C&F Marco Polo Fly Tying Kit Review
by Alan Bulmer
Editor Note: Alan Bulmer is a keen Auckland based fly fisherman who spends some time chasing trout like the rest of us but specialises in chasing in-shore saltwater species on fly and spin tackle around New Zealand's estuaries. Alan purchased one of the C&F Marco polo fly tying kits earlier in the year through Rod and reel in New Market and was good enough to write a review for us.
The C&F Design Marco Polo CFT 1000 fly tying system is housed in a waterproof case about the size of an average fly box. It is designed to be a portable kit fly fishermen can pack in hand luggage for use when travelling away from home waters. I always take fly tying equipment away on freshwater fishing holidays and this unit seemed to be just what I was after, albeit an expensive solution.
When this case is first opened it is a revelation. 10 tools and a fly tying vice are all neatly laid out neatly in grey high density foam. Picking up each tool in turn I was struck first by the exemplary build quality and lightness. There were some nice touches namely stainless steel and brushed aluminium tool shafts that were knurled in critical areas and magnetic jaws in the vice to hold small hooks. This truly is a “heirloom” piece of kit that is obviously built with longevity in mind.
The ceramic bobbin holder was fitted with a foam insert. The thread had to be drawn through a micro slit in this insert and it served to maintain tension and prevent the thread from sliding out during a tying session. The bobbin arms are Teflon coated and they accommodated a standard bobbin of Kevlar thread comfortably. I did not encounter any problems with the bobbin holder in the entire session and it was a joy to use.
The fly tying vice was assembled next and my first impression was that it was not as stable as the set up that I normally use to tie flies at home. However, by the time that I tied the first fly I realised that the unit was very stable and that my early misgivings were completely unfounded. The most amazing feature of the vice is the two screw locking jaw. This jaw assembly holds hooks very firmly and I did not experience any slippage during tying despite applying heavy pressure on many occasions. It handled the Size 4 streamer and Size 10 nymph hooks used in my tying session without issue.
The Swiss Rubis scissors included in the kit are of an unconventional design however they were comfortable to use and very sharp.
The next item to be trialled was the hackle pliers. The jaws met well and are held together positively with a strong spring of strip design. I’ve always used conventional pliers with a small piece of rubber tubing added to one jaw to help improve grip on the feather so it was with some trepidation that I attached the “naked” C&F hackle plier to the end of the feather and started winding. The C&F plier gripped this first feather well, too well in fact, and cut the web cleanly on the second wind. This was not a good start. I re-attached the plier and managed to complete the winding with care. This fault never occurred in any of the subsequent flies tied so I suspect that it was a weakness in the feather rather than the fault of the tool. The plier fits the finger well and is easier to spin than the models that I have used previously.
The whip finish tool was next in line and it’s design is somewhat different to anything I’ve encountered. Two perpendicular polished stainless steel hooked wires catch the thread and are used to rotate it around the head. The tool worked but it was ungainly to use. I am sure that this is a practice issue rather than a design flaw. My major criticism of this tool is that the ends of the wires are filed to a point and these points could easily cut fine thread when the wires are removed at the end of the whip finishing process.
I used the half hitch tool on a couple of flies rather than the whip finishing tool and it worked well. Again the conveniently placed knurling prevented tool slippage in the hand.
The last tool to be evaluated was the 3-in-1 dubbing brush and it quickly turned into a favourite. The angled sharp needle almost seemed spring loaded and it picked out tightly packed fibres with ease. The stainless steel dubbing brush in the middle of the tool was also brilliant for teasing out the Quick Descent wire dubbing used on the bodies of the tungsten beaded Caddis nymphs.
Overall I was impressed with the compactness of the unit, the exemplary build quality and functionality of the tools. Aside from the whip finish tool, everything else worked well and was a pleasure to use. I set out to tie a couple of flies to test the system and ended up tying 19. This speaks volumes for the ease of use of the Marco Polo Fly tying system.
I would rate the unit 9/10 and would have no hesitation in recommending it to any other fly tying fisherman. It is so good that it should not just be considered as a travelling kit but a system suitable for general use.