Saltwater Fly Tying: Tips for using Clear Cure Goo

Very frankly, I was not an instant fan of the Clear Cure Goo Product line.  I tried it a little when tying Salmon and Steelhead flies, sometimes applying Goo on top of a fly head already treated with a conventional fly tying cement.  Perhaps not the best choice.  My first curing lamps were not very good, and I did not like the sticky feel of the heads.

So I put the Goo aside and resumed tying my usual Chinook Comets and Muddlers, Rabbit Leech tubes, Sea-Run Cutthroat flies, and the like.

My first encounter with Cure Goo, thusly, was as a tyer focused almost entirely on my usual range of freshwater trout flies plus my typical river/estuary salmon and steelhead flies.

Fact is, my early Cure Goo trials were not sufficient to reveal the Goo’s potential, because my trials were applied on less than a handful of flies, and because I had virtually no experience with tyng flies principally designed for saltwater species, a genre where various epoxies are often required to secure eyes and create sturdy fly heads.

That all changed over the last year, when I immersed myself deep in the brine of saltwater specialty patterns.   This occurred because I decided to veer completely outside my comfort zone and explore the possibility that some of the flies people use to target Stripers, Blues, Snook, Tarpon, and Redfish might be productive here in the Pacific too.

This quest led me into the world of synthetic materials and big eyes on baitfish patterns, the likes of which were mostly new to me.  I dusted off my Cure Goo bottles, and went to work tying.  I watched YouTube videos by the dozen, tried to imitate them, and cringed as tyers stated that the flies they were demonstrating were easy to tie, while I struggled ineptly to match their work.

Roughly a year into the effort, my skill-set tying saltwater flies is much improved, and my opinion of Clear Cure Goo has shifted from ho-hum to absolute devotion.  I now view the Goo as an essential product on my tying bench, have found uses for the Goo on my traditional freshwater and estuary flies.

I disagree with tyers who imply that using the Goo is superficially intuitive or that every fly tyer will pick up the skills during his or her first session with the stuff.  You might, but I did not.  I say this to give comfort to anyone who finds themselves messing up like I did, and to reassure you that if you stick with it, you will get the hang of the Goo, and I believe that you also will be pleased that you mastered the skills, and that the Goo is a great addition to your fly tying materials.

Tip 1.  Paper towels and micro brushes. The first thing I do when sitting at the bench to use Clear Cure Goo is to take 3 or 4 paper towels and cut them into pieces that are in the 3×3” size range.  Now I have a nice stack of little towels that I will certainly need to use wiping extra goo off applicator bottles, fingers, the desk and so on.  Second thing I do is to get my bottle of Micro Brushes within reach.  These are useful to help shape heads, tame drips, and clear hook eyes on occasion.  Use something else if you wish, but the Micro Brushes are very handy.

Tip 2.  Combining bottles. It is not much fun working with a bottle of Goo that is less than half full.  This is true for me using an applicator brush or squeeze nozzle.  The brush must be dipped deep to get enough Goo, or the bottle must be squeezed repeatedly to purge air before the liquid will flow.  So I make a point of keeping my bottles at the ¾ to full level by adding from a back-stock of Goo.  I suggest buying two bottles of any product you will be using and frequently topping off the bottle that you are working from.  This is a huge time saver over wrestling with a single bottle until it is empty.

Tip 3.  Using the brush when goo level is low. See above note about keeping bottles topped off.  It is a miserable time-sink to dip from an almost empty bottle of Goo.

Tip 4.  Which curing lamp is right for you? The most expensive lamp cures the Goo the fastest.  Unless your use of Cure Goo will be on rare occasion, you will achieve time and temper efficiencies by using the most powerful curing lamp.

Tip 5.  Leaving light on. Don’t do it.  I have had a tendency to fail to click my lamp off and put it on the table, upright.  In this position, I have no clue that the lamp is still on until I next reach for it, find it is rather warm, and then wonder how many minutes of expensive battery life I just wasted.  You might try leaving the lamp horizontal with the bulbs facing you or just make double sure the lamp is off before placing it upright on your bench.

Tip 6.  Aiming the curing lamp at Goo bottles. Not good.  Obviously the lamp cures the Goo, and this is sometimes an accident of placing a Goo bottle under the fly in progress while using the lamp; shining the lamp on the fly simultaneously cures Goo on the fly and the applicator tip.  Prevent this by placing the Goo bottle well to the side of the desk under the fly in the vise.

Tip 7.  Syringe versus nozzle head. Some folks have mastered the use of the syringe.  I am not one of these master tyers.  I push on the plunger until too much Goo squirts out, then I have to grab the plunger and retract it to remove pressure (otherwise it will continue to ooze Goo when I set it down.  Instead, I purchase Thick Goo in the syringe and transfer it into a squeeze bottle with a large applicator tip.  I find that I have better control over the rate of Goo ejection from the squeeze bottle.  If you are good with the Syringe, more power to you; I have just decided that the bottle application is better suited to my temperament and skill-set.

Tip 8.  Get the Cure Goo accessory tips set. This set includes several straight and curved application tips that fit on any of the bottles and the syringe.  It also includes a few spare tip caps.  This set is well worth the investment; sometimes applicator tips get so clogged that it is far better to replace them than struggle to un-foul them.  If you do purchase the accessory set, I bet you will use it.

Tip 9.  Hand cleaning with alcohol based hand sanitizer. My fingers get sticky with Goo.  A pump bottle of hand sanitizer makes it easy to get the sticky off.

Tip 10.  Cleaning drips off desk.  I use the hand sanitizer for still wet drips or a razor blade for semi cured blobs.

Tip 11.  Cleaning out applicator tips and sticky bottles.  A needle helps, plus a set of pliers to grasp the needle to pull it out.  Some bodkins are just the right diameter to work also, as are some tube mandrels.  Try not to jam one of these sharp things through your finger.  I have done this and it hurts.  It hurts a lot.  The paper towels are in constant use wiping off fingers and the applicator nozzles and the bottles, which seem to get sticky fairly quickly.  None of this is a big deal, just routine maintenance.

Tip 12. Attaching eyes. This can only be learned by fiddling around and practice.  Small eyes do not require much Goo, and a dab of thin or tack free in the gap between top and bottom of eyes might do the trick.  Big eyes with large gaps will almost certainly require a lot of the thick goo plus a quick coat of Hydro to seal off the stickiness when you are finished.  Eyes placed on winging materials may require a buildup of Goo all around the eyes, in essence creating a baitfish head with the eyes in the center.  These Goo heads require practice and just be patient and plod through it like an artist in residence, learning the tricks of the trade.

Tip 13.  Goo will sink into winging materials. Depending on circumstances, I may let a lot of Goo sink in before curing with my lamp.  Other times, I will hit the lamp fairly early; this is something one must just play with to get a feel for when enough is enough.

Tip 14.  Cure time. Hydro cures in but a few seconds.  Very thick Goo requires perhaps ten seconds.  Go at it and you will figure it out.  You may always shine the light again if you wish.  Remember, I use the hi power lamp, a weaker lamp will take longer.  And yes, you could leave your flies out in the sun after a quick hit with a weak lamp, but this seems less effective than simply getting the good lamp in the first place.

Tip 15.  Layering Goo.  I often create fly heads on baitfish in layers, applying the cure lamp at each successive stage.

Tip 16.  Using a rotating vise. Gosh, this seems really important for a lot of the saltwater fly patterns I have been working with, and it is a huge help when working with Cure Goo also.  Each fly vise has its own quirks, but the ability to rotate a vise head to see where one is placing the Goo, and to more evenly distribute pre-cured Goo is a significant advantage.

Thick Cure Goo. I use this stuff to fill the biggest spaces between the largest eyes, and to form the largest epoxy-like heads.

Tack free Cure Goo. I probably use this Goo the most often.  It cures non-tacky, is almost as thick as thick, and it very broadly useful securing eyes and serving as an epoxy replacement.

Thin Cure Goo. I keep this handy to fill in the smaller spaces where I failed to get proper coverage with a thicker Goo around hook eyes and fly eyes.  When just a little Goo is needed, the Thin product is probably easiest and best for the job.

Tack free flex Cure Goo. This works for Surf Candy Flies and to build up heads around eyes on baitfish flies.  It really does stay flexible.  I often use this to stiffen the base of tail materials on baitfish flies in order to reduce the tendency of the materials to foul or wrap around the hook shank when casting in windy conditions.  Nice stuff to play with.

Hydro Cure Goo. I have taken to using Hydro throughout fly construction as well as the finish coat on mono and traditional threads at the fly’s head.  I have tried the brush as well as the fine tip applicator, and I by far prefer the needle like applicator tip.  Hydro is about the consistency of water and cures nearly instantly when the lamp is turned on.  Try starting a fly by laying down a thread base, squeezing on a thin layer of Hydro, and zapping it with the lamp.  This forms a secure foundation for any fly you will build on the base.  I also apply a drop of Hydro at various points during the fly’s construction to provide secure hold on synthetics and minimize the need for thread build-up.

Thick Fleck Goo. Nice incorporation of sparkle for fly heads and Surf Candy style flies.

Hope these ideas help.

Jay Nicholas, August 2013

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3 Responses to Saltwater Fly Tying: Tips for using Clear Cure Goo

  1. chaveecha says:

    How about the smell? Do you just get used to it, or is there something that neutralizes the odor?

  2. Jay Nicholas says:

    Smell? Huh? Watchtalkingabout? Come to think about it, I do on occasion find myself missing the old head cement HIGH………

  3. Mono Ceba says:

    Jay, as a newbie to CCG products, I should have read your wonderful hints before ordering..ah well. Having relocated in Florida, I’ve grown tired of handsome natural hair flies being torn up after a couple of fish. I truly enjoyed your thorough article, and your sense of reality regarding their products…looking forward to trying them out. Also enjoyed your comment about “head cement”…..always felt the term had nothing whatsoever to do with fly tying…haahha…from one “old head” to another, thanks again

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