The aim of this blog is to connect fly-tyers all over the world, to share, techniques, patterns, information and knowledge.

Fly tying course # 9 Techniques for traditional dry’s

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:  

Quality materials


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.


16 responses

  1. Fantastic tutorial. I learned two techniques that I didn’t previously know and I have been tying for quite a while. Great looking fly too.

    February 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    • Thanks Steve, glad you liked it, always good to get feed back.

      February 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm

  2. Thank you Barry! I am but a beginners beginner and your instructions are so clear. Now I’ve got to get busy!

    February 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

  3. ray126

    thank you.I am a little confused on cutting the wings to length.Are you cutting with the edge of sissors?

    February 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    • Hi Ray, No you dont cut. If you cut they will get very straight cut edges to the wings. You place a straight edge scissor blade up against the feather and trap it between your thumb. So that your thumb is pushing hard against the feather on the blade. You then twist your wrist and break off the tip of the feather.

      February 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm

  4. Zekietumber

    This is really a GREAT site and I am learning soooo much from it .Detail wasn’t one of my strong suits before but from now on it will be, Quality materials might still hamper my tying but I will do better from now on with Detail etc. Thx’s to this site.. Keep up the GREAT work , we appreciate your efforts very much here in this neck of the woods,,

    February 26, 2013 at 8:08 pm

  5. Monte

    Thank you for your nice site and the great information; I have found it very useful.

    I like the diagram above with the different (relative) dimensions, however, I believe “B” is not the hackle length. Hackle length would be from the hook (or fly) surface (top or bottom to the hackle tips (nearest), so if hackle length is 1.5 times the hook gap, then “B” would be slightly more than 3 times the hook gap.

    February 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm

  6. Hi Monte, Thank you for your comment. Yes your are right, the hackle length goes from the hook shank and over or under, and none of the guide arrows where measured I just put them in as a guide with the text. As hackle is a natural material you will always have some fibers longer than others but the magority are 1.5 times the hook gape. The tail length measurment is also only for feather fiber tails I will be addressing other measurements and proportions for other patterns and materials a little later.



    February 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

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  11. A very well done instructional video. I am a vise colceltor and would like to know specifically which Dyna-King vise is used in the videos.Mahalo nui loa from Koloa Hawaii

    August 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

    • Hi Mamadou,


      The Dyna-King vice that I use is the new Ultimate Indexer, you can find a review of the vice in an earlier post on my blog.

      August 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

  12. Great, great, great video. Keep em coming. It’s time for me to get beynod the Woolly Buggers, Hare’s Ear and Prince Nymphs I have been relying on forever and sharpen my dry fly skills. These videos are very helpful.

    November 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

  13. Mr. Clarke, As a past fly-tier of whose work Billy Pate once said, “These are the best flies I’ve ever fished!,” after tying 100 dozen Tarpon worms for his use in Homossassa, Fl., I have to tell you these pages of your work thrilled me almost out of retirement. Putting finishing touches on my first novel will preclude that threat to your livelihood. Here’s a URL for my WordPress blog: (Heartbreak Crossing)
    Brilliant work, thank you!

    March 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm