Segmentation in biology is the division of some insect body plans into a series of repetitive segments.
We fly tyers have striven over the centuries to create realistic segmented dry fly, wet fly and nymph bodies with all manner of natural materials, here are a few of the finest, and the techniques that work with them.
QUILL BODIES Biots, Herl, Stripped herl/quills, Moose mane and Stripped hackle/quill techniques by Barry Ord Clarke.
Table of Contents
This is the name given to the short, stiff, blade like barbs on the leading edge of a birds primary flight feathers. Although biots are found on all birds, the most common used by the fly tyer are from the goose and turkey.
Turkey biots are much larger than those taken from the goose making them more suitable, for the bodies of larger flies. Goose biots being much shorter are more commonly used for tails, legs, wings, wing buds and antenna on nymphs. Although the primary feathers from white breeds of domestic geese and turkeys are best for dying, the biots from wild turkeys are barred and create a wonderful natural effect when dyed and wrapped.
Another good trick is to keep your biots damp before use. You can do this by placing a small damp piece of tissue in a plastic box with your biots for 30 minutes before you use them. This will keep them supple.
1.The best biots can be found on the leading edge of all primary flight feathers as with this white goose.
2. The two most common biots come from turkey (left) and goose (right). As you can see the turkey biots are much larger and easier to work with.
3. Don’t cut the biots from the quill, tare them so you get a notch (small indentation top right) at the thick end of the biot.
4. There are two methods of tying in biots that give two different body effects. With the notch top side.
6. Again, take care that your hackle plier is attached straight, in line with the biot.
7. Now carefully wrap your biot, taking care that each turn slightly overlaps the previous. Tie off on the underside of the thorax.
8. Dub I little thorax with natural hares ear dubbing.
9. Both behind and in front of the wing.
10. The finished effect of ‘notch up’ biot body with the little fibred ridge giving the segmentation more definition.
11. If you tie in the biot ‘notch down’ the little ridge will be against the hook shank, resulting in a more quill like effect.
Herl is the term given to a single barb taken from a feather, the best are generally from a tail feather. These individual barbs are covered with distal barbules which in turn are covered with barbicels. When wound around the hook shank, the short fibres or barbules, stand out at 90 degrees creating a fluffy segmented body effect.
1.The most popular herl come from tail feathers, like this grey goose.
2.Cut a few fibres from the feather, more for larger hooks.
3.Make sure that you give the under body a slight increasing taper, this will give the finished body a better shape.
4.Tie in the small bunch of herl as shown with the tips.
5.Attach your hackle pliers, taking care that you have gripped the whole bunch and wrap over the under body without twisting the herl, in tight touching turns.
6.The finished grey goose nymph. Here the herl is used for the tail, body, wing case, thorax and legs.
The iridescent barbs ( that we incorrectly call quills ) that extend out from the central quill of the peacock tail feather, deserves special attention. The barbs just below the eye are stronger than those found lower down the tail making them more suitable for quill bodies.
When these barbs are stripped of their barbules and only the bare barb remains, they have a double colour. The edge from which the barbules are stripped is brown and the opposite edge is beige or grey. This colour definition can vary in quills, this can be determined by inspecting the backside of the eye to check if the barbs are light in colour.
Once stripped they can easily be dyed. When wound as a body these «quills» give one of the most realistic segmented body effects.
1.The very best herl for stripping is found just under the eye of the peacock eye tail feather.
2.When stripped the peacock eye can produce a whole load of stripped quill. There are Meny ways of stripping the quills but I find the best is with bleach.
You can watch my video on how to here:
3.Before you tie in your stripped quill, make sure that the fly underbody is nice and even with a slight increasing taper towards the wing.
4.Tie in your stripped quill by the thin end along the whole length of the body, Finish with your tying thread close to the wing.
5.When attaching your hackle pliers to the quill, take care that it is in a straight line with the quill. This will be an advantage when wrapping the quill.
6.If your hackle plier is not straight it will be difficult to wrap evenly.
7.Wrap your quill in tight touching turns, this will create the desired segmented body effect. Tie off just behind the wing.
8.I like to keep my finished quill bodies natural, and find that if coated with UV resin as many tyers do, they tend to break the waters surface easier with compromises their float ability.
This is located on the upper back and neck of the animal and not from the bell as many fly tyers believe. The mane hair can range from 3″ too a huge 9″ in length. The natural colour is a wonderful salt and pepper mix of white, grey, brown and jet black hairs, that have long been used for wrapping quill bodies on dry flies, wet flies and nymphs. I find the best moose mane hair for tying quill bodies is un-treated, that will say, not washed or tanned.
The washing and tanning process removes the natural waxy fats from the hair which in turn reduce the suppleness, making it a little more difficult to wrap. Being fortunate enough to hunt moose myself this is always available for me, but for most tyers, shop bought processed hair is the next best alternative.
Tying in a combination of colours, one dark, one medium and one light in colour by the tips and wrapping them together creates beautiful, segmented bodies.
1.After tying many decades with moose mane, its no secret that the very best on the market and largest choice is from Natures Spirit. When buying look for a patch with long straight hair with a good mix of natural colours.
2.Select three moose mane hairs, one brown, one black and one white. Match up the tips so they are all level.
3.Now trim the butt ends of the three hairs so that they are all the same length. This is important! If one is shorter that the others they will prove difficult to wrap correctly.
4.After tying in your tail of moose body hair, tie in the three hairs by the tips tight into the tail base. Care should be taken that all three hairs are tied in close to each other. Build up a increasing taper with tying thread to give the correct body shape.
5.Now take hold of all three hairs at once and wrap in tight touching turns up over the body. The best way to do this in ‘hand over hand’ this will stop the hairs from twisting and crossing over each other.
6.Tie off the three hairs at the thorax.
7.The finished mayfly quill body effect!
By changing the combination of hair colours, different mayfly bodies can be achieved to match the hatch. The possibilities are endless.
8.Two brown and one tan hair
9.Two black and one white hair
10.Two brown and one black hair
11.Two grey and one black hair
Stripped hackle quill bodies can also create strong yet realistic segmented effects on traditional dries.
1.Its best to used long hackles from relatively new capes. Old capes, have a tendency to dry out overtime, resulting in brittle hackle stems.
2.Carefully strip away the barbules from each side of the hackle stem, starting at the tip and continuing down the stem. I like to leave some of the downy fibres at the base of the hackle, this gives you something to hold on too, when wrapping.
3.Unlike the other quill bodies, the under body or foundation for stripped hackle quill should be flat without a taper. The natural taper of the hackle stem will be enough. Tie in the hackle stem along the whole length of the body, tight into the tail base. Finish with your tying thread at the thorax.
4.No need to use a hackle plier here, just wrap the hackle stem in tight touching turns the whole length of the abdomen. Tie off on the underside of the hook.
5.Depending on the colour of the original hackle the body effect can have differing results. You can experiment with both natural and dyed hackle, grizzle makes a nice effect.