Fly Tying Extras
As far as fly tying goes, what we've gone over so far is merely the tip of the iceberg. Don't worry, we'll do our best to gradually plug-in fresh information to our blog posts as time goes on. The pages in this section are all about getting the basics out of the way, and before we venture into tying a fly we felt it necessary to go over a few more important points. Click on any of the pictures to enlarge and for detailed instructions.
When tying-in materials, I prefer using as few wraps as possible. Certain flies can get bulky rather quickly, and reducing the amount of thread you wrap with can help keep the mass down. Of course you want to make sure whatever you're putting on the hook stays there, but that doesn't mean you have to use a dozen wraps to do so. I like to use roughly 4 or 5 wraps to tie something down, with extra "bonus wraps" thrown in if the material is especially thick/large or I know I'll have room to play with.
Position your material against the hook shank. In this case, we are using a hackle feather tied-in by its tip.
Keep holding the feather as in Step 1 and tie it down. In many cases I like 4 or 5 thread wraps to secure it. With some items it helps to use a loose wrap to initially "catch" the item without it rolling around the hook shank.
Clip the excess feather close to your wraps.
Dubbing is natural or synthetic fibers that you twist onto your thread. When wrapped around the hook shank, this forms an attractive, buggy-looking body.
When you are ready to use the dubbing, remove a small amount from the package. You generally don't want to use too much as it's harder to work with and will likely result in a bulky, clumpy body.
Twist the dubbing onto the thread with your fingers. Try twisting one direction rather than back and forth. I find that moistening my finger helps with this step.
After the dubbing is neatly twisted onto the thread, you can carefully slide the dubbing up the thread closer to the hook if needed.
Wrap the dubbing around the hook evenly for a nice, clean look.
Some flies only require that hackle be wrapped at one particular area, while for other patterns you may have to "palmer" or wrap it forward with even spacing (such as in our "Tie a Basic Fly" section).
We will be evenly wrapping (or "palmering") the hackle forward. The feather is tied in by the stem at the butt end. Make sure the feather's length is long enough to wrap around the body several times.
Grab the hackle firmly with your fingers or hackle pliers. I like to position the feather facing sideways rather than flat. Start wrapping forward leaving as much space between each wrap as you desire. If the feather develops a twist while wrapping, you can simply pause and remove the twist before continuing.
When you're done wrapping the feather, take your bobbin and secure the feather with thread wraps. Don't let go of the feather until it's secured!
On some flies (like woolly buggers), you can hold the front hackle fibers back and wrap thread in front to keep them organized.
Using a Whip Finisher
Learning to use a whip finisher is a great skill. It provides a durable, clean knot to finish off your fly in a professional manner!
Without allowing the whip finisher to spin, hook the thread around the tool as shown. It might make things easier to keep a bit of tension on the bobbin with the other hand, too.
Take the thread and put it around the small depression on the other part of the tool while bringing the bobbin above.
Allow the tool's head to spin around to this position. The two threads will now cross.
Lift the tool up into this position (allow the head to spin) while simultaneously bringing the bobbin to the side. Position the bobbin so the intersection of threads is directly on the fly where your knot will go.
Begin to wrap around the fly's head with the tool. As you wrap, allow the head of the tool to spin. I normally go for about 4 or 5 wraps. If you start running out of thread to wrap with, lighten up the tension with your bobbin hand and pull out some more slack with the tool.
With the wraps complete, tilt the handle of the tool so the thread slides off the rear depression but stays on the small hook.
Pull the bobbin away from the fly which will pull in the extra thread being held by the small hook. Pull until all extra thread is removed.
With the thread and hook drawn all the way down to the body of the fly, it's now safe to unhook the tool.
Bring the bobbin back down underneath the knot and pull to tighten. With the knot cinched down tight, clip the thread. Done!