Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Tips for using Epoxy

2 part, 5-minute Epoxy is a very handy tool in the modern fly tiers material cabinet. It is primarily used on saltwater patterns to provide a thin, streamlined shape and also to increase their durability. Some freshwater patterns such as nymphs and stick caddis are starting to utilise this as well.

There are a lot of different types of epoxy on the market, and I can't say I have found there to be much difference between them, other than price. While some claim that they won't yellow with age and exposure to the sun, the simple fact is that all 5 minute epoxies will eventually turn yellow with use. The main thing is to choose an epoxy with 2 clear parts (resin and hardener) to begin with. The ones that look like Araldite, with a yellow half and a white half, will obviously be yellow from the outset. If you are going to paint the flies, then this won't matter, but for patterns like Surf Candies, which rely on the translucent look to fool fish, a good, clear epoxy is a must.

Devcon and Z-Poxy are the two leading brands on the market, and while Devcon does make industrial epoxies, these two are mainly aimed at fly tiers. For some reason, I like to use Bostik 5 minute epoxy - it mixes and dries totally clear, and if you keep it out of the sunlight, it will stay clear for a very long time. Another advantage is that it is very cheap (around $6) and can be found in most Woolworths supermarkets. if you are learning to use epoxy, then go with this one, and don't be afraid to experiment and keep trying with it. Once you are familiar with the properties and characteristics of the epoxy, you will find all sorts of uses for it in your fly tying. Epoxy and synthetic materials make for one very tough fly - Ray Ellis likes to use it over the heads of his clousers to make them almost indestructible.

There are some tricks to getting the best out of your epoxy though....

Firstly you will need to choose the right surface to mix the epoxy on. Paper is going to absorb the epoxy, so plastic is going to be a much better choice. Generally, most plastics won't react with the epoxy.

I like to use either old hook packets or the plastic slip from a blank cds you get in 10 packs (shown, left). You can reuse these if you like by leaving them in the sun so the old epoxy sets hard, then just peel it off. 

Most 2 part epoxies are 50-50 mixes - once you have become used to working with epoxy, you will be able to roughly estimate how much you will need for each fly.

To avoid confusion, I put a red dot on one of the nozzles so I don't accidentally squeeze out 2 blobs from the same side. Yes, it is an easy mistake to make.

For beginners and experts alike, remember that is always better to mix a little more than you think you will need.

There are a few ideas about what is best to use to mix the epoxy, but I have had no problem using a toothpick. I suppose it stems from growing up in a logging town. You can use a dubbing needle or a piece of 150lb mono if you like, but you will have to clean these periodically to remove the old epoxy, and this can be messy and time consuming.

In order not to get any air bubbles in the mix, insert the toothpick deeply into the mix, then withdraw it a fraction so the surface tension pulls the epoxy up the toothpick.

Mix it carefully - start slowly and use circular as well as side to side motion with the toothpick to minimise the introduction of air bubbles. If you don't really care about them - and let's face it, it's only for aesthetic purposes - you can mix it however you like.

If you do end up with some air bubbles and you want to get rid of them, you can lightly heat the epoxy with something like a hair dryer or heat gun, or by flashing a lighter over the top of it. Be warned however, as doing this might make the epoxy set quicker, so you may need to use it straight away.

Once the epoxy is fully mixed, leave it to sit for a minute or two before trying to apply it to something like a Surf Candy. If it is too runny, then you will have a lot of trouble trying to keep it evenly applied to the fly's body. With practice, you will figure out how long it is best to leave it for.
When applying the epoxy to a fly's body, it may result in a better finish if you apply two coats. The first coat will set the foundation for the second coat, so make sure it is neat and also check that it is symmetrical, as it is much easier to fix it here on the first coat than on the second coat. If you need to shape or adjust the epoxy while it is setting, you can moisten you finger and use that - epoxy won't stick to a wet surface.

Also keep in mind that epoxy tends to visually amplify things, so if there are any tying mistakes underneath the first coat, they will look twice as bad after the second coat. If you are painting gills onto the first coat, keep them thin.

An eye fly in it's final stages, before trimming. Once you have applied the final coat of epoxy to a fly, make sure it is really well set before trimming anything, otherwise the trimmed bits might stick to the epoxy or ruin it's smooth finish.

When using epoxied flies around rocks too, just check them every so often, as even lightly touching a rock on your backcast can shatter the epoxied body (not to mention damaging your hook!).