Mise en Place
To tie flies fast, you have to know where your hands are going next. For example, when I'm tying SST-Poon flies (see instructions in gallery at top of page), I reach for the angel hair as I'm finishing the wraps on the ostrich-herl tail, and I grab the bead-chain eyes as I'm getting the thread in place to lash them onto the hook. For this to be possible, the materials must be in their place; chefs refer to this as mise en place. Not only is it important to have everything in place, but the materials must be easy to grab. Ostrich herl is one material that can be tricky. It's cumbersome to pick up a feather and trim off the herl, mix it with another color and keep it all organized. Instead, we trim the herl from the stem over a strip of Velcro. We then line up the tips as the herl falls. This also allows for the blending of a couple of colors together. In the picture below, I put down a layer of tan and then a layer of orange and another layer of tan, sandwiching all the herl between Velcro strips. Set up like this, a bundle of herl appropriate for a nice full tail can be pulled out without messing up the whole pile.