As I mentioned last month, I’m cracking out my home made power dubbing brush maker. I rarely ever visit YouTube voluntarily. This was one of the few times where I was actually researching something. YouTube has a bunch of videos on “dubbing brush machines.” I needed a clear design. After watching a handful of videos, I blended parts of several to come up with my less than beautiful machine. I located a motor from a dead aquarium filter I had in my bone yard. The rest was from Ace Hardware and a board from Home Depot. It was simple and inexpensive to build.
Last month I attended a fly tying demonstration with Enrico Puglisi hosted by Flying Fish Outfitters. I am familiar with all of Enrico’s materials. I noticed he was using a dubbing brush on a fly which was not constructed from HIS fibers, but arctic fox. I called him on it. He claimed that these brushes, which were in fact made of arctic fox hair, will become available early next year. I’ve got gobs of arctic fox. I have a dubbing brush builder. Why not!?
I really like working with arctic fox. I like the way it breaths in the water much like marabou, but is much tougher (damn ladyfish). It does not sink as well–the one drawback. In order to construct a fly from it which works well in the water it must be fairly sparse. In addition to the fox, some flash is in order. Enrico makes a fine flash in several complementary colors. Angel Hair is another form of fine flash available in many different colors. It really doesn’t take much flash integrated into the natural materials to make it shine. This is something which is difficult to emulate when tying with the materials by normal means. Another though would be mixing the arctic fox with a different natural material, maybe rams wool (sinks well).
Although I built the machine many months ago, I really haven’t attempted to use it. Sitting down this evening with it I discovered that it isn’t as easy as it looks. I’m going to postulate a few things from the experience, and make some observations of what I’ve seen others do on the videos on YouTube:
1) If you are making small dubbing brushes for tying small (FW trout) flies, build one of these machines. Fine bodies out of fine material should be very easy.
2) Using the fox hair, I found that if I let the motor twist the material too fast. It balled it up.
3) The longer the material, the more probability of a balling it up.
4) Get a pet wire poodle brush and a hard tooth brush to brush the materials out as you twist.
5) Many synthetic materials might be easier than natural hair. Less likelihood of it sticking to itself.
6) Be sure and comb out the underfur carefully–in that sense it’s like spinning deer hair.
7) Brush a bead of glue down the top wire before you stretch it across the material to add strength.
8) Use stainless steel wire for saltwater flies.
9) Comb as you twist the material. Then comb it again.
10) My next machine will have a finer gauge wire hooks on both ends. There is too much distance between the wires when I first begin twisting. I will also use a DC motor with a voltage regulator on it to control the speed more precisely.
I’m really not trying to put you off trying this. There are just so many possible variations of materials, colors, and patterns which can be tied from these brushes. My hat is off to Enrico for making a marketable, consistent dubbing brush. I just see so many more possibilities.
One thing I imagine is using the rigidity of the wire in the brush to extend the length of the fly body. Glass minnows in adulthood are fairly long yet small in diameter. Since the most popular train of thought is that the predator attacks at the eye, a long shank hook is moot. Using a standard short shank hook, the standard fly would need a very long tail on it. These types of tails often foul around the hook (if your casting is anything like mine). Comb a brush towards the back giving you the correct diameter (cigarette sized diameter). Tie the brush in at the front and back of the hook giving you the body. But let the brush extend the body beyond the hook (cigarette sized length). The wire inside won’t allow it to foul wrap. The materials will breaths along the entire length giving movement. The fly looks similar along it entire length in color, flash, and movement. Stick a couple of eyes on it and it’s done.
Since the meeting is a few days off, I plan to work on dialing the whole process in. I plan to try a number of different types of materials to build my ultimate brush. At the meeting I planto demonstrate the machine and the brushes I’ve created, in lou of my normal tying a pattern. Hopefully I will have examples of patterns which can be tie out of dubbing brushes as well. Stop by and see what’s involved in building your own machine, and creating your own personalized dubbing brushes.