“I’ve got a piece of mule deer hide in the garage that I’ve got salted down pretty good. What do I have to do to use it to tie flies? I don’t want it to contaminate my other fly tying materials.” — anonymous
Collecting fur and feathers can be an enjoyable, and very encompassing, part of fly tying.
Thankfully, most collectors have enough common sense to precede cautiously.
First, I tell amateur collectors to always assume everything they pick up is contaminated with dirt and insects and spiders, that’s in addition to those ticks that crawled out of the hair when the critter was skinned.
Before I deal with precautionary steps, I will mention, I too, went through the stage of bringing home every piece of Nature I thought I could tie onto a hook until I found all those little holes and body castings in my better necks and capes. After several days of boiling and washing and packing into glass jars, and mentally counting the financial damages, I decided it just wasn’t worth the chance any more.
Fur and feathers, processed and packaged, by reputable fly tying suppliers can be trusted to be clean. Re-packaging by a local shop could be sketchy, but I really doubt it.
Stick to buying name-brand packaged fur and feathers and you’ll sleep better at night.
But what about that patch of mule deer in the garage?
Borax is a better dessicant than salt. After cutting into smaller patches, place them in a glass jar with at least half inch of para,di-clorobenzene on the bottom. Use crushed urinal blocks. Seal tightly.
Moth balls only dissuade insects; PDCB kills them.
Freezing generally kills only larvae and adults, but not eggs. Re-freezing a week or two later might kill new larvae.
After a few months, remove one of the small patches from the jar and store in a freezer-quality Zip-Loc containing a few small pieces of PDCB.
We could spend weeks discussing how to store tying materials, but it would all be a waste of time if any of the materials were contaminated when they were originally placed into the bags and boxes.
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.