Pete's original writings from the Heart of the World, plus fly-tying

Saturday, January 30

Fly-tying: The Aztec

The first fly I ever tied was the Aztec, a yarn fly created in the 70s by Dick Nelson. You could call it a yarn matuka. Or would it be a mohawk...

Lefty Kreh features a full page of Aztec variations in his Saltwater Fly Patterns. These include a baitfish, a bonefish fly, tarpon flies, and a squid. Doug Swisher was a fan of the Aztec and featured a sample tie on one of his early 3M/Scientific Anglers VHS tapes. There's a sample of an Aztec tie using acrylic yarn online at Fly Fishers Republic.

The Aztec was a fun tie. And cheap. Using acylic yarn, the colors available at the local fabric shop or discount store were extensive, and each color skein would last a lifetime. The yarn was pretty tough and had a lot of action. Mixing or blending colors and adding flash was simple.

Short, single plies of acrylic yarn are tied all along the top of the hook shank. Each ply is tied in the middle and the ends teased upwards. Tying without a bobbin, I used large spools of pearl or silver braid I found at the fabric shop instead of tying thread. Frequent applications of head cement held it all together. After the cement dried, it was a simple matter of brushing out the strands of yarn with a pet-brush and velcro stick. A little care's needed when brushing the yarn out - starting lightly out near the tips and working slowly down toward the hook shank to avoid snarls. Even though the individual plies, once separated, are thin, they sometimes retained the curl from the original twisting. Some colors, styles, or brands of yarn seemed worse than others - their plies would rather knot and shed in clumps. The tail section, usually longer if not thicker, needed greater care. Working slowly in toward the shank without losing much material came with practice. My yarn collection went to a local school's art teacher, but I did find some wool yarn to tie a sample. It's heavier stuff but still works.

Starting to untwist the 2-ply yarn

The separated plies, ready to use

Each ply, tied on in the middle and teased upwards. In this example, the plies are crowded for bulk. If they were acylic and spaced a little farther apart, they would have more action. Head cement (or your glue of choice) has been liberally added throughout these steps. It makes a sturdier fly for brushing-out (next 2 photos) as well as fishing.

Start the teasing out with your tool of choice. Here I've used the cat-brush. Work from the tips down to the shank. There's dubbing material left on the brushes and combs.

Fully brushed out

A light trim across the top with scissors makes for a tall/broad presentation.

Another trim, another effect

A third trim, another type of bait

Cat-brush, bone comb, velcro brush, scissors. The one thing to watch for is snarls/knots in the yarn. You'll invite more of them if you rush the brushing instead of working your way down the plies to the shank. Combing too soon almost guarantees trouble. You can work snarls out by teasing the knotted yarn with a narrow, thin object. If you try to force the issue you might pull out a hunk of material. Acrylic yarns vary by number of plies, thickness and stiffness of fibers, how tightly twisted they were, etc. Some will be easier to work with than others.

Another use of yarn fibers: Nick Curcione has used untwisted/brushed-out pieces of macrame yarn in place of ready-made fibers. He sticks with white and colors the fly as needed with markers. You could get by with one skein of white and a set of permanent markers. Labor-intensive, but a pretty light and inexpensive tying kit!

Wednesday, January 27

Birds of Peace

At rest, birds of peace
are serene, softly
calling to the Heart
of the World all
around them

To fly, their wings
start upward, expanding,
balancing heaven and earth

Then feathers gently close,
pushing down-

Peace soars,
lifting our hearts

Monday, January 25

Economy: Idle Idol

For a very small fee
you may worship
beneath the

Previous takers
now own a frown-
there's no