Fresh from an enthusiastic reception at the FFF Expo in Albany, Jackson and Jay Nicholas will be at the Caddis Fly on Saturday, April 4 from 10am to 3pm, to demonstrate the art and science of blending custom dubbing colors and textures. Request a custom blend – we’ll mix you up a free sample!
Dubbing, dubbing, dubbing!
Yeah, you know, those cute little packets of fuzzy stuff that we harass around our threads to wind on our fly hooks – dubbing! You can it in find hundreds of colors and a wide range of textures, stuffed into little plastic bags and hung on pegs in fly shops. Of course, the Caddis Fly carries a great selection. Dull and bright hues, fine to coarse textures, fluorescents, sparkly, shaggy, oh-my-gosh – all these terms could be used to describe some of the dubbings you will find at the fly shop.
Why on earth would anyone want to blend their own dubbing when so many ready-made materials are available already?
Reason one, it’s fun.
Reason two, it might allow you to match the hatch by creating a color or texture that no one has thought about.
Reason three, it will allow you to create custom dubbing colors that form the basis of a “signature fly” – the fly that is so effective, so different, and so appealing that it will be copied by others, and maybe even make you famous. If you become engaged in this art, you just might wake up dreaming about creating a series of colors and textures that you won’t find on the racks — blends that haven’t found their way into mass production.
Fly tyers are often tinkerers. They like to mess around with tools, hooks, fly vises, and threads. They are never quite satisfied with simply copying fly patterns in the shops, so they create their own. Blending your own custom dubbing materials is right in line with the creative side of the fly tyer’s brain.
Most of the custom blends we Nicholases create tend to be on the fuzzy side and are especially suited to tying steelhead and salmon flies. We also create dubbing for dry stoneflies, caddis nymphs, and soft hackles. Our custom dubbings make awesome leeches too, and Hareline Dubbin provides a nice selection of pre-blended leech and scud dubbings.
What you’ll need to blend your own
Not much; just a simple coffee grinder (available for about $10) and an assortment of dubbing materials that you want to combine. Here’s a thought – you ought to consider dedicating a grinder to your dubbing adventures; that wad of chartreuse and pink hair won’t look so good floating around in your morning coffee.
Our raw materials
Hareline Dubbin provides all of our raw materials. The Caddis Fly carries virtually all of the materials that we blend together, plus a few we haven’t had time to try yet.
A few pointers
Most of the coarse dubbing materials blend very nicely. Hareline Trilobal, Angora Goat, and a range of rabbit fiber dubbings blend very easily. Many of the Ice Dub materials also blend well, but some blend better than others.
You just might be amazed at the result when you start with a base of Black and Purple Trilobal, add a trace of Chartreuse Rabbit, and finish off with a pinch of Gold Ice Dub. Zowie. This stuff will make your eyes water with anticipation. Now go back and substitute a little Steelie Blue Ice Dub somewhere in the mix. Gimme that coffee grinder! Throw a little Minnow Belly Ice Dub in with some Adams Gray or some Dark Hare’s Ear to add just a hint of sparkle to your trout flies.
A few materials, however, are difficult to blend and you may find yourself with a knotted, lumpy mess in your grinder. Through trial and error, you’ll figure out which materials work well. We have not been successful blending some of the Super Fine materials intended to tie small dry flies with very smooth bodies. You may have success where we have not, though, so don’t be timid about experimenting.
Hope to see you at the Caddis Fly on April 4 10am-3pm! The Nicholas family will be there to show you how we blend our favorite mixtures. Let us create your special requests.
JN & JN