Once again this is a request I have had from several fellow bloggers for the fur hackle spinning technique. Although similar too the spinning deer hair article, there are a few pointers you should be aware of when mastering this technique.
Just about all natural and synthetic furs, feathers and hairs can be used as one form of dubbing or another. Before you start its worth considering what type of hair or material is suitable for the type of fly you are tying. There are several factors regarding the choice of natural materials.
1. Dry fly, nymph, wet.
2. Sinking, floating.
3. Ridged or pulsating.
4. Neat or scruffy.
When you are using natural materials you should consider what kind of animal, lifestyle, and climate it derives from. If choosing a dubbing for a small dry fly the under fur from otter, beaver and coypu have, because of their aquatic lifestyle a super fine under fur which is impregnated with natural water repellant oils, rather like the fur equivalent of CdC. On the other hand if you would like a long pulsating, sinking hackle choose a soft finer hair from an opossum or a rabbit that will absorb water but remain mobile and lively when fished. For nymphs there is of course the classic spiky hares ear dubbing. So to achieve optimal function and design of the the pattern you intend to tie, consider the above before starting.
1. Here I am using an old fashioned bull dog paper clip to hold the fur but for perfect dubbing spinning I can recommend the Marc Petitjean Magic tool. Marc’s magic tool is made from transparent plastic, the advantage with this is that you have much more visual control over the length and lie of the material being used. The above material is a regular hare zonker strip. Place this in the clip so the fibers are 90 degrees to the clip and at this stage you also determine the length of the hackle required.
2. Now with long straight scissors cut off the base and hide from the strip leaving only 2 or 3 mm of fur out from the clips jaws.
3. The finished loaded clip. You should now take care not to apply pressure to the clip and open it before needed. Otherwise all the material will shift or fall out.
4. Make a dubbing loop. If the material you are using is dense ( thick guard hairs and under fur) you will need to make a loop of double tying thread as above. But if the material is fine, a finer loop of split tying thread is sufficient. Also its important that where the two sides of the loop meet the hook shaft that they are touching. If you have them open, one strand of thread on each side of the hook shank the loop will not close correctly, and the material spun will loosen and fall out.
5. Move your bobbin forward towards the hook eye and attach your dubbing spinner.
6. If you are using Dyneema or another thread that is un-waxed, you will need to apply a little dubbing wax to the thread to gain ultimate traction.
7. Once you have placed the material in the loop carefully remove the clip in one smooth movement while keeping tension on the spinner to hold the dubbing loop tight and closed.
8. While keeping tension, spin the dubbing loop clockwise until all the material is secured and flares like a regular hackle.
9. You can now wind on your fur dubbing loop in a traditional hackle style. Taking care to brush back the fibers of each turn before making the next.
10. With this technique you can make as many turns of fur hackle as required. If you make only two turns you have a perfect fur hackle collar or you can cover the whole of the hook shank. If you would like a very spiky dubbed body for a nymph you can cover the whole hook shank and then trim it all down to the body shape you would like.
11. For a buggy nymph dubbing you would need a material that will sink and command a little more volume that a fine dry fly body. This is hares ear. Pull some stiff short fibers from the ears of the hare and some softer more dense hair and fur from the mask.
If you would like to use a fine material make use of a dubbing rake. When pulled through the fur on a skin, this will collect only the finer under fur. If you don’t have a dubbing rake you can also just pluck out the fibers with your fingers.
12. Now place the under fur in the palm of your hand and with the finger of your other hand rub the dubbing around in a clockwise motion. This will blend the dubbing evenly, making it easier to work with.
13. Select a small amount of dubbing and place it between your index finger and the tying thread as shown. When I am teaching people to tie flies one of the most frequently asked questions is – how much dubbing shall I use ? Most fly tyers apply way too much dubbing to the tying thread at one go, so I say, take what you think you should use, half it, and then half it again, and normally you arrive at a usable amount.
14. Now its time to roll the dubbing material onto the tying thread. With the tying thread and dubbing resting on your index finger place the tip of your thumb on top of this so as to trap the material and the thread between your finger and thumb.
Still trapping the thread and material between your finger and thumb push the tip of your thumb towards the tip of your finger, clockwise, thus rolling the material around the thread. You must do this several times up and down the thread to attach the material, forming a kind of dubbing rope. You should also remember one of the most common mistakes with attaching dubbing is that the fly tyer will roll the dubbing firstly clockwise and then anti clockwise when replacing the thumb back into the beginning of the rolling stage, this unwinds the dubbing. Also don’t try and make more than a few cms of dubbing rope at one time, this will also unwind as you wind it onto the hook shank.
15. Once your dubbing rope is ready you can now begin to wind it onto the hook shank to form the body. When you have wound on the first length of dubbing, repeat the process until the desired size of body is achieved. If you would like to taper the body, as in most nymphs begin with a thin dubbing rope, and the apply more dubbing each time making a thicker rope.
16. Once the nymph body is finished tie off behind the hook eye.
17. If you would like an even more buggy effect use a brush ( I use an old tooth brush ) to pull out the fibers to make a buggy body.
18. The brushing gives a soft and mobile, yet spiky nymph body.
19. But if you would like a fine slim body without too many fibers you can trim these off with a fine pair of scissors.
20. The finished trimmed cigar shaped body. Good luck! If you have any questions regarding dubbing dont be shy.
Although I don’t fish with super realistic patterns, I do enjoy tying them every now and then. If you are starting from scratch, as I did with this crayfish, it takes a little time to actually work out the fundamentals, scale, hook size, proportions, materials and techniques.
I always start with a morphology image from the visual dictionary, this gives you the basic shape, scale, body segment and leg count. Once this is established I select the materials and then try and plan the correct order to put them together. This can be rather like building a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions, you get half way and realize that you have left something out! and have to start again.
But for those of you that would like to have a go, I have photographed each step of this pattern, trying not to miss anything out and explaining each stage as I go. Although it looks complicated, its not difficult, but does take some time. You can tie it in stages tie up the legs one day, the claws another etc. So give it a go!
If you have any questions post them in the comments box at the foot of the article and i will try and answer them ASAP.
Hook: Mustad S74SNP # 1 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=195
Beard: Buck Tail
Eyes: EP Crab eyes
Body shell: Closed cell foam coated in Bug Bond
Tail: Three Cock ring neck pheasant neck feathers
Feelers: Stripped cock hackle stems
The reverse foil Gammarus
I cant really say much about this pattern as I only designed it and tied it up a couple of hours ago while playing with the new Shrimp Foils. But I could see right away when I started messing around with them that if I tied the foil onto the hook in reverse it could possibly bee a decent gammarus shell back!
Hook: Mustad C49SNP # 8 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=177
Tying thread: Dyneema http://www.deercreek.co.uk/FISHEADZ-tm.html
Feelers: Partridge hackle
Rib: Clear mono
Secure your Mustad C49SNP hook in the vice as shown.
Cover the hook shank with tying thread and tie in a partridge hackle at the base of the bend.
Wind on the partridge hackle revers wet fly style.
Select a shrimp foil.
Now tie in the shrimp foil the head first. Leaving just enough of the foil head plate for the gammarus head shield.
Heres a view of step 5 from above. Tie in a length of clear mono for the shrimp rib.
Now you have to spin some seals fur dubbing onto your tying thread. Begin dubbing at the hook eye and work your way back to the shrimp foil. Make sure that you taper the dubbed body, thicker at the bend of the hook and becoming thiner towards the hook eye. The dubbing shouldn’t be wound too tight.
Once the whole body is dubbed brush out the fibers with an old tooth brush to form the legs.
Fold over the foil and make a couple of turns of tying thread just behind the hook eye to hold it in place. Once secure you can wind on the mono rib one turn for each marked segment of shrimp shell. Tie off.
Remove the excess foil and mono and whip finish.
If wished you can now colour your gammarus with a water proof felt pen. This will highlight the shell segments.
Carefully coat each segment with Bug Bond and cure with the UV light.
There you have it, the finished Reverse foil Gammarus.
I just had a few minutes to play around with the shrimp foils. This time I reversed the foil and tied it in back to front for a Gammarus shell. I’ll post the full step by step for this pattern later.
Although its still a few months before the rag worms start swarming on the coast for thier annual spawn, its always good to have them tied up before hand. For those of you who find the earlier rag worm pattern I posted on the blog difficult to master, this is a much easier and quicker pattern to tie but still fishes well.
I have found the best colours to be Orange, olive and white.
The Awesome opossum
Yesterday I received in the post a few samples of Shrimp foils from the fly people in Germany. One sheet with coated foils and a second with uncoated. The coated foils really look the business but unfortunately after three attempts to tie them on and failing miserably in all three, I went over to the uncoated and and had no problems at all. Although the coated ones seemed flexible enough and relatively easy to position, every time I attached the thread and applied the slightest pressure they snapped! Its not as if I was being heavy handed or over tightening the thread. They just would not tolerate much pressure.
After succeeding on my first try with the uncoated I can only presume that the coating, which gives them a three dimensional appearance has somehow effected the the durability of the foil.
From what I can gather the foils are available in two sizes, the one used here is the smallest, and seemed to be tailored for my # 6 Mustad stinger hook. But if I am honest I would like to see even smaller foils for hooks down to size 8 and 10, for salt water sea trout fishing here in Europe.
All that being said the uncoated foils worked great and they give the shrimp an impressive finish. As I mentioned earlier this is only my first tie with the foils and I haven’t even scratched the surface of testing them, I dont even know if the will withstand the teeth of a fish or will take colour from waterproof felt pens… As soon as I know I will update this post and let you know.
In the meantime you can see they look great, so if you would like to give them a go the contact info for dealers is below.
As a foot note: I was just contacted by Lutz, at the fly people and informed that the coated shrimp foils I received are a prototype and that they have experienced the same problems with them breaking. As a result they are only going to produce the un coated foils for sale.
Hook: Mustad CS52 # 6 Stinger http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=182
Beard/Feelers: Natural Opossum and Whiting pink spey hackle mixed
Rib: Clear mono
Eyes: EP Crab eyes
Underbody: Opossum dubbing
Place your stinger hook in the vice.
Cut a short strip from a piece of opossum fur, keeping a small strip of hide on.
Holding the strip as shown place a Whiting spey hackle over the opossum .
Place the hair and the hackle in a magic tool clip and trim off the hide and hackle stem.
Spin the mixed hackle and hair in a dubbing loop and wind on the hook shaft to form the beard of the shrimp.
On the underside of the hook tie in two strips of lead wire and on the top of the hook shaft a length of clear mono for the rib.
Tie in two EP crab eyes slightly elevated over the beard.
Take some under fur from the opossum patch and dub the whole shrimp body as shown.
Make a dubbing loop in between the beard and the dubbed body. Run your tying thread forward to the hook eye.
Now make the same mix as the first dubbing loop but in the largest magic tool. So you have enough to cover the whole body.
Spin this in the dubbing loop. Make sure that you brush out the fibers with a tooth brush before you begin winding it on.
Once the dubbing brush is wound the full hook shank length tie it off just behind the hook eye.
Now place your shrimp foil on top of the hook shank and tie in at the tail. Make one whip finish.
Wind your mono rib carefully along the body of the shrimp making each turn on the marked ribs of the foil. Tie off at the tail.
Whip finish and remove your tying thread.
Give each shell back segment a coat with Bug Bond and cure with the UV light.
The finished Foil back shrimp.
Elk Hair Caddis
Hook Mustad R30 # 16-10 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=175
Body Olive dubbing
Hackle Brown Cock
Wing Bleached elk
This classic caddis pattern is from the tying bench of well know American fly tyer Al Troth.
This is probably the most well known caddis pattern in existence, and rightly so. The EHC as it is also known is one of the best adult caddis patterns that you could use. I myself have fished this pattern for at least 30 years, and every season it never fail to provide me with great sport.
Most of the materials are readily available but in the past few years the bleached elk hair has become more difficult to obtain. Al Troth himself recommends that you use the thigh hair from a cow elk, bleached, this I have found impossible to obtain but any good quality bleached elk does a good job. If you find like me that the bleached elk cannot be obtained, regular elk will also do a good job, it’s just a little more difficult to see at a distance on the water.
You can fish this pattern dry so that it just floats high on the hackle points, you can fish it half drowned so that it gurgles like a popper when retrieved and you can even fish it wet just under the surface. A brilliant all round pattern.
Attach the tying thread and run it along the hook shank until it hangs level with the hook barb.
Prepare the hackle and tie in at the base of the hook shank.
Attach the dubbing to the tying thread and begin to build up the body of the fly.
Once you have dubbed the whole body make sure you leave enough space for the elk wing head (2 mm behind the hook eye) secure the dubbing with a few turns of tying thread.
Using a hackle plier wind on the hackle, palmered style along the whole of the dubbed body.
Tie off the hackle and trim off the access.
With the use of a small hair stacker even thew ends of a small bunch of elk hair. You can also remove the under wool at this stage.
Remove the hair from the stacker and lie it along the top of the hook as shown to measure the correct length of wing required.
Still holding the hair in place , change hands and make two loose turns of tying thread around the head of the fly, and pull tight. Make a couple more turns of tying thread to secure the wing.
You can now trim of the surplus elk hair butt ends to make that distinctive EHC head.
Tie off the tying thread and remove.
The finished Elk Hair Caddis.
A video tutorial of how to fish the Elk Hair Caddis. The full step by step for tying the EHC will be published shortly, Enjoy.
Heres another tutorial for a simple but effective small seaweed pattern for Mullet.