Thursday, June 13, 2013

Indispensable Fly Tying Stuff - Loon Hard Head

     Those of you who’ve read me for any length of time know that I am a cynical Yankee & seldom endorse any products except through very circumspect necessity, as I feel to do otherwise would be to taint the zen purity of Soft~Hackle Journal, which we hold sacrosanct & immutable. There are no ads streaming & blinking here & there never will be. Yet, we need certain things. As Bert says: flyfishers are an incestuous lot. And because there really are small companies with integrity, founded & staffed by anglers who share our view of sustainability, who give back, as well as being committed to quality, useful products, I feel it might serve to further our craft & enjoyment to give the best of these deserved mention – just the good guys with the stuff I like & find most useful – & with that, I am pleased to welcome Loon Products as a sponsor of Soft~Hackle Journal. Loon meets SHJ’s highest criteria with a quality line of non-toxic products meant to enhance our game & environment. (And we like the name.) I posted a link to Loon’s catalog in the right-hand column under ‘Stuff I Like’, & invite readers to check out their great line of well-thought products.      

I became acquainted with Loon through my wife, who for a long time had been fairly patient & reasonably cool about me clogging the kitchen table with fly tying stuff, her main source of complaint being the noxious fumes from my head cement, which, according to her, was giving me brain damage.

“…Why do you think they call it fly dope?”

Then one day while looking over fly tying potions in a catalog, I let it drop that there was non-toxic, odorless, water-base tying cement available.

“O goody,” she responded, “You better order some because that’s the only kind you’re opening inside the house any more – I’m not going to let you kill us both with that stuff you’ve been using.”

I needed a general-purpose penetrating cement & something thicker for finishing heads, so I ordered a bottle of Loon Head Cement & a bottle of clear Loon Hard Head. Both came with handy applicator brush tops.

I immediately liked the Loon head cement – it goes on white, which aids in seeing where you put it, penetrates like water & dries clear, shiny & tough. And no toxic fumes. My girl is happy &, turns out, wise.

I’m thankful for her prompt because I tend to be slow off the base. And though I am well satisfied with the non-toxic head cement, I’ve found the Loon Hard Head to be indispensable for a lot of operations besides finishing heads, which it does perfectly. Hard Head comes in clear & a spectrum of colors as well, it is the consistency of epoxy & will serve in most tying operations calling for epoxy – without the mixing & waste, & sets at about the same rate as fast epoxy. It can be applied with the brush or a needle. One application gives a nice, working head on smaller flies, & two or three coats gives you perfectly slick heads on saltwater & salmon/steelhead flies. And I’ve found that the longer I use Hard Head, the more uses I find for it. Here’s a few more:

* Make epoxy-back nymphs easier – 2 or 3 coats of Hard Head over the shellback material produces a nice, shiny, non-clouding hard back for nymphs, beetles & scud – also a perfect coating for thread or floss bodied ants.  

* Use a bodkin to paint a coat of Hard Head over delicate quill, mylar tinsel, thread & floss bodies. Eliminates the need to reverse wind wire over tiny quill bodies.        

* Apply Hard Head to the thread around the base of parachute wing posts, then wrap the hackle before it sets – keeps the post & hackle bedded in place, hackle won’t ‘climb’ the post with use – gives the fly a lot more mileage.

* Coat all thread wraps with Hard Head when constructing foam flies, & can be used for sticking foam as well. Your foam creations will look prettier & hold together with rough use.

* Apply Hard Head over the wraps securing hair wings to ensure they stay in place. When tying deer & elk wing cripples I apply it over the thread binding the wing after tying the hackle in, then wind the hackle & tie off over the wet Hard Head. Everything stays put & the fly lasts longer.

* Use Hard Head to glue eyeballs onto saltwater & large streamers – & it can be brushed on or dipped into for building slick, durable hard heads on bait imitations.

* Unruly materials like saddle hackles for flatwings, matched quill & feather wings, or cheek feathers & jungle cock eyes, can be set in position with the aid of Hard Head – take a couple loose turns of thread to tie in, tweak the feather[s] into position, then apply a drop of Hard Head at the tie-in point, let it set for about 15 minutes & continue tying with your materials set in perfect position.

* Clear Hard Head is just the thing for repairing split jungle cock nails & coating feathers to produce classic, natural eyes for streamers & salmon/steelhead flies.

* Hard Head is excellent for coating nail knots & line-splice connections.

That’s a lot of uses for one potion – & there are probably more I haven’t stumbled upon yet. Loon Hard Head is great stuff. And if you are still hassling with 2-part epoxy & toxic head cement, I'm certain a bottle of Hard Head will be an upgrade to your bag of tricks.