December 09, 2021
This article was originally titled "Goo Flies" in the Fly Tier's Bench column of the April/May 2013 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.
I’ve been doing fly tying demos for more years than I care to admit. In those years I have learned that speed is always a factor. Tie and talk too fast, and your audience can’t keep up. Tie too slow and the audience starts start to nod off. It’s a fine balance to engage people enough to prevent boring them to death.
This conundrum was compounded several years ago when my good friend John Barr’s Copper John became a runaway success, and in the process became nearly required in all fly-tying demonstrations. The Copper John is a simple fly, but it does have a lot of parts. Tying and properly explaining each of those steps and pieces starts to test the limits of what one can fit into a reasonable amount of time.
Add to that the final glorifying touch of the epoxy-coated wingcase, to be completed after the fly is completed, and I always found myself feeling like an infomercial salesman, saying, “Wait! There’s more!”
While I started the laborious process of mixing two-part epoxy, carefully applying it to the wingcase, and then waiting for it to cure, I often looked at the audience and found myself thinking, “This is about as exciting as watching glue dry.” And that’s exactly what we were all doing.
For years I looked for a suitable substitute for conventional two-part epoxies, both from a standpoint of continuity in my tying presentations, as well as a simply more workmanlike product that was more efficient.
With the advent of the new one-part, UV-set polymers, my prayers were answered, although not without a few hitches along the way. Surpassing conventional epoxy, these new products use ultraviolet light as a catalyst, and do not require either mixing or careful measurements. This allows better control over the final shape of the application, eliminating nearly all the curing time, as well as the inherent rushed feeling of using a product with finite working life.
In a nutshell, this stuff does everything as well as two-part epoxy without any of the downsides. Whether adding a juicy dollop to the wingcase of your favorite nymph pattern, coating a thin midge pupa, shaping a streamer head, or forming a more complicated carapace on a saltwater pattern, these UV-activated polymers are easier to work with, result in almost no wasted product, cure almost instantly, and add a lot of fun and creative potential to a variety of patterns.
My current favorite UV product is tethered with the unfortunate and harder-to-say-than-it-should-be name of Clear Cure Goo. (Let’s avoid the tongue twister and call it CCG from now on.)
The brainchild of Brian Carson, CCG is clearly the product of an ardent tier’s mind, and also the result of generous feedback from a pool of very picky beta testers. In speaking with Carson, it was easy to see how he used this feedback to fine-tune his product to meet the needs of a variety of applications, resulting in a product line offering 13 different formulas with varying viscosities for different uses. Thick, Thin, Brushable, Flexible, Hydro (very thin head cement consistency), and Tack Free versions are just a few incarnations of what is available, and these all fill very specific niches to create flies that are resistant to yellowing, cracking, and brittleness. The result is beautiful, consistent, and durable flies.
I use CCG for trout patterns mostly because it adheres better than anything else I have used. Many of the other UV-set resins look great on the fly, but too easily and prematurely peel off the slick plastic wingcases on flies like the Copper John or Two Bit Hooker. It seems most UV products are made to encapsulate a material, evidenced by how well they work when the entire pattern is coated 360 degrees, but they sometimes fail when used in an asymmetrical application.
CCG is simple to use. Pick up a small drop on the tip of a bodkin, or use the brush applicator found inside the bottle for heavier uses. Take all the time you like to apply it, you are not racing the clock like you would with two-part epoxy. Once you’re happy with the shape and size, hit it with the CCG Pro Plus light from as close as you can get to zap the product into a clear, hard shell.
While it’s easy to use in a gravity-assisted application like a wingcase (meaning it doesn’t droop and run), the ability to instantly set CCG simplifies even the most complicated shaping procedures on flies like Bob Popovics’s Surf Candy, and Haine’s Supreme Hair Shrimp.
The advantages of what is essentially an instantly set coating are clearly obvious to anyone who has ever fumbled and fought with a runny, droopy epoxy coat in the critical moments before it sets, only to end up with a skewed, lumpy, or totally ruined top coat.
On flies featuring a heavier coating of resin, I find my best results come from first applying a lighter shaping and forming coat, and curing it thoroughly before applying a heavier, smoother, finishing top coat to complete the fly. The thicker the resin, the harder it is for the UV light to penetrate deeply and thoroughly cure all the material, so using multiple coats is the best way to finish most flies
Because UV-set resins are so easy to use, they aren’t just replacements for epoxy, they add durability to a huge range of patterns where formerly, epoxy was just too much work. I coat my thread-based parachute posts with a light coat of the Hydro version of CCG, then wrap the hackle through the wet resin before tying off. Finish the fly, and “cook” the resin for a few seconds and you’ve got a parachute hackle that is firmly cemented to the post and will never come off.
It wouldn’t be fair to go on and on about the merits of CCG without specifically mentioning some of the other available UV polymers available these days. Loon’s UV Clear Fly Finish is a similar product that lends itself particularly well to encapsulating a fly pattern, such as Rick Takahashi’s Crystal Chironomid, where it creates a glowing halo over the entire surface of the fly. Tuffleye, another unfortunately named product that has been popular for years, is a durable polymer and widely used in many effective saltwater patterns.
The days of fighting with, managing, and fearing epoxy are over for me, and those long awkward moments during my tying demonstrations formerly occupied by crickets and tumbleweeds, are now met with amazed and relieved faces. UV polymers truly have made some incredible flies easier and less intimidating for all of us.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011).