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> > Rabbit hair dubbing

RogueratFebruary 17th, 2015, 4:27 pm
Posts: 451
I'm blending my own rabbit dubbing more and more often lately, using hair taken from Zonker strips and a couple hare's masks then mixed in a coffee-grinder. One nagging problem for dry-fly dubbing is getting the guard hairs out..there are always just enough in the mix to require a trim on the finished fly or resorting to a too-tight dubbing noodle on the thread trying to tie down these errant hairs.
Any advice on getting the guard hairs out more efficiently would be great.

As an FYI I also bought a 'rabbit hide grab-bag' at Cabela's last time there. These are trimmings and bits, pieces of hide with a lot of usable hair. If one is careful to check out the contents for the weirder colors- I grabbed the one with the most (hopefully) usable shades- I think this is a fair bargain.

Roguerat
LastchanceFebruary 17th, 2015, 7:05 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
Pick out the guard hair until you get tired, and then after the fly is tied, just trim it close.
CatskilljonFebruary 17th, 2015, 9:43 pm
Upstate NY

Posts: 160
A dubbing rake. That, or buy rabbit skins and harvest the underbelly fur for guard hair free dubbing.

Dubbing rakes are awesome, and if you don't want to spring for one, a hacksaw blade works well too. You will still pull a few stiff hairs off the skin but they are easy to remove [and a lot less of them than if your using scissors to remove hair].

Rabbit fur is such a great dubbing. Cheap, soft and available in any color. I love it for dry flies most of the time, and its perfect for blending with hard to dub furs and materials as a binder. But you already know that...:) CJ
WbranchFebruary 17th, 2015, 9:57 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
CJ,

I love it for dry flies most of the time,


What about beaver? Beaver has the same consistency, or should I say texture, as rabbit but I'd think since it comes from an animal that lives in the water it likely has features that would assist in floating a dry fly better than a land animal like a bunny.

Don't get me wrong I use a lot of rabbit because I have a lot of it in many different colors but I do like beaver and use it whenever I can. I need to peruse some fly material catalogs and see if I can buy beaver in the same colors that I have in rabbit.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
OldredbarnFebruary 17th, 2015, 10:08 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
As Bruce said, there's really no easy way to pull it off. I mix the hair as you describe and when I have the color where I want it I take a small ball of hair and mix it between my fingers in both hands. Pulling it apart and putting it back together...Over and over again. The guard hairs will almost pop or stick out...I pull them out and mix again a bit and remove the guard hairs again.

If you start with a small bit, say what you think you need to tie the flies you plan on tying at a sitting, then it's not impossible.

I do the same with the beaver fur as well.

It's a centering process. :) Almost like someone from the Middle East playing with worry beads...The only thing missing is me chanting something. :)

Once you get it free of the guard hairs it dubs so well and you can create the thin abdomens the mayfly has. Most folk dub obese bugs.

In Syl Nemes' book, "Spinners" he claims to have measured the abdomen of different mayflies and found that they were hardly wider than a standard hooks circumference. He therefore used thread only to wrap the bodies on the spinner patterns in the book.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
RogueratFebruary 18th, 2015, 4:55 pm
Posts: 451
I've got a good CD of Gregorian chants, now bring on the rabbits...

seriously, thanks for all the tips. I've been using an old toothbrush to try and rake the underfur out while holding the guard hairs, it works half-fast at best.

An old thread on this site suggested a cat-brush, something really fine-toothed- this is worth a try too.
Agreed on rabbit making a fine dubbing, I can 'just color the thread' with rabbit and get a nice tapered body (the fly, not mine; I'm told I'm getting rather portly or rotund).

Roguerat
OldredbarnFebruary 18th, 2015, 6:32 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
Rogue.

The guy that got me started was a nit-picker. Tough to please. He was the same way with cleaning deer hair. When I was tying PMD comparaduns for a trip I made out west in 95 I would cut off a pinch of hair, run my bodkin through it a few times, blow hard on it forcing the fibers down and away from the hair and pull it away. Tedious! :)

I then placed these tips in an empty .22 casing and stacked it. If there was any hair still there you could see it hanging out above the edge. I carefully pulled them out while trying not to have this pull the hair out of the shell.

Insane! But after the PMD'S, Olives, and Flavs I tied up I got good at it and the wings looked wonderful. I use the .22 casing on small flies and have regular hair stackers too.

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
RogueratFebruary 18th, 2015, 7:33 pm
Posts: 451
Spence,

I agree its worth the extra attention, along with the opportunity to mix dubbing in some custom color combinations. My Iso's seem to have gotten a lot better over the winter, the claret/black/brown/grey rabbit mix is the ticket.

I wasn't kidding about the Gregorian chants, though...good stuff to tie by.

Roguerat
OldredbarnFebruary 18th, 2015, 8:34 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
Love them Iso's! :)
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
CatskilljonFebruary 19th, 2015, 10:22 pm
Upstate NY

Posts: 160
I need to peruse some fly material catalogs and see if I can buy beaver in the same colors that I have in rabbit.



That's why I prefer rabbit, the selection of colors. If your going for water repelling attributes in an animals fur, once its gone through the dying process all those are lost...your left with oil free fur, just like rabbit. As a natural grey fur, beaver [and muskrat, my preference since I have so many of them] is a better choice as you mentioned. But in the colors, I reach for rabbit. CJ
TNEALFebruary 19th, 2015, 10:31 pm
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 277
both muskrat and rabbit are easier to work with as well.
WbranchFebruary 20th, 2015, 12:35 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
CJ;

once its gone through the dying process all those are lost...your left with oil free fur


I was totally unaware of that but I still prefer beaver to rabbit. The stuff I buy has zero guard hairs in it.

both muskrat and rabbit are easier to work with as well.


Than what, beaver? I can't see how you can say that unless the beaver fur on the pelt is entirely different than the beaver I get mixed from Rumpf.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
FlyflingerFebruary 21st, 2015, 5:21 pm
Fredericksburg, Virginia

Posts: 30
Since I've started tying North Country flies in earnest, I've really come to appreciate mole hair, which is normally a substitute for vole or water rat in the old recipes. It's like dubbing a whisper. A couple of swipes with a cheap dubbing rake over the hide pulls off just the amount I need for one or two flies. It is so easy to tough-dub silk thread.

Beaver is another favorite of mine. I assume it is only available already packaged, since I've never seen a pelt for sale.

Oops, sorry for the thread-drift. The OP's question has to do with getting the guard hairs out of rabbit. I haven't used a lot of rabbit, but if it is like the occasional guard hairs in beaver, I just rub a bit of hair between my thum and forefinger and pick the guard hairs hour with tweezers. I do find interesting Oldredbarn's idea of using a .22 cal. shell casing to stack and ID guard hairs. I believe I'll pick up a couple of .22 shell casings the next time I go to the range. Nobody polices up that brass to my chagrin.

RogueratFebruary 22nd, 2015, 11:52 am
Posts: 451
I've since tried Spence's method of using smaller amounts of dubbing and pulling the guard hairs out of these vs. an entire wad of mixed rabbit fresh from the coffee grinder. Working well, good advice.
I have yet to use a hacksaw blade, since I'm using old Zonker strips as my source of rabbit fur- have to think of a way to draw the blade across the fur- or the fur across the blade which sounds easier.

Thanks, all,

Roguerat
BoulderWorkFebruary 22nd, 2015, 1:04 pm
Posts: 29I found this particular Dubbing Techniques posting to be rather insightful. It is a perfect complement to my early guidance from Poul Jorgensen "Dressing Flies for Fresh and Saltwater" reference.

http://ukflydressing.proboards.com/thread/4046
TNEALFebruary 23rd, 2015, 11:23 am
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 277
I say that rabbit is easier to work with because after having tried both and having tied upwards of 300,000 flies it works better for me.I find the texture easier to work with and quicker to use. That, of course is an opinion but one based on a lot of data.
WbranchFebruary 23rd, 2015, 12:10 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
Tneal,

having tied upwards of 300,000 flies it works better for me.


Wow, I'm assuming you have been a pro tier for quite a long time. I'm very impressed. About how long did it take you to tie 300K flies?
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TNEALFebruary 23rd, 2015, 1:09 pm
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 277
I started commercial tying in early 80's; took about five years off and resumed. About 27 years averaging 900 doz or so per season. Lots of fun.Everything dry from Hex size (#63xl) to tricos; a few nymphs and streamers on occasion.
OldredbarnFebruary 23rd, 2015, 11:57 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
Wow, I'm assuming you have been a pro tier for quite a long time.


:)

Tim...I remember a big wooden box sitting in Caid's up in Lovell's May 1991. It had a sliding glass top and the compartments were full of flies...BWO's, Harris Specials, Borcher's, Robert's Yellow Drake, Madsen Skunks, etc...The sign on the counter said simply "Flies Tied by Tim Neal".

Standing there with my fishing buddy. A guy who I've seldom heard saying anything nice about anyone's flies...He was admiring the flies and turned to me and said, "Spence. These are nicely tied." If I think back to before I tied I'd bet that nearly all my fish were caught on flies tied by my buddy Bill or you. :) Thanks!

Local patterns. Patterns with long history on a historic stream.

You and J.R. are the keepers of the flame...A big part of the history of fly fishing in Grayling. I think you two tie in your sleep. :)

Matt...He's the real deal.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
TNEALFebruary 24th, 2015, 7:23 am
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 277
Seems the older I get, the more I want to sleep. Tying becomes second nature and gives time for thoughts to wander to important things.Speaking of the real deal, JR has cultivate his own niche and stayed there for many years. Everything he does is not only usable but effective.I don't think fish pass on education from one generation to the next.

At any rate, your kind words are appreciated.

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