Even though I have fly fished for eighty years now, I have never stopped searching for better materials and fish-fooling flies. In my pursuit of this goal, I must take back to the 1940’s.
In the 40’s, I was living in northern New Mexico and fishing the rivers and lakes there several times a week. If I needed fly materials I had to order them from the Herter’s catalog or I went out and bought range roosters. My body materials, furs, and feathers were only available in natural colors. I learned quickly that to get the look I needed that I’d have to learn to color my own hackle, feathers, and body material.
The first thing that I learned was that not any dye would work or hold up. I needed an acid-based dye to get the colors that I wanted. Then I worked on refining the mixture, heat, and time for the type of material I was dying. It was definitely a trial-and-error endeavor but by the mid-1950’s I had perfected some of my now famous colors; like the burnt orange, fiery rust, buggy olive, and fiery cinnamon.
As I said before, I never stopped my search for better materials so I could produce better fish-fooling flies. About three years ago, I procured a small amount of material from out of the country that looked intriguing. So, as I always do, I took it out in the sunlight for a closer look. It positively glowed! I only had enough material for one fly so I quickly tied it up.
I was enthralled! It was translucent just like most insects, bait fish, nymphs, and leeches. I put the fly on a toothpick and put it in a coffee pot filled with water. It swam and breathed at every twitch, pull, or fall! It was alive!!
Learn even more about Jay:
A Grandson’s Present, by Glenn Fair, Jr., published in Sierra Fisherman
Jay Fair talking about Fishing Crowley Lake
Jay Fair talking about Owens River Gorge
Ups and downs of Jay Fair, Fly Fishing Legend, By Chuck Giles of MyOutdoorBuddy.com
Interview: Jay Fair, Interview by Scott Richmond of Westfly
Jay Fair’s New Hackle a Hit, By Gary Heffley of MyOutdoorBuddy.com
See what professional fly tyers are saying!
Here’s what Zach Thurman of The Fly Shop in Redding has to say about the material: