The Epoxy Needlefish
(Designed by Barry Stokes)
Hook: Daiichi X472 #2-#6
Tail: Pearlescent Flashabou
Underbody: Pink and white Antron or the core from the Super Weave Mylar tubing is a good source for white underbody material. Silver Flashabou on bottom pearl Flashabou on top plus an additional topping of darker Flashabou such as black or peacock. On larger versions add a splash of purple Flashabou.
Lateral Line: Pearl or Purple Flashabou
Over Body: Super Weave Mylar
Eyes: 1.5mm (XS) Tape Eyes, Silver
Gills: Red Permanent Marker
Dorsal Body Marking: Black Permanent Marker
Body Finish: Devcon 2 Ton Epoxy
Tying Note: Coloration constantly varies amongst species, from area to area and the particular mood of the needlefish. Pattern components should mirror these variations as local conditions dictate.
With the interest in salt water fly fishing growing worldwide the number of epoxy based patterns has jumped exponentially. Nearly all saltwater fish feature razor sharp teeth as standard equipment and an even nastier disposition. Fly pattern durability is critical and epoxy rises to this challenge. Epoxy, as with many materials available to the fly tyer takes a little getting used to but with practice and knowledge is a versatile ally. Coating patterns or portions there of is the most common epoxy application. Others are now finding other uses both within the actual construction of the fly or designing flies created almost entirely of epoxy.
Barry Stokes is amongst British Columbia’s finest fly tyers. When he is not performing his Production Manger duties with Islander Reels Barry loves to chase searun cutthroat near his Victoria home or Coho on the open ocean and around their natal streams. Barry’s Epoxy Needlefish traces its catalytic roots to patterns created by known epoxy magicians Shawn Bennett and Lise Peters. Barry has taken Shawn and Lise’s concepts creating a devastating pattern that performs with equal guile on cutthroat and ravenous Coho. Using a Stillwater line most of the time, Barry fishes his Epoxy Needlefish in a darting erratic manner. A loop knot and wiggling rod tip provides additional seductive persuasion. If needlefish aren’t present Barry employs his Epoxy Needlefish as a change up or searching pattern. Many fish find its varied colors and inherent shimmer irresistible.
There is a variety of epoxy on the market today, both brand and cure time. Frequent epoxy addicts favor Devcon 2-ton epoxy as its longer cure provides prolonged working times and a superior finish than shorter cure types such as 5 minute. Air temperature has an effect on epoxy working time, the higher the temperature the shorter the working time. A consideration when toiling at a light doused tying bench. Longer cure epoxies provide superior results due to a reduced risk of water penetration and annoying yellowing. As with most products reading the label to discover the nuances of each manufacturer pays large dividends easing frustration.
Cure times can be extended through the strategic addition of 70% rubbing alcohol or acetone. Avoid lesser percentage solutions of rubbing alcohol due to their increased water content. Acetone is a volatile substance and should be used in a well ventilated area. It is also a great cleaning agent for epoxy coated tools. When using an additive such as acetone or rubbing alcohol do so in judicious amounts by adding one drop at a time. Keep in mind, thinned epoxy is not as user friendly and may take some practice when working with it.
The biggest challenge most face when using epoxy is getting the correct hardener to resin ratio. Equal amounts of each must be used or the epoxy never cures. In some instances a coating of clear nail polish provides salvation. However, it is wiser to focus upon proper mixing technique. A few simple tools ease epoxy mixing fuss and frustration. Use a Post it Note or white card as a mixing palette. Some favor white cards over colored fearing dyes from the colored mixing palette may taint the epoxy. The small mixing palette is ideal for those who can’t the temptation to touch their flies before they have cured. Instead of fondling the fly and risking the chance of messing it up touch the epoxy mix on the palette. When the mix is dry so is the fly.
Mix the epoxy using a homemade 3/8 inch wide cardboard spreader cut with an angled tip or a metal dentist probe, another good reason to visit the dentist. Wooden spreaders such as Popsicle sticks are avoided by serious epoxy wizards, concerned about contaminating the mix. Use a gentle folding motion and change directions during the mixing process. Avoid aggressive strokes as this adds unwanted air bubbles that are difficult to remove. Should air bubbles form it is possible to remove them by exhaling on the epoxy while mixing. Work the epoxy puddle in from the edges to ensure all components are thoroughly mixed. A ring around the perimeter of the puddle is a sure sign epoxy has not been correctly mixed. Interesting effects can be created by adding materials to the mix such as fine pearlescent powders. Avoid coarse materials as these tend to texture the final finish. Epoxy can also be colored through the strategic addition of acyclic craft paint. As with alcohol or acetone additions use small drops of paint to tint epoxy. Coating fly heads with metallic nail polish prior to any epoxy application is another worthwhile technique.
Once the fly or better yet flies are tied and the epoxy is mixed it is time to coat the pattern using the cardboard spreader, probe or a small disposable brush. Rod building suppliers are an ideal source of disposable brushes. Use a smooth gentle sweeping motion to apply the mix along the length of the area. Avoid dabbing as this causes ugly lumps and bumps. Apply as thin a coat as possible. It is better to add two thin coats as opposed to one thick application. Place the coated fly into a rotary dryer. Electric or battery powered rotary dryers can be fashioned at home or purchased. Look for a slow rotation rate, around 10 RPM is ideal. Leave the finished flies on the dryer until they are completely dry, typically 12 to 24 hours. Let the manufactures recommendations be the guide.
Epoxy is not confined to the saltwater or toothy critter tyer. Bullet proof chironomids by coating the body with rod winding epoxy or add an epoxy dollop on a wingcase of a favorite nymph. The popular Copper John is an example of a nymph pattern that put this trick to deadly effect.
1) De-barb the hook and place it into the jaws of the vise. Cover the hook shank with thread and return it to the hook eye. Double 6 strands of silver Flashabou around the tying thread. Grasp both ends of the Flashabou and slide them into position along the underside of the hook shank. Secure the silver Flashabou back down the underside of the hook shank to the bend of the hook. Spread the Flashabou on either sides of the hook. Trim the Flashabou so it extends back behind the hook about one half the shank.
2) Return the tying thread to the front of the hook. Double and tie in 6 strands of pearlescent Flashabou in the same fashion as the silver Flashabou in step #1 this time on top of the shank. Trim the pearlescent Flashabou even with the silver Flashabou. Repeat this process with 6 strands of black or olive Flashabou.
3) Tie in a 4 inch length of pink Antron or Poly yarn just back from the hook eye on top of the shank. Make sure the Antron or Poly yarn is thin. Keep the slender profile of a natural needlefish in mind. Secure the yarn back down the shank to the bend. Pull the yarn under the shank and secure forward to the hook eye. Fold the yarn back down the underside of the shank and secure in place to the bend. Trim the excess yarn and cover the end with tying thread.
4) Tie in a 4 inch length of white Antron or Poly yarn just back from the hook eye on top of the shank. As with the pink underbody material make sure the length of yarn is thin. Build up the underbody using the same process as was done with the pink yarn. The goal is to create a slender underbody with a pink lateral stripe and to have the majority of the underbody on the underside of the hook shank.
5) Tie in additional lengths and colors of Flashabou as was done in steps #1 and #2. Pearlescent followed by purple or black Flashabou along the top of the underbody, silver Flashabou along the ventral portion of the shank. Trim the ends of the Flashabou even with the balance of the tail.
6) Tie in 3-4 strands of pearlescent Flashabou Mirage down each side of the body to suggest a lateral line. Trim the ends of the Flashabou even with the balance of the tail. Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Apply a dab of Fisherman’s glue for added security. The underbody is now complete. As needlefish are constantly in a state of color flux mix and match the Flashabou and yarn combinations to match the naturals. Tying a number of underbody sections makes sense when tying a number of Epoxy Needlefish.
7) Remove the core from a slightly longer than the hook shank length of Super Weave Mylar tubing. Reattach the tying thread at the hook eye and bind down the Mylar tubing at the eye. Trim any remnants of the Mylar tubing protruding forward from the tie in point. Build up a bulbous minnow like head reminiscent of the natural needlefish. Once the head is complete whip finish and remove the tying thread. Apply a dab of Fisherman’s glue for added security. Attach the tying thread at the bend of the hook. Pull on the Mylar tubing to reduce bulk, secure the tubing in place placing the thread wraps directly on top of each other. Whip finish and remove the tying thread, place a dab of Fisherman’s glue on the thread wraps for additional security. If desired, carefully trim the excess Mylar tubing flowing back into the tail.
8) Using a dubbing needle place a pair of tape eyes along each side of the head. Use the thumb and forefinger to pinch the eyes into position and cupping them around the head.
9) Use permanent markers to add the red gills slashes just behind the eyes and black dorsal markings along the top of the hook shank.
10) Coat the body and head including the tapes eyes with a thin coat of epoxy. If a second coat is required allow the first coat to dry before adding additional coatings. 2 coats should be ample for this pattern. Place the fly on a rotary dryer to ensure the epoxy dries evenly.