Monday, May 13, 2019

How To Get Started in Making Your Own Inline Spinners

Inline spinners were something that I never added to my fishing skill set when I was growing up. I had used them a few times back in the late 90's and early 2000's before converting to fly fishing, but never gave them a serious thought. This year I decided to give spinner fishing a try and was only going to do this if I would to make my own. I was getting a little bored of tying so many flies and a little bored of nymph fishing. I wanted to jump into something new and challenging this year so I made a trade with someone who makes their own spinners for some spinner components. After making a few spinners and having fun doing so, I invested around a hundred dollars and started really got into making my own inline spinners. I wanted to re-learn how to use a spinning rod again, and try to master the techniques of fishing and inline spinner. I am glad that I took up this new hobby as I am having a lot of fun making spinners, and even more fun trying to learn to fish with them.

Lets first discuss the basic anatomy of an inline spinner. The basic components of a spinner would be the shank, the clevis, the blade, the body, and the hook. You can also add a split ring to this anatomy on your rear loop if you decide to make a spinner that you can swap the hooks on as well.  This can be convenient if you want to switch from a treble to a single hook for certain regulations, or if you want to swap out the dressing you add to your hooks. You can play with the beads above and below the clevis as well.  Ninety percent of all spinners are comprised of the items listed above. You can also add a dressing to your hook if desired as well.

Shanks are the backbone of the spinner so to speak. For trout and pan fish I chose a .026 diameter closed loop stainless steel shank. I may try a .031" diameter shank as well. These shanks with the pre-made loops are very nice and save quite a bit of time. I decided on buying 8" long shafts. After I construct my spinner, I am left with enough material that I can make another spinner entirely. You will only have a straight shank, but you can create your own top loop using round needle nose pliers. I just wanted a way to get a little more for my money.

There aren't many  types of clevises out there but you want to match the clevis size to the blade size when you are just starting out. The radius of the clevis set to match the distance from the edge of the spinner blade to the hole on the spinner. You can play around with different combinations as you go through your testing processes and may find some blades will spin better with an over sized clevis. There are also clevises you can buy that allow you to switch the blade on your spinner as well. These allow for a quick change in blade size or color while fishing. I haven't bought any of these clevises yet, but they are a pretty neat idea. The entire make up of your spinner is all a trail and error process to fine tuning your spinner and is quite addictive.

Three of the most common types of blades available are Colorado, Willow, and French. I personally like the look and action of the Colorado blades and is what I will be making most of my spinners from. All of these blades can be found in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles. There are variations of these blades where the surface of the blade is hammered, or may have different shapes to them. I will be using my spinners mainly for trout, panfish, and bass so I stuck to size two and three blades for my initial parts purchase. Three is a tad large for trout in my opinion but will work. I like size two best for trout, as size three just looks a little large in my opinion when in the water.

The body can be comprised of may items. I like brass or tungsten beads the best, but you can add lead bodies, rubber fish bodies, wooden beads, and even paint your own bodies. There are all sorts of bodies available out there to choose from. The biggest aspect about the body in my opinion is the weight.

When I first started making these spinners I wanted to make a black and chartreuse colored streamer. I didn't have any black brass beads so I used some of my fly tying tungsten beads. This spinners were very heavy and sank very fast. I loved this aspect of the spinners but the price of tungsten may not be in the range for many who are starting out. I opted to keep the tungsten for my flies, and purchased some black beads from eBay. For the most part, anything with a hole through the middle can be added between your blade and hook, but you need to be conscious that you are not making your spinner too light by only adding plastic beads. You need to be close to the strike zone so I recommend using beads that are moderately heavy in your construction.

Hooks are mainly a personal preference, but whatever you use I suggest you purchase barbless hooks or debarb the hooks on your own. Barbed treble hooks can take a toll on fish when trying to remove them. A barbed treble can be difficult to get out of the fishes mouth, and may increase the time that fish is out of the water. For trout I would recommend a size ten treble, and wouldn't go much larger than a size 8. For bass and panfish I would recommend a size eight treble, but if you feel you may get into larger bass you may want to up your hook size to a six or four.  Personally I don't like the idea of using a single hook unless I am fishing for native brook trout. A single hook can be taken deeper into the fishes' mouth and risk injury to the gills of the fish. There is contradicting information out there on the use of single hooks but from my experience a barbless treble is the best way to go. They are easy to get out and harder for the trout to take deeper into their mouth. Whatever option you choose I would definitely de-barb the hook.

The combination of colors, sizes, and components you can make for your inline spinner are endless. I like the layout of the spinners above for my trout spinners. The spinners above are made up of the following components:

-(1) closed loop stainless steel wire shank (.026)
-(1) 2.8mm brass bead
-(1) size 2 clevis
-(1) size 2 blade
-(1) 2.8mm brass bead
-(2) 3.3mm brass beads
-(2) 3.8mm brass beads
-(1) 4.5 mm brass bead
-(1) treble hook ( Size 10& 8)

This combo has brought me a quite a few nice trout to hand. Being a fly tyer at heart I like to add a dressing to the hook of Marabou. I like the added movement that the marabou presents as the spinner is making its way down the stream.

Tools needed for making spinners are not extremely expensive, but you can add up quite a total depending on how elaborate you want to get with your spinner. I chose to just touch the surface with inline spinners this year. I have a very nice rotary fly tying vise so I chose to just use that for my current needs. If you do not have a rotary vise, a standard clamp style fly tying vise may work just fine. I suggest something that you can clamp your shank into while installing the components. If you are just testing the water with building your own spinners I wouldn't suggesting diving into a high end wire forming tool. If you really feel that you are going to love making your own spinners than a wire forming tool can be worth its weight in gold to create perfect loops. I am still working through my rear loop and keeping it inline, but a pair of round needle nose pliers can aide in creating a round rear loop. These pliers can be found at a relatively low cost. Round Jewlers pliers will also work. You will find that a lot of minor tweaks and changes to a spinner can have a pretty decent effect on the way the spinner performs.

In closing I think that spinner fishing is a blast. I've been having a lot of fun both making and fishing spinners. I have tied a few flies, and added spinner blades to the front section of the fly as well. The fish really smack them. You can get everything you need to make spinners for a relatively low investment. Base level spinning rods are relatively inexpensive as well. There is no better feeling than catching a fish on something that you have created yourself. I am by no means a professional spinner maker and far from a great spinner fisherman, but do pretty well on the ones I have created. If you are even remotely interested in taking up this craft I recommend giving it a try.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The SimpliFLY Gear Review

A beautiful native brook trout I landed while testing The SimpliFLY.
I have been looking for a product that matched my minimalist fly fishing style for quite a long time. I have tried a few styles of chest/sling packs but nothing ever quite fit my style or had everything I was looking for. More often than not, the pack would be too bulky and heavy, or not have enough features for my needs. This caused me to simply use my pouch in the front of my waders. I would find myself just chucking a few flies in a hook pack, a few indicators in the pouch, and a spool of fluorocarbon and hit the stream. That method works but is not very organized. I often found myself dropping flies, indicators, and misplacing tools more often than not using this method.

I switched to a sling pack, but it kept getting in the way when I was climbing under trees and such. It would slip off of my body when I would be crouching to try and be undetected from wild trout in the blue lines that I love to fish. Because of its orientation and my absent mindedness, I found myself leaving pockets unzipped and had tools, flies, etc falling out. It was a pain but also caused unintentional litter, wich was a major issue to me. The sling pack was a decent option for me, but still was not what I was looking for.

My very first impression when I saw a photo of The SimpliFLY in a Facebook post was, "What the heck is this yuppy laser tag looking thing??" Looking past its non conventional appearance, I began to see its functionality. The SimpliFLY intrigued me. I am not really a gear junky when it comes to fly fishing, and like to stick to the basics.  I am not one to jump on a fad or use the latest & greatest "insert buzz word here" gear that hits the market.  I am not one who hits up companies to become a pro staff member or something like that either. To me The SimpliFLY was different. I decided to give it a look. Would this different looking pack be the answer I have been looking for? I decided that I would go ahead and order one to give it a try. Like everything else, before I do a review, or give a full opinion on a product I put it through a gauntlet of testing. I tested every feature of the pack in every type of weather condition I could think of. Below is my review from using this pack over the last 6 months.

Trying on The SimpliFLY for the first time
When I watched the video of The SimpliFLY certain things caught my eye instantly. The first thing was how the pack secured to your chest and back. This would eliminate the issues that I had with the sling pack sliding around on me. Sure you could tighten the sling pack, but then when you would attempt to get your items out of the pack it would be more difficult to spin and access the zipped compartments.

The next feature that caught my eye was the built in zip lines. These would be perfect for a pair of forceps, and a pair of nail clippers. Having these built into the pack and hidden was a great feature.  You wouldn't have to worry about a pin breaking and losing your tool. Also this would mean they would not get caught on brush and other obstructions while you switch locations. I like the magnet location to allow a larger pair of forceps to be carried without having them falling all over the place.

Some small stream and panfish flies in a fly box insert.

I really like the fly box inserts. Now truth be told, I never really carried an actual box of flies, and would more often than not use an old hook package or box and toss a few flies in it. As seen in the photo above there is more than enough room to keep your flies organized. The flies in this box are my small stream flies mixed with a few panfish flies. The fact that the box stays flat like that is great. Gone are the days of dropping a fly and losing it for me. If I drop a fly now, it simply lands back in the box. This is a great feature for guys like me with fat fingers.
Fly Box Inserts (photo courtesy of The SimpliFLY)
The guys at The SimpliFLY offer a three pack of extra fly boxes as well. I have not added extra boxes just yet but plan on picking up this 3 pack very soon. What I think is so great about this, is that they are uniform and specifically designed to fit right in the pack. I plan on setting up a box for bass, one for panfish, one for trout, and keep the one that came with The SimpliFLY set up for small streams. I don't really dry fly fish, but having a separate box for dries, or separating your nymph boxes by size or weight is also a great option. In my opinion you just can't beat that to help keep yourself organized. You can leave these boxes in your vehicle and switch as needed.
The SimpliFLY Back Pack

You can also store these extra boxes in the optional back pack that is offered. The backpack connects directly to The SimpliFLY check pack. I was surprised at how roomy this pack is. This pack is perfect for storing extra fly boxes, drinks, and even a hoodie or long sleeve shirt for those early spring trips where you may need to remove an article of clothing as the temperture climbs. The material feels pretty rugged to me and has a tactical like feel to it. Installation is pretty easy, and removal is fast.

The SimpliFLY fly box insert lays flat. I found this a great feature, especially in the snow. If you drop a fly it lands back in the box and not in 6" of snow.
I tested the pack in all sorts of conditions from rain, to sleet, snow, and extreme cold. I had little issues. The fly boxes are not waterproof, but any fly box when opened in a rainy situation will allow moisture to enter the box. I did not find the non water proof box to be any issue at all. I dry my flies out after any trip where they come in contact with the elements. The pack was easy to operate in the cold, and with light weight gloves on. The magnets held true. I did see an issue with one of the compartment clasps breaking when it was in the single digits. I hit up Trevor with The SimpliFLY, and that issue has been resolved. He personally left some packs in the freezer and tested them for failure.

A brush lined PA Class A wild trout stream. Was nice to not get hung up on brush and jagger bushes.
Another issue that The SimpliFLY took care of for me was my chest or sling pack getting caught in brush, rhododendron, or jagger bushes. For those of you who may read this and are not from South Western Pennsylvania a "jagger bush" is any type of green brier or thorn bush. The brush just slides off of The SimpliFly without catching it. The hard plastic makes this possible. This may not be an issue for some fisherman, but for me this was a great advantage. I hated when the thorns would catch my pack and hang up. This would then put my face more at risk of getting scratched. Bonus points for this overlooked feature from me.

A hold over winter Rainbow from West Central PA.
The robust plastic was also a feature that I looked forward too. I live a very busy life and always try to keep some kind of gear in my vehicle at all times. I loved that I could literally throw this pack in the back of my vehicle and all of my flies and tools were protected by the hard plastic. You can see photos of The SimpliFLY under a car tire on their website. I am tough on my gear so any extra protection I can get from a product is always a plus.

The SimpliFLY Stock set up works well for spinning tackle as well for those of us who like to do all sorts of fishing?
I also started to create my own inline spinners this year. The lower section of The SimpliFLY works perfect for holding inline spinners. These individual compartments are sized perfect for smaller jerk baits as well. The center wheel section  is also great for storing swivels and split shots. I found these slots a great fit for larger indicators as well. I like to utilizes these compartments to put my flies that have been fished, to keep separate from my unfished flies. I like to put them there because because of the potential to lose the flies on the drying patch given the thick, and brush lined streams I like to fish. I use barbless hooks so the potential for these flies to be snagged off of the drying patch is much greater. I then dry the flies when I return from fishing.

The lure box insert will work both for lures, and larger wire diameter flies like bass poppers and larger streamers.
(Photo provided by The Simplifly)
After my first trip I sent the picture above with my spinners to TheSimpliFLY showing how I utilized the compartments for spinning tackle lures. I was sent back a little sneak peak of the product shown above. The lure box insert has just been added to their website. I am by no means a spin fisherman, but can see so much benefit to having the lure box insert. I often take my kids fishing and hated having to remove my forceps, and tools, and other items from my fly fishing pack to go on a trip with them. It is tough to fly fish with a 6 year old and twin 4 year olds with you, so we often fish with bait and spinning tackle. Now, I will just have to remove my fly box insert, and put in the lure box and be ready to go. I can keep hook packs, lures, weights, etc. in this insert. I like that the company is also expanding to spin fisherman as well. Conventional fishing vests are all to often hot, and bulky for what is needed for fishing with inline spinners and lures. For guys like me who are not only fly fisherman, or have kids, this is a time saving addition.

A beautiful Perch I caught while testing The Simplify in January. She took a white crystal lead eye streamer.
I really find The SimpliFLY to be great pack when fly fishing for panfish and trout especially. The fly boxes are perfect for the small streamers and nymphs that I use for both types of fish. I haven't had a chance to test The SimpliFLY on larger bass poppers and streamers due to the fact I purchased mine in November. I will post a follow up article once I feel confident that I have conducted enough testing on these larger diameter hooks. I don't feel I will see any issues at the current time, but wanted to include that in this article for full disclosure. After talking with Trevor at The SimpliFLY the lure box insert will also work great for those larger wire diameter flies.

A chilly winter day putting The SimpliFLY in cold temperatures.
To sum up the SimpliFLY I would rate the pack 9.5 out of 10 overall. The only reason I docked it anything was the tippet holding clip broke when it was around 8 degrees outside. I have been assured that the issue has been taken care of by the company, but have not yet had a chance to test the new clip in cold enough temperatures to put my personal guarantee on it.

The new tippet holder design. Adding clips and removing the half moon hole alleviated any issues with the durability of the tippet holder clips.
I want to break the features down a little deeper. As far as functionality I rate The SimpliFLY a 10 out of 10. Everything you need is right there and you can tell that a lot of thought was put into the overall design of the product. Key functionality features are the hidden zip lines for tools, 90 degree fly box, multiple fly box inserts, rotating body, and high strength magnets to keep everything secure. The pack also sits higher than most chest packs for better water protection while wading. The pack may sit a little off angle for a woman because of a woman's anatomy, but there is a lot of room for adjustment.

For durability of the pack I am going to give a 9.5 out of 10. Again the only issue was mentioned above. I don't care about aesthetics with my gear so I am not going to offer a rating on that. I purposefully let the pack slide around in the back of my care to test the packs durability. I have never seen any issues to my tools, flies, etc. that were stored inside of the pack.  The tools and flies stayed exactly where I had stored them.

I feel that if aesthetics are the only reason you don't consider this pack in your search you are really missing out. For me the functionality of the pack far outweigh its non conventional looks.  As far as weight, and comfort I give the pack a 9 out of 10. The pack is heavier than many of the packs out there, but with the increased weight you get the added durability of the hard plastic. I like the breath-ability of the pack, and found it to be quite cool to wear over conventional fishing vests. The open strap design does not allow heat to gather and make you sweat. The hard plastic also relieves heat from you chest compared to cloth style packs.

I think the SimpliFLY will work for all types of fishing but really shines for fly fisherman, and spin fisherman who target blue line streams. Having a durable and functional pack that keeps everything in front of you is a must. The pack wont move on you when you are climbing around brush piles, and crouching to stay hidden.  Fisherman who like to travel great distances to get off of the beaten path will like the back pack option. A stream side lunch in the middle of the mountains is the perfect cure for stress and the pack has room for your gear and a few other items as well. Anglers who are on the go or who may live busy lives will enjoy the "Throw and Go" nature of this pack. It will keep your gear organized and protected for a quick fishing trip any time. Multi-species fisherman will also benefit from having multiple fly inserts. I am not a kayak angler but think this pack would be perfectly suited for fishing from a kayak.

 All in all I don't think you can go wrong with giving this pack a try, or at the very least add it to your list of potential packs.  I put this pack to the test with a variety of fishing styles, in every environment I can think of, and targeted multiple species of fish, and it shined for me.