Friday, November 30, 2012

A Fly Tier's Comparison of Lights made for Light-Cured Adhesives

** I've learned that using these light-curing products can make fly tying more efficient and creative, but these resins are not without their 'quirks'.  In another post I've provided tips and tricks to increase one's ability to successfully cure a resin and to maintain an appropriate resin-fly bond. **
*** I will be adding a review of the Bug Bond torch soon. It is currently in the mail! 4/25/14***
Loon Outdoors UV Power Light (added 6/23/13)
Sells for $34-39.99 online.  The light is slim, measuring approximately 4" long x .75"diameter & is slightly longer than the palm of my hand.  I've emailed the company to request specs.  The light houses a single bulb.  The light comes with a cordura & velcro case that can attach to a belt.  It also comes with a removable lanyard.  The on/off button nearly fills the lamp's base and the lanyard attaches near the base.  The light takes 1 standard (included) or rechargeable AA battery.  UV Mini Lamp:  It comes on a key chain, is well constructed, & takes 4 AG3 batteries (included).  Due to the decreased intensity of the bulb itself, of course it takes longer to cure LCRs.  Because it is only 2 inches long, it is easy to carry in a vest or wader pocket, along with a small tube of a Loon LCR, to quickly repair tears in waders, boat punctures, etc.  I started out curing LCR on my flies with this little lamp.  The largest con to the light is the battery type required for its use.  To locally purchase batteries costs at least as much as my lamp's $15.33 purchase price.  I bought batteries through Amazon more affordably but took a gamble that the batteries would arrive appropriately charged.    

Pro Curing Light from Clear Cure Goo
$25.24 at J Mac Sports, Moline, IL ($30-40.00 online). There are no claims on the packaging as to how well it works with UV adhesive products made by companies other than CCG.  Each light has 21 LED’s with a reported 100,000 hour life span (each individual LED or LED’s together, not specified).  The light literally fits in the palm of my hand and it has a wide on/off button at its base which is where the lanyard attaches.  It takes either 3 standard or rechargeable AAA batteries (not included).  Made in USA.

Spirit River UV Lightsaber
$12.37 at J Mac Sports, Moline, IL ($15.95 & less, online).  The packaging only reads, ‘Powerful ultra violet light for drying UV enhanced glues and epoxies.’  Their website is also posted and they claim 2% of their profits are donated to protecting the fishing environment.  Each light has 9 LED’s (I assume LED).  The light fits about 1” outside the palm of my hand & is sized similarly to a small flashlight with the on/off button situated near the thumb of hand.  A lanyard is attached to the base.  Package indicates 2 AAA batteries included.  The light actually requires 3 AAA batteries and they are all included.  China is printed on the battery housing.

Curing Rates -  Please note that I used Loon Outdoors UV Clear Fly Finish adhesive with these lights.  I can’t report how other adhesive brands would cure with these lights & many manufacturers recommend their light, claiming it is made to cure within the specific wavelength of their product.  When in doubt, use your product's light.  If not possible, first cure your flies with a light then place outside on sunny day to ensure a full cure.  My first impression was that the Spirit River light cured as quickly as the CCG product and maybe a hair faster.  However, after adding eyes, curing, & then building up the heads, it seemed the CCG light cured a bit more effectively.  The CCG light simply has more LED’s and a broader beam of light.  The differences were slight.  
   I used freshly charged AAA’s in the lights.  At first application of adhesive, I hit each half of each fly head for 5 seconds with a light.  That left the UV adhesives with the characteristically firm, yet tacky, feel.  After adding more adhesive & then eyes, I used 5 seconds of CCG light on one fly and ~5 sec x2 of Spirit River light on the other fly.  I did this to each of half of each head to ensure the eyes were adhered.  Then, I used more adhesive to cover the eyes and build up the head with similar light applications of about 10 sec each side.  After hitting each completed fly head a couple times with light, it seemed that no other changes would occur.  As seems typical, the heads had cured clear, with a firm but not hard feel, and were slightly tacky.  I took them outdoors into the sun to finish the curing process.   
   Initially, I used Loon’s UV Mini Lamp to cure my musky fly heads.  I’ve written about it previously but feel it is unfair to use this tiny, single-LED light as a direct comparison to the other lamps.  However, I can report that in my unscientific renderings, all 3 lights created a similar end-product over a variable amount of time. 
   Loon UV Power Light update 6/23/13:  The Loon light cured the LCR on my musky fly head quite similarly to the CCG light without any obvious differences in cure rate or amount of tackiness on the cured surface.  I used a freshly charged AA battery in the light.          

 Housing and Workmanship -  I personally found it uncomfortable to hold the Spirit River light and turn it off efficiently.  The CCG light felt more comfortable in my hand and this larger diameter light might be more comfortable in the larger man’s hand as well.  The on/off button was located where it was ergonomically easier for me to use it. 
   Both lights seem cheaply made, although they both got their jobs done.  The CCG light on the interior looks very cheap and the plastic battery housing was incorrectly labeled with the neg and pos contacts.  However, the CCG body is composed of magnetic and non-magnetic metals & all the threads to tighten the cap of the battery compartment are metal as well.  There is easy access to the battery compartment. The body of the Spirit River light is mostly plastic with 50% of cap threads also made of plastic.  Other than the threads it looks like it is made better than the CCG light.  However, I inadvertently unscrewed the Spirit River LED cap twice (I wanted the battery compartment) and had difficulty re-attaching it both times.  I also had difficulty re-threading the battery compartment portion.  Personally, I will not buy the Spirit River light due to this difficulty, especially when the product has plastic threads.
   Loon UV Power Light review added 6/23/13:  I felt I was able to comfortably use the Loon light in my hand, although the CCG light likely was the most comfortable.  The on/off button was also placed in the same position as the CCG light & had similar ergonomic ease of use.  The Loon light appears well-made, appearing to have the best quality construction of the 3 lights.  The Loon light, with a nice heft, is composed primarily of metal parts with metal threads attaching the the cap of the battery compartment. 

Summary -  While my review is far from scientific, I feel both lights did their intended job.  If cost is one’s main concern, perhaps the Spirit River Lightsaber would be a good choice.  Overall, I felt the CCG light cured slightly faster, was more comfortable in the hand, and was more user-friendly. I would take great care to avoid dropping either light.  ~Twitch, 11/30/12
   Loon update 6/23/13:  As expected, the Loon light was effective in curing its own LCR product on small and large flies.  Overall, the Loon light appeared to be constructed better & came with accessories that have a practical use.  It's cost is comparable to the CCG light. 
   A single bulb allows one to concentrate the light source over the area being cured & decrease curing time, whereas multiple, less-intense bulbs may produce similar overall light output but in a more diffuse area.  During the latter, more UV light spills onto the user's hands and the tying area.  On the flip side, if one of those weaker bulbs burns out, the light remains usable.  If the single-bulb light burns out, one best hope it's a sunny day so the fly can be finished!  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stalking the Predator: November Musky on the Fly

   My angling pal, musky guide Brad Bohen, told me he had been in need of turkey feathers for fly tying material.  Do people who fly fish for musky always prefer a difficult path?  He told me he smacked a flock of turkeys the other day.  One big turkey dented the front end of his Land Cruiser.  His rod holder rack, loaded with rods, was knocked off the suv, but my pal got his tying material.  A few days later, he smacked a buck.  I guess he needed buck tail as well.  When I got in his vehicle I put on the seatbelt, secretly happy he doesn’t tie his flies with elk fur.

   On Friday, November 2, we were the only humans on the West Fork of Wisconsin's Chippewa River & the solitude was appreciated.  I spotted a large buck and, later, Brad spotted otters poking their heads through holes in thin ice hugging the shore.  The bearded, cigar-smoking musky hunter, known to proudly display his esox-bloodied fingers, grinned while he made ‘schnuffling’ sounds – otter calls.  I smiled & relished one of the main reasons I enjoy being around my fishy male friends.

   It was more than chilly that morning on the water, but by the time my cold fingers had warmed and the wet gloves were stripped away, the musky and me had thawed enough to do battle.

   We had 4-5 musky strikes and the first 2 were boated.  We also had a follow.  The third strike pissed me off.  The fish should’ve been boated, but was missed due to my quasi salmon-trout set.  I knew it’d be a let-down if the musky attacks ended on that note.  But later, during a possible strike, a splash occurred behind my fly.  On a firm strip set… the fly snagged a branch.  False redemption.  The last attacker of the day was a mini-musky – a super-sized Polish sausage with a big appetite and a bad aim.  It lunged over my fly during its single strike.  

   My first missed strike, or that ‘son of a bit%$’, as I called it (since those words seem to come out of my mouth at no other time except when I lose a fish), taught me a lesson.  I lost that fish simply due to my poor position in the boat.  Earlier in the day, I’d come up short with casts due to line catching under my boots. So, I stripped line and kept my feet planted while twisting my body to keep the rod tip pointed at the fly.  It’s hard to do a strip set when your elbow is jammed in your ribs, so the quasi salmon-trout set occurred & the musky was lost.  Lesson learned.

   Of course the successful musky hook-ups were exciting things!  We were fishing along a ‘belly’ of the West Fork.  Both fish attacked within 10’ of the boat.  On the first fish’s strike, my set did not take and I plunged the rod tip in the water and began the figure 8.  The fish immediately struck again and my strip-set was hard.  After a brief fight, we boated a thick-bodied musky.  Brad and I celebrated our first musky success together, passed a flask, & then took pictures.  While that first fish had been out of Brad’s line of sight, the 2nd musky attack was visible to both guide and client.  It was classic!  Almost casually, strip, pause… strip, pause… in the water.  The next moment the Beauford fly was slammed by a finned torpedo with teeth!  Strip-set!!  Yelling erupted from guide and client, and the more active fish fought hard against the long rod.  It took Brad a couple tries to lift the fighter from the water.  With the musky in the boat, I breathed more deeply.  We had not wanted to lose that fight.  Bite marks on our fish’s back from another musky were examined.  Brad took more pictures, and I released the toothy torpedo.

   We excitedly re-lived our musky moments, then I reported that all we needed was a good follow to obtain the trifecta of musky takes.

   I don’t think more than 5 minutes passed and this occurred.  

   I was stripping in line & my fly was at least 20’ out when & I silently questioned, “Is that a follow?”  I kept quiet, doubtful, yet trying to shift fully into ‘predator-mode’.  Moments later, my doubt turned into a statement:  “I’ve got a follow!”  Actually, I think Brad and I announced it simultaneously, but a couple seconds were a blur.  I do remember him adding, “And it’s a nice fish”, with a controlled excitement in his voice.

   It was a chunky musky over 40” long and landing it would’ve met one of my goals for the year.  What replays in my head now, is what followed the follow.  I hesitated on the strip just prior to starting the figure 8.  Somehow that tiny pause was different enough from the rhythmic ‘strip-pause’ which had kept the creature’s interest for at least 20 feet.  I’d been presented with one slim opportunity to hook a larger musky.  During the brief moment that my thought had over-ruled my instinct, the finned predator had won the game.

   The day had been great in so many ways.  For most fly anglers, good fishing and good company can’t be beat.  Yet, briefly, I was frustrated.  For the second year, I hadn’t met my musky goals. 

   Then, I remembered something.  I love this fly fishing journey.  I love the people and the waterways, and I love the angling challenges and adventures.  Making and reaching a goal is great.  But I think it’s the journey that gives an accomplishment its ultimate pleasure and value.  I’m loving the trip & there’s no need to rush.