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Fly Tying Vise Hook Holder

Fly Tying Vise Magnetic Hook Tray

Like many of you, I like to sniff around hardware stores and other similar stores that sell a variety of stuff. I’m always looking for better glues and tools to help in my fly tying.

Here’s a cool idea that some of you may already have discovered. Most hardware or automotive stores sell these magnetized screw holders for work in the garage, etc.

You place these trays on any metal aspect of the machine you’re working on and it keeps things stabilized, so you don’t lose important components (which have a bad habit of falling into an unretrievable crevice within an engine block or similar).

These magnetized trays work great as a cheap add-on for your vise pedestal. The strong magnet not only holds the tray fast to your pedestal, but keeps hooks and beads stuck within the tray until you need them.

Try to find one that has a light colored background making it easier to ID your components. Just like that, you have a great hook holder. These can also be used for beads and any other components you don’t want to be crawling around on the floor in search of. Metal objects adhere the best, but any other type of components can be laid in these handy trays as well.

I found mine at an “unclaimed freight” store in north central Minnesota, but I’ve seen them all over the place in hardware stores, tool stores, and the like. I like the small ones like the ones shown in the photo, but they come in all sizes and colors, including metal finish.


Repairing Fly Line & DIY Welded Loops

Welded Loops Made Easy

Nail Knots have been the traditional method for attaching fly line to leaders. Fly line manufacturers are now creating fly lines with welded loops on both ends to ease the attachment to both to the reel spool and leader material. Making a welded loop in your new or damaged fly line is relatively easy. Two techniques are discussed.

Fly Line Maintenance

Fly lines can be very expensive and, with proper maintenance, a quality line should last you several years. This will of course will vary on how often you fish and the frequency of cleaning and dressing applied to your line.

Most people reel up, put the rod/reel in a cover or case and forget about it until the next trip. This practice will generally shorten the life of the line. We suggest cleaning your fly line at least after every two trips and dress the line with a commercial dressing after cleaning.

One of the most common issues with fly lines is the degradation or breakdown of the end loop connecting the leader to the fly line. Nail knot connections are a great way to attached monofilament leaders to fly line, but over time, the connection can break down the plastic coating of the line exposing the inner core, which will eventually break.

Loop Connection

The easiest way to connect the fly line to the leader is with a loop to loop connection. Many lines now come with welded loops on both ends.

There are many less expensive fly lines on the market which perform very well and do not come with loops. This article is about creating a loop on both ends of your fly line, whether you are repairing a broken loop or creating a new one on a line without a manufactured welded loop.

Technique #1: Creating a New Loop

The first technique is an old Lefty Kreh method I discovered 25 years ago. This employs your Whip Finishing Tool to create a thread wrap entrapping the loop end. You then coat the thread wrap with a flexible cement, such as Contact Cement or the newer UV treated flex cement on the market.

I have used this for years, since you don’t need any special equipment, such as flex tubing and heating units (more on this later). The author below is heavily into carp, so don’t hold that against him.

Here’s a good video on how to do this technique:

Technique #2: Creating a Welded Loop

The welded loop is the best connection to create, if you don’t mind getting some special equipment for the job. You can create a welded loop a number of ways, but the simplest is in the video below.

Some folks use special heating units and other apparatus, but a standard lighter works quite well. All you really need is shrink wrap tubing (about 4 cm). Finding it is another issue. (Somebody send this guy a fingernail clipper…..)

Fly Fishing on a Tropical Vacation

How to Integrate Saltwater Flyfishing into a Tropical Vacation

Have you ever wanted to tie in a Caribbean vacation with some saltwater fly fishing? You can do so without breaking the bank. Here’s some ideas on equipment and general approach.

Saltwater fly fishing is the fastest growing aspect of the industry over the last fifteen years.

If you haven’t fly fished for baby tarpon and bonefish, well, you haven’t really lived life to the fullest. 


Twenty five years ago I picked up the bible of Saltwater Fly Fishing, from the book of the same name, by Lefty Kreh. Kreh is my favorite fishing author for a number of reasons. His writings are jam packed with more practical “how-to” tips than anyone else.  The book covered all aspects of taking a trip to southern tropical climes to target bonefish, tarpon and other surly marine fishes.

A good 8wt rod, possibly overlined with 9 wt saltwater line (due to ever present wind) and a good quality reel. You will need a reel with a sealed drag that keeps the saltwater out and runs smoothly. If you don’t want to pay the extra money (starting at $375 plus) for a saltwater quality reel, bring the best bass reel you’ve got and see what happens. In a crunch, grab your bass fishing 8wt and pack it along. Tippet will vary between 10 – 14lb for bones and 30lb for baby tarpon and snook.

General Approach
For the adventurous angler – rent a car. I always rent a car in nearly all of the destinations we travel. This way we can explore on our own. Many of the islands, have accessible flats you can explore on your own. Plus, wading the flats for bones and other fish, is a fun way to begin your saltwater fly fishing. Make no mistake, it’s not easy, but with time – you’ll understand what to look for and begin hooking some fish.

As is almost always the case, hire a local guide at the beginning of your stay. The best advice is to hire a qualified guide for at least one day on the water either via boat or wading. If you do this at the beginning of the trip, you’ll get the feel of what to look for and perhaps how to gauge the tides and other factors to help you succeed.

For the not-so-adventurous type, once you arrive at your destination  you can ask around for information. Beware as there are a lot of scammers out there. Im skeptical of booking a guided trip through your hotel as they may not knowledgeable in fly fishing and will probably put you with a bait fisherman guide. Make sure to ask specific questions about the guide, what type of fish will you pursue and what type of tackle. Most locals will want to take you out to troll a reef for barracuda or fish a ten foot hole (called a mud) where schools of bones hangout when they’re not up shallow.

If I’m going in totally blind, I generally check with one of the ever present dive shops and see what they recommend. Dive shops have employees that speak English well and generally have information on fishing guides.

The best bet is to conduct your own research ahead of time on the area you’ll be staying and see what’s available for guided fly fishing. Trip Advisor comes in handy here. You can they deal directly with the guide and probably get better pricing than through an intermediary.


If you’re one of the huddled thousands that like the Cancun area, down to Playa de Carmen good flats fly fishing is in short supply.

In Cancun now, for example, there are several guides to take you into some of the area lagoons for baby tarpon and snook. I have not tried this specific area, because I just don’t care for frenzied places like Cancun. But if you’re there, give it a shot. Nearby smaller venues like Isla Mujeres actually has some decent fishing for bones and tarpon.

Further north towards the apex of the Yucatan and on the west coast, there are a number of fine fly fishing destinations, but they are more geared toward fishing, such as Isla Holbox, Progresso, and Campeche – and not for general vacationing. On the Gulf side of the Yucatan are some incredible opportunities for baby tarpon, but lack the great beaches, so if you’re bringing a non-angling spouse, this may be problematic.

All the way down the Yucatan east cost there are places where you can explore and find some shallow flats to look for saltwater quarry. There are famous fishing resorts as you get south of Tolum into the Ascension Bay area. I have explored areas and employed snorkeling the shallows to see what kind of fish are around. The further south you go down the Yucatan, the better quality of flats fishing you will get.

Caribbean Islands
Most of the islands in the Caribbean have bonefish and tarpon of various sizes, as well as other great fighting fish. Some islands are better than others. Topographically steep islands dropping off quickly into the depths are much better for diving than shallow water fly fishing. Most of the Virgin Islands are like this and don’t offer the opportunities you’ll find in “flatter” “pancake” islands like the Bahamas, Caymans, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Bonaire and similar. If I was going to pick one area that contains the best of laid-back vacation activities, great beaches and lots of bones, it would probably be somewhere in the Bahamas.

Local guides see fish much better than you ever will – and know the tides, etc. These are the two most important components when hunting for saltwater fish. Sometimes you’ll just have to roll the dice on a guide. They may be good and you’ll have a much better grasp of where to go and how to fish on your own.

Many years ago my wife and I took a trip to Roatan, Honduras. It was primarily a diving trip, but I had my fly fishing gear along as usual. We rented a car and between diving days we’d drive around and look for flats. We were told of a flat adjacent to a cemetery, which was easy to find. We wound up going there every chance we could and it was there I hooked and landed my first bonefish and caught several more. My wife was able to lounge on the beautiful beach and watch me wade around and spook fish.

Google Earth is a great internet resource for finding flats and out-of-the-way spots for bonefishing. Generally lagoons and channels will hold baby tarpon, but you’ll need to rent kayaks or canoes to get to them – but these can really be fun.

Over 25 years ago my wife and I went to Grand Cayman. We asked around about fly fishing and they looked at us “funny” at the dive shop. We kept checking and low and behold, there was a wayfaring guide on Grand Cayman from Wales! It was all “drive-to” fishing, mainly for baby tarpon in a maze of inland mosquito control canals dug the by government. The canals were easily accessible and we hit them early in there development, not long after they were dug, so the jungle had not encroached too much – allowing for plenty of open spaces for casting. The baby tarpon were there in the brackish water and would hit poppers with gusto, jumping into trees, etc. Great fun! We returned many times, rented cars and had the entire area to ourselves for many years. There are also some bonefish flats on the Grand Cayman, but you must explore to find them.

This year, plan to tie in some saltwater fly fishing with your vacation. It will add a new dimension to your travels and probably set a new variable on your choice of tropical destinations.

Resources for the traveling fly fisherman:

Fly Fishing in Saltwater – Lefty Kreh

Do It Yourself Bonefishing – Rod Hamilton

Flyfisher’s Guide to Mexico – Phil Shook

Bonefishing! – Randall Kaufmann

Fly-Fishing for Bonefish – Chico Fernandez





Top Ten Smallmouth Flies on Podcast

Brad MillerTop Ten Smallmouth Flies – Podcast

For those of you that want to tune up your fly selection for this season, you may want to check out a recent internet radio interview done on

Roger Maves – proprietor contacted me after seeing

This site is the best podcast source to be found anywhere to listen to great fly fisherman talk about the entire gamut of the sport from fresh to salt, from Alaska to Chile. You can join the membership and download over 200 incredible podcast to listen to at your leisure.

My segment is quite long, around 90 minutes, as they all are, but the information gleaned will make you a better fisherman.

My interview covers basic smallmouth strategies and we then delve into the top ten patterns (revised within the last year) and discuss why these flies and how to present them to enhance your success.

Click the link below to visit this outstanding site and listen to me and some of the biggest names in the fly fishing industry talk about their craft.

Brad Miller on

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