Thursday, September 16, 2021

Gloss Like A Pro
For some time, I’ve been asking questions in fly-tying forums, on Facebook pages, and in as many fly-fishing community groups as I could pester. I wanted to know which products and what process people use to achieve a super-smooth and clear glossy finish on silicone flies.
By Brad Morris

I even Googled “How To” and couldn’t find what I wanted. Nonetheless, I did receive materials and products suggestions, along with plenty of ideas on how to achieve the thickness and finish I was after. Still, I didn’t get any straight to the point suggestions, like, “Hey buddy, this is the product and the process I use to achieve the finish you’re looking for.”

             So I continued to scour the internet and paperback fly-tying books, hoping to find answers, or maybe even some step-by-step tying video. Nothing.

             You may be saying, “You’re trying to poach someone’s method and patterns.” But don’t judge me yet—I’m not someone who just started tying yesterday. I never wanted to be spoon-fed other people’s hard work. Instead, I armed myself with a handful of jigsaw pieces of information, purchased several different products, and tried to piece it all together. I experimented with multiple silicone brands and retardants, trying to break down the materials into a pourable and paintable consistency, while steering towards a low-fume mixture.

             It took some trials, but I finally found a suitable combination of products that are easy to find and mixed safely together. Now I needed to work a finishing technique to get the smooth, shiny finish I was after.

              A lot of people suggested dishwashing detergents, saliva, and Foto Flo solution. I found all three to work in some degree, but I still couldn’t get a finish I was happy with. In my attempts, the silicone was left with milky/cloudy streaks and a slightly uneven surface after I tried to smooth it out.

             Finally, I found a better way. By using a soft, flat-tipped paintbrush and mineral turpentine, I could gently smooth the silicone by brushing the mineral turps from the eye of the hook to the end of the silicone head. That process removed small bubbles and bumps in the curing mixture and allowed me to place the perfect fly in the rotary dryer until fully cured. No streaks. No bumps. No bubbles.

             I now use a three-step process to finish my flies. First I coat and let dry. I repeat that process and add eyes. Then I apply a final coat to secure the eyes and add strength to the body. Note: After each coat I brush with Turps to get the best finish possible.

TOOLS

1-Silicone sealant
2-Mineral turpentine
3-Soft, flat-tipped brushes. (1cm)
4-Mixer (or mix by hand)
5-Small sealable bottle to mix and then store the silicone product

STEP 1

Place the desired amount of silicone into a sealable bottle.

STEP 2

Add a small amount of mineral turps to the silicone.

STEP 3

Mix the silicone and turps together, gradually adding until the desired thickness is achieved. Add more turps until you get a constant, workable mix. I like a mixture with a consistency similar to thin syrup, but not too watery. A runny mixture takes longer to dry and affords a greater chance of tracking in the fibres before drying.