Testing and Tuning Your Bouncers --Under Water and Back-Lighted
A good way to test a Bouncer is to look at it under water from the fish’s point of view. A test tank allows you to see the minimum weight necessary to achieve good hookpoint position, and the distribution of beads which gives the best action. It is quite remarkable--and disappointing--that many flies that look good in the vise just do not have the right action in the water. It is best to find this out quickly, and a test tank is a big help.
A clear plastic storage box (e.g., Sterilite) filled with water will do OK, but you can get a better view with a commercial 5-10 gallon aquarium; a truly superior test tank can be made from two pieces of 1/4” Lucite or polycarbonate, about 10” x 18”, with bottom and sides of the same material, about 4” wide. Use solvent-style contact cement to join, and seal the inside seams with clear silicone. Another good option--if you are near an IKEA store--is to buy one of their clear spice racks. Dimensions are: 4inX3.5inX18in, and the cost is about $7. Duct tape will make a waterproof seal for the hanging holes, and the tank is light enough to be transported to various locations for best viewing and photography.
This tank can be easily front lit and back lit, and it is ideal for photography. With today’s digital cameras with macro mode, you can capture subtle underwater effects, and you will have a satisfying record of your creations and of your progress in the quest to tie the perfect fly.
Backlighting is also a good way to test, since this is often what the fish sees. The side photo shows a zonkerBouncer with eyes made of a section of clear tubing filled with black Scribbles. With the light from behind, the eyes glow and the beads are muted. This pattern was featured in Al&Gretchen Beatty's column in "FlyFish America", September 2003, pages 34-35.
The third photo shows another example of a back-lighted Bouncer, in this case a minnow pattern whose body is formed from a tuft of "Slinky Blend" flanked by two pieces of transparent, iridescent mylar (salvaged from Christmas wrap).
The bottom photo shows a shrimpBouncer photographed under water. The bunny fur has been cropped short on most of the zonker strip to form a "carapace", and the short fur coated with a floatant; note that the carapace shows a nice sheen from the tiny air bubbles in the cropped fur. Lots of bonefish seemed to like the effect!