The original zonker pattern was tied by the American fly tyer Dan Byford in the 1970s and was quickly recognised the world over, as a big fish fly and extremely easy to tie, yet realistic imitation for most smaller bait fish. The original pattern used a lead or tin sheet that was folded and glued over the hook shank and then cut to shape to make the underbody. This melt glue body technique gives the zonker a new life. If viewed by a fish in reflected light the shine and flashing of the maylar mixed with the animation of the pulsating fur strip, makes it a first class bait fish attractor pattern. But when viewed by a fish in a back-lit situation ( in silhouette ) this pattern really comes to life, with the light penetrating through the transparent melt glue / maylar body and fur guard hairs.
Hook: Mustad S74S SS Salt water R74 freshwater # 6
Under body: Melt glue
Over Body: Mylar tubeing
Wing/tail: Fur zonker strip
Eyes: Prizma tape eyes.
The flexibility of the Zonker as a bait fish imitation pattern is only limited to your own imagination. There are a huge amount of rabbit fur strip materials on the market in just about every colour imaginable, not to mention fox, squirrel, mink etc. Along with the vast array of tubing materials available the combination possibilities are endless.
I was first shown this melt glue body technique in 1993 by the innovative Danish fly tyer Dennis Jensen who developed it for salt water sea trout fishing in Denmark. He used a home made mould constructed from plastic padding. He would insert the hook in the mould and then inject melt glue into it and wait a few seconds for it to dry before removing it. The result was a perfect and identical minnow body every time. Dennis also made very clever subtle body colour changes to his flies by wrapping the hook shank first with tying thread in fluorescent orange, green or blue. Orange when he was imitating sticklebacks, green for other small fish and eels and blue when fishing in deep water.
This technique shown here requires no mould. It does take a little practice to master and a few minutes longer, but still produces the same effect.
Another advantage with the zonker, unlike bucktail and feather wing streamers, is that it is an extremely robust pattern. If tied correctly the fly will normally outlive the hook, although the eyes and Mylar tubing are somewhat vulnerable to the small sharp teeth of trout. This can be improved by coating the eyes and Mylar body with varnish or head cement.
When fishing this pattern or any long tailed streamers in general for that matter. Many fly fishermen are of the thought, that when fishing a long tailed streamer the fish tend to “Nap” at the tail and won´t take the fly properly! This can be the case for smaller trout but generally speaking a large trout will take this pattern hard and fast. If you do experience napping at the tail when fishing, stop the retrieve dead and let the fly sink a little for two or three seconds, nine times out of ten the attacking fish will pick it up on the drop.
Unquestionably the most famous of all streamers, and the model for many others.
Hook: Mustad R73NP-BR # 10-4
Thread: Dyneema (waxed)
Tail: Mottled turkey
Body: Flat gold tinsel
Rib: Copper wire
Underwing: Grey squirrel tail
Wing: Mottled turkey
Collar/Head: Spun and clipped natural deer hair
A few notes regarding the original Muddler pattern:
The hook used by its originator Don Gapen was a Mustad 38941 3X Long streamer, this was one of the long flies. When tying slip wings its important to use waxed thread. The Dyneema I use in most my patterns is too smooth for for wet fly style wings and has to be waxed in order not to slip.
The original recipe is as above but excluding the copper wire rib. The rib is a later addition. The original was tied with metal tinsel that required no protection from the small sharp teeth of trout but later as plastic tinsel became the norm the wire rib was added to protect the tinsel and add additional strength. When spinning large bunches of deer hair I recommend, if you are using regular tying thread a minimum denier of 3/0 waxed is necessary to have sufficient strength to apply enough tension to achieve optimal flare in the deer hair. When tying spun and clipped deer hair patterns your choice of hair is paramount. See my earlier posts regarding tying with deer hair and spinning deer hair.
If I was unfortunate enough to be be given the choice of having only one fly to fish for all species both in fresh and salt water, I would have no problem! The Muddler minnow would without doubt be my number one choice. The pattern I tie here is as close to the original as I can get.
Now that the blog has become established and I have just reached 50,000 visitors and over 3000 followers I thought it only correct to take you on a little tour of the tying room.
Trying to keep order in the hook department is always testing, without order, everything falls apart, I can spend more time looking for hooks that actually tying the pattern it was intended for! But I have gone for a simple filing system. Plastic boxes, each containing a different type of hook but many sizes.
My wife is so glad I dont have all this gear around the house!
I have a similar set up for materials. All the natural materials in air tight containers to keep the bugs off and larger materials in plastic containers. This room here also has no heating so is always cold this also helps keep the bugs at bay.
Its here I also keep all my fly boxes, reels and lines.
Oh and waders… and float tubes and other gear.
The tools. These I have collected and been given from friends over three decades of tying. Everything I use all the time is kept here except for Bug Bond, thats kept in the cold room and only brought out when needed.
Techniques for traditional dry’s
Its often said “If you can tie a good dry fly, you can tie just about anything” this makes dry flies sound extremely difficult, they are not. There are many other patterns that look much simpler but are much more challenging for the tyer to master.
The key to good dry flies:
Attention to detail
Follow the step by step instructions
Follow these rules and you will be tying great dry flies in no time.
Although you dont need perfect, great looking flies to catch fish, a well proportioned dry fly will float better and fish better in many cases giving a much more correct footprint on the water. There is also the wow factor, a well tied box of flies is always a great talking point amongst friends and other fishermen!
The techniques shown here are normally only learned after many years of tying and observing other more experienced tyers. If we where talking about a play station game, they may be thought of as cheats! Here you are given a condensed lesson in tying the classic dry fly. If you learn the correct way right from the start you wont carry on making elementary mistakes. So study, learn and practice these techniques, and apply them to other patterns with a similar style.
Dont forget! If you have any questions please dont hesitate to ask. Just post your question at the foot of this page.
If you would like to receive a message when the next stage of the course is published, just add your e mail address at the top right of this page. Thanks, The feather bender.
Secure your hook in the vice, so the hook shank is horizontal.
Attach your tying thread and cover the hook shank with a even foundation of thread.
Take a golden pheasant tippet feather and cut out a small section as shown. Keeping the tippets on the feather shaft will give you perfect aligned tips and also keep the tippets the right way while you tie them in.
Lie one side of the tippet section on top of the hook shank and adjust to the correct length, see proportions chart. Tie in.
Trim off the tippets 2/3 of the hook shank length or where you will tie in the wings. If you cut them off shorter you will have an un even underbody later. Tie down the tippet butts. Now make two small ridges with tying thread at the wing tying in point, about 1 mm apart.
This will make a groove for the wing shafts to be placed.
Prepare two fan wing feathers by stripping off the lower fibers from the shaft. Dont worry too much about the wing tips not being too square this we will fix later.
Place one of the fan wings in the groove and tie in as with a regular dry fly hackle X whipping.
Now repeat with the second fan wing on the opposite side.
Tie down the hackles keeping them vertical and run your tying thread to the rear of the hook shank. Take a long peacock herl. To get the peacock herl to warp correctly, tie it in by the point with the concave side to the hook shank. Again tie in the herl the full length of the body too the wing. Wind your tying thread about 1/3 of the hook shank.
Wind on your peacock herl in tight even turns about 1/3 of the body length and tie off. Now carry on winding your peacock herl 2/3 of the body length.
Cover the second third of peacock herl with wraps of tying thread and the a few wraps further into the wing. The wraps of tying thread over the peacock herl will give the body the required thickness.
Now make the next segment of peacock herl into the wing base and tie off with a couple of turns of tying thread.
Select and prepare a hackle and tie in so the hackle is vertical and then run your tying thread for ward to the hook eye.
Remove the hackle stem and wind on the end of the peacock herl and tie off a couple of mm behind the hook eye. This peacock herl will give you the best foundation for your hackle. It creates a track that each turn of hackle will fall into and ensure that the hackle points stay vertical when wound.
Attach a hackle plier to the point of your hackle and wind on your hackle in nice even turns, taking care that it doesn’t twist or buckle. Tie off a couple of mm behind the hook eye.
Now take some flat edged scissors. While holding the wings in one hand, and holding the blade along the desired wing length position press your thumb against the blade trapping the wing points and whip off the points with a twist of the wrist. Take care that you are holding the wings tightly, otherwise you may pull them off!
The finished fan wing dry.
Hook: Ad Sweir Pike # 8/0
Tying thread: Dyneema
Tail: Marabou and crystal hair
Skirt: Four large Whiting American hackles
Topping: Peacock herl
Legs: Barred rubber legs
Collar: Lite Brite and Marabou
Head: Three foam pencil poppers welded together
Eyes: Mobile dolls eyes
For a long time after I began fishing with poppers, I was constantly disappointed with how little water the pre-made cork and foam heads actually moved – when yanked, after all, optimal popping, gurgling and splashing is what we are trying to achieve!
I then experimented with cutting my own popper heads from foam blocks, but found it difficult to sculpt the heads symmetrical enough to get a balanced presentation so the popper fished on an even keel. But that wasn’t the only problem – they were ugly – they looked like they had been carved by Freddy Kruger!
After much trial and error, I started gluing three pre-made popper heads together to attain the desired volume. Through this I achieved what I was looking for. By increasing the overall bulk of the head, I increased the buoyancy – and by tripling the surface area of the nose (or the bulldozer end of the popper), my popper now pushed three times as much water when retrieved. Hence the name Bulldozer.
Gluing pre-made popper heads together also considerably increases the overall dimensions of the finished fly, if required.
1. Select three foam pencil popper heads. Before gluing them together arrange them (dry) so all the ‘face angles’ of the heads are aligned. Use a good waterproof cement or superglue, if using superglue it only takes a few seconds for the glue to dry so you have to work quick! Firstly glue the two base popper heads together as shown.
Glue the last popper head mounted central to the two base poppers. Again! make sure the faces are matched and aligned.
Place the 8/0 pike hook in the vice and cover the hook shank with tying thread.
Make a dubbing loop at the rear of the hook. Select a good long and fine tapered marabou hackle and spin into the dubbing loop.
Wind on the dubbing loop to form the tail. Make sure that you brush the fibers back after each turn to achieve optimal movement in the marabou. Tie off the dubbing loop.
Tie-in a bunch of Crystal hair or some other flash of your choice.
Now, tie another small dubbing brush of marabou over the crystal hair. You can tie in plumes of marabou as a quicker alternative if wished.
Tie-in two Whiting American hackles, one each side over the marabou tail.
Now, another slightly larger dubbing loop with marabou over the hackles.
Over the marabou, a fine veil of Lite Brite or Angel hair.
For the topping, tie-in five or six strands of long peacock herl. These should be distributed between the two hackles on top of the tail.
Tie-in two more slightly longer hackles, one each side of the tail.
Another dubbing loop with white marabou around and over the whole tail. This is all about creating the illusion of volume without the weight.
Tie-in two long rubber legs each side of the hook shank.
Now the last bunch of marabou. Run the tying thread forward along the hook shank making a good foundation for gluing the popper head. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.
Before you cover the hook shank with a good amount of epoxy or super glue, Do a dry run mounting the popper head. Make sure the hole in your popper head is open, use a dubbing needle.
Push on the bulldozer popper head onto the hook shank. Make sure the head is aligned with the hook point!
Glue on your mobile eyes. Again make sure that the eyes are balanced – otherwise the popper head will not float on an even keel and thus not splash and pop to its full ability. This rule for poppers does not apply to streamers/bait fish imitations, it’s quite the opposite! An off-balanced streamer will swim and behave much more like an injured fish.
On a safety note: Hard hat and other safety equipment should be worn when casting the bulldozer…
You can find more patterns for toothy fish in: Flies for pike:
Flyfishing for pike has never been more popular. Barry Ord Clarke presents us with a new generation of successful flies for pike developed by expert pike flyfishermen and fly-tyers. Herman Broers, Dougie Loughridge, Simon Graham, Ulf Hagstrom, Ad Swier and Steve Silverio have all contributed their well-proven patterns. Ten proven patterns – flies that have proved their worth – catching many big pike in British, European and North American waters. With step-by-step fly-tying instructions, and many tips from the experts on luring this exciting quarry. This is the first in the new Proven Patterns series of step-by-step guides to flies that catch fish.
Flies for Sea trout rivers:
The elusive and challenging sea-trout, lithe and strong from feeding in the sea, inhabits the wildest places in Britain and Europe. Like the salmon it ceases feeding once in the river and its capture calls for the highest skills of the angler and fly-tyer. On the darkest nights it abandons its customary caution and may fiercely attack the flyfisher’s lure, and even under low-water conditions it may be tempted by a skillfully presented nymph. Barry Ord Clarke and sea-trout experts Illtyd Griffiths, Steffan Jones, Gerhard Schive and Bjarne N Thomsen present us with 15 proven patterns for sea-trout, step-by-step tying instructions, and tips on how to fish them. This is the third in the new Proven Patterns series of step-by-step guides to flies that catch fish.
Flies for Sea trout Salt water:
Flyfishing for sea-trout in the sea is one of the most exciting recent developments in angling. It had long been practised on our northern and western shores, largely using traditional wet-fly tactics, but the massive growth of the sea-trout fishery in Scandinavia has led to the development of innovative and highly successful fly patterns, many of them imitating the natural prey of the sea-trout in the sea. Barry Ord Clarke and sea-trout experts Claus Eriksen and Bjarne N Thomsen present us with ten proven patterns for saltwater sea-trout, with step-by- step tying instructions, and tips on how to fish them. This is the second in the new Proven Patterns series of step-by-step guides to flies that catch fish.
Forthcoming titles include: Proven Patterns: Flies that catch Salmon. Proven Patterns: Flies for Carp and Coarse Fish. Proven Patterns: Flies for Bass, Mullet & other Sea Fish. Proven Patterns: Dry Flies for Grayling. Proven Patterns: Flies for Rainbow Trout.
Link to Cochy-Bonddu Books:
Hook: Mustad C49SNP # 6-22 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=177
Tying thread: Dyneema
Body: Copper wire
Head: Mixed hares ear dubbing
Its normal to weight nymphs with and under body of lead, but on small flies its sometimes desirable to maintain a slim but at the same time heavy, body profile. With the Brassie copper wire of different sizes is used in respect to hook size, but you can achieve the best results with copper wire that is no thicker than the hook wire being used. Copper wire in different colours can give extremely natural looking abdomen on pupa and larva patterns. Copper wire gives the impression of gas bubbles that hatching pupa and larva carry with them to the surface. The Brassie is especially effective in fast flowing water as a free swimming caddis larva or in smaller sizes as a midge pupa in still water.
In those situations where you wish to get down deep quick, this pattern is a must, especially when tied with a brass bead at the head of the fly. While fishing sea run char in Iceland once on the beautiful small river Fljotaa, where the holes are deep and the current strong, this pattern worked every time.
Try this in different sizes and colours, with and without brass bead heads.
Dont forget! If you have any questions please dont hesitate to ask. Just post your question at the foot of this page.
If you would like to receive a message when the next stage of the course is published, just add your e mail address at the top right of this page. Thanks, The feather bender.
Secure your hook in the vice.
Attach your tying thread and cover the hook shank.
Cut a length of copper wire. This is where many fly tyers make a mistake with this pattern.
Take some flat nose pliers and flatten just 3 mm or so of the copper wire end to be tied in.
The end of the copper wire should now look like this! Many tyers dont do this and get a considerably thicker body at the tail of the fly when they wrap the copper wire over the tying in point.
Now tie in the flat end as shown and then wind your tying thread forward to the hook eye.
Begin wrapping your copper wire in tight neat turns up the hook shank towards the thorax.
Once you have covered the whole abdomen tie off at the thorax.
Split and wax your tying thread. If you are not using thread that can be split make a dubbing loop and wax.
Take a hares mask and pull enough of the spiky hairs from the ears and mix in the palm of your hand.
Place the mixed hares ear dubbing in the waxed dubbing loop.
Spin the hares ear dubbing in the loop.
Wind on the dubbing loop brushing back the dubbing with each turn to get the best buggy effect.
Whip finish and varnish.
After many requests regarding my Gammarus pattern and where to obtain the foils heres a up dated re post with a little more info.
This photo was taken last week, while on a fishing trip to Shetland. Some of the small Lochs had huge amounts of gammarus and the fish refused everything else! Every fish we took in such Lochs where full to the gills with these small fresh water shrimp. Having a good imitative pattern proved to be seriously effective!
The fish that where feeding on Gammarus where in exceptional condition!
Some of you may have seen, that a couple of weeks ago I received some shrimp foils from ‘the fly people’ in Germany to test, they where very successful. After playing a little with them I reversed one and tied a gammarus pattern as this is one of my post productive for salt water sea trout. When Lutz, from the fly people saw my pattern, he asked what I would change on the shrimp foil to make it a gammarus foil ? I went straight to the drawing board and made him a sketch. Yesterday these prototypes arrived.
This is a photo I took while fishing of the contents of a sea trout’s stomach, need I say more !
There where only six foils on the sheet so I haven’t had so much practice or opportunity to play around with the design but this is the result so far. If you would like more info about the foils or to order some, you can send an e mail to: email@example.com
Hook: Mustad C67SNP-BR # 12-6 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=326
Tying thread: Olive
Feelers: Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Fine copper wire
Shell back: Gammarus foil http://www.theflypeople.com/
Shell back coating: Bug Bond http://www.bug-bond.moonfruit.com/
Under body: Virtual nymph Seals fur http://www.virtual-nymph.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.browse&category_id=1&Itemid=26
Legs: Pheasant tail fibers
Secure your hook in the vice, make sure its horizontal.
Run tying thread along the whole hook shank and down into the bend.
Make a small dubbing loop at the tail of the hook.
Load a Petitjean magic tool with pheasant tail fibers, you only need a few for the beard so use the smallest tool.
Wax your tying thread, and run your tying thread to the hook eye. Spin the pheasant tail fibers in the dubbing loop.
Wind on the dubbing brush, making sure that you brush all the peasant tail fibers out with each turn so you dont tie them down wrongly. Tie off the dubbing brush.
Select the right size foil for your hook size.
Remove the foil from the sheet.
Tie in the foil by the small tag at the base of the feelers.
Make another dubbing loop a little larger this time and hang out of the way on your vices material clip.
Tie in a length of fine copper wire. This should be a few mm up from the dubbing loop as shown. This is so your first turn of rib will be in the correct position in respect to the foil later.
Dubb the whole body with seals fur. First a couple of turns under the copper wire and the over. The gammarus body should taper from thick to thin as you approach the hook eye.
Spin a larger amount than before of peasant tail fibers in the rear dubbing loop. Remember to keep them short. Wind in an open spiral to form the legs.
Tie of the dubbing brush at the head of the fly and brush down the legs each side of the body.
Now fold over the foil and tie down so it sits tight over the whole body of the shrimp.
Now wrap the copper wire rib in between each plate segment on the foil. But as you go brush out the leg fibers with each turn so you dont trap them and tie the down flat. Tie off the copper wire at the head of the fly.
You can now colour your shell back if required with a waterproof felt pen.
Give the whole shell back foil a coat with Bug Bond. If your careful you can do each segment at a time to give it a more three dimensional effect. Rough up the fibers in the feelers and legs with a tooth brush.
The finished Gammarus.
I will be posting the full step by step later.
The feather Bender…
I believe that many great trout patterns have several things in common: they are quick and easy to tie, no special techniques or tools required. The materials are easy to obtain, that would say available from most fly tying stores. They cast without problems and last but not least they catch fish. This legendary pattern comes from the vice of the Swedish fly tying Guru, Lennart Bergquist.
The bullet shaped aero and aqua dynamic form of this pattern makes casting a dream and presentation precise, for me there is something magical from the moment my SC lands on the water with a its distinctive “plop” that attracts attention, even from resting or lethargic fish. The body semi submerged and the wing and head floating high. This I always follow with a pause, let the fly rest on the surface for 5-10 seconds, allowing the leader time to sink and the fly to settle and hang. Then comes the retrieve. With your rod tip down, close to the water, and your line taut, start with short jerky retrieves streaking the fly 10-15 cm at a time, creating a small wake behind the fly as you pull. After you have covered a meter or so of water, take another short pause. Follow this procedure until the cast is fished out. When fished as an attractor pattern, you increase the speed and length of your retrieve ploughing the streaking caddis just under the surface causing it to pop and gurgle as it goes. This can induce fast and aggressive takes, even when there is little fish activity to be seen.
The shear “fishability” of this pattern just has to be tried to be believed. Firstly, as it was ment to be fished, under a caddis fly hatch. Where adult caddis are streaking across the waters surface. But in recent years the streaking caddis has also found its way into the fly boxes of sea trout and salmon fishermen. Fished in the same way, as a wake fly, it has teased up fish from the bottom of otherwise dead pools of many a salmon and sea trout river.
Hook: Mustad 94840 # 8
Body: Poly dubbing
Wing: Deer hair
Head: Spun and clipped deer hair
Secure your hook in the vise as shown. Run the tying thread along the hook shank.
When the body is dubbed run a little dubbing, but not too much, along the remaining hook shank behind the eye of the hook. This will help hold the deer hair in place, and stop the wing and head from moving on the finished fly.
Select your deer hair. The best deer hair to use for this particular pattern is taken from a deer that is killed during the coldest part of the year, the hair I use is from the European Roe deer that I have shot myself on the last day of hunting (23rd December) here in Norway. The colder the climate the thicker and more buoyant the deer hair.
Cut a large bunch of deer hair. The most common mistake in tying this popular pattern is to use too little deer hair. Remove all the under wool and short hairs with a dubbing comb.
Stack your deer hair in a hair stacker. Before you remove the hair completely from the stacker measure the correct wing length.
Holding the wing in place with your left hand, make, not one, but two loose turns of tying thread around the deer hair as shown. This should be made at the point where the clipped head goes over to the wing.
Now tighten the turns by pulling the tying thread ”upwards” this is important, if you tighten the thread by pulling downwards the wing will slip around the hook shank, and you need all this hair on-top of the body.
Now you can continue over the head of the fly as for a regular spun deer hair pattern.
Whip finish your Streaking caddis and remove the tying thread.
You can now begin the clipping process. Long serrated scissors are best for this as these grip the deer hair and give a better cut. It also helps to clip from the back of the fly as shown. The head should be cone shaped.
Clip all around the overside of the head.
Now finish the rough clip on the underside.
The next step is a good trick for most spun and clipped deer hair patterns. Take a lighter, with the gas set on the lowest position and carefully ”singe” the clipped head. This will seal the ends of the deer hair and give a very even surface and form to the finished head. It will also tighten the hair and make the wing lie flat in the correct position. But take care not to burn the hair and tying thread.
With an old toothbrush, remove all the soot from the head.
The finished Streaking caddis.
This is another deer hair technique that very useful for many dry, terrestrial, and streamer patterns. Although not an easy technique to get right without detailed instruction, once mastered, never forgotten!
Hook: Mustad R30 94833 # 4-10 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=175
Tying thread: Dyneema
Tail: Bleached elk hair
Body: Floss silk
Wing/head: Bleached elk hair
Legs: Rubber legs http://www.veniard.com/product2136/section172/micro-rubber-legs
This pattern was designed by US tyer Doug Swisher for attractor fishing in the Rocky mountains. The advantage of rubber legs in an attractor pattern is that the create maximum movement in the surface, ideal for searching out fish with both free drift and stripped across the surface. The large amount of elk hair and the bullet head make the Madam float well but low, using bleached elk hair also makes it easier to keep visual contact with her as she floats over rapids at a distance! Madam X can be tied in several colour combinations with bleached elk hair, as here but also natural and dyed black. You can also change the colour of the body and rubber legs. The bullet head construction should be very compact. If you think the head is too little or too loose you can build up a dubbing ball under the head, see my earlier post ‘Thunder creek’ for this technique. This pattern should not be underestimated, especially during caddis fly hatches in fast flowing rivers and streams.
Secure your hook in the vice, remember always so the hook shaft is horizontal.
Cover the hook shank with tying thread, until your thread hangs plumb with the hook barb.
Cut a small bunch of bleached elk hair. You will see that it has quite a large amount of underfur.
Once you have cut a bunch of deer hair from the hide, ( while still holding it in your left hand by the tips) take your comb and brush out the under fur and any loose hairs that might be there. Now you can stack your hair in a hair stacker and then comb it once more just to remove any smaller hairs that you may have missed the first time.
Now place your elk hair in a hair stacker.
This is probably the most important tool for achieving a good attractive finish to a deer hair fly. I like to have at hand three different sizes of stacker Small, Medium and Large. The smallest is for traditional tails and wings, the medium for normal sized bunches of deer hair and larger wings i.e.; caddis fly wings, and the largest for long deer hair such as buck tail.
To use a hair stacker, cut a bunch of hair and remove the under fur and loose hair with a comb. Place the hair tips fist into the hair stacker and tap firmly on the table. This will make the hair slide down into the stacker and align the tips. When removing the hair from the stacker hold the stacker at 60 degrees, not upright, so the hair doesn’t fall out, but will slide out.
If you would like to try and make mixed coloured bodies and wings etc take a few strands of equal lengthen different coloured hair until you have enough for the job at hand and place them all together in a wide necked hair stacker. With a dubbing needle stir the hair around, so as to mix it evenly together. This works like a dream for attractive natural wings (Streaking caddis) and multi coloured clipped bodies.
Once the hair is cleaned and stacked tie in the tail. Firstly with two loose turns of tying thread, you dont want to tighten too much here otherwise the hair will flair too much.
Run the tying thread towards the hook eye tying down the hair as you go. Trim off the excess hair and cover the whole hook shank in an even layer of tying thread.
When the hair is cleaned and stacked measure the wing. This is important to get the proportions correct. From the tip of the tail to the hook eye. The wing should be tied in at the point of your thumb tip.
Before you tie in the wing wrap your tying thread tight into the hook eye.
When you tie in the bunch of elk hair for the wing make sure it spins around the whole hook shank tight into the hook eye.
Carefully trim off the excess elk hair at the rear of the head. you can leave a little if you would like a larger foundation for your finished bullet head.
Tie down the ends of the clipped elk hair.
Tie in a length of floss silk and wrap it down to the tail base and back up again covering the whole body.
Once you have returned to the head with the floss tie off and cut away the excess.
If you have a transparent plastic tube, you can use a drinking straw, this next stage is much easier. First brush your elk hair wing with a tooth brush so all the fibers stand right out. Now take your plastic tube up-to the hook eye. Make sure that your tying thread is hanging where you would like the head to be tied!
As you push the tube over the head of fly, grasp the wing with your left hand. If you have a transparent tube you are able to see if any of the deer hair has crossed each other and the everything is lying correct. If not gently twist the plastic tube from side to side and the deer hair will fall into place!
Keeping the tube in place make a couple of loose turns of tying thread to hold everything in place.
If you are please with how everything looks, lift the wing as shown, and tighten the head wrappings.
Cut two lengths of rubber leg material the same size. Take one length and tie it in with 3 or 4 wraps of tying thread directly on the side of the head whippings as shown. The more you tighten the thread the more acute angle you will get on the rubber legs.
Tie in the other rubber legs, make sure they are symmetrical.
You can now colour your Dyneema with a water proof felt pen.
Now make a whip finish and remove the tying thread.
Apply a little drop of varnish to the whippings, you can also give the head a coat with varnish to make it a little more durable, and there you have your finished Madam X.
For me there are two big fish flies that I just dont go trout fishing without, Wooly bugger and Muddler minnow.
Hook: Mustad S74SNP-ZS # 6-4 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/product.php?id=195
Tail: Marabou and crystal hair http://www.veniard.com/product2005/section70/turkey-marabou
Hackle: Webby tapered saddle hackle
Wing : Marabou
Head & Collar: Spun and clipped deer hair
This is a combination pattern that I made a few years ago for sunk line fishing in lakes and deep pools. This pattern has both the great attractor qualities of both flies. The flowing pulsating marabou and the bubbling buoyant spun deer hair head. If you are fishing in a river with regular dry flies or nymphs, where the average size of fish is around 300 g, you can be quite surprised when fishing with large flies by taking much bigger fish that normally dont show themselves. Natural selection takes a favorable view of effective and adaptable feeding, a proficient predatory fish when feeding will maximize energy intake and minimize energy consumption by taking easy large meals instead of many small insects when the opportunity arrises. Its important when choosing deer hair for spinning that you use the densest hair from the winter coat. In order to get the hair to spin evenly you should also remove ALL the under hair/wool from the deer hair before tying in, if you dont the under wool will bind the hair together and restrict it from being evenly distributed around the hook shank when spun.
You can of course tie this in any colour or colour combination you wish!
Secure your hook in the vice as shown. If you intend fishing in fresh water only you can use a regular brown streamer hook or a single salmon.
Cover the whole hook shank with tying thread. Finish where the tying thread hangs between the hook point and barb.
Make a double dubbing loop at the tail of the fly and run your tying thread up the hook shank.
Spin some fine tapered marabou in the dubbing loop and wind on hackle style to form the tail. When buying marabou make sure you pick the plumes that have a fine even taper and finish in a sharp point. This marabou will give you, not only the best looking flies but also the best movment when fished.
Tie in a few strands of crystal hair in the tail.
Take a well tapered saddle hackle for the palmered body hackle and tie in at the hackle point at the tail base.
Dubb a tapered body about 2/3 along the hook shank. Again the choice of dubbing is your own.
Wind in the palmered body hackle over the whole body and tie off.
Make another dubbing loop and spin some more marabou for the wing.
Cut a good bunch of deer hair and remove the under fur. Even the points in a hair stacker and tie in as a regular muddler head, using the deerhair points as a collar as shown.
Tie in another bunch of the deer hair towards the hook eye. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.
Trim the deer hair head down into the correct muddler shape. There you have your finished big fish fly, Muggler Minnow.
Heres the second part of the MP CdC tutorial. Where Marc is tying one of his great CdC may flies. This is not only an extremely quick and easy pattern to tie but also a very effective fishing pattern, as Marc proved to me while fishing the river Trysil here in Norway. In the first part of the course that I published earlier, I flipped all the images for right hand tyers, but with Marc being left handed I thought I would keep this tutorial as tied by Marc for all you left handed tyers out there.
The vice, tools and all materials used are Marc’s own and are available from http://www.petitjean.com/shop/
Secure your dry fly hook in the vice, making sure the hook shank is horizontal.
Attach your tying thread and cover the hook shank back towards the hook bend.
Chose a nicely marked Coq de Leon hackle for the may fly tail.
Remove a small bunch of Coq de Leon fibers and tie in for the tail. The tail should be about the same length as the hook shaft.
Now tie in the tip of a CdC hackle. You can see the technique for this in the MP CdC tutorial # 1. Twist the hackle once.
With every wrap of the hackle on the hook shaft make one twist of the hackle. If you twist too much without wrapping the hackle will break.
Continue wrapping and twisting as you cover the hook shank with the mayfly body.
Once you have covered the whole body of the may fly tie off the CdC hackle, about 5 mm behind the hook eye.
Once the hackle is tied off, trim off the excess hackle.
Your may fly body should now look like this!
With a pair of fine straight scissors trim off the CdC fibers from around the body.
Once trimmed you should have a fine tapered segmented may fly body as shown.
Now take three CdC hackles of similar length. The colour is up-to you but mixing three different makes a very nice subtle wing colour effect. Place them in a MP magic tool. You can see the technique for this in the MP CdC tutorial # 1.
Split your tying thread to make a dubbing loop.
Now place the CdC in the dubbing loop. You can see the technique for this in the MP CdC tutorial # 1.
Spin the bobbin to form the CdC dubbing brush.
With every wrap of the dubbing brush collect all the fibers and hold them up on top of the hook shank.
Once you have wound on the whole dubbing brush tie off behind the hook eye.
Make a whip finish.
Once you have whip finished remove the tying thread.
Turn the vice up side down and trim away the CdC fibers on the underside of the body, while holding the whole wing collected.
Return the vice to the original position and trim the very top of the wing fibers horizontally.
Now turning your vice up side down again, brush all the wing fibers downwards and trim as shown diagonally towards the tail base.
And there you have it! The finished MP may fly dun.
This is just to show you the correct way to prepare and mount a traditional dry fly hackle. Firstly a little about hackles.
Dont forget! If you have any questions please dont hesitate to ask. Just post your question at the foot of this page.
If you would like to receive a message when the next stage of the course is published, just add your e mail address at the top right of this page. Thanks, The feather bender.
Generally speaking the more money you spend on hackle the better they are! But dont go rushing right away down to the bank for a second mortgage, you can also get excellent hackle without buying the absolute most expensive. The first thing to consider is the most common size of hooks you use for your dry flies. A good dry fly hackle is recognized after time using them and tying. They should be straight, long and slim with a good glossy shine and the barbs should not be webby but slim, stiff and of equal length along the ‘sweet spot’ of the hackle (the usable dry fly portion)
This you can test by holding a hackle at its point and with your other hand draw back the fibers by pulling down the stem a couple of times. The sweet spot is where all the hackle fiber points are of equal length.
The other main point to consider with hackles is the colour. Even hackle from the most reputable breeders vary in colour. Because hackle is a natural material its all about the condition of the bird, no two hackles or capes are alike! So when buying hackle, lets say its a grizzle cape your after, look at all the grizzle capes in the shop, ask the shop owner if you can remove the cape from its packaging and bend it gently to examine each size and quantity of hackle on the cape. Look for the colour that best suites you or the patterns you intend to tie. With grizzle hackles the chevron markings can vary tremendously from bird to bird. So the key here is take your time and and buy wisely.
Heres a link to, Whiting farms grading system:
Secure your hook in the vice, with the hook shank horizontal.
Attach your tying thread and make a foundation for the hackle so it doesn’t slip-
Strip off the webby base fibers from the hackle stem and offer the hackle up to the tying point, at an angle.
Now make one wrap of tying thread as shown diagonally across the hackle stem.
Make a second wrap around the hackle stem in the opposite direction forming an X of tying thread.
Once you have your X over the hackle stem move your tying thread behind the hackle stem on the back side of the hook shaft.
Now wrap the remaining hackle stem to the hook shaft behind the hook eye.
Attach a hackle plier to the hackle point.
Hackle pliers tend to slip away from the hackle when wrapping. To minimize this I glue to small patches of extra fine sand paper to the inside of the jaws of the pliers. When these are worn I simply remove them and replace with new patches.
Wind on your hackle. Make sure that each turn of hackle is tight into the previous but not overlapping, so the hackle fibers point 90 degrees from the hook shank. Also when winding on the hackle make sure it doesn’t twist, you have to correct this with every turn!
Once the hackle is wound forward to the hook eye, tie off and remove the excess hackle. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.
This is a general purpose mayfly pattern that gives a standard mayfly footprint on the water, tail, body, wings, legs… If follow this pattern and just change the hook size, colour and materials tied in proportionally you will have a good adult (dun) mayfly pattern for most situations.
Secure your hook in the vice and cover the whole hook shank with a foundation of tying thread. Make two extra turns of tying thread at the tail base, to form a little ‘bump’ this will hold the tail better in place.
Cut a small bunch of fine deer hair and even the points in a hair stacker, so all the tail fiber point are even. Tie the tail in as shown about 2/3 the body length. Run your tying thread over the hook shank and build up a slightly tapered body again about 2/3 the hook shank length.
Cut a 10 cm length of polypropylene yarn and place this around your tying thread. Holding both ends of the yarn lift it up.
Release your grip on the yarn and the weight of your bobbin will hold it in place on top of the hook shank. Tie in the wings with a figure of eight wrapping of the tying thread, going over and in between the wings with each turn.
Prepare and tie in your hackle as shown earlier just behind the wings.
Wrap your hackle firstly behind and the forward of the wings. Tie off, remove the excess hackle and whip finish.
My apologies to everyone doing the fly tying course, but the last few days have been busy making step by steps for magazines, but now I’m all done and ready to post a patterns for the the tyer that is a little more advanced, but of course you can always give this one a go even if you are a beginner. The original Ammonite nymph, if I am not mistaken, comes from the vice of UK tyer and photographer Steve Thonrton. Getting this great looking nymph right is all about proportions! So if you are going to give this a go be precise. Although I couldn’t find Steve’s original recipe for Ammonite, I have improvised and used materials I thought would work well.
Hook: Czech Nymph # 12-4
Tying thread: Dyneema
Body: Nymph Skin http://www.virtual-nymph.com/
Wing case: Flexibody http://www.virtual-nymph.com/
Legs: Muskrat dubbing brush and an Indian Dark badger hackle
Secure your hook in the vise so you have access to the lower bend with the tying thread.
Attach your tying thread and run all the way down into the bend as shown.
Select your chosen colour of nymph skin and cut a 10 cm length.
Cut the end of the nymph skin strip at an angle. The more acute the cut the more slim the start of the body.
Tie in the nymph skin.
Dubb the rear part of the body so that you have a fine taper and finish about half way along the hook shank.
Wrap the nymph skin over the dubbed body, each time covering about half the previous wrap. Tie off.
You can now colour the body with a waterproof felt pen.
Choose your chosen colour of Flexibody and cut a thin strip. Depending on the size of hook you are using, adjust the width of the strip.
Run your tying thread back over the nymph skin body to about mid hook shank and tie in the flexibody on top of the hook shank.
Now dubb the thorax to a taper towards the hook eye.
Now prepare a hackle as shown here ready to tie in. This is an indian badger hackle but you could use any other short webby well marked hackle such as partridge.
Tie in the hackle by the point concave out on top of the thorax.
Take a thin strip of muskrat and place in a magic tool or a bulldog paper clip at an angle as shown. Placing it at an angle makes the dubbing fibers loop shorter at one end. This will make the legs of the nymph go from shorter to longer as they approach the hook eye.
Trim off the skin from the hair.
Make a dubbing loop at the rear of the thorax and wind your tying thread forward again.
Spin your dubbing loop. If you are un familiar with this technique take a look at my earlier post of spinning deer hair. You can see the gradual taper in the dubbing brush.
Start to wind in your dubbing brush taking care to brush back the fibers with each turn, so as not to tie them down with the next turn.
Once you have wound the whole dubbing brush forward tie off behind the hook eye.
Fold over your hackle for the legs and tie off behind the hook eye. Make sure that it is tight into the thorax and the hackle is evenly spaced each side.
Trim away the hackle stem and pull over the flexibody strip. Tie this down with a few turns of tying thread.
Trim off the excess flexibody and whip finish into a small head. Varnish the head.
Now you can give the nymph another colouring with the felt pen if needed. If you wet the legs and stroke them back they will be perfect when they dry.
If you would like a glossy finish to the body and wing case give them a fine coat of Bug Bond and cure with the UV light.
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.
Back to the tying bench again, this time with a salt water pattern. I must say, Its nice to see that salt water materials being made in smaller sizes, not just for the monster warm water fish across the pond. These FisHeadz from Deer creek in the UK , are perfect in the two smallest sizes for salt water fishing in Europe, for both bass in the south and sea trout here in the North.
I still haven’t had much time to play with these, I’v only tied half a dozen flies with them, but they are that easy to use, that I’v been relatively pleased with all of them, which is unusual ! Anyway if you are tying salt water patterns you have just got to give these a go they give the flies a real edge. But beware, one of the flies I tied wasn’t up to par, and when I came to attach the fisHeadz, it was like putting lipstick on a gorilla! Without doubt it would still catch fish, but if you want flies tied with fisheadz to look good, the rest of the fly has to be as good as the headz.
This is an extremely quick pattern to tie, the only thing you really have to be careful with is the proportions and quantities of materials.
Hook: Mustad 60004NP-NZ # 12 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog
Wing: Ultra hair and buck tail
Sides: Blue grizzle hackle
Secure your salt water hook in the vice.
Take about 10 strands of transparent Ultra hair and tie in, about three times the length of the hook shaft. This stiffer synthetic hair will give the wing of the fly support and structure.
Now cut a small bunch of straight white buck tail, you only need about 15 strands, this will give the wing a little more volume but keep it light and mobil when it swims. Remove all the underfur and shorter hairs from the bunch. I didn’t stack this hair because I wanted the very tail of the pattern to be broken up, and not too uniform. Tie this in on top of the Ultra hair.
Now select two dyed blue grizzle hackles and prepare by stripping off the base of the stems and cutting both down to the correct length. Tie in one each side over the under wing.
Place your Fisheadz one each side in the correct position, they are sticky backed so they will stay there. Once right just make a couple of turns of tying thread to hold them steady.
Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Give the whole head a coat with Bug Bond and cure with the UV light.
For the last stage I have added additional hi-viz tape eyes, just to give the head a little more three dimensional feel, if thats possible?
Heres a sand eel tied with FisHeadz.
This next fly in the course is the X Caddis. This is a no hackle dry fly that floats extremely well because of the natural buoyancy of the deer hair and Antron tail.
Hook: Mustad R50 94840 # 10-18
Tail: Cream coloured Poly yarn or Z-Lon
Body: Light Olive Antron dubbing
Wing/head: Deer hair
I can´t recommend the X-caddis enough. No grayling or trout fisherman should be without this pattern in their fly box. The original from John Juraceks and Craig Mathews was intended as a hatching caddis fly that is skating across the surface trying to escape from the nymphal skin that is trailing behind it, before it flies to freedom. This pattern has taken fish for me all over the globe, in all kinds of conditions and not only during caddis hatches but also under extremely selective feeding during mayfly hatches and midge fishing. The high flared deer hair wing and head, position the low profile no hackle body, so perfectly in the surface film that grayling just can´t resist it. I have had most success with this pattern in the smaller hook sizes from # 16-18. When tying these smaller sizes I prefer to use the finer hair from the roe deer mask. This hair is nicely marked and extremely fine even for the smallest patterns, and only flares to 45 degrees unlike the more buoyant body hair that will flare to 90 degrees. Although you can tie the X-caddis in various body colours I have found the one shown here the most effective.
Make sure that when you secure your hook in the vice that the hook shank is horizontal. Cover the hook shank with a layer of tying thread.
Cut a very small piece of cream coloured crimped polypropylene yarn or Z-Lon (material from John Betts) Tie this in where the hook bend begins as shown. You dont need much, this is going to represent the nymph skin trailing behind the hatching caddis. It should be about half the hook shaft length.
Wind your tying thread back to the tail base. Spin a thin dubbing string onto the tying thread and wind tightly forward.
Wind the dubbing forward so that you get a slightly increasing body thickness as you approach the hook eye. Leave 2-3 mm behind the hook eye so you have room for the wing and head. Make a whip finish, but dont remove the tying thread.
Cut a small bunch with fine deer hair and even the points in a hair stacker if you have one. If you dont have a hair stacker try and get the points of the hair as even as possible. Holding the hair measure the wing by holding the hair on top of the hook shank. The wing should be a fraction longer than the body.
While still holding the deer hair make two loose turns of tying thread around the wing and hook shank, still holding the deer hair, then tighten by pulling down. Make 5 or 6 tight turns of tying thread as shown.
With a pair of sharp scissors cut off the excess deer hair over the hook eye with one neat cut as shown. Make a couple of whip finishes and your X caddis is ready. You can also put a tiny drop of varnish just on the whippings.
Now you should have learned the basics, mounting the hook, attaching the tying thread and the whip finish. With these you should be able to start and finish a fly, its just what’s in between now!
I always believe its better to start with a simple pattern that illustrates other elementary techniques, than demonstrating each technique one for one. When you are tying this pattern you may find that handling the materials is a somewhat difficult task especially if you have large fingers and are not use to intricate work. But let me assure you, this will come with time. What I would like you to do, is tie six, of the following pattern. Try and make them as best you can, take your time and try and get the proportions correct. As you tie one after another and handle the materials and practice the technique, you will understand them more with each fly tied. As you tie, line up the flies one after another, and you should be able to see a substantial increase in quality and style from n.1 to n. 6.
For this first pattern I have chosen the Montana nymph. This is no random choice, This is not only an excellent fishing fly that I have caught just about everything from perch to salmon on, but it also has many simple techniques that are used in hundreds, if not thousands of other patterns.
Before you start, make sure your work space is tidy, and you have only the materials you need for this pattern to hand. The only tools you need are some small sharp pointed scissors, dubbing needle, hackle pliers and whip finish tool.
Hook: Mustad R73 9671# 6-12
Tying thread: Black
Tail: Black hackle fibers
Body: Black chenille
Thorax: Green or yellow chenille with lead wire under
Wing case: Black chenille
Today the Montana nymph has a almost classic status. The original, Montana Stone, was tied by Lew Oatman from New York. It was tied to represent a range of large stonefly nymphs and not one particular species. The tying technique for the Montana is like learning to eat with chopsticks! At first it looks extremely difficult, but if shown the correct tying process it very simple, and when you have tied a half dozen you’ll never forget it! Today its tied in several variants. The yellow chenille can be changed for green or red and the black chenille with light olive. It can also be tied with a bead head.
After you have secured your hook in the vice and attached your tying thread strip a small bunch of long hackle fibers from a black cock hackle. Tie these in for the tail of the nymph, at a position just before the hook bends so they stand straight out. They should be about 2/3 of the hook shaft length.
Cut a short length of lead wire and warp it tightly around the thorax a few mm behind the hook eye as shown. Cover it in tying thread and then wind your tying thread back to the tail base.
Cut a 10 cm length or a little longer if its easier for your to handle and tie this in along the hook shank from the lead wire to the tail base.
Now wind on the chenille, about 5 or 6 tight even turns until you cover half the hook shank. Then tie down the chenille with 2 or 3 turns of tying thread.
Dont cut off the length of chenille remaining. Take the loose end and tie it down tight into the other end of the chenille on top of the hook shank. Dont worry if the loop of chenille is large, it will be trimmed later,
Cut a short length of green chenille and tie this in on top of the lead wire. Finishing close into the black chenille.
Before you start winding the chenille tie in a cock hackle by the point again over the lead.
Now wind on the green chenille in tight even turns towards the hook eye.
Wind on the chenille and tie off, but leave enough room behind the hook eye to finish the fly.
Once you have tied off the chenille take the hackle and attach a hackle plier and wind it in between the turns of green chenille. Make sure that the hackle fibers are pointing backwards. If done correctly you will see that it falls perfectly in place with each turn.
When you come to the hook eye, tie off the hackle and cut off the excess.
Now to the black chenille loop. Take the loop in your right hand and pull it over the thorax of the nymph to form the wing case. Tie down with 2 or 3 turns of tying thread, as close to the green chenille as possible.
Carefully trim off the excess chenille and whip finish. Try and make the head of the nymph not to large. Finish with a drop of varnish.
Heres an arial view of the Montana nymph. Check the proportions of the tail, body, thorax and hackle and compare with your own before attempting to tie the next.
Fly tying, in most cases, begins with a fly tying kit. Unfortunately most fly tying kits can result in the same frustration as starting to tie too difficult patterns. When you open a fly tying kit for the very first time, the first thing you notice is the over powering perfume of paradichlorobenzene or moth balls. This is used to keep feather and fur eating insects at bay, and from making a smorgasbord of your materials. Beyond the moth ball vapors, your newly purchased kit, is filled with what looks like, at first glance, a fantastic array of shiny tools and materials from the most exotic foul and beast.
And if you have any fly tying /material questions, dont be afraid to ask. Just post your question at the foot of this page.
My fly tying room looks messy, but there is order in the chaos!
Unfortunately the usefulness and quality of “kit” materials and tools is generally poor. In nine out of ten kits the scissors are bad quality and wont clean cut tying thread and and other fine materials. Ideally you should have two pairs of scissors, one with extremely fine points for the more intricate work and a pair with larger and serrated blades for deer hair and heavier work. The bobbin holder is of equally poor quality, cutting the tying thread with every two or three turns around the hook. I am also of the thought that the natural materials in most fly tying kits are chosen by none fly tyers for volume and not usefulness, for the new beginner. That all being said, if you have a access to a reliable fly fishing store that has a good fly tying department and fly tying staff, ask if they can put a kit together for you with quality tools and materials tailored to the patterns that you wish to tie. Generally speaking, when it comes to tools and materials, the more money you use the better the quality.
My recommendation for a basic starter set for trout and grayling flies:
Bobbin holder ceramic
Clear fine varnish
Cock Hackle mixed Whiting pack, Black, brown, grizzle
CdC natural tan
Fine Antron dubbing Black. Tan. Olive.
Natural deer hair
Poly yarn white
Medium copper wire
Hooks dry fly Mustad R 30 94833 # 12. Nymph Mustad R73 9671 # 8. Streamer Mustad R74 9672 # 6.
When you have been tying for a while you will start to understand materials more with regard to quality and uses. You will quickly see how much easier it is to tie with quality materials and how much better the end result will be. Again when buying materials try and use a shop that has a large fly tying department, these normally have the best quality materials and staff that tie flies that are on hand to help and answer your questions. But even in these shops, the materials can vary. When buying materials, say for instance pheasant tail ! don´t just take the first packet hanging on the wall ! Look through all the packets and choose the one that works best for the patterns you wish to tie. There is always varying quality in size, colour, markings, fibre length… and quantity in most natural materials, that at first glance all look the same, but only under closer scrutiny is the difference noticeable.
Since this is the most single expensive item you will require to tie flies, your choice should be made carefully. You should consider how many and what type of flies will you tie and what size hooks you will be using. Beyond the prime function of holding the hook securely, modern vises incorporate a number of additional functions of varying usefulness. Hight, jaw angle and full rotation are normal and found in most good models. Vices are available in several different designs and price classes. The best way to acquire a feeling for the vise that suites your tying style and requirements is to visit a retail store with a good selection of designs and price class. Ask the staff to point out the advantages and disadvantages of the different makes and try them out for yourself.
See fly tying tutorial # 2
A poor quality bobbin holder can be infuriating. It is really worth investing in a good quality ceramic bobbin holder, these are far superior to other models. The ceramic tubes are far harder than even the highest quality surgical steel, which eventually becomes worn and develops grooves that will cut the tying thread.
The wire arms of a bobbin holder need to be adjusted to accommodate the particular size of spool being used and the acquire the desired tension. The tension should be light enough for you to easily draw off thread, while still being tight enough to hang free under its own weight without unwinding. Setting the tension on a bobbin holder is as follows:
For less tension pull the two wire arms outward from each other, and to increase tension, the opposite. Try your spool and fine tune the tension accordingly.
Its unreasonable to expect one pair of scissors to do all the cutting jobs required when tying flies. Eventually you will need at least two. One high quality pair with sharp fine points, for all the fine work and a second pair that are used for heavier work such as tinsel, wire… If you are going to tie many deer hair flies it is also useful to have a longer bladed pair with serrated edges. These “grip” the deer hair and enable flush cutting.
When buying scissors, If you have large hands, make sure that your finger and thumb fit comfortably in the handles.
This is probably the most simple fly tying tool, but at the same time one of the most useful. Dubbing needles have many tasks to perform, applying varnish to finished flies, picking out dubbing, splitting hackle fibers, mixing epoxy… Your work space when fly tying can quickly become chaotic beyond recognition, especially when you have tied a few different patterns, and its easy to spend more time looking for your dubbing needle than tying flies. Therefor I have several dubbing needles of mixed diameter standing up-right in a piece of foam. The point of the dubbing needle can quickly become covered with a build-up of varnish, epoxy and head cement. This can be scraped away with a blade, but I keep my needles clean with another method. I have an 35 mm film canister that I have filled with wire wool. All you need to do is push your built-up dubbing needle through the canister top down into the wire wool a few times and your needle is as new!
Its much easier to correctly wind a hackle on a dry fly when you use hackle pliers. They come in many designs and price classes, like all other fly tying tools. I use and recommend a rotary model. The rotary model will keep the hackle from twisting when wound. Its important that whichever model you choose to use that the sprung jaws have a secure grip, even on the finest hackle points. A good tip for all models to improve their gripping quality, without damaging the materials to be held, is to glue two small pieces of super fine sand paper on the gripping side of each jaw, then trim them down to fit the edges of the jaws. This will stop materials slipping out of the jaws when maximum tension is applied.
Whip finish tool:
These again come in various models – the most important distinction being if they are fixed or rotate. A well designed whip finish tool allows quick and neat finishing of a fly with the correct knot. A whip finish tool is preferred by most professional tyers because the job at hand can be done much faster and neater than a series of half hitch knots done by hand. The Materelli Rotating whip finisher is regarded as the best there is.
This is probably the most discussed material amongst fly tyers, When buying cock capes / hackles one should understand that ALL capes come from individual birds each with distinctive characteristics. You cant expect the same uniformity as with tins of beans from the supermarket. consider the following factors:
Look for the best colour that suites your requirements. The best capes have a even consistency in colour. This can differ from cape to cape, in both natural and dyed. With your first purchase of quality hackle choose the colour you are most likely to use most, give this some thought. For dry flies look for capes with a good vivid colour that glows, and a high glossy shine. My choice for the three most useful colours for general trout patterns are:
From a pale red to dark red but normally called brown. This will cover most of your needs for caddis fly patterns and a good amount of traditional dry flies.
Jet black in natural capes is a rarity . Nearly all jet black capes are dyed. A black cape is always useful for mayflies, ants, tails and nymphs.
Is not really a colour but a description of the black chevron barring on a cream or white hackle background. Extremely useful not only alone but mixed as a secondary hackle colour with brown for such patterns as Adams, Europea 12… and the standard hackle for most dry midge patterns.
Capes from healthy birds will feel bouncy to the touch and the hackle will shine. Dr Tom Whiting owner of Hoffman, has said that when he chooses birds for breeding he considers not only colour and quality but also the character of birds. No matter how good the colour appears to be, If the bird is nervous and of low spirit he will be low in the pecking order. This will influence health and plumage quality. It is also useful to check the stems of a few hackles and see if they are flexible and not brittle when wound on a hook. Hackles that are brittle are useless.
The more hackles of a good usable quality on a cape is of course desirable. You can again gain a feeling for this just by handling the cape, check it´s depth (thickness). Inspect the individual hackles for barb count, (the density of fibers along a hackle stem) and fibre stiffness. This is difficult for a new beginner but will come with time spent at the tying bench.
Expensive modern cock capes are generally sized. This means they give you an indication as to what size flies they are most suitable for and ca. how many flies you are able to tie with them. The most useful cape/hackle size for the fly tyer here in Europe is for hooks # 10-16.
The least expensive and most common pheasant tail used in fly tying is from the Ring neck pheasant. The best feathers come from the centre of the tail of the male bird (cock pheasant) These long centre tail feathers have the longest fibers and normally the best chevron barred markings. Uses include, legs on nymphs and crane flies, tails on may flies and nymphs, wing cases and the only material needed for the most famous of all nymphs the pheasant tail.
This refers to the mask and ears of the European brown hare. Individual masks range in colour from pale tan to almost black. The texture and length is from fine and soft in the under fur, that is an excellent dubbing. To long and stiff guard hairs, that can be used for feelers and tail in many patterns. The ears are covered with short stiffer hairs without almost any under fur. A mixture of hair from the ears and the mask makes one of the best buggy nymph dubbing available. As used in the Gold ribbed hares ear.
See also my earlier post on European roe deer.
Deer hair is normally described as hollow, This doesn´t mean that it´s hollow like a drinking straw, but that each hair is built up of hundreds of small air filled cells. This type of hair structure is most defined in deer from areas with an extreme winter climate. The result, the colder it is, the better the spinning qualities, with some exceptions. The hair from reindeer and the north american caribou. In order to achieve optimal insulation, these hairs hold so many air cells that they have a tendency to be brittle, and break under the pressure of tying thread.
The winter coat of the Norwegian roe deer has many air filled cells and is ideal for spinning, packing and clipping. While the hair from the summer coat is somewhat stiffer and extremely fine. A first class hair for tails and winging dry flies. The colour varies from light red brown on the summer coat to dark grey with darker barred tips on the winter coat. The best hair for spinning is found on the back of the roe along the spine. This hair is extremely dense, not at all brittle, and floats like a cork. The chalk white hair on the rump is excellent for dying, or for patterns that require white deer hair.
You should also be aware that the roe mask has a diversity of hair that is difficult to equal. Here you will find hair in many different lengths, shades of brown and coarseness. Ideal for dry´s from # 10 and down to the very smallest comparaduns. Anyone who ties caddis flies shouldn’t be without a roe mask.
If you know a hunter or a game keeper, try and secure yourself a whole roe skin, you wont be disappointed.
A smooth or rough textured synthetic yarn available in many colours. Being less dense than water, poly yarn is particularly suited to dry fly applications, such as wings, parachute posts, shuck cases, loop wings… Silicon coated yarn, is even more water repellant than standard polypropylene.
The eye tail feather from the peacock (male bird) provides us with the famous herl. Covered in iridescent green fibers and used for wound bodies and butts in hundreds of patterns. For stripped herl patterns the best herl to use is from just under the eye of the feather. These herl´s are stronger here than otherwise found on the lower tail.
CdC in short for Cul de canard or more correctly Croupion de Canard, was first used as a fly tying material in the 1920s in Switzerland. In more recent years the Swiss perfectionist Marc Petitjean has been responsible for popularizing the use of this material. All birds have these feathers, but the best for fly tying come from ducks. The feathers are located around the gland that produces preening oil. This highly water repellant oil is collected on these small feathers, and its here the bird obtains the oil with its bill to dress its feathers. Without this oil the bird would drown. The small fibers catch tiny air bubbles that work wonderfully on emerger patterns. Besides its excellent floating properties CdC
is not only extremely aqua-dynamic pulsating with life in the water, but also hydrodynamic. A CdC hackle will collapse under air pressure while casting, but as soon as the cast ends the hackle opens and falls perfectly back to its intended shape.
See also my post on dubbing:
Just about all natural furs, feathers and hairs can be used as one form of dubbing or another.
Many tyers have become use to mixing there own dubbing material, in a particular texture or colour, or even mixing several different materials to give a special sparkle or shade. When choosing a natural material for a dry fly, think a little about the animal or bird that it comes from, the fur and under fur from a beaver or mink is excellent as this has a lot of natural water repellent oils, this will make it float well. The under fur is also very fine, this enables you to dub extremely small dry fly bodies. Where as for a buggy nymph you would need a material that will absorb water and sink and command a little more volume that a fine dry fly body. Synthetic dubbing is available in literally thousands of colours and textures for all types of flies. So consider the requirements of the dubbing needed for the job at hand before beginning to tie your flies.
Head cements and varnishes used in fly tying have come a long way in the last decade. But still In some fly tying circles, purists believe that glue has no place, and should never be used in fly tying. I am of the school that uses both super glue and epoxy in most of my tying. The best varnish to start with in Veniards Clear fine. This varnish is easily absorbed by most tying threads and dries hard with a reasonably glossy finish. If you would like a super hard glossy finish I recommend that you firstly coat the head of your fly with Veniards clear fine, after this is dry, you can then give it a coat with nail varnish. The best nail varnishes are Revlon Top speed and Sally Hansens Hard as nails.
Dry fly hooks:
Dry fly hooks are normally all fine diameter wire hooks that are made from standard, fine or superfine wire so that there is minimum weight in the hook making the fly float better. 1X being the standard and 4X the thinnest
The most important thing to remember when choosing your dry fly hook is the right hook for the particular pattern you are going to tie without jeopardizing strength. A superfine hook has more chance of straightening when fighting a large fish. For “regular” high floating deer hair and hair wing dry flies a standard wire hook will suffice. And for the tiny dry flies #18 and smaller, standard wire hooks will work fine and give you all the strength you need, even for big fish. As these hooks are so small they nearly float on there own.
Wet fly and Nymph hooks:
Both your standard wet fly and nymph hooks are in the same category, with the exception of some more recent specialist hooks that fall under the Emerger category. They are both normally made with a heavier diameter wire to give the hook extra weight, in order to make it sink. Generally the standard nymph hook is a little longer in the hook shank, to give you room to imitate the slender body of the natural insect.
These are hooks that normally have more bend than hook shaft, that are designed to imitate hatching insects that are hanging in the surface water film. The bent hook shaft helps the fly tyer imitate this stage, with the rear part of the body of the insect submerged and the thorax and wing case above.
Because almost all streamer patterns are tied to imitate small fish, the hooks that are used for streamers tend to reflect the natural body shape of bait fish of various sizes. Most streamer hooks are made of standard diameter wire or heavy and come in various shank lengths.
Hook sizes are were most fly tiers can get confused. The number on a hook generally refers to the relative size of each hook with respect to each other. However there is NO industry standard and different manufactures have different standards for applying numbers to their own sizes.
The most important thing to remember is that the size number on a hook packet is a “relative size” NOT a actual measurement of a hook.
The higher the number i.e. (# 28, very small hook) the hook size is increasing with a decreasing number.
The lower the number i.e. (#1, large hook) will increase in size with an increasing number i.e. (# 8/0, very large hook) the larger the hook size.
There are many threads available today that have many different properties. The tyer will want to use the one that is most suited to the task at hand, in respect to thickness, strength, stretchability, waxed or un-waxed and weather it has a flat or round profile on the hook, And of course colour.
Size / thickness:
Thick threads are described in lower numbers 3/0 and thinner threads in higher numbers 16/0. And strong threads such as Kevlar and Dyneema are as strong as carbon fibre. Silk threads and flosses are still available, but most modern threads and flosses are made from synthetic materials such as Rayon, Dacron, Nylon and Polyester. Stretchy flosses are normally made from Lycra. These modern threads may not please the purist but they do have a significant roll in contemporary fly tying. Rayon and Acetate flosses are extremely shiny and I use them only for tags. If used for floss bodies they have a tendency to fray easily.
The following relationship applies to straight, uniform filaments:
DPF = total denier / quantity of uniform filaments
The denier system of measurement is used on two- and single-filament fibers. Some common calculations are as follows:
|1 denier||= 1 gram per 9 000 meters|
|= 0.05 grams per 450 meters (1⁄20 of above)|
|= 0.111 milligrams per meter|
In practice, measuring 9,000 meters is both time-consuming and unrealistic; generally a sample of 900 meters is weighed and the result multiplied by 10 to obtain the denier weight.
- A fiber is generally considered a microfiber if it is one denier or less.
- A one-denier Polyester fiber has a diameter of about ten micrometers.
You will notice that for most of the patterns on this blog, I use only one type of tying thread, Dyneema.
This has several advantages when tying. Its a un-waxed super strong multi-filament polyethylene fibre that offers maximum strength combined with minimum weight. It is up to 15 times stronger than quality steel, on weight for weight basis. Dyneema floats on water and is extremely durable. Resistant to moisture and salt water, UV light and chemicals. Being a multi-filament thread it can be spun anti clockwise, and the fibers will open and flatten out, making it ideal for the largest of flies, splitting and spinning dubbing loops and tying with deer hair. Its also makes “O” build-up under tinsel bodies. If you spin Dyneema clock wise, the fibers twist together and become a super strong micro tying thread 16/0. suitable for even the smallest flies. The other advantage is that you need only one colour of thread, as Dyneema colours well with waterproof felt pens. The applications are therefore more or less unlimited. But it also has disadvantages. Being unwaxed it has a tendency to be extra slippery with some materials. So I either wax it when needed or change to a more traditional pre-waxed thread.
I will come back to Dyneema later and make a whole tutorial on its uses and related techniques.
Attaching Tying thread to the hook:
When you attach the tying thread to the hook shank, its not only for attaching other materials but lays a foundation for all the materials to be tied in, and stop them form slipping on the smooth bare hook shank.
If you have any questions about fly tying, techniques, hooks or materials please post them here and I will do my very best to answer them quickly.
1. Holding the end of your tying thread in your left hand and your bobbin in the right place the thread behind the hook shank.
This on line fly tying course will be dedicated to showing those of you who are new to fly tying all the correct moves and techniques for successful tying. Once learned, these techniques will not only make tying more fun, but you will also find with time and practice that each stage will become quicker and more natural for you, resulting in more and better flies.
The correct way to secure a hook in the vice.
This may sound like we are truly beginning at the basics, but all these small tips will help you to learn the right way. If you make a habit of following them every time you tie, you will succeed as a proficient fly tyer. I will be posting 4 or 5 new fly tying lessons each week, so try and practice so you are ready for the next one. If you hit a wall, dont give up! Try again and if you really get stuck, send me a message and I will try and help you out. GOOD LUCK!
Most modern fly tying vices have a tension screw and lever. Although some models have the tension screw mounted as a collar just in front of the lever or behind the jaws.
This is the correct way to insert and secure a hook.
Firstly you must open the tension lever on the jaws and offer the hook being used, up into the open jaws. If the opening between the jaws is not wide enough, open the the jaws tension screw until the hook fits snugly.
Once you have positioned the hook correctly, at the base of the hook bend and just behind the barb in the vice jaws, adjust the jaw tension screw again but this time tightening it until it holds the hook firmly in position.
Now with your right hand carefully adjust the hook shank until horizontal. You can now apply full pressure to the jaws by tightening the tension lever.
You can check if the hook is secured correctly by plucking it, like a jews harp, with your thumb nail. If it makes a “ping” sound you have done everything right. If it moves in the jaws, start again until secure.
In many older fly tying books they recommend that you secure the hook so the point is hidden in the jaws. This was to avoid catching and damaging your tying thread, but this also restricts tying access to the rear of the hook shank. Once you have learned to avoid catching your thread on the hook point it’s not an issue.
If you have any questions about fly tying, techniques, hooks or materials please post them here and I will do my very best to answer them quickly.