Many folks think of me as a tight-ass when it comes to money. I prefer to consider myself as “thrifty” or “frugal.” I simply like to be resourceful and I hate to see anything go to waste. Sometimes that resourcefulness may come off as a bit… ummm… I don’t know… morbid?
One of my favorite materials to tie with is buck tail and since I live in the Midwest there are plenty of opportunities lying on the side of the road. If you’re a bit squeamish, it may seem gross, I know. But, really, there is not much effort required for skinning out a buck tail. Here’s how.
Know the laws in your area!
Before you start scouring the back roads looking for free tying materials, be sure that you check the local or state laws about road kill. In some areas, it may be illegal to take these “souvenirs” from the poor critters on the side of the road.
Removing and preparing the buck tail
There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel, so for a really good tutorial, check out this site: http://www.stripersonline.com/t/452159/winter-project-processing-bucktails
I use a slightly different curing technique that I describe below, but the technique in the link works great, too.
- First cut the tail off as far back as you can.
- You’ll notice that there is a bone that runs down the middle of the tail. Take a sharp knife (a blade no bigger than 2-3 inches is needed) and run it down the underside of the tail (white hair side).
- Then slowly pull back on the hide part of the tail and make small cuts until you have cut out the bone.
- Scrape off any chunks of fat and meat you missed.
- Then mix four cups of hot water with ¼ cup of salt.
- Soak the tail in this mixture and let sit for three to four hours.
- Hang the tail somewhere to dry.
- After the tail is dry, it’s time to start the dying process.
Let’s talk dying materials; you’ve got two choices in my option “Kool-Aid” and Easter egg dye. The best time to buy Easter egg dye is right after the holiday at your local craft store at 70% off (this usually amounts to about a whole 50 cents). And, as any parent probably knows, Kool-Aid is like 25 cents a pack, so the cost to dye your own buck tails is really minimal. What I love about dying buck tails myself is that I can dye the tail colors I cannot usually get in the local fly shops.
Dyeing the buck tail
What you’ll need
- One old pot that you plan to never cook in again
- 3 Easter egg dyeing tablets or
- 3 packets of Kool-Aid
- A stir stick
- A rainy day (or whatever day you cannot go outside and play)
The dyeing process
After your tail is cured and dried, you’re ready to dye.
- Place 4 cups of water in the pot and bring to a boil
- Remove from heat and add 1 ½ cups of vinegar and your dyeing material.
- Toss in the buck tail and stir to make sure the tail gets completely exposed to the dye.
- Let the tail sit in the dye solution for three to four hours.
- Remove the tail from dye and hang to dry.
- After the tail is dry, toss it in some cool water and rinse off any dye that did not soak into the hair.
- Hang again to dry (clothespins work nice for hanging).
- That’s it! When the tail is completely dry you are ready to hit your vise.
If your buddies call you cheap for using road kill for your fly materials, just tell them that they didn’t seem bothered by it the last time they were over for dinner!