. the foam will compress underneath of course, but you gonna want something kinda like in the pics. Whip finish. I then give the whole thing a good coat of thin super glue to hold it all in place.
Check that your siliconed Bucktail foam is dry. Then trim neatly as per the second pic. You wanna make sure that front edge is nice and straight.
Mark the centre point of the top dorsal colour on the underside of the foam.
It was impossible to take pics of this point while juggling super glue… but you wanna run a fairly healthy bead of Gel Superglue down the centre of the foam, where you’ve marked it.
spin your vice so the fly is upside down and push the foam up into place and fold the sides up as per the pics and hold in place… don’t try wrap it all the way round in one go…
Add some more super glue into the gap and fold around and hold in place as shown.
It should look something like this from the front now…
I don’t like having too much hook gape interference. So, once the superglue has set, I’ll take a razor and trim the underside flat.
I’ll then brush a thin coat of super glue on that recently trimmed belly section and let it dry.
At this point, you could add eyes, and put a thin coat of Pattex on, stick it on the drying wheel and be done… but if you wanna get fancy, you can try the following:
Give the section a very light spray with this stuff… pics don’t really show it, but it has an incredible mirror shine finish.
Enter the Copic Airbrush system… if you wanna nerd out on painting shit, this thing is amazing.
I’ve thrown down a coat of yellow on the belly and cheeks, and added a light brown to the top with a bit of a fade on the flanks.
Get the fly back into the vice. Squeeze a small dollop of Pattex 100 onto a piece of cardboard and use a paint brush to “paint” on a light coat over the whole head you’ve just painted.. its tough to explain how much to use, or how thick a coat, but thinner is better. I like to start the Pattex coat about 1 or 2 mm off the back edge of the foam under the Bucktail.. I think it adds a bit of strength.
Pattex is self leveling, so don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth. Once it’s got a pretty good cover, get it onto a drying wheel. If you don’t have a drying wheel, you can just keep turning it in the vice, it should set up in about 5 or 10 mins to the point where it won’t be running anymore. The thinner the coat the quicker this will be.
DRY TIME – this will vary depending on temp and moisture in the air. I’ve found that I can safely work with the Pattex after about 30 mins… best to just check the piece of cardboard you squeezed some on and see if that’s completely tack free before handling the fly. Rather wait longer than rush it.
Once the Pattex is dry, I go back to the Copic Airbrush System. Use a piece of old Mosquito Net, or a goldfish net, or any other multitude of things to create a stencil for a scale pattern. I’ve used a piece of an old goldfish net here that I borrowed from my goldfish Chad.
Wrap it tightly around the head and add a darker spray colour for your dorsal scale patterns.. I’ve also sprayed a hot pink chin and the flat front face.
Eyes added. I love these offset pupil flay eyes from Fishient.
Add a final coat of Pattex and stick it one the wheel to cure. Ideally you wanna let these cure up for about 12 hours before fishing.
Pretty? Yes. Necessary? Probably not… Overkill? Maybe a bit, but they sure look good in a box, and confidence is half the battle.
Here some pics of a few more tied this past week: