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

Posts tagged “Materials

Tying the Detatched body mayfly

This is a simple but but effective mayfly pattern that fly tyers of any level can tie with a little practice. Once you have masterd this technique all you have to do is change the size and colour to match most mayfly hatches.

The chioce of colours and sizes of fly to be used when tying this pattern is determined by what mayfly you intend to imitate and under what conditions.  In still water fishing, trout can be extremly sellective when feeding on mayflies, they have good time to check them out before sucking them in.

Body form: Upholsterers needle

Hook: Standard dry Mustad 94840 # 16-10

Thread: Dyneema

Tail: Peccary or moose hair

Body: Flyrite dubbing

Wing: CDC fibres

1
Place the upholsterers needle in the vice. You can use a regular straight needle for this if you would like to make a body that lies flat in the surface like a spinner. The upholsterers needle can be bought from most good hardware stores.

2
Apply a little fly tyers wax to the area of the needle that you will use to make the body. This will make removing the body later much easier.

3
Attatch your tying thread and run a foundation of thread the full length of the intended body on the needle. I only use Dyneema tying thread, this is a multi filament thread that if spun in the bobbin anti clockwise will open the filaments and lie flat on the hook shank. If spun clockwise the filaments twist together and reduce the size of the thread down to 16/0. This thread comes in only one colour, white, but can be coloured with waterproof felt pens.

4
Sellect 3 long peccary fibres. I like to use Peccary fibres for the larger mayflies and moose hair for the smaller patterns. Tie in the peccary fibers as shown. Its a good idea to choose fibres that are long enough to run the full length of the body, and then some, this will make it stronger and more durable.

5
The dubbing that I use is flyrite, but you can use any synthetic dubbing that has long fine fibres. The long fibres help you wrap the dubbing around the needle and again make the body strong. If you use a straight needle, once you have tied in the tail fibers you can attatch the dubbing material and remove the needle from the vice. You can now roll the needle between finger and thumb of one hand while you feed on the dubbing with your other hand, this makes super fine and even bodies.

6
Attatch your dubbing to your tying thread and begin at the base of the body. Make sure that the dubbing is applied firm and even but not too tight, this will make it difficult to remove when finished.

7
Once you have made a couple of turns of dubbing you can now apply a little glue to the foundation of tying thread Copydex or super glue are best. The wax that you applied earlier will stop it being glued to the needle.

8
Now you can dubb the whole body. Make sure that you get the taper correct, and the right size for the speices you aim to imitate.

9
When you have finished your body tie it off at the base and make 2 or 3 half hitch finishing knots. You now place thumb and index finger each side of the body and carefully loosen the body from the needle by rolling it between your fingers and eas it off the needle. You will now see that the dubbing, tying thread and glue have merged into one hollowbody tube, that should have retained it’s shape.

10
Secure your hook in the vise and attatch your tying thread.

11
Half way down the hook shank you can now tie on your detached mayfly body.

12
Once your body is secure apply a little dubbing on your tying thread, and dubb the rest of the rear of the body. Again make sure that you take your time and get proportions correct.

13
Select a good bunch of long cdc fibres and tie these in almost paradun style to form the wing.

14
Once the wing is secure proceed with dubbing the rest of the mayfly body.

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When the body is finished taper off the dubbing to form the head.

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Whip finish and remove the tying thread. And there you have it, the finished cdc mayfly.

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Front view.


The royal member of the Wulff pack

The Royal Wulff

Royal Wulff

As the name says, the man behind the famous series of patterns was Lee Wulff and the most famous of all is the Wulff that is Royal!

The fattest pattern of the Wulff family is just as good fished as a searching pattern as it is as a adult may fly. It just presses all the right buttons, It floats high, its visible even at a great distance in rough water and looks like a mouthful of whatever trout are eating. Although a great pattern, I hardly ever see people tying it!
Why is that? It’s a cracking looking fly. Don’t they think it works? or do they find it too difficult to tie? It is a fly that proportions are everything, get one of them wrong and the whole fly looks like the victim of a cruel medical experiment. So take your time in choosing and preparing your materials before starting and preserver to get the wing size and shape right first. Once you have these right the rest is easier to measure and tie correctly.

Hook: Mustad http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=175
Thread: Black
Wing: Whit calf tail hair
Tail: Moose body hair http://www.funkyflytying.co.uk/shop/categories/moose/138/
Body: Bright red silk floss and peacock herl
Hackle:  Red brown cock hackle
Head: Black

 

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1
Secure your 1XF (1 extra fine ) dry fly hook in the vice with the hook shank horizontal.

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2
Attach your tying thread just behind the hook eye and wrap it about half way along the hook shank.

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3
Take a white calf tail and separate a large bunch of hair. Tease the bunch out from the rest of the tail at 90 degrees from the tail bone as shown. This will even the tips of the hair. Cut off taking care not to damage the rest of the tail.

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4
For stacking calf tail I like to use a super large stacker. This keeps the hair loose which evens the tips better.

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5
Stack the tips. Remove from the stacker and brush out any short hair and under fur. Stack once more.

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6
You should now have a nice bunch of even tipped tail hair for the wings.

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7
The wing should be a little longer than the hook shank.

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8
Tie the wing in on top of the hook shank about a quarter of the way behind the hook eye as shown.

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9
Once tied in trim off the excess at an angle tapering back towards the hook bend. Lift the hair and make a few tight turns of tying thread under the front of the hair.

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10
Separate the bunch into two even bunches and make a few figure of eight wraps of tying thread to separate them.

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11
Now make a few circular wrap of tying thread at the base of each wing as you would on a parachute post. This will stiffen the wings and hold them in place.

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12
Once the wings are secure and in the correct position (90 degrees ) from the hook shank, apply a drop of varnish to the wing base wrappings.

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13
Now tie down the remaining calf tail hair towards the tail.

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14
Select some nice moose body hair, preferably straight, dark, and stiff with nice tapers.

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15
Cut a bunch of about 20 hairs. Remove the under fur, short hairs and any hairs that are not black.

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16
Stack these in a small hair stacker so the tips are nice and even.

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17
The tail should be the same length as the hook shank tie the tail in and try to keep the body relatively even. The wraps of tying thread at the tail base should not be too tight, this will over flair the tail making it fan out.

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18
Select three long strands of peacock herl. These should be tied in at the base of the tail by the tips of the herl.

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19 Run your tying thread up the hook shank. You can if wished keep your tying thread at the tail base and twist it with the herl before wrapping to make it stronger and more durable.

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20
Make a few turns of peacock herl, the amount can vary after what size hook you are using. And tie off.

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21
Wrap the remaining herl with tying thread along the hook shank to the forward position of the next herl segment, this should be just over half way along the hook shank.

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22
Select some bright red silk floss.Real silk floss is much easier to use than a synthetic floss!

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23
Tie in a length of floss as shown.

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24
Carefully wrap the floss over the abdomen taking care not to twist it, this is worth taking time over if you haven’t done much floss work before. Once you have built a nice even tapered abdomen tie off the floss at the base of the peacock herl.

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25
Again make a few wraps of peacock herl a little thicker this time and tie off.

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26
Select and prepare a couple of red/brown hackles. One hackle unless a saddle hackle will not be enough to give the dense sense of hackle. The hackles should be a little longer than the hook gape but a little shorter than the wing hight.

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27
Tie in your hackles tight into the peacock herl at 90 degrees from the hook shank.

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Now wrap your hackles one at a time taking care not to cross them. try and keep the hackle fibres 90 degrees from the shank, both above and below. Tie off the hackles and whip finish.

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Finally give the head of the fly a drop of varnish.


British Fly Fair International Weekend

It’s that time of year again and this weekend I will be tying at The British Fly Fair International http://www.bffi.co.uk/ I will be tying Salt water patterns for Bass and sea trout. I will also be doing a demo in the fly tyers theatre on Sunday at 11.00. If you have a free day and are in the area it’s a great show with loads of great tyers, so please call in and say hello. You can check out the program and exhibitors on the link above.

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Bradshaw’s Fancy

Keeping on a grayling theme heres one of my absolute favourites, Not only to fish with but also to tie. All these patterns from bygone days are remarkably simple, but still require a degree of  technique to master them precisely.

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One of the peculiar characteristics of the grayling is that they have a preference for flies dressed with a hot spot of red in their make-up, probably the most famous is the red tag, but here are a few more, older patterns that still get the job done.

Bradshaw’s Fancy

Hook: Mustad http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=178
Thread: Veevus Red 12/0
Tag: Red floss silk
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Grey Cock hackle
Peak: Red floss silk
Head: Red

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Secure your dry fly hook in the vice with the hook shank horizontal.

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2

Attach your tying thread and cover the whole hook shank.

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3

For the tag and peak, choose a nice deep red silk floss.

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4

Cut 3 or 4 , depending on size of hook you are using, short strands of silk floss and place them together. Tie in the floss over the full length of the hook shank.

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5

Now take 2 or 3 strands of peacock herl, the best ones for bodies are directly below the peacock eye on the tail feather. These are normally stronger than further down the feather. Tie these in by the points at the base of the tag.

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6

Now wrap the peacock herl in tight even turns along the whole hook shank taking care not to twist or overlap them. This will give the best results.

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7

Make a whip finish and remove the excess peacock herl. Now select and prepare a grey cock hackle and tie this in 90 degrees to the hook shank.

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8

Now wind on your hackle in even turns each wrap tight into the previous. Tie off and remove the excess hackle.

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9

Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Trim down the tag and the peak to the desired length. Place a drop of clear varnish on the head.

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The Red Tag

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The Double Badger

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The Grayling Steel Blue Bumble

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The Grayling Witch

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The treacle Parkin

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Sturdy’s Fancy

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And last but not least the Gloire De Neublans, this was Charles Ritz’s number 1 grayling pattern.


Killer Bug and Chadwick’s 477

Heres another little gem of a pattern that may be one of the most simple flies ever tied!

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The killer bug tied with the original Chadwick’s 477 reinforcing and mending wool.

This classic Grayling pattern from nymph expert and legendary river keeper Frank Sawyer still doesn’t disappoint, but if you follow Sawyer’s tying instruction, the killer or (grayling) bug as it was originally named, could and should only be tied with one brand and shade of wool, Chadwick’s No 477.

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Although this wool is not produced anymore there are a whole load of substitutes to be found and the original wool cards occasionally come up for auction. Like several of Sawyers patterns, in the original he diddent use tying thread, only red coloured copper wire.

Hook: S80NP-BR (old ref. S80-3906) <http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=2293>
Thread: Dyneema
Tag: Medium copper wire
Body: Chadwick’s 477 or any other pinkish grey darning wool

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1

Secure your wet fly hook in the vice with the hook shank horizontal.

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2

Attach your tying thread and cover the whole hook shank from just behind the hook eye to the bend.

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3

Cut a length of medium copper wire and tie this in a little down the hook bend.

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4

Now make 7 or 8 tight wraps of copper wire as shown for the tag. If you would like a heavier killer bug now is the time to add the extra weight.

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5

Tie off the copper wire and remove the excess. Cut a length of your chosen wool and tie this in along the length of the whole hook shank finishing at the tag.

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6

Now wrap the wool forward and back along the hook shank between the tag and the hook eye, but not too tight, the idea is that the body will absorb water. If you wrap the wool too tight this will be difficult. Once you have built up a cigar shaped body, tie off the wool behind the hook eye.

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7

Trim off the excess wool and finish with a couple of whop finishes.

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The proof of the pudding!


Tying the willow fly

Giving em the Needle

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One of the late autumns highlights is great hatches of needle flies Leuctra, especially here on the big grayling rivers of mid Norway. Although the hatches begin as early as June and run until November the climax is in august- september. These small stoneflies can be difficult to see on the best of days, especially amongst the autumns fall of floating foliage, and remember they crawl onto land to hatch, so you will always find more on the bank, than on the water. Because they hatch and mate on land its the females that are of the greatest interest, when they return to the water to lay eggs. Earlier this year in late august we experienced great grayling fishing on the river Glomma here in Norway. Although we quickly realized what was on the graylings menu, the greatest challenge was making a clean drift without any drag through the many differing surface currents between the rod and the feeding fish. Each differing current pulling and holding the line at different speeds This we overcome with, when possible by presenting the fly directly into the feeding window of rising fish, keeping the drift short but effective! The other was to fish directly up-stream while wading and using a parachute cast ( a simple cast that is made by quickly dipping the tip of the rod fast down towards the water at the end of the cast before the line hits the water) this causes the line to fall in a wavy snake like form, making mending the line as it drifts back towards you easier without drag.

I developed this pattern using a Marc Petitjean technique that he calls twist and wrap. This simple but effective CdC technique can be used for most dry fly bodies, for larger bodies you can use two or more CdC hackles. But care must be taken that only one twist is made for each wrap of hackle, if more twists are made, it over stresses the delicate CdC hackle stem and may cause it to break. Making one twists after each wrap distributes the stress along the whole length of the hackle and not concentrated at the thinest point as when twisted whole. You should also brush the fibers of the hackle down the stem with your finger and thumb with each wrap, so they are caught against the hook shank and give the segmented body volume.

The wing should lie tight to the body and flat, it should also extend a little further than the rear of the body. The wings on the natural are a dark brown but the blue dun wing makes this pattern more visible when fishing. This is important when fishing for grayling as the rises can be extremely difficult to see if at all, especially when fishing a ripple, so keeping your eye on the fly is paramount. You can also tie this pattern spent by adding more wings at 90 degrees to the hook shank. When spinning the CdC for the thorax and legs it should be a light open dubbing brush, too much CdC here will make the fly fish too high. Stoneflies lie much deeper in the surface than may and caddis flies.

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Hook Mustad R50 # 16
Thread Black
Body Dark brown or black CdC hackle
Wing Blue dun CdC hackle
Thorax Dark brown or black CdC hackle

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1
Secure your hook in the vice with the shank horizontal.

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2
Lay a foundation of tying thread over the whole hook shank.

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3
Select a large CdC hackle and strip off the down fibers at the base of the stem.

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4
Attach the hackle stem to the hook shank with two loose turns of tying thread.

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5
Pull the hackle through the tying thread loops and tighten the tying thread just as you get to the end to catch and secure the hackle tip.

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6
Wind your tying thread forward towards the hook eye and twist the CdC hackle twice so that the fibers twist around the hackle stem. DONT try and twist any more than twice or the hackle will break!

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7
With each turn of hackle make one twist to form the segmented body. When the whole hook shank is covered forward to the thorax tie off and remove the excess hackle.

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8
With straight scissors trim off all the fibers.

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9
Your segmented needle fly body should now look like this.

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10
Select a blue dun CdC hackle and trim off the point end of the hackle as shown.

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11
Take a 1 cm length of a fine plastic tube-fly, tube and thread it over the end of the hackle. When pulled down over the hackle this will form the wonder wing and hold it in the correct position ready for tying in.

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12
Place the wing on top of the hook shank and secure with a few wraps of tying thread close to the tube.

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13
Trim off the stripped point of the hackle and remove the tube.

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14
Trim off the excess hackle and tie down over the thorax.

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15
Load a magic tool with only one side of a CdC hackle. You dont need much CdC for this!

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16
Split your tying thread or spin the hackle in a dubbing loop keeping the fibers as long as possible, they can always be trimmed down. Wrap the CdC hackle forward covering the thorax.

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Holding the fibers back make a few turns of tying thread to form the head.

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Now pull two long CdC fibers forward and tie down. Whip finish.

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19
Remove the tying thread. Spin your fly up side down and trim off the CdC fibers level with the rear body on the underside. Make sure that you keep some of the side fibers for the legs and antennae

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Your finished CdC needle fly.

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Underside with the segmented CdC body and the correct profile.


Large dark olive trio

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Large dark olive

The large dark olive (Baetis rhodani) are probably the most widespread of all the European may flies, being Multivoltine, where water temperature allows, having two or more generation cycles per year, makes it even more important to the trout and fly fishermen alike! When designing fishing flies its not the very small details that count, although aesthetically pleasing to the fly tyer, and an important part of our craft! its a combination of several that will be the deciding factor for the fish. Size, colour, silhouette, footprint, behavior.

One of the earliest hatches here in Norway that I tend to fish is on the Trysil river with my good friend Espen Eilertsen owner and head guide of Call of the wild Drift boat fishing.
Although the weather was warm, a light shower that lasted an hour or so had just tapered off and there where Rodanis mayflies hatching everywhere, and when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere, but this being the first day of the hatch, the famous Trysil grayling were not as eager as the gulls to take advantage of the a la carte menu. I couldn’t believe that fish where not rising! The whole river surface was covered with duns, popping up and floating like regatta of small sail boats down river. Espen reassured me that this was normal and it always takes a little time for them to start feeding on the surface when the hatch first begins. The first few hours of the hatch, they generally concentrate where the food is most plentiful and thats below the surface. Taking nymphs and emergers as they rise to the surface.

For the next three hours we had only been in contact with a few fish and drifted just about every type of river condition from shallow rapids to fast flowing channels to flat calm slow drifts, and the Clacka drift boat in combination with Espen´s expert handling of the craft is impressive, performing perfectly as a sturdy fishing and casting platform at all times. We drifted through breath taking Alaskan type landscape, with steep rising pine and spruce covered mountains on each side of us, that you only get full wide screen effect of from mid-river, the speed of the boat slowing down as we could see in the distance where the river opens out and widens into a large basin.

Fishing a LDO nymph on the point and an emerger on a dropper that was easy to see on the dark water, drifted perfectly 7-8 meters from the boat, quickly approaching two rolling grayling in the next pool, that we had had our eyes on for the last 80 meters or so, drift. When without warning another, previously unseen fish rose from the depths of a dark pool and enthusiastically disappeared with my dropper. Espen lowered the oars and began pulling, to slow our decent and dropped the anchor. I lifted my rod and it immediately assumed the golden arch position with the grayling diving deep into the pool. After a short battle my first grayling of the season was released.

After a little fly and leader attention, Espen was holding the boat steady and suddenly says ” nine o clock, 15 meters ” I lift my rod and make a couple of false casts to shake of the dry fly floatant and lie my line down in the nine o clock position, “perfect” says Espen. The fly drifts perfectly along with several naturals, one of which is 60 cm or so ahead of mine, when it slowly enters the steady risers feeding window and “sup” its gone. Mine is next in line ! and like a text book account of how it should be, the fish obliges and leaves only small rings in the surface where my fly once was. If there was only a slight breeze these rises would be impossible to see. I automatically lift the rod and my line tightens, I can feel immediately that this fish is of another class from the ones I have had contact with so far. The fish dives and enters the strong under current using his majestic dorsal fin to his advantage and holding his position deep on the bottom. After 2 or 3 minutes he succumbed to the overwhelming power of space age carbon. What a beautiful fish, 38 cm of grayling, a new personal record on dry fly.

Normally the style of rise observed, will give a good indication to what stage of the insects life is being taken! With emergers the fish almost seem to be anesthetized slowly and repeatedly sucking in the water under the target, or the surface film is pushed up in a small mound without the fish actually breaking the surface. When rising to dun’s the rise is more enthusiastic, slashy and splashy. When rises are sparse or the fish are playing hard to get, just taking one or another emerger. You can search pocket water or fish dead drift with an appropriate single nymph or even combined with a emerger dropper. This ribbed abdomen technique is an old one that I have revitalized with the help of Bug Bond and spirit based felt pens. Moose mane hair is not from the beard that hangs on the neck but the longest hair that can be found on the back of the upper neck. Being a elk hunter I have access to a huge amount of select material each autumn, but the skins being the size they are I only take smaller patches of the best and most useful hair for curing. These hairs are remarkably strong, practically unbreakable when pulled between the fingers!

Hook: Mustad R72 nymph
Tying thread: Dyneema
Tail: Fine deer hair
Body: Moose mane hair two dark and one light coated with Bug Bond
Wing case: Virtual nymph Felxibody
Thorax: Virtual nymph medium olive and black seal fur mix
Legs: Bronze mallard

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1
Secure your 2 X long nymph hook in the vice, so the hook shaft is horizontal.

 

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2
Attach your tying thread a few mm behind the hook eye and run all the way back to the rear of the shank.

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3
Select 3 fine and quite stiff deer hairs. The ones I have used here are from a roe deer mask. Tie them in as shown in the form of a trident.

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4
Take a tiny drop of Bug Bond and place on the three deer hair bases. Give this a zap with the UV torch. This will keep the three tails in place.

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5
Take a patch of moose mane. The natural mane is a mixture of what they call salt and pepper coloured hair. If you can get hold of un treated (washed or tanned) moose mane this has much more durable hair.

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6
Select two long dark hairs and one long light.

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7
Tie in the hairs. Tie in the light one first at the base of the hook shank and then the dark hair.

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8
Now take both hairs at once, make sure that they are parallel with each other and not twisted. Wind them on tight and even over the whole body of the nymph. Make sure they dont cross each other while winding on!

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9
Tie off at the thorax.

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10
Once you have cut away the excess give the whole body a fine coat of Bug Bond UV resin.

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11
When you have cured the first coat colour the body with a olive waterproof felt pen.

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12
Give the whole body a final coat of Bug Bond. This time you can apply a little more to give the nymph body a taper .

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13
Now wind your tying thread a little back over the rear body as shown and tie in a small strip of olive flexibody for the wing case. Make sure this is central to the body and on top of the hook shank.

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14
If you wish to add a little weight to the fly, now is the time before you dub the thorax. Spin a little olive seals fir dubbing and wind on over the base of the flexibody.

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15
Select a small bronze mallard hackle and cut out the central stem and remove the down, as illustrated.

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16
Place the bronzed mallard over the body so the fibers cover each side of the nymph body. Make a couple of loose turns of tying thread to hold these in place. Then you can pull on the hackle stem to adjust the length of the legs before tying down.

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17
Once the legs are tied in remove the excess and make a couple more turns of tying thread tight into the dubbing so the legs flare out at an angle.

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18
Take a little more olive seal fur and mix with a little black seals fur then dub the remaining thorax. Make sure that you leave enough room for the wing case and head.

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19
Fold over the flexibody strip for the wing case and secure with 2 or 3 tight turns of tying thread tight back towards the thorax. Make sure the wing case is nice and tight over the thorax.

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20
Carefully trim off the remaining flexibody and tie down. Whip finish and varnish.

Large dark olive emerger

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Hook: Mustad C49S
Tying thread: Dyneema
Tail: Fine deer hair
Body: Moose mane hair one dark one light coated with Bug Bond
Wing: Bronze mallard, CdC and deer hair
Legs: Coq de Leon fibers

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1
Secure your emerger hook in the vice, so the hook shaft is horizontal.

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2
Attach your tying thread a few mm behind the hook eye and run all the way back to the rear of the shank.
Select 3 fine and quite stiff deer hairs. The ones I have used here are from a roe deer mask. Tie them in as shown in the form of a trident.

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3
Take a patch of moose mane. The natural mane is a mixture of what they call salt and pepper coloured hair. If you can get hold of un treated (washed or tanned) moose mane this has much more durable hair.

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4
Select two long hairs one dark and one light.
Tie in the hairs. Tie in the dark one first at the base of the hook shank and then the light one.

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5
Now take both hairs at once, make sure that they are parallel with each other and not twisted. Wind them on tight and even over the whole body of the fly. Make sure they dont cross each other while winding on! Tie off at the thorax.

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6
Trim off the excess and give the whole body a coat with Bug Bond.

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7
Colour the body with a waterproof felt pen.

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8
Tie in a small bunch of bronze mallard for the wing.

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9
Spin a small amount of Olive CdC in a dubbing loop.

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10
Wind on the dubbing loop to form the thorax making sure that most of the dubbing sits on top of the hook shank.

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11
Now a small bunch of fine deer hair for the over wing. Try and use deer hair with nice markings.

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12
Now take a few fibers of olive or yellow Coq de Leon and tie these in for the legs on the underside of the thorax.

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13
Spin another small amount of CdC and wind on to form the head.

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14
Whip finish and varnish.

 

Large dark olive dry

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Hook: Mustad R30
Tying thread: Dyneema
Tail: Coq de Leon
Body: Moose mane hair one dark one light coated with bug Bond
Wing: Grey duck wing quill sections
Hackle: Golden Badger


Fly tying course # 10 Muddler Minnow

 

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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.

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 1
Secure your 3XL streamer hook in the vice making sure that the hook shank is horizontal.
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2
You will need two mottled turkey feathers one from each wing. Cut two small slips one from the same position from each wing feather for the tail.
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Attach your tying thread and run it the full length of the hook shank so that it hangs vertically between the hook point and barb. Place the two small wing slips ‘back to back and tie in on top of the hook shank for the tail as shown. This is done by holding the two slips in the left hand while you make one loose turn of tying thread around the slips and between your finger and thumb. Tighten by pulling your tying thread ‘upwards’ This will stop your wing slips from slipping around the hook and keep them central and straight.
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4
Trim off the surplus slip butts diagonally and tie in a length of fine copper wire at the base of the tail. Now cover the hook shank with an even coat of tying thread. This is important to get a tinsel body of the same thickness.
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Tie in your flat tinsel about 1 cm behind the hook eye. Wind the tinsel in even close fitting turns all the way back to the tail and the back to the tying in position behind the hook eye. Tie off.
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Cut off the excess flat tinsel and then wrap the copper wire rib in the opposite direction to the flat tinsel, in even open turns. Tie off.
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Cut a medium bunch of hair from a grey squirrel tail and remove the under fur and shorter hairs. Stack the hair in a hair stacker. Now measure the hair wing along the hook shank so that it is the same length as the slip tail. Trim the hair wing to length. Now before you tie the hair in place a small drop of varnish on the cut end of the hair bunch, this will glue it in place and also make it more durable. Tie in on top of the hook shank.
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Cut two larger mottled turkey wing slips for the wing. Again one from each wing feather.
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Tie these in the same way as the tail on top of the squirrel tail underwing.
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Select some good dense natural deer hair from the winter coat. See my earlier post on European Roe deer.
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Cut a good generous bunch. This is where many tyers make the mistake of too small a bunch and having to add more bunches later, to make the whole head. The head should be made of only one bunch of deer hair. Clean the hair by removing the under fur and shorter hairs and stack in a hair stacker.
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Place the bunch of deer hair with the tips facing back towards the tail, these will be the collar of the head. While holding the bunch in place make two loose turns of tying thread around the bunch, then tighten by by pulling upwards and the hair will flare. Once the hair is flared make several other tight wraps with a ‘zig zag’ movement as you go towards the hook eye. This will push the deer hair from side to side as you wrap and stop you from trapping the hair and tying it down flat!
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Tie off and whip finish. You can now begin to trim your muddler head to the basic shape. See my deer hair tutorial.
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14
You can choose here if you would like a cone shaped head. You can see on this image that some hair ends are burnt! see my deer hair tutorial for the full step be step of this technique.
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Or a round clipped head. This style will move more water when stripped.
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The finished Muddler minnow.

Fly tying course # 3 Its a material world

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.

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.

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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:

Vice

Dubbing needle

Hackle pliers

Scissors

Bobbin holder ceramic

Whip finisher

Clear fine varnish

Tying thread

Cock Hackle mixed Whiting pack,  Black, brown, grizzle

CdC natural tan

Peacock eye

Pheasant tail

Fine Antron dubbing Black. Tan. Olive. 

Natural deer hair

Hares mask

Poly yarn white

Lead wire

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.

Vice:

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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.

Tying thread:

See fly tying tutorial # 2

Bobbin holder:

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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.

Scissors:

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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.

Dubbing needle:

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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!

Hackle pliers:

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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:

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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.

Hackle:

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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:

Colour:

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:

Brown:

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.

Black:

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.

Grizzle:

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.

Condition:

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.

Feather count:

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.

Hackle size:

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.

Pheasant tail:

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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.

Hares mask:

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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.

Deer Hair:

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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.

Polypropylene Yarn:

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.

Peacock eye:

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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:

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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.

Dubbing:

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.

Varnish:

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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.

Hooks:

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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.

Emerger hooks:

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.

Streamer hooks:

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 Size:

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.


Tying the Muddler Minnow

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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.

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 1
Secure your 3XL streamer hook in the vice making sure that the hook shank is horizontal.
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2
You will need two mottled turkey feathers one from each wing. Cut two small slips one from the same position from each wing feather for the tail.
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Attach your tying thread and run it the full length of the hook shank so that it hangs vertically between the hook point and barb. Place the two small wing slips ‘back to back and tie in on top of the hook shank for the tail as shown. This is done by holding the two slips in the left hand while you make one loose turn of tying thread around the slips and between your finger and thumb. Tighten by pulling your tying thread ‘upwards’ This will stop your wing slips from slipping around the hook and keep them central and straight.
IMG_7303
4
Trim off the surplus slip butts diagonally and tie in a length of fine copper wire at the base of the tail. Now cover the hook shank with an even coat of tying thread. This is important to get a tinsel body of the same thickness.
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Tie in your flat tinsel about 1 cm behind the hook eye. Wind the tinsel in even close fitting turns all the way back to the tail and the back to the tying in position behind the hook eye. Tie off.
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Cut off the excess flat tinsel and then wrap the copper wire rib in the opposite direction to the flat tinsel, in even open turns. Tie off.
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Cut a medium bunch of hair from a grey squirrel tail and remove the under fur and shorter hairs. Stack the hair in a hair stacker. Now measure the hair wing along the hook shank so that it is the same length as the slip tail. Trim the hair wing to length. Now before you tie the hair in place a small drop of varnish on the cut end of the hair bunch, this will glue it in place and also make it more durable. Tie in on top of the hook shank.
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Cut two larger mottled turkey wing slips for the wing. Again one from each wing feather.
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Tie these in the same way as the tail on top of the squirrel tail underwing.
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Select some good dense natural deer hair from the winter coat. See my earlier post on European Roe deer.
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Cut a good generous bunch. This is where many tyers make the mistake of too small a bunch and having to add more bunches later, to make the whole head. The head should be made of only one bunch of deer hair. Clean the hair by removing the under fur and shorter hairs and stack in a hair stacker.
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Place the bunch of deer hair with the tips facing back towards the tail, these will be the collar of the head. While holding the bunch in place make two loose turns of tying thread around the bunch, then tighten by by pulling upwards and the hair will flare. Once the hair is flared make several other tight wraps with a ‘zig zag’ movement as you go towards the hook eye. This will push the deer hair from side to side as you wrap and stop you from trapping the hair and tying it down flat!
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Tie off and whip finish. You can now begin to trim your muddler head to the basic shape. See my deer hair tutorial.
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14
You can choose here if you would like a cone shaped head. You can see on this image that some hair ends are burnt! see my deer hair tutorial for the full step be step of this technique.
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Or a round clipped head. This style will move more water when stripped.
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The finished Muddler minnow.

Edson Tiger

The modifide Edson Tiger with the Brass Eyes.

I have had some questions about the Edson brass eyes and where they can be obtained.  All the info is in this article alone with contact and purchase details.

One of the great classic American streamers, developed by the well know fly tier  Bill Edson in 1929. The Edson Tiger dark & light where influenced by a streamer called “Dick´s Killer” that Edson received from fellow fly tier Dick Eastman of New Hampshire in 1928.  The original patterns tied and sold by Edson where with jungle cock cheeks, but later he replaced the jungle cock with small teardrop brass plates which was apparently done, not only because of the increasing price of the already expensive jungle cock but also difficulty in obtaining a regular supply of it. But soon after the introduction of the metal cheeks they became so popular with his customers that they replaced the jungle cock on all his streamer patterns. But truth be told,  the metal cheeks added a whole new dimension to how the patterns fished. With extra flash and weight in his streamers, there where few other patterns at this time that offered this. Although this pattern is almost a century old it still accounts for many a trout and has proven an excellent late season pattern for salt water sea trout fishing here in Scandinavia. A couple of years ago while tying at the Dutch fly fair, I was lucky enough to meet Chris Helm, who had for sale, the Edson Brass eyes.

Chris Helm doing his thing at the Dutch fly fair

If you contact Chris and purchase these eyes to add that extra dimension to you Tigers they do need a little work doing to them before they are ready to tie in. Using a pair of sharp wire cutters, these are not difficult to cut, they are made from brass after all, but sharp cutters make for a neater finish. You need to trim the side of the eye that is square into a point. Once this is done I use emery paper to sand the edges of the point to a fine taper, otherwise you will get a distinct mark under the tying thread where the the eye is secured.

Hook: Standard streamer # 6

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Barred wood duck

Body: Peacock herl

Wing: Yellow buck tail

Topping: Red hackle fibers

Cheeks: Jungle cock or Edson Brass Eyes

Head:  Yellow varnish

Secure your streamer hook in the vice. Attach your tying thread and run this along the hook shank.  Tie in a length of flat gold tinsel for the tag, this should be just three or four turns.

Once you have tied off your tag and removed the surplus you can tie in three or four long strands of peacock herl at the base of the tag.

Select a wood duck flank feather with good barring and cut out a slip, line up all the bars if uneven and fold in half. This will give barring on each side of the tail. Tie off.

Run the tying thread back to the tail and twist together the peacock herl and tying thread to strengthen it and wind on to form the body. Tie off the peacock herl.

Select and clean a small bunch of yellow buck tailf or the wing. Stack the hair in a hair stacker. This should be no longer than the tail end.

The topping is a small bunch of red hackle fibers tied in on top of the wing as shown. It should be approximately one-third of the total wing length.

Now tie in the jungle cock cheeks, one each side. Make sure that both jungle cock eye´s are equal in size and well balanced. Whip finish.

All that is left to be done now to finish your EdsonnTiger is varnish the head yellow.

The Eyes are available along with a good

selection of Mustad streamer hooks from

Chris Helm at:

http://www.whitetailflytieing.com/


Cottus Gobio

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Hook: Mustad R 74 # 2

Thread: Dyneema

Tail: Siberian squirrel tail hair

Body : Squirrel tron dark hares ear dubbing

Rib: Fine copper wire

Wing: Pine squirrel zonker strip

Collar: Natural red fox body hair spun in dubbing loop

Gill covers: 2 Ring neck pheasant “church window” feathers coated with Bug Bond

Head: Natural kangaroo body hair spun in dubbing loop and clipped to shape

Eyes : Epoxy eyes

The original zonker pattern was tied by the American fly tyer Dan Byford in the 1970s and was quickly recognized the world over, as a big fish fly and extremely easy to tie, yet a 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.   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, the combination possibilities are endless. Another advantage with the zonker, unlike buck tail 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 are somewhat vulnerable to the small sharp teeth of trout. This can be improved by attaching the eyes with super glue and coating them with Bug Bond 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.

1Secure your Mustad R 74 # 2 hook horizontal in the vice.

1
Secure your Mustad R 74 # 2 hook horizontal in the vice.

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3
Cut a good bunch of Siberian squirrel tail with clear markings. Stack the hair and tie in for the tail. The tail should be approximately the same length as the hook shank. If you would like to add weight to your fly, this is the time to do it.
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4
Now tie in a length of medium copper wire, at the tail base for the rib.

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5
Dubb your tying thread with dark hares ear Antron dubbing and start making the body of the minnow.

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6
Once you have wound the dubbing forward in a tapered body, about one cm from the hook eye, brush out the fibers with a tooth brush. This will give more body and movement to the finished streamer.

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7
Cut a zonker strip from a pine squirrel hide. Make sure that the strip is tapered to a point at the tail of the strip.

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8
Again try and choose a squirrel strip that has nice markings and a good taper.

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9
Place the zonker strip up on top of the body of the fly so that it´s the same length as the tail. Now wind on the copper wire rib.

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10
Take care not to trap the fibers of the squirrel as you go. There should be no more that six turns of copper wire between the tail base and the end of the body.

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11
Once you have reached the end of the body tie off the copper wire and the zonker strip. Remove the excess and tie down.

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12
Now place a strip of natural red fox body hair still on the hide in a paper clip or the Marc Petitjean magic tool as used here.

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13
Make a dubbing loop an spin the fox hair into a dubbing brush.

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14
Wind on the fox dubbing brush making sure that you comb the hair back and up with each turn, this will form the over wing of the streamer. If you have some fox hair that has accumulated on the underside of the throat trim this away, this same depth as the body.

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15
Now select two ring neck pheasant church window feathers, the same size. Coat these with Bug Bond.

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16
Now tie these in, concave out, as shown. One each side to form the fins. These also give a wobbler effect on the streamer when fished.

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17
Make another dubbing loop. Here I have used natural kangaroo body hair. If you dont have kangaroo you can use another coarse natural hair.

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18
Now wind on the dubbing brush forward tight into the rear of the hook eye. Again taking care not to trap and tie down the hair as you go.

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19
Whip finish. Before you begin to trim and form your streamer head, brush out the fibers with a tooth brush to open the hair and give more volume. Trim the head to shape.

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20
Select two epoxy fly eyes, these should be a little larger than the natural for the size of the streamer. This will give a slightly more efficient attractor factor.

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21
The finished streamer.


Tying The Humpy

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This popular western pattern comes in many variants of colour, wing and tail materials, hackle and single and double hump.  The Humpy is also tied in two styles, short and fat and the long and slim version I am tying here.  Although made to imitate nothing in particular, except a juicy mouth full, this has a reputation of being a difficult fly to tie, but as I have mentioned in earlier step by step posts, follow the procedures and proportions and you will soon be banging them out by the dozen. 

Hook: Mustad R50 # 10-16

Tying Thread: Dyneema

Tail: Natural deer hair

Body: Floss

Shell back: Deer hair

Hackle: Furnace cock

Wings: Deer hair

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SEcure your hook in the vice making sure the hook shank is horizontal.

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Attach your tying thread and run the full length of the hook shank, stopping at the bend.

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Take a small bunch of natural deer hair. Here I am using European roe deer hair from the summer coat, its much finer and flares less than hair from the winter coat. The deer hair tail should be approximately two times the hook gape in length, unlike feather fiber tails that are 2.5 times the hook gape length.  When tying this in the wraps of tying thread near the tail base should be firm but not tight! If you tighten too much at the tail base the hair will flare. Tie down about 2/3 of the hook shank.

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Trim off the excess hair at an angle so you get a tapered end.

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The tapered end will make it easier to tie in the other materials later.

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Cut another bunch of deer hair, clean and stack in a hair stacker. This is the crucial point of proportions! The wing and shell back are all made from the same bunch of deer hair so its important that you get this right. From the center of the hook shank to half a hook shank length longer than the tail.

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Once measured trim the ends square, Tie down the ends of the tail you cut at and angle and wrap your tying thread to the middle of the hook shank.

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Keeping all the deer hair on top of the hook shank tie in as shown. This can be tied in much tighter than the tail as you want it to flare.

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Now wrap your tying thread forward over the trimmed ends of deer hair making sure that you build up a nice even cigar shaped body with tying thread. This is important if your under body is un even, it will be difficult to get a good looking finish later with the floss. A little over half way of the hook shank tie in a length of floss.

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Wind your floss back tight into the tail base making sure that you cover all the wraps of tying thread. Then you can wrap the floss back towards the thorax. When winding floss make sure that you dont twist it, each wrap of floss must retain the fibers flat, otherwise you will get lumpy humpy…

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Tie off the floss and trim away the excess. Keep your tying thread tight into the floss body.

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Take the shell back hair, taking care that you dont take any of the tail hair with it, and fold tightly over the floss body. Take care that all the deer hair fibers are parallel and not crossing each other.

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Tie down the shell back keeping the hair about half way up the body. You can now see the importance of the correct proportions to obtain the correct wing length.

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Now tie down the wing about half way between the body and the hook eye.

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Fold the wings back and make five or six turns of tying thread tight into the wing base. This will hold the wings up right.

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Your wing hair should now fan out from side to side and stand 90 degrees from the hook shank.

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Now prepare and tie in a hackle. Many variants of the humpy require two hackles to achieve the correct chunkiness, but I prefer when possible to use one long saddle hackle. Tie in the hackle tight into the body behind the wing. Wrap your tying thread back towards the hook eye.

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18

Now separate the deer hair into two equal wings. make a couple of wraps of tying thread around each wing base just to keep them collected and erect.

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Side view of your split wings position, pointing slightly forward.

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Make the first wrap of hackle tight into the body, but not too tight that the hackle points go off at an angle, the hackle points should stand 90 degrees from the hook shank. Wind the hackle tight and dense forward making as many turns as possible, the humpy requires a real chunky hackle. Tie off.

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Whip finish, but before your complete your whip finish but have only  a short length of tying thread again before you tighten, place a small drop of varnish on the tying thread, and then finish your whip finish ! This will stop you getting varnish on the hackle.

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The view from the bell tower.


Elasticaddis in the house!

The elasticaddis is a Impressionistic larva house built from rubber legs.

House building caddis larva are available in most waters all year round, and are an important segment of the diet of trout and grayling.  There are many techniques that have been developed over the years from fly tying benches all over the world to imitate the house of the caddis larva, but this technique really gives the right impression.  This is a pattern I believe was developed in the US, but other than that I cant find any other information about it.  The great thing about this pattern is if you trim the rubber legs close to the body you get the impression of a caddis larva house built out of gravel, but if you spin the rubber legs not so tight and trim them a little longer it makes for a great house made of vegetation and sticks.  Also the rubber gives that extra needed weight when you need to get down deep and not least extremely durable.

You may find that this isn´t the easiest pattern to tie at the first attempt as the rubber legs seem to have a life of their own, but after a few attempts is no more difficult then any other pattern.  Try mixing colours and rubber types to achieve different effects.

Hook Mustad R72NP-BR # 12-6 with Bead head

Tying thread Dyneema

Body Rubber legs

Collar CdC

Head Course antron dubbing

1
Place a bead head on hook and your hook in the vice.

2
Attach tying thread to hook and run a foundation of thread along the whole hook shank.

3
Cut 3 small strips ca. 2 cm long, of double rubber legs in various colours and diameters if available.

4
Tie in the three rubber legs at the rear of the hook. If you are going to use heavy rubber legs, with a large diameter it is best to make a foundation of tapered loose dubbing on the hook shank first, otherwise the rubber will not flare as easy as fine rubber legs.

5
Once they are secure you can pull on them to split the double legs into single.

6
Carry on with the same procedure, mixing the colours as you go along the hook shank.

7
After each bunch of rubber legs is attached use the bead head to push the legs and pack them tightly. This will give a more compact body.

8
Attach more rubber legs until you have covered all but 3-4 mm of hook shank.

9
Now you can trim the house / larva case.

10
Continue all around the body of the fly until you have the desired size and shape.

11
Spin a couple of CdC hackles in a dubbing loop, just behind the bead head.

12
Wind on the dubbing loop brushing the CdC back over the body of the fly with each turn, so as not to trap the fibers.

13
Now dubb the tying thread with a little coarse dubbing with longish fibers and dubb the head of the fly tight into the bead head.

14
Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Using an old tooth brush brush out all the CdC and dubbing fibers, so they lie back over the body.

15
The finished elasticaddis.

No matter what you tie there is always room for artistic expression.


Edson Tiger

The modifide Edson Tiger with the Brass Eyes.

One of the great classic American streamers, developed by the well know fly tier  Bill Edson in 1929. The Edson Tiger dark & light where influenced by a streamer called “Dick´s Killer” that Edson received from fellow fly tier Dick Eastman of New Hampshire in 1928.  The original patterns tied and sold by Edson where with jungle cock cheeks, but later he replaced the jungle cock with small teardrop brass plates which was apparently done, not only because of the increasing price of the already expensive jungle cock but also difficulty in obtaining a regular supply of it. But soon after the introduction of the metal cheeks they became so popular with his customers that they replaced the jungle cock on all his streamer patterns. But truth be told,  the metal cheeks added a whole new dimension to how the patterns fished. With extra flash and weight in his streamers, there where few other patterns at this time that offered this. Although this pattern is almost a century old it still accounts for many a trout and has proven an excellent late season pattern for salt water sea trout fishing here in Scandinavia. A couple of years ago while tying at the Dutch fly fair, I was lucky enough to meet Chris Helm, who had for sale, the Edson Brass eyes.

Chris Helm doing his thing at the Dutch fly fair

If you contact Chris and purchase these eyes to add that extra dimension to you Tigers they do need a little work doing to them before they are ready to tie in. Using a pair of sharp wire cutters, these are not difficult to cut, they are made from brass after all, but sharp cutters make for a neater finish. You need to trim the side of the eye that is square into a point. Once this is done I use emery paper to sand the edges of the point to a fine taper, otherwise you will get a distinct mark under the tying thread where the the eye is secured.

Hook: Standard streamer # 6

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Barred wood duck

Body: Peacock herl

Wing: Yellow buck tail

Topping: Red hackle fibers

Cheeks: Jungle cock or Edson Brass Eyes

Head:  Yellow varnish

Secure your streamer hook in the vice. Attach your tying thread and run this along the hook shank.  Tie in a length of flat gold tinsel for the tag, this should be just three or four turns.

Once you have tied off your tag and removed the surplus you can tie in three or four long strands of peacock herl at the base of the tag.

Select a wood duck flank feather with good barring and cut out a slip, line up all the bars if uneven and fold in half. This will give barring on each side of the tail. Tie off.

Run the tying thread back to the tail and twist together the peacock herl and tying thread to strengthen it and wind on to form the body. Tie off the peacock herl.

Select and clean a small bunch of yellow buck tailf or the wing. Stack the hair in a hair stacker. This should be no longer than the tail end.

The topping is a small bunch of red hackle fibers tied in on top of the wing as shown. It should be approximately one-third of the total wing length.

Now tie in the jungle cock cheeks, one each side. Make sure that both jungle cock eye´s are equal in size and well balanced. Whip finish.

All that is left to be done now to finish your EdsonnTiger is varnish the head yellow.

The Eyes are available along with a good

selection of Mustad streamer hooks from

Chris Helm at:

http://www.whitetailflytieing.com/


Fender Parachute

My good friends hunting dog, Fender and just one of the many animals and huge amounts of materials he secures for my fly tying every year.

Fender secures more meat wrapped in materials for the winter.

This is a quick and simple parachute technique that requires only deer hair and Bug Bond.

Hook: Mustad C49

Tying thread: Dyneema

Body: Moose mane hair

Hackle: Roe deer hair and Bug Bond

Thorax: Underfur from deer or moose winter coat.

1.
Secure your emerger hook in the vice with as much of the bend clear of the jaws.

2.
Run your tying thread from just behind the hook eye down deep into the bend.

3.
Select some long Moose mane hairs.

4.
You will need two long hairs from the moose mane, one white and one black.

5.
Tie in the moose hairs by the points at the base of the hook bend.

6.
Build up a slight forward taper on the fly body with tying thread.

7.
Take both hair at once, with the black hair at the bottom and begin to wind on in even tight turns.

8.
Continue over the whole hook shank until you come to the thorax. Tie off.

9.
Trim off the surplus hair and tie down ends. Although these moose mane hairs are remarkably strong you can give the body a coat with Bug Bond.

10.
Cut and stack a small bunch of deer hair. Tie this in as a parachute post.

11.
At the base of the hairs from a winter coat of a moose or deer there is a dense under fur. Remove enough to dub the thorax.

12.
Dub the thorax behind and forward of the post.

13.
Place your finger tip in the centre of the deer hair post and press down until the deer hair flattens out.

14.
Place a small drop of Bug Bond in the center of the deer hair parachute hackle.

15.
Give the Bug Bond a zap with the UV light.

16.
The finished Fender emerger, made only from deer hair and Bug Bond.

17.
The view from below. Its a perfect quick and simple parachute hackle.


E-Z Sand Eel

A great pattern for salt water sea trout and Sea Bass.

I am currently working with salt water patterns for Northern Europe so I will be publishing a good selection of modern patterns for sea trout and bass in the coming week.

Hook Mustad S70SNP-DT Big Game Light # 4-6 http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=191

Thread Dyneema

Body E-Z body tube http://www.e-zbody.com/

Tail 15 strands of Flashabou 

Eyes Fleye Foils http://www.theflypeople.com/

Head Bug Bond http://www.veniard.com/section188/

The original pattern this is based on is form the vice of my late, old friend Jack Gartside. This is not only an extremely effective pattern but also requires the minimum materials and once you have mastered the technique is very quick to tie.

Like the most effective coast wobblers that represent Tobis this pattern is a darter, and has next to no movement in the materials, but like a fleeing sand eel it “darts” in a short fast “zig zag” movement.  Another “problem” for many fly fishermen is that the hook on this pattern is mounted at the head of the fly, leaving a good length of body for the sea trout, sea bass to bite at without being hooked.  This can be the case with smaller fish but larger fish tend to take this pattern contant.  Also a interesting little experiment that I have undertaken a few times is, if you are cleaning a fish that you see has been feeding on sand eels just have a look at which way the head of the sand eel is facing in the stomach of the fish, nearly always, has the sand eel been swallowed head first!  The attach point for pradatory fish is the eyes and these new Fleye foils from Bob Popovics make very realistic sand eel and bait fish patterns.

Sand eels shoal in very large numbers, but are seldom seen during the day in the shallows as they lie buried in the sand, away from predators.  They first appear during the evening, when they come out to feed through the night.  But despite there nocturnal habits sand eel patterns can be fished around the clock the whole year.

You can also try other colour combinations, but keep in mind the general rule of the lightest colour on the stomach and the darkest colour on the back.

Secure your salt water hook in the vice. I like to use a Mustad C70SNP Big game light for this patter beacause of its wide gape and short shank.

Take a length of medium E-Z Body tubing about 6-7-cm long. Measure the the tubing along the hook shank, so that you know where to insert the hook eye into the tube.

Make a opening in the tube where you are going to thread it onto the hook shank.

Thread the tube onto your hook as shown.

Slide the tube back and attach your tying thread behind the hook eye.

Thread a long loop of mono through the E-Z body tube towards the tail.

Thread the bunch of Flashabou through the mono loop and pull this through the tube and out at the hook eye.

Tie down the Flashabou just behind the hook eye.

Tie in the end of the tube and make a neat tight head.

Select your chosen Fleye Foil product. I have used small 25 mm. sand eel foils.

Remove the Fleye Foils from there card and stick them in place, one each side of the eel head and tie down using the small attachment on the foils.

Once you have whip finished and removed your tying thread, turn your fly in the vice so you can tie down the tail at the base of the E-Z body tube. Once secure give it a small drop of Bug Bond just to hold it in place. Remove tying thread and reset hook the correct way in the vice.

The sand eel should now look like this. You can trim the Flashabou tail down to your required size and shape.

You can now colour your sand eel if wished with water proof felt markers.

Carefully coat the foils and head of the eel with Bug Bond and cure with the UV light as you go.

If you want a more three dimentional effect make small colour ajustments with felt pens after every coat of Bug Bond. This builds up layers and gives more depth.

If you ‘open’ the tail of Flashabou and place a tiny drop of Bug Bond at the base and cure! the tail will remain flaired and open.

One of the great things about E-Z body tube is that it remains flexible.

Fleye Foils. Orders and info at: http://www.theflypeople.com/

Bug Bond. Orders and info at: http://www.veniard.com/section188/

E-Z Body Orders and info at: http://www.e-zbody.com/


Fly Tying course # 18 Flying Mutantz

Flying Mutantz

After much response regarding my Mutantz pattern I published last year, here is the new and improved Flying Mutant that has fished extremely well for me this year, with a few new techniques that can be applied to other patterns. 

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On the warmest summer days the temperature rises in the south facing ant hills and triggers the annual swarming.  Ants are not good flyers, so they leave the nest in large numbers to increase the chances of establishing a new colony. When they take to the wing they are at the mercy of the wind and end up where it takes them.

If they are unlucky and land on water, in any numbers! the fish go into a feeding frenzy. In extreme situations I have experienced that the trout will take just about any fly that is presented for them. But other times they can be so selective that they will only take the perfect pattern with the right silhouette, colour and behavior. Therefor its important to to have a good imitation too hand, and a more realistic ant imitation than this is difficult to find. Without of course going way over the realistic boundaries and tying a ultra realistic pattern.  This is after all a fishing fly! Here I have made the two most characteristic body parts with melt glue, that shine just like the natural in the summer sun. You can also colour one half black and the other red, I have found that this works under most swarming situations for both black and red ants.

 

If you omit the wings and dont dress the fly, it has a in built drowning affect.  Right after an ant has crash landed on the water and it begins to struggle the rear body part (abdomen)  begins to sink, while it’s legs and wings hold it afloat a short while.  If you are going to fish this pattern ‘dry’ I recommend that you that you impregnate it well with a  floatant.

 

IMG_2618Melt glue  can be obtained, not only in black and red but a whole load of colours.

 

Hook: Mustad R50X NP-BR # 12-18 http://www.mustad.no/catalog/emea/product.php?id=2285

Tying Thread: Dyneema

Body: Black melt glue

Wing : White or blue dun CdC

Hackle: Black cock

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1.

Take a black melt glue stick and using a craft knife blade cut a small disc from the end of the stick.

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2.

Once you have tied a few Mutantz the size of the disc needed will become more apparent to the hook size used.

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3.

Cut the disc in half and then cut 1/3rd from the remaining 2/3rds. These two parts will make the larger rear half of the body and the smaller head.

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4.

Secure you dry fly hook in the vice. Make sure that the hook shaft is horizontal.

Make sure that you have the glue for the rear part of the body close at hand. Warm the hook shank with a lighter. This doesn’t take much time just a second or so. This quick warm up of the hook will not effect its tempering! 

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5.

While the hook is warm, stick the glue piece to the hook in the correct position for the rear of the ant body.

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6.

When the bit of black glue is stuck to the hook prepare your vice for rotation and keep one hand on the rotation handle of your vice. You can now proceed to warm and melt it slowly with the lighter. Dont use a direct flame on the glue this will overheat it and cause it to run and not flow, just hold the flame close to the glue. Once the glue is warm and begins to melt it will naturally flow around the hook shaft. 

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7.

While the glue is viscous you will have to rotate your hook to get the melt glue body distributed correctly around the hook shank and achieve the perfect body shape. Make sure that the rear body segment doesn’t hang too low and too far forward that it closes the hook gape and impairs hooking. Depending on what type of glue you are using the hardening time is only a few seconds. Once you have become more apt in using melt glue you can shorten the hardening time by blowing on the glue while rotating.

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8.

The rear of the body is now finished.

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9.

Once the rear part of the body has set you can repeat the process. But take car not to warm the front of the hook shank too much! this will also heat the rear again.

IMG_2646 

10.

Attach the smaller piece of melt glue just behind the hook eye.

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11.

Once the glue is attached carefully warm the glue with the lighter and repeat the process for the head.

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12.

The finished ant body parts.

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13.

This is an easy technique I developed to form quick and perfect CdC wings every time. Take a small diameter tube fly tube and cut about one cm of tube.

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14.

Select a CdC hackle with long fibers and stroke the fibers 90 degrees from the shaft of the hackle.

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15.

Now stroke the rear fibers back and hold in position. 

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16.

Trim off the point of the CdC hackle as shown.

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17.

Place the short tube section over the shaft of the CdC hackle.

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18.

Slide the tube back along the hackle stem to form the wing.

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19.

Attach your tying thread to the hook shank and wind back towards the rear body part.

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20.

Now with the tube still over the hackle offer the wing up to the hook shank and tying thread.

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21.

Tie in your CdC wing with a few turns of tying thread.

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22.

Once secure trim off the excess CdC and the point of the hackle.

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23.

Repeat the process for the second wing. One of the advantages with this type of wing is that the open fibers of the CdC hackle will allow air to pass through it when casting, unlike hackle point wings that have a tendency to work as propellers when casting and twist the tippet.

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24.

Now select a cock hackle and draw put the end fibers.

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25.

Trim off the fibers, leaving only a small amount. This will give the tying thread more purchase.

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26.

Tie in the the hackle at the wing base.

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27.

Wind the hackle quite dense forward to the ant head and tie off.

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28.

Whip finish and remove the excess hackle and tying thread.

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29.

The Mutant from above.

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30.

The Mutant from below. 

 

 

 


Fly tying course # 16 The model Nymph

Pheasant tail Nymph variant

# 16 in the fly tying course  is the model nymph, the basic pattern for most, if not all nymphs.  For those of you that are new to the website, you can find the previous 15 courses in earlier posts. If you have any questions regarding this or other posts, materials, hooks or anything fly tying related please dont hesitate to contact me, and i’ll do my best to help.

Cheers

The feather bender

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The original pheasant tail nymph came from the vice of legendary English fly tyer and fishermen Frank Sawyer around 1930. He designed the pheasant tail nymph to imitate may fly nymphs (Baetis) on the southern English river Avon, where he was river keeper. Sawyer’s original pattern used only pheasant tail fibers and fine copper wire instead of normal tying thread, to give the pattern extra weight. Although this is an excellent imitation of the swift swimming Baetis nymphs in little larger sizes it also works as an all round nymph for blind fishing.

With only only three materials, and tying thread needed for this pattern it still helps to choose the right materials. At first glance, one pheasant tail feather, looks like any other pheasant tail feather, or does it? Take a look at the pheasant tail feathers I chose at random from my materials, and you will see they are very different! Not only does the background colour and shading on each tail differ immensely but the black chevrons vary from light to dark and thin to thick. But probably the most important factor is fiber length. Normally the best marked feathers with the longest fiber length are found center top of the tail.

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So remember when buying pheasant tails dont just take the first one you see in the shop, look through them all and find the best for the flies you intend to tie. Examine the feather, is the tip all dirty and worn ? if so its probably come from a domestically bred bird. The best tail feathers are generally from wild birds. Check if the feather is clean and has a nice glossy sheen to it and all the fibers are in place. You should also avoid tail feathers with insect damage. This can easily be seen as a thin transparent line that runs 90 degrees from the feather shaft through the fibers, where the insect has eaten the feathers barbules.

Hook: Mustad S82NP # 18-10

Thread: Olive

Tail: Pheasant tail fibers

Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers

Rib: Fine copper wire

Thorax: Peacock herl

Wing case: Pheasant tail fibers

Legs: Pheasant tail fibers

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1

Secure your hook in the vice so that the hook shank is horizontal.

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2

Attach your tying thread and run a foundation over the whole hook shank, until the thread hangs approximately vertically  with the hook barb.

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3

Firstly find a tail feather with nice long fibers. To get all the points of the pheasant tail fibers even for the tail, take a small bunch in between your finger and thumb and slowly pull them away from the shaft of the feather until all the points are level.

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4

Now still holding the bunch tight so the points remain level cut them away from the feather shaft with one swift cut.

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5

Tie in the tail fibers on top of the hook shank. Three turns of tying thread over the tail and two under. The tail should be approximately 2/3 of the hook shank length.

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6

Cut a 10 cm length of fine copper wire.

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7

Tie in the copper wire the whole length of the hook shank, finishing just before the tail base.

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8

Before you start to wind on the abdomen take your copper wire and swing it under and onto the back side of the hook, as shown. Before you commence wrapping the peasant tail fibers to form the abdomen make sure that ALL the fibers are parallel with each other! Not twisted.

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9

Once you have wrapped the fibers 2/3 the length of the hook shank Tie them off as shown with 4 or 5 tight turns of tying thread over the fibers and the two in front of the the fibers on the hook shank. This will lock the tying thread and stop it from slipping.

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10

Take the copper wire and firstly take one turn in the opposite direction you wound the fibers, around the tail base tight into the abdomen, and then 4 or 5 open turns to form the rib. Once you come to the remaining tuft of fibers at the thorax make several tight turns of wire along the remaining hook shank. Stopping about 3 mm from the hook eye.

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11

Trim off the tuft of fibers and cover the bare copper wire with a layer of tying thread.

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12

Now cut another bunch of tail fibers and tie them on a little way into the abdomen on top of the hook shank.

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13

Cut two peacock herls from just under the eye of the peacock tail feather. The herl found here is much stronger than lower on the tail feather.

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14

Trim off the excess fibers from the wing case. Tie in the peacock herls, point first and cover the ends with tying thread towards the hook eye.

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15

Take both peacock herls at the same time and wrap them over the whole thorax making sure they dont twist and cross each other. Tie off behind the hook eye and cut off the excess.

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16

Cut a small bunch of pheasant tail fibers and tie in as shown, just behind the hook eye on the side of the thorax.

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17

Trim off the excess fiber and repeat step 16 on the other side of the thorax.

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18

Now take the bunch of pheasant tail fibers you tied in for the wing case, and fold them over the thorax. Again taking care to make sure that all the fibers are parallel and dont cross over each other.

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19

Trim off the fibers over the hook eye, about the same length as the hook eye and whip finish. Remove the tying thread and coat the whippings with a small drop of varnish.

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20

The finished pheasant tail nymph as seen from above, note the symmetry in the tail, body wing case and legs.


Fly tying course # 12 The Matuka streamer

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This is one of my own patterns for sea trout fishing, The Matuka Tobis. All types of hackle can be used for the wings, so experiment.

The Matuka style streamer originated from New Zealand and unlike traditional feather wing streamers where the wing is allowed to flow freely, the wing on the Matuka is attached to the body with the rib. The dimensions of this pattern can be played with and adjusted to your own taste. You can use larger hackles and make the tail longer or use hen hackles and make the pattern higher in the wing, you can combine hackles to create a different colour effect, for example, tie in two large blue hackles as the center of the wing and then two smaller green hackles one each side. The body doesn’t have to be tinsel, but can be made from chenille or any kind of dubbing. So use your imagination and create some tasty Matuka’s.

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1

Secure your streamer hook in the vice with the hook shank horizontal.

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2

Run your tying thread all the way back to the hook bend.

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3

Tie in a good length of fine copper wire. It handy to keep this length long so its easier to handle.

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4

If you are tying a tinsel body, its important to keep the under body of tying thread nice and smooth. This can be done by rubbing a small piece of closed cell foam up and down the hook shank to smooth out the tying thread.

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5

Cut a good length of flat tinsel with the cut end at an angle as shown.

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6

Tie this in on the underside of the hook shank where the throat hackle will be placed later. If you are using two sided tinsel as here, the side you dont want as the body (silver) should be tied in facing you as shown.

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7

The tinsel is now ready to wrap.

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8

Wrap the tinsel in tight even turns all the way back to the hook bend, make sure that you cover all the underbody and no tying thread is left showing. Now wrap the tinsel back towards the hook eye and tie off as neatly as possible. 

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9

Select two hackles of your choice. These should be the same size.

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10

Place the hackles back to back and measure the wing against the hook shank to the correct length.

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11

Strip off the two matching sides as shown of the hackles to the correct length. This should be done as precisely as possible.

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12

Check they are correct and adjust them if necessary.

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13

Before you tie them in you can flatten the hackle stems with a pair of flat nose tweezers just in front of the hackle fibers. This will help stop them slipping on the hook shank and remain in the correct position.

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14

Tie the hackles in at the front of the hook.

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15

Now, using a dubbing needle from the rear you can open the fibers of the wing in the correct place for each wrap of ribbing. Make the turns of rib evenly spaced and tight.

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16

Once the whole body is ribbed tie off the tinsel.

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17

Trim off the excess hackle stem ond tinsel. Prepare a hen hackle as shown for the throat.

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18

Tie in the hackle at the base of the wing and wind your tying thread forward behind the hook eye.

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19

Wrap your hen hackle taking care to brush back the fibers with each turn. Tie off.

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20

For this next little trick you will need a small piece of card, I use a backing card that once had braid on it. Fold the card in two and cut a hole in the center, large enough to go over the hook eye.

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21

Whip finish.

Wet your fingers with a little saliva and stroke the hen hackle back from the sides into the required position.

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22 Once your happy with the position of the hackle, place the card as shown over the hook eye and clamp into position. Let this stay like this for a couple of minutes.

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23

Once you remove the card the hackle will be nicely positioned and remain that way.

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24

Varnish the head.


Fly tying course # 11 The Humpy

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This popular western pattern comes in many variants of colour, wing and tail materials, hackle and single and double hump.  The Humpy is also tied in two styles, short and fat and the long and slim version I am tying here.  Although made to imitate nothing in particular, except a juicy mouth full, this has a reputation of being a difficult fly to tie, but as I have mentioned in earlier step by step posts, follow the procedures and proportions and you will soon be banging them out by the dozen. 

Hook: Mustad R50 # 10-16

Tying Thread: Dyneema

Tail: Natural deer hair

Body: Floss

Shell back: Deer hair

Hackle: Furnace cock

Wings: Deer hair

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SEcure your hook in the vice making sure the hook shank is horizontal.

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Attach your tying thread and run the full length of the hook shank, stopping at the bend.

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Take a small bunch of natural deer hair. Here I am using European roe deer hair from the summer coat, its much finer and flares less than hair from the winter coat. The deer hair tail should be approximately two times the hook gape in length, unlike feather fiber tails that are 2.5 times the hook gape length.  When tying this in the wraps of tying thread near the tail base should be firm but not tight! If you tighten too much at the tail base the hair will flare. Tie down about 2/3 of the hook shank.

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Trim off the excess hair at an angle so you get a tapered end.

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The tapered end will make it easier to tie in the other materials later.

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Cut another bunch of deer hair, clean and stack in a hair stacker. This is the crucial point of proportions! The wing and shell back are all made from the same bunch of deer hair so its important that you get this right. From the center of the hook shank to half a hook shank length longer than the tail.

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Once measured trim the ends square, Tie down the ends of the tail you cut at and angle and wrap your tying thread to the middle of the hook shank.

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Keeping all the deer hair on top of the hook shank tie in as shown. This can be tied in much tighter than the tail as you want it to flare.

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Now wrap your tying thread forward over the trimmed ends of deer hair making sure that you build up a nice even cigar shaped body with tying thread. This is important if your under body is un even, it will be difficult to get a good looking finish later with the floss. A little over half way of the hook shank tie in a length of floss.

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Wind your floss back tight into the tail base making sure that you cover all the wraps of tying thread. Then you can wrap the floss back towards the thorax. When winding floss make sure that you dont twist it, each wrap of floss must retain the fibers flat, otherwise you will get lumpy humpy…

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Tie off the floss and trim away the excess. Keep your tying thread tight into the floss body.

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Take the shell back hair, taking care that you dont take any of the tail hair with it, and fold tightly over the floss body. Take care that all the deer hair fibers are parallel and not crossing each other.

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Tie down the shell back keeping the hair about half way up the body. You can now see the importance of the correct proportions to obtain the correct wing length.

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Now tie down the wing about half way between the body and the hook eye.

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Fold the wings back and make five or six turns of tying thread tight into the wing base. This will hold the wings up right.

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Your wing hair should now fan out from side to side and stand 90 degrees from the hook shank.

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Now prepare and tie in a hackle. Many variants of the humpy require two hackles to achieve the correct chunkiness, but I prefer when possible to use one long saddle hackle. Tie in the hackle tight into the body behind the wing. Wrap your tying thread back towards the hook eye.

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18

Now separate the deer hair into two equal wings. make a couple of wraps of tying thread around each wing base just to keep them collected and erect.

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Side view of your split wings position, pointing slightly forward.

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Make the first wrap of hackle tight into the body, but not too tight that the hackle points go off at an angle, the hackle points should stand 90 degrees from the hook shank. Wind the hackle tight and dense forward making as many turns as possible, the humpy requires a real chunky hackle. Tie off.

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Whip finish, but before your complete your whip finish but have only  a short length of tying thread again before you tighten, place a small drop of varnish on the tying thread, and then finish your whip finish ! This will stop you getting varnish on the hackle.

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The view from the bell tower.


Fly tying course # 10 Muddler Minnow

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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.

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 1
Secure your 3XL streamer hook in the vice making sure that the hook shank is horizontal.
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2
You will need two mottled turkey feathers one from each wing. Cut two small slips one from the same position from each wing feather for the tail.
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Attach your tying thread and run it the full length of the hook shank so that it hangs vertically between the hook point and barb. Place the two small wing slips ‘back to back and tie in on top of the hook shank for the tail as shown. This is done by holding the two slips in the left hand while you make one loose turn of tying thread around the slips and between your finger and thumb. Tighten by pulling your tying thread ‘upwards’ This will stop your wing slips from slipping around the hook and keep them central and straight.
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4
Trim off the surplus slip butts diagonally and tie in a length of fine copper wire at the base of the tail. Now cover the hook shank with an even coat of tying thread. This is important to get a tinsel body of the same thickness.
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Tie in your flat tinsel about 1 cm behind the hook eye. Wind the tinsel in even close fitting turns all the way back to the tail and the back to the tying in position behind the hook eye. Tie off.
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Cut off the excess flat tinsel and then wrap the copper wire rib in the opposite direction to the flat tinsel, in even open turns. Tie off.
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Cut a medium bunch of hair from a grey squirrel tail and remove the under fur and shorter hairs. Stack the hair in a hair stacker. Now measure the hair wing along the hook shank so that it is the same length as the slip tail. Trim the hair wing to length. Now before you tie the hair in place a small drop of varnish on the cut end of the hair bunch, this will glue it in place and also make it more durable. Tie in on top of the hook shank.
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Cut two larger mottled turkey wing slips for the wing. Again one from each wing feather.
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Tie these in the same way as the tail on top of the squirrel tail underwing.
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Select some good dense natural deer hair from the winter coat. See my earlier post on European Roe deer.
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Cut a good generous bunch. This is where many tyers make the mistake of too small a bunch and having to add more bunches later, to make the whole head. The head should be made of only one bunch of deer hair. Clean the hair by removing the under fur and shorter hairs and stack in a hair stacker.
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Place the bunch of deer hair with the tips facing back towards the tail, these will be the collar of the head. While holding the bunch in place make two loose turns of tying thread around the bunch, then tighten by by pulling upwards and the hair will flare. Once the hair is flared make several other tight wraps with a ‘zig zag’ movement as you go towards the hook eye. This will push the deer hair from side to side as you wrap and stop you from trapping the hair and tying it down flat!
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Tie off and whip finish. You can now begin to trim your muddler head to the basic shape. See my deer hair tutorial.
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14
You can choose here if you would like a cone shaped head. You can see on this image that some hair ends are burnt! see my deer hair tutorial for the full step be step of this technique.
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Or a round clipped head. This style will move more water when stripped.
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The finished Muddler minnow.

Fly tying course # 6 Dry fly hackle prep and traditional dry fly

This is just to show you the correct way to prepare and mount a traditional dry fly hackle. Firstly a little about hackles. 

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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)

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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:

http://www.whitingfarms.com/articles/grading.html

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1

Secure your hook in the vice, with the hook shank horizontal.

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Attach your tying thread and make a foundation for the hackle so it doesn’t slip-

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Strip off the webby base fibers from the hackle stem and offer the hackle up to the tying point, at an angle.

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Now make one wrap of tying thread as shown diagonally across the hackle stem.

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Make a second wrap around the hackle stem in the opposite direction forming an X of tying thread.

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6

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.

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Now wrap the remaining hackle stem to the hook shaft behind the hook eye.

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Attach a hackle plier to the hackle point.

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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.

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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!

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Once the hackle is wound forward to the hook eye, tie off and remove the excess hackle. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.

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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.

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1

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.

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2

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.

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Cut a 10 cm length of polypropylene yarn and place this around your tying thread. Holding both ends of the yarn lift it up.

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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.

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Prepare and tie in your hackle as shown earlier just behind the wings.

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Wrap your hackle firstly behind and the forward of the wings. Tie off, remove the excess hackle and whip finish.


Fly tying course # 3 Its a material world

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.

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.

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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:

Vice

Dubbing needle

Hackle pliers

Scissors

Bobbin holder ceramic

Whip finisher

Clear fine varnish

Tying thread

Cock Hackle mixed Whiting pack,  Black, brown, grizzle

CdC natural tan

Peacock eye

Pheasant tail

Fine Antron dubbing Black. Tan. Olive. 

Natural deer hair

Hares mask

Poly yarn white

Lead wire

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.

Vice:

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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.

Tying thread:

See fly tying tutorial # 2

Bobbin holder:

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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.

Scissors:

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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.

Dubbing needle:

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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!

Hackle pliers:

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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:

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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.

Hackle:

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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:

Colour:

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:

Brown:

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.

Black:

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.

Grizzle:

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.

Condition:

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.

Feather count:

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.

Hackle size:

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.

Pheasant tail:

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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.

Hares mask:

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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.

Deer Hair:

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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.

Polypropylene Yarn:

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.

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Peacock eye:

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:

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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.

Dubbing:

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.

Varnish:

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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.

Hooks:

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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.

Emerger hooks:

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.

Streamer hooks:

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 Size:

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.