Organizing Fly Tying Stuff

by Mike Hogue

I can't say that I am the most organized person in the world because I am not. Most generally my fly tying desk looks like a chicken exploded and most of the remains never quite made it to the designated spot.

Much of this stuff just seems to grow, in some cases by the pound. I once was at a fly show where some asked why they would buy a certain color or shape of something and the reply was for "The R value"...."R value? What on earth is R value?" "Well I have this theory that if I pile enough stuff into my attic, it retains heat and thus raises the overall "r" value of my insulation and this is how I justify buying more stuff to tie flies with." So for a long time "r value" simply referred to more stuff.

Actually accumulating materials is one of the great joys of this hobby. Finding just the right shade of something or getting a full ounce of wooduck for $35 or even 4 extra balls of chenille, can be a sub hobby in and of itself. I ought to know since basically this is how a hobby got out of control and became a business for me.

Managing materials is another issue. If you take care of things they will last a long time. A fair amount of stuff actually has a shelf life and if not used up will start to break down. Another consideration is the items which are bought, recovered or items harvested. I will go into some of those ideas and give you some places to look to organize things.

Eliminating Pests:

There are several kinds of things to be concerned with in the storage of materials. First is bugs. Usually you are okay if buy materials from well known suppliers. The retailer, wholesalers and the manufacturers go to great lengths to sort, clean, tan, wash and dry your materials. It does me no good to sell something which is full of insect larva or other wonderful attachments. Bugs most often arrive from materials which are given, donated or harvested. That well intended free road kill was no bargain if it brought in all sorts of nasty critters as a bonus. Ducks are by far and away loaded with all sorts of bugs and lice. Why this is so I have no idea but usually if I have an offensive pelt 9 times out of 10 it came from something hunted.

There are 3 ways to reduce or eliminate pests: Isolation, freezing/micro-waving, washing and chemical warfare.

Begin by isolating any free stuff. Don't mix wild game in with other items until you are sure it is free of pests. I usually take a suspect pelt or group of feathers and keep it away from other items. I will use separate zip bags and keep items together. I store those and if I can't control the bugs, I pitch it.

You can freeze pelts or feathers but it won't kill the eggs. This is one way to stop the critters dead in their tracks but it often is just a stop gap process which slows them down. Think about this if a goose is outside in 10- below zero weather and still has bugs, the eggs didn't freeze now did they?

Micro waving will cook everything and kills the eggs. I am not sure this is the best idea but it does work. One trouble is you rise burning the feathers and you also cook the meat or fat that is left on a pelt. If you have one pack of loose feathers it might be worth it to just microwave on low. You will hear the little devils explode when you do this. Just retribution I suppose for an infestation.

Washing is pretty effective. Get some dish ( I usually use Dawn), fill the sink up and toss it all in. Let it soak until the entire pelt is completely wet. I might let it soak for about 2-3 hours. Then I rinse the pelts in water and lay on a newspaper to dry. This is one of the easiest ways to clean up game. If you wash dyed products, do it in a separate solution as the dye can leech out. No reason to bleed red dye on to that rare merganser flank now is there?

Unfortunately the best bug killer was DDT, which is now against the law. There are 2 kinds of moth products: balls and crystals. The crystals are far more effective than balls. They also stink to high heaven. I usually dump some in and seal up the package, then seal the box by putting it in a plastic snap box. Extra large glass jars from institutional restaurants are great because they are free and cheap. They seal tight and are effective for a long term storage process. They are long which allow you to put big stuff in them. There are some new scented products used to control pests, I don't think those are nearly as good as the items above. I do recommend that you air out a package for several days after you store it in either balls or crystals. If it stinks too much you can wash it and then let it dry out.


Plastic shoe boxes are one of the most effective ways to manage stuff. You can get these at discount stores. I sort out items and put them in one box. One has bucktails, another for deer, another for pelts, another for hackle and so on. If I can get away with it, I pull the stuff out of the bags. I have big box full of deer for example. Another with cards of chenille and yarn. Plastic repack boxes have a lid the folds down and use those to dump lots of stuff in there. I can put really big wings, pelts or such in those boxes. I have a bunch of antelope I store this way since I got so much of it.

Floss boxes are available at craft stores and discounters and have a set of cards in them. Wind chenille, yarns, zelon and antron on to these small cards to manage a set of chenille better. Hook organizers are handy for eyes, hooks and beads. You can use some small fly boxes for beads and eyes. I like to keep eyes together and beads together. Also if you can reduce down the number of zip bags, you will save yourself time. The biggest trouble I have with hooks is that 3-4 manufacturers all have different boxes and of course none of them match. Get a hook box and some small computer labels and then you can keep all the hooks in one spot.

Thread and floss can get dirty if exposed to dust, metal tinsels tarnish and if these have rubber bands on them, the rubber will melt and ruin metal tinsel over time. I use thread storage tubes and have a thread drawer. If I leave a thread out on a thread tree, it usually gets very dusty over time and I have wiped those down with a damp cloth.

Necks and Hackle: I NEVER take a neck off the cards. Leave them on! I rarely pull the staples out. If you leave the saddle or neck on a card it keeps the feathers straight. A loose neck can get broken or it can get damaged if it lays crooked in a bag. To take any card out of zip bag do this: Open the bag, bend the card slightly and shake, the card will now come and go at will. If you jerk the card, you break it or rip the bag. Try looking for 18" neck bags at Wal Mart. Not available in the grocery store. I have neck bags like 8-10 years old now. Be kind to them.

A great item I found was a craft carrier. I have a craft bag which is the only bag I have ever seen that is long enough to carry the large 18" chicken butt cards used by several growers. Look at some craft stores for those. If you watch they sometimes have a 50% off coupon in the paper. I got mine for $10 on sale with the coupon.

Groups for Travel:

Nope this isn't a collection of fly tiers that are globe trotters! I recommend that you save your back and give it a break by pre packing some stuff. Poul Jorgenson told me this one. Poul takes along stuff for shows for 5 flies. In advance he prepares a packet of material with all the stuff to tie a fly....hooks, hackle, tinsel, thread. When he demos, he pulls out that packet. When done it goes back in the pack. You can use the same idea. Put all the stuff for a woolly bugger in the bag. Or all the stuff for a nymph. If you don't use it, leave it home. No reason to haul a giant box of stuff around.

You can also reduce things down. Pull say 4-5 hackles off the saddles and label those for the size. The worst I have seen is folks carrying giant pheasant tails. Take a clipper and cut a segment out. You can clip like 2" off and carry that. Fits in a 3 by 4 zip instead of a full 18" bag. You can also cut quills down. I cut segments and those are much easier to work with.



Stuff to Organize Your Life with:

Mike's Flexitop boxes: Sick of all those awful blister hook boxes? Got 20 cards of hooks that don't match? This is the ticket. These boxes have a snap lid. Label each one with a computer label and keep track of sizes, shapes and such. Size small holds hooks from 26 to size 6, Large good for size 6 and up to more or less 4/0. One dozen small $2.50 or 1/2 dozen large for $2.50.

Mike Hook Box: 8" long strip which has a snap lid. Use for long hooks up to about 2/0. Single strip holds 12: $5 or a double strip holds 24: $6

Mike's Round Box: 6 compartments in a round box. Use this for bead, eyes, hooks or flies. Very cool and ideal for lots of stuff. $3.50

Meiho Midge Boxes: One of my big sellers. 6 or 8 compartment boxes. Hold beads, hooks and eyes. Individual lids, snap and look. Small loop for lanyard around your neck. $3.50 each or 2 for $6.

Mike Tyer's Tubes: Plastic tube with cap ends. Pull the cap off and drop in thread. Holds like 8 thread spools. Ideal for travel, shows, class or demos. $2.50

Mike Tyer's Flash Tubes:10" long tubes useful for flashabou and crystal flash. Stuff the flash in the tube and then seal it up. 10" tube can be cut to size for smaller Crystal flash. 6 pack of tubes. $5.50

Empty dubbing boxes: Pre drilled boxes with holes, make your own secret brew and pack in the box. Holds one dozen dubbings. $3.50

Eclipse Tackle Management Containers: I just added these! Very cool. 2 sets of containers:

6 pack travel set: This is a set of 6 individual containers. Each locks into a carrier. Some boxes have a 4 way divider, some are just round. The container can be used for flies, hooks, eyes, beads. Holder can be mounted to a boat, screwed into the wall or even attached to the back of pickup. Very cool. $7.50

Desktop carrousel: This is a revolving tree that holds a ton of these doughnut shaped containers. The whole tree spins and holds 72 different containers. Ideal for the desk, shop or your basement. $27.00

For more info on these products go to:

Mike's "Thread Box" Spinning Carrousel holds 10 rows of thread, 4 in each row for a total of 40 spools. Drum design allows you to spin and see all the spools. Very nice. Protects against dust and dirt. $55.

Mike's Wooden tool Chest: Oak tool box with silver brass knobs and handles. Well made with red velvet inside. Excellent value at $130. Similar boxes are over $650!


New Stuff:

Bar Dyed Rabbit Strips: I avoided this one for awhile because they are very pricey. Unfortunately, they are also very cool. These are hand marked and bleached different colors, then dyed. Colors; Olive/Yellow, Olive/Brown, Chartreuse/Olive, Orange/Black. $5.00

Anodized Cone Heads: Aluminum coneheads, anodized to bright colors. Very cool. Black Orange, Red, Hot Pink, Blue. 3/8" 1/4", 3/16". $3.50 for pack of 24.

Plain Old Hare's Mask: I have found a great source for these English style masks. Dried with the ears. Natural, Dyed Black, Dyed Olive, Bleached. $3.50

Brite Black Beads: These are black nickel plated, to have a black metallic look. Won't scratch or chip. Very brite. 5/32, 1/8", 3/32, 5/64's. $2.50 pack of 25.

Terra Tube Fly Tool: 3 pin vice. Ideal for tubes of all sizes. Fits any vise. $9.00

Marc Pettijean Magic Clip/Magnum set; I have sold out of the Magic Clip set 3 times. This is just in: Extra large Magnum set. Use for streamers ect. $30 for use with the standard clip set.

Terra Deer Hair Packer: Solid aluminum, machined to pack hair. Very nice. $3.50

Glass Rattles: I found some small rattles. Use in the bodies of streamers. 3mm or 4mm. $3.50

Tungsten Beads/Gold: Much heavier than standard beads. Sinks quickly. 5/64, 3/32, 7/64. 1/8. 5/32. Gold only, pack of 10, $3.50.

White Pheasant: Cock pheasant/no tails or wings, white no colors. Ideal for speys and nymphs, dye to match own colors. $48.

Fine round rubber legs. Cool stuff for smaller flies. Strip with lots of legs. Brown, white, black, olive. $1.50

Terra vise extender: use to save your back. Puts vise down and away from desk. $12.

Terra Big Foot Base. Extra big, Extra heavy. This is a fat one. Weighs 5 pounds! Comes with built in hackle gauge and also spool rack, small cut out for hooks. Must sell! Banned as an assault weapon in village of W Dryden, NY after a mutant deer attacked my dog and I used it to defend Catonna from that frisky 4 legged walking hair bug. $24.00 ( Shipping for this is $8 )

Dyed Pearl Diamond Braid: Very cool stuff, used for the new Crazy Morse rainbow bead spawn fly. Hot winter steelhead material. Colors: Chartreuse, hot orange, olive, blue, hot pink. flo orange ( sort of peach), hot shrimp pink, purple, pearl black. $1.



One left: Deer Mask: ( AKA Deer Pizza). Has lots of small, stiff deer. Was $20, Now $15.

#3 Purple Guinea Hen: Garfed up wings. Oh well don't use those much anyway. Hackle fine. Complete pelt. Natural purple w/black and small spots, $8.50

#3 Natural Brown Dun Guinea Hen; Brown gray. Ideal for speys, not many spots. $10.00


Just In: Mike's tools

I spent months getting this one done.

Mike's Stackers:

Extra heavy. Solid machine brass. Wow these are cool. Looks sort of like a by product from a Bill Clinton college house party where they actually inhaled. Sizes: Large, Large/ Extra long, Medium and small. Cork bottom. Large and Large/Extra long: $15, S-Med: $12

Machined stainless hook bowl: Solid stainless, machined, Use for hooks, beads and eyes. Mix epoxy or paints in them. $9.50.

Expect to see these at lots of places. Sometime there should be some info going out on these.


Last Call for shows: Show season is slowing down. 2 left, plan on coming out.

Just added! Cabin Fever: Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited, Palace Inn, Monroeville, PA, 3/6/04 9-4pm. Suburban Pittsburgh's TU Show. Speakers include: Jack Mickieviez, Flip Pallot, Dan Shields. About 30-40 booths, a bunch of tyers and NO rubber chicken dinner. Come on out for a great time. Located off Rt 22 and 48 Just off the PA turnpike outside Pittsburgh. For more info contact : Bill Hayes at 412-741-5150.

The Fly Fishing Fair, Fort Washington, PA , March 13, 14, 2004 Tom Baltz, Don Bastian, Blane Chocklett, Joe De Markis, Don Douple, Jim Freda, Chuck Furimsky, Tom Gilmore, Jerry Girard, Lee Hartman, Mike Martinek, Gary Mauz, Ray Miller, Ken Reinard, Rod Rohrbach, Mark Sedotti, Bill Skilton, Al Smeraglio, Mike Starke, Barry Statts, Harrison Steeves, Frank Thompson, Walt Young are just some of the national and local fly fishing experts who will be at the Fair to help you prepare for your best season ever!

Programs: Fly Fishing Small Trout Streams, Midge Tactics, Mayflies, Fly Fishing the Susquehanna Flats, Best Nymphs for Mid-Atlantic Streams, A Guide's Favorite Central PA Trout Streams and Patterns, Understanding Trout Streams. Directions: Take Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 26, Fort Washing. Proceed straight ahead after the toll booths into the town of Fort Washington and follow the blue and white signs for 3 miles to the Fort Washington Expo Center. For detailed directions call the Expo Center at 215-641-4500. We did the Fly Fair 2 other times and had lots of fun. Tons of things NOT for sale at the New Cabela's Store. For more info go to:

Catskill Fly Tyer's Guild 2004 Fly Tyer's Rendezvous, Rockland House, Roscoe, NY, April 17, 2004. 10-3pm. This is a free program. Over 45 tyers will come from across the Northeast for this one day event. Tyers Inlcude: Poul Jorgenson, Dick Talluer, Ralph Graves, Henry Northridge, John Likakis, Jack Pangburn, Fishy Fullum, Dave Brandt, Bob Mead , Bill Skilton, Frank Thompson, Mike Hogue and many others. Great time. Loads of great flies made, collectable flies for sale, several authors present to sign books and area fly fishing artists are expected to come. Lunch available at Rockland House, reception at the CFFCM following show. For more info, contact me.

I will do some demos and I will be at the CFFCM for a demo again late fall. More info later.




For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946