The war on waste

This post will no doubt confirm your worst suspicions about me, that I am obsessed with waste. Fly tying, by its very nature is a wasteful process, we spend hours clipping and cutting then disposing of the waste in the bin. Some of this is necessary but we can reuse some of the bits we have trimmed off.

these hackle tips are long enough to be used
  1. Hackles. Ranging from cheap to eye-wateringly expensive, hackles are vital parts on most flies. Sometimes we use every millimeter of the feather but on other occasions we cut off a piece which can be reused. I admit I do this a lot! I save potentially useful hackle tips, either for hackle point wings or to wind as an additional hackle on my wets. Do the fish actually decide to take one of these flies just because I added one turn of a hackle – of course not but I like to make small additions or changes to my patterns just because I can.
  2. Tinsels. I am including all tinsels, flash and wires here. I keep a small bag on the desk beside me and when I am finished tying I round up any useable lengths of these materials and pop then in the bag for use again. It is amazing how often I find I have run out of a tinsel or wire only to find some in this bag.
  3. Hooks. Periodically I go through my fly boxes and weed out any sickly looking flies. These are checked and if the hook is in good condition I strip off the old dressing with a razor blade and reuse the hook. Sometimes I find a broken hook or one which is so blunt it would take too much to sharpen. I cut the bend off of these and use the shank for articulated flies such as damsels.
  4. Like many of you, I gather any waste at the end of a session and try to use the mixture as a dubbing. Fur, hair, CDC, trimmings from feathers and ends of silks can all be chopped together and used.
  5. Bronze mallard is a staple of Irish fly tying and like most tyers I go through a lot of these expensive feathers every season. When tying the wings of dabblers, cock robins and the rest I keep any feathers which have a few fibres left on them and use these for tails.
  6. Substitutes. I dye a lot of my own materials, simply to get the colours I want. It also allows me to use other feathers, fur etc. for example, if I have a lot of badger hackles I dye a few ginger to give me a greenwell. Faintly marked teal can be dyed brown to make a passable bronze mallard substitute. The opportunities are endless!

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