Make the small things better with Eye Tie
Brian Hadden’s new Eye Tie tool helps those with dimming eyesight and bumbling fingers thread leaders through even the tiniest of flies. The tool takes some practice to perfect, but in the end it pays for itself in saved time. COURTESY PHOTOView our entire photo gallery >>
By Paul Bruun, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 31, 2012
What do Viagra and the Eye Tie fly-threading tool have in common?
Former drug salesman and student of medical psychology Brian Hadden explains how aging men, especially, are reluctant to admit needing help in specific areas. Thus Pfizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, cunningly encourages potential Viagra users to “ask your doctor for more information.”
In the case of aging anglers, who really need eyewear-magnification assistance to thread flies on lightweight, low-visibility leaders, Hadden offers his new Eye Tie tool that absolutely improves the process, with or without glasses.
When Hadden, 63, an admitted fly-fishing addict whose dual residences are Victor, Idaho, and Missoula, Mont., lost his reading glasses on the South Fork, he found himself struggling to tie on a new fly without wasting lots of time.
“I wanted to make that process easier,” the former Pfizer drug peddler said. “I’m a recreational fly fisherman and have been messing around designing this fly threader since 2007.”
Finally an injection-molded prototype was ready. Last spring, Brian contacted News&Guide editors about reviewing his American-made product. The assignment was forwarded to me, and I promised to pursue the project. But, until a month ago, the promise slipped my mind.
Miracle on the Snake
Before Wyoming Game and Fish biologists and concerned local anglers caught the ear of Bureau of Reclamation water managers in the late 1980s, year-end Snake River flow reductions from Jackson Lake were a disaster. Each fall many trout perished and acres of aquatic biomass were abruptly left high and dry.
Current practice involves a gradual week-long October drawdown to Jackson Lake Dam winter flows. Aquatic invertebrates and fish populations both benefit. The Jackson Hole portion of the Snake now features its most robust insect population in modern history.
Along with this “Miracle on the Snake” comes a fine emergence of small fall mayflies and their super tiny midge companions. So while many local trout seekers rush to other “more productive” late season waters, the Snake not only yields adequate streamer yanking but provides an opportunity to practice with the small stuff.
Honestly, it is impossible to discuss fishing tiny flies and to not involve my wife, Jean, a recovering-Colorado angler who thrives on presenting what I candidly refer to as “the dand-ruff hatch.” My definition of “small” involves size-16 to-18 patterns, which — like habanero hot sauce — are best used sparingly.
Lately, when we’re poking around the river, I’ll hear Jean’s little chuckle and notice that she’s casting dry flies I can’t even see. She’s at her very happiest when floating a size-18 mayfly with a number-22 or -24 dropper of some origin over deep water and encouraging eager trout to rise and slurp.
Good knot-tying is an art that resembles a musician’s directions to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice! But aging eyes, less-steady hands, varying degrees of light (sunglasses don’t help matters) and tinier flies are not enjoyable for clumsy 60-somethings to endure on a regular basis.
Aside from best sportsmen friends passing away, the No. 1 reason many guys quit fishing is because tying on flies, lures and hooks becomes too difficult.
The 2012 dandruff emergence triggered the realization that Bruun needed help with rigging tiny stuff. While visiting Dan Bailey’s in Livingston, Mont., I spied an Eye Tie ($24.95; EyeTieTool.com) on a wall peg and bought it. Then in the privacy of my dinner table (what better place to practice), grueling two-a-days in 6X fly threading began.
Visiting with Brian Hadden this week was refreshing, not only to learn how he migrated from central Illinois into teaching, loving fly-fishing and manipulating the Pfizer sales network so he landed in Missoula until cutbacks shrank his territory.
“Then I went fishing,” he laments, outlining the rivers and western hatches he follows annually just like a certified trout bum. Brian fishes often with his son, Court, who resides in Missoula and has aspirations toward guiding.
“I wanted to make the Eye Tie Tool out of steel and have it magnetized so that hooks could be held in place,” Brian says. “But unlike a Stanley screwdriver that’s magnetized to hold the screw, due to material differences in metal hooks, magnetizing various steel products makes the hook flip away from the tool. So I switched to an injection molded plastic body with magnets inside.”
The fish-shaped Eye Tie is almost 4 inches long and features three funnel entrances to different sized hook holding holes. Size-4 to-8 hooks fit into a slit in the adipose fin (bottom) while medium size-10 to-14 hooks have a funnel spot in the lower tail. Dandruff sizes (16-22) are located in the upper tail.
“Make sure the hook eyes are clean,” Brian chuckles when explaining the masterpiece in which he’s invested a modest six figures to date.
“The magnets are pretty strong, and they handle bead head flies well,” he adds.
Tool saves time, frustration
It took me three tries to stick a length of 6X Trout Hunter leader through the eye of one of Jean’s tiny light gray emergers estimated to be a size 20. Repeating the process with the tool required only one attempt to achieve success.
Using my fingernail to nab one of Jean’s ultra-tiny flies that is best described as a microscopic black thing, the 6X leader filled the invisible hook eye. I didn’t even try threading this one by hand.
The Eye Tie Tool requires practice, not only in the threading department but in manipulating the leader, getting the fly into the proper slit and holding the tool itself. When using over water, the tool must be attached to a lanyard, zinger or string. Trying to hold it alone is difficult.
Even figuring your time at a $1 an hour, the Eye Tie tool would pay for itself in saved fishing time after about a week of tiny fly wrangling. Better yet, consider casual mentions to younger pals about your great action on size 22s and 24s, and watch their eyebrows shoot upward.
Elk foundation stays in Vegas
It’s amazing how successful the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation continues to be in rounding up sponsors and memberships and doling out money to habitat projects around the West.
Obviously this Missoula-based non-profit knows how to do things correctly.
The biggest event of the RMEF year is its annual Elk Camp convention. After years of being in Reno and then moving about, the group has found a new stomping spot: Las Vegas. From Feb. 28 until March 3, RMEF is going to turn the Mirage Hotel & Casino and the Las Vegas Convention Center into the Elk Hunting Capital of the World.
Goodbye to Wally
For some time I’ve visited Tom Chandler’s TroutUnderground.com blog because the writer is witty and often sarcastic and turns some great phrases. Quips about his black Lab known as Wally the Wonderdog have been heartfelt and entertaining. Then things got serious as WW’s health began stumbling. A week ago, Wally lay down for the last time.
Tom’s “Requiem For A Best Friend: Wally The Wonderdog” is a marvelous tribute both to scribe and hound. Wally’s absence as a live protector from invading backyard bears (real) has now caused sleepless nights for the Chandler’s oldest adopted daughter.
I miss Wally, even from miles away, and suspect another star is coming.
Paul Bruun writes weekly on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors.