I have a long-held dislike of pheasant tail fibres. Let me qualify that statement, I hate them as a material for making tails on flies. I use them extensively for bodies on a lot of patterns and really think they are a great material for that job. Even when a PT body gets torn by fishes teeth or in the general wear and tear of fishing, they can be tidied up with a few snips of the scissors and the fly is still good to go. Tails are a different story though and I have binned scores of flies over the years because the tails have broken off completely. For this reason I switched to using moose hair or bucktail to replace pheasant tail fibres many years ago, a decision I can recommend to you. Moose hair is strong and reasonably flexible making it a better tailing medium than Pheasant tail in my opinion.
While picking through my fly boxes the other day I came upon an old Yellow May Mohican. Still in otherwise usable condition the pheasant herl tail fell off in my hand as I took the fly out of the foam. Mohicans take a bit of work to make and this one had caught fish before so I was loathe to chuck it away. What if I could repair it instead? A dram was poured and I settled into the chair in front of the fire to think this through. Logs from the tree I trimmed last year crackled in the flames, Nelson the one-eyed cat purred on my lap and the fly caught the light as I turned it this way and that as I decided on a course of action.
Modern fly tying silks are a marvel, at least I think they are. I am old enough to remember when all you had was Gossamer silk. Much as I love it for my spiders as a tying silk it was relatively thick and not very strong. As new synthetics arrived on the scene there was a noticeable increase in strength but the early ones were usually 6/0 diameter. Compare that with the huge range of silks we can pick from today, every conceivable hue and in thicknesses of incredible finesse. Herein lay part of the solution to healing the cruelly disfigured Mohican.
My long and varied working life led my down some ‘interesting’ paths, not the least of which was a foray into the construction business. We would be here for a week or more while I explained how a factory manager became the owner of a small painting and tiling business but that is what happened in the early years of this century. It was the first time I had been my own boss and I loved that aspect of the job. Long hours, hard, physical work sometimes and little in the way of time off were the downside of course. Sometimes I had other lads working with me but at other times I worked alone and so became reasonably proficient with brush, roller and the other tools of the trade. Most of those old tools are still in my possession and they get used around the house as required.
Rolls of masking tape in different widths littered the back of my battered old red work van at the time and I still like to have a few rolls on hand in the house now. Nelson shifted on my lap and I sipped a drop more of the Balvenie as I thought about how to shield the other dressing materials while fixing on a new tail. Why of course, a snippet of masking tape wrapped around the fly would do the job! Not too tacky so as to leave a residue and already on hand this should do the trick. As a back-up I could try fuse wire loosely wrapped around the fly.
At the vice it took a bit of figuring out how to start the process but I pulled all the hair and feather of the fly forward over the eye then held it in place with the snippet of tape was wrapped. I used fl. chartreuse 8/0, beginning the silk hard against the end of the body. Carefully taking turns towards the bend, I built up a small ball of silk. This was intended to provide a base for the tail fibres and prevent them from taking on a downward set when tied in. Next I selected a few strands of moose main hair, levelled up the points and trimmed them to the length I needed. These were tied in and carefully whipped in position before a whip finish completed the job. Drops of varnish on the silk offered a bit of protection and the job was finished.
It probably takes me about ten minutes to make a Mohican from scratch. This repair was done in less than a minute and I returned the now perfectly serviceable fly back into the box for use again.