Ron Dilbone – August 1936 – December 2020

Ron Dilbone was not a member of Slate Run Sportsmen. I met him many years ago while attending a fly tying show that used to be held in Southfield, Michigan. Not remembering the exact year – I believe it was in the early 2000s when we initially met. Ron showed me the following technique to make an extended body style fly. It wasn’t easy for me to grasp this technique at first. It took several years before I finally got to the point where I thought I could produce a specimen to fish with.

February 23, 2013 – Ron Dilbone at the Knights of Columbus in Grand Rapids at the vice.

When I first saw Ron, he was cutting tapered pieces of foam from a sheet. Once he had pieces to work with he’d cinch thread to the needle held in a tying vise and then lash down some tailing. The thinnest point of the foam wedges were then attached – right at the point of where the tailing was attached to the needle. I have seen many YouTube videos about how to create an extended body fly, but none of them had used this order of attachment (by now there may be some – I had not seen any at that time). He then worked his way up the needle by folding back the foam (to get it out of the way of advancing the thread up the needle), working the thread with several wraps up the needle, folding the foam back onto the needle, and then looping thread over the foam to form the segment of the foam body. This process is repeated for as many times as he wanted to create the number of segments he wanted. He took this sub-assembly and attached it to a hook and finished off the fly in a parachute style.

I remember asking him to finish tying the fly once he had the extended body done. The sample he tied (below) is huge! He said you could use this method to create the larger flies – like for the Hex – Hexigenia Limbata that is prevalent in Michigan. While the Hex’s are large in Michigan, I thought the size could be adjusted with component sizes cut to smaller dimensions. I thought I’d give this technique a try. My personal goal was to create a March Brown imitation using this foam extended body technique.

Ron Dilbone’s ‘Hex’ Style Extended Foam Body Tie. Ron tied this fly for me many years ago.
My First Attempt – Pretty Despicable!

After my first attempt, I was not excited about how it turned out so put it away rather quickly after I had tied it. Best try again in another time, another year. It took about a year before I came back to trying this technique. Maybe, maybe a little more refined, but it wasn’t any where near where I wanted to be with this technique.

Second Attempt – Not Good Enough!

A year would pass before I tried it again. Improvement, but not my ultimate goal. Another year passes.

Third Attempt – Third Year’s Effort.

Better, but not quite there… yet. Another year…

Fourth Year’s Attempt – Experimenting with different materials.

Hmmm… maybe fishable! Now I can get more motivated and work on this for more then one tying attempt at a time.

I have ultimately decided to use the moose hair tailing for my March Brown representatives most of the time. They don’t exactly look like the speckled tails of the real Maccaffertium vicarium (the old designation Stenonema vicarium – aka March Browns) but the fish haven’t seemed to mind!

A few more examples of what can be done with it.

I think I’m going to start a fly tying company called “Nodda Hair Outta Place” Fly Tying…. right! (not a chance)

The body style is certainly not limited to mayfly imitations.

I ‘think’ I tied this hopper a few years ago now.

Some Tying Observations About How I Tie This Extended body:

Tying in the tips of the foam is tricky – especially if you are tying anything smaller than a size 12 fly. But it can be done, I’ve been able to tie down to about a 16. I’ve taken to not tying the tailing too tightly onto the needle. Tying too tightly onto the needle will make this even a little more tricky – if you tie too tightly onto it, you may have a hard time sliding it off when you’re done. So, this takes ‘touch’. I’ll define ‘touch’ as a knack of learning – perhaps even define it as a learning curve. You tie one, find out it’s too loose or too tight, and adjust on the next one you tie. Eventually you zero in on the proper pressure of thread tightness onto the needle. This ‘touch’ is also present when you lash down the foam onto the needle. I’ve found that by varying the thread pressure I can create smaller or larger foam body segment. But, like I said – it takes ‘touch’.

Presuming you did everything right, you slide the extended body off the needle and then decide if you want to use glue (for the tailing), and when you want to mark up the body for color.

If my ‘touch’ isn’t working so well I’ll add a drop of super glue at the very tip of the foam where the tailing comes out of it. Doing this really toughens the tie up allowing you to use it on more than one fish caught. This needs to be done carefully as I like to use markers to color the foam and cured super glue doesn’t allow the marker color to be absorbed. If you decide to use marker first and super glue later, the glue tends to break down the marker solution into it’s elemental colors. In other words, applying super glue (or most others) will result different colors being released – and they usually aren’t the colors I’ve applied when I was coloring. The result is a foam body with reds or yellows or some color you didn’t intend when you started out. This begs the question: Are there any glues that don’t do this – that do not separate the marker’s color into different colors? That quest remains ahead of me. I’ve not researched this to my sanctification yet. Time shall tell if such markers or glues exist that wont interact with each other.

The year I finally started to fish these the March Browns were huge on Pine Creek. These extended body ties floated like a cork. I could sink them and they’d bob back up to the surface. Subsequent years the March Browns downsized a bit back to more normal sizes according to Tom at Slate Run Tackle. I tied them a little smaller and found that they might not float like a cork anymore but react like any typical dry fly if you dry them off and apply a little floatant.

I spoke with Ron some time after having successfully used my March Browns and thanked him for introducing this technique to me. We also talked about how I was now fishing for Large Mouth Bass in a lake where I reside. As a result of this conversation he sent me an entire sheet of his warmwater flies.

In addition to the sheet of flies he sent me a whole expose’ on his trying various warmwater flies. The extended foam body ‘Hex’ is listed amongst them.

On December 18, 2020 I found out that Ron had passed away on December 4th. I barely knew this man but am deeply saddened to have found this out. He treated me with much kindness and taught me a technique that I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget you Ron, rest in peace.

I’ve had the privilege to speak with one of Ron’s daughters before publishing this post. We had a nice conversation and I could tell Ron had a great family and life. To the surviving members of Ron’s family, I am so sorry for your loss and thank you for taking the time to talk with me about him. Thank you!

Passing on our knowledge is something each one of us must decide if we want to share it or not. I know I don’t want to give away my special places (easily) of where I go to fish and recharge, but maybe there is room to share knowledge of how we tie certain flies we love to use. Ron sure showed me the way for this particular style.

If any of you have a story to share and would like me to write someone up about it, let me know at slaterunsportsmen@gmail.com.

I did a google search and see there’s a ‘real’ Unintentional Blogger so going forward I’ll modify my sign-off from ‘the’ to ‘an’.

Till we see each other again… I’m an Unintentional Blogger ….. aka UB

2 thoughts on “Ron Dilbone – August 1936 – December 2020

  1. A fine tribute to a man who was certainly a mentor to yourself and to probably many others! Thanks for sharing this & for reinforcing the importance of sharing knowledge for the common good throughout the years. Refreshing, too, after all the negative portraiture displayed from the horrible event that occurred in D.C. just a few days ago. A ray of sunshine here– from the “vise” rather than the “vice” (the latter of which we saw at the Capitol) … Yeah, yeah, just a picky point from that editor nerd who lives inside my head, who wishes he could have the tying skills that you so obviously display with these examples of extended-body flies… That “Extended Family” shot– beautiful!

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    • Thanks for catching my error RTR (and pointing it out to me…seriously). It’s been corrected and updated! Meaningful encounters happen all the time. I’m not sure I recognize them (all the time) when or where they happen, but they happen – all around us I’m sure. This one just so happened to be at a fly tying show in Michigan at what seems to be quite a while ago to me. In the scheme of things this encounter may not rank up there with current events but, in this case, one person ‘touched’ another simply by sharing an idea, a technique. And one thing led to another. Sure would be nice if a lot less hatred could be adopted in our world and society right now. But I’ll get of the soap box. Thanks RTR for the comment, here’s hoping this year will be much better than the last. UB
      p.s. – Just googled ‘Not a hair out of place’ Fly Tying – doesn’t look like anyone popped up using this title for a company (at least on my initial google search) Ha!

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