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First published October 25th 2002 - More than 12 years ago
The Locofoam Story
A series of new materials with names as intriguing as Locofoam, Locoskin, and Siliskin give tying both terrestrials and other flies a whole new dimension.
By Harrison R. Steeves III
About a year ago I happened to be in Blue Ridge Flyfishers fly shop shooting the breeze with the owner, Blane Chocklett, who happens to be a good friend of mine. He was all excited about a technique that Joe Blados was using to create the material for his crease flies and was busily going through the procedure that Joe used to laminate a foil overlay to a sheet of 1/16th inch thick foam. Tedious to say the least and one that I had seen Joe demonstrate some years before, but which never appealed to me because it just seemed more trouble than it was worth. Anyway, I stood there for awhile watched Blane messing around with the material and it occurred to me that there just might be an easier way to do it. I was curious to see if something I had played around with in the past might just give better results than the technique Joe was using.
I hooked some samples of the overlay material from Blane, went home, and ran a few quick tests with the foil and foam. The technique was much faster than that of Joe Blados and the results were far superior. The next day I took the samples down to Blane and we started playing around with different colors of foil and foam. By using different combinations of the two materials we found we could create some truly wonderful color combinations and our excitement level grew with each test. After a week or so we began to consider the possibility of going commercial with the product, but were faced with the fact that while the technique was very easy to do it was labor intensive and neither of us wanted to spend all our time cranking out foam for the retail market. We were also faced with the fact that while we could produce reasonable quantities of the material we couldn't begin to produce what would be needed if the product really took off.
For a few months we were happy to produce what we could, sold a reasonable quantity of it, and tied a whole bunch of new fly patterns with it. One of the neat things with the technique was that we could produce both 1/16th inch and 1/8th inch thick foam with the foil overlay. We both use these two thicknesses in our patterns so we were very pleased to find out that it worked on both types of foam. Still, we were stuck with slow production, so going commercial with the product, and I mean big time commercial, was out of the question. We spent a lot of time experimenting with the foam, probably too much time, and one day Blane's wife, Dru, walked into the shop and said "you guys are crazy to spend so much time messing around with that loco foam." Needless to say the name stuck.
Not too long after that I happened upon something that changed the course of the entire venture. To make a long story short, it was a procedure that allowed us to produce relatively large sheets of the material rather than the 4inch by 6inch sheets we were producing with the old method. Now we figured we were in business since we could turn out a 9by12 sheet of laminated foam in just a few minutes. This put a whole different light on the situation, which, while still requiring a good bit of time, was much faster than the old method. We set up a production line and began cranking it out in relatively large quantities.
We began incorporating the laminate foam in most of our old patterns and developed quite a few new ones as well. When the foam was introduced at a large fly fishing show we sold almost all we had, so we knew we had a winner. One of the problems we faced, however, was narrowing down the combinations of colors we were producing. We had really gone overboard! So we sat down, figured out which combinations seemed to be the best for all purposes and finally narrowed the field down to about 19 different combinations. This may still be too many, but it seems as though there is a use for every combination so until we figure otherwise that number will just have to stand.
Well the story doesn't end there. About a year ago a friend of Blane's dropped by the shop and in the course of the conversation he revealed to Blane what line of work he had gotten into. It just so happened that he was dealing in a number of products that might lend themselves well to what we were doing, and Blane latched on to some samples of material. The next day Blane called me and his excitement level was about as high as it could get. I drove down, took a look at what he had done and yes, it was definitely exciting. It was more than exciting. This opened up a whole new field of fly tying materials, all with foil coatings, and the procedure was so easy to do that it seemed too good to be true. The end result was the production of two new products, Siliskin and Locoskin, which we have been experimenting with for the past six months or so. These two new products have been incorporated into quite a few new terrestrial, salt water and warm water patterns. I'll have to admit though that with the advent of winter only a few of these patterns have been field-tested, but the ones that have been tested produced some spectacular results. For example, one of Blane's salt-water patterns proved to be incredibly successful last November on false albacore and aroused the admiration of such notables as Lefty Kreh and Bob Popovics. What more can I say? Who wouldn't be pleased with catching over 40 false albacore in a short period of time?
As for the terrestrial patterns, those that were tied with Locofoam proved to be outstanding last summer. We fished them all over the east coast with tremendous success, and they proved just as successful on my trip to Colorado last summer. I remember one river where I used only a single pattern and quit after a couple of hours because it just seemed indecent to continue taking fish. Some highlights with the new Locofoam terrestrials were; (1) taking a 24 inch and a 22 inch brown on two successive casts with one of the new beetle patterns, (2) taking three fish on the Frying Pan, all over 20 inches, on an ant pattern (who would ever fish an ant pattern on the Pan?), (3) picking off a couple of dozen fish along the banks of the Gunnison one afternoon with an LA Ant. I have also had correspondence with numerous individuals whose experiences with these patterns seem to parallel mine, so I know it's not just happening to me.
Now we are just waiting for warmer weather to test all of the new patterns tied with Locofoam, Siliskin and Locoskin. Needless to say, it can't come too soon. Both of us are anticipating one hell of a season.