by Dick Nelson, permission to use by Lillian Nelson and family

Hair, fur, and feathers are food for many pests, and special care must be taken to prepare them for tying flies. The special care needed can be described in four words:

Clean, Dry, Fumigate, and Seal

The fresh hide or skin should be cleaned as soon as possible. All dirt, plant fiber, extraneous tissue, blood, muscle, and fat should be removed right down to the hide, by scraping, etc.

to prevent spoilage, slippage, and pest egg-laying. Then wash the skin with a dishwashing detergent such as "Dawn," an excellent degreaser, and rinse thoroughly.

Place the hide, raw side up, on a board and tack it down to minimize shrinkage while drying. Cover it with a layer of borax (not Boraxo), and preferably not salt, sodium chloride, and

expose it to the sun and air to dry completely. The borax accelerates drying and kills pests that eat it. Salt is retained in the skin and seems to make it brittle.

After the skin is thoroughly dry, seal it in a jar or a high quality plastic container with a tight-fitting lid such as Servin'- Saver, sprinkle it with borax, and fumigate it with some crystals of

paradichlorobenzene (a.k.a. Para Moth Balls.) The Para sublimes (changes from the solid state to the gaseous state without going through the liquid state), and these fumes kill the pests. Because

the gas will slowly escape from all but perfectly sealed jars, the Para Balls must be replenished when the solid form disappears. Do not use napthalene ('old fashioned', 'regular' Moth Balls, moth

flakes), which only repels pests and is more toxic. Check the hide regularly for a month or two for evidence of infestation before allowing the material to join your collection.

Handle paradichlorobenzene carefully, observing all the usual pesticide precautions, keeping it away from children, and following all package instructions.

All tying materials should be stored in sealed pest-proof containers to prevent reinfestation. You should add a small handful of paradichlorobenzene as insurance. If the container is

truly sealed, the crystals may change form but will not disappear.

All materials, from whatever source, even packaged materials from fly shops, should be cleaned and dried if necessary, but must be fumigated in a sealed isolation container for an

observation period before being trusted. Inorganic material, such as previously used plastic bags, might be contaminated and act as a carrier. Be careful, one broken link ruins a chain!

When cutting hides or capes into smaller pieces, always us a sharp knife, and always cut from the skin side to minimize the destruction of material and having to work around the

remaining stubble.

Information for those who wish to prepare material from skinning to storage, is available in such books as Eric Leiser's Fly Tying Materials, their Procurement, Use, and

Protection, Lyons and Burford, softcover, and in comprehensive articles such as those by Wayne Luallen.