Techniques for traditional dry fly

Techniques for traditional dry’s

fly tying traditional dry fly

Its often said “If you can tie a good dry fly, you can tie just about anything” this makes dry flies sound extremely difficult, they are not. There are many other patterns that look much simpler but are much more challenging for the tyer to master. 

The key to good dry flies:  

Quality materials


Attention to detail

Follow the step by step instructions



Follow these rules and you will be tying great dry flies in no time.

Although you dont need perfect, great looking flies to catch fish, a well proportioned dry fly will float better and fish better in many cases giving a much more correct footprint on the water. There is also the wow factor, a well tied box of flies is always a great talking point amongst friends and other fishermen!

The techniques shown here are normally only learned after many years of tying and observing other more experienced tyers. If we where talking about a play station game, they may be thought of as cheats! Here you are given a condensed lesson in tying the classic dry fly.  If you learn the correct way right from the start you wont carry on making elementary mistakes. So study, learn and practice these techniques, and apply them to other patterns with a similar style.

Dont forget! If you have any questions please dont hesitate to ask. Just post your question at the foot of this page.

If you would like to receive a message when the next stage of the course is published, just add your e mail address at the top right of this page. Thanks, The feather bender.



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



Attach your tying thread and cover the hook shank with a even foundation of thread.



Take a golden pheasant tippet feather and cut out a small section as shown. Keeping the tippets on the feather shaft will give you perfect aligned tips and also keep the tippets the right way while you tie them in.



Lie one side of the tippet section on top of the hook shank and adjust to the correct length, see proportions chart. Tie in.



Trim off the tippets 2/3 of the hook shank length or where you will tie in the wings. If you cut them off shorter you will have an un even underbody later. Tie down the tippet butts. Now make two small ridges with tying thread at the wing tying in point, about 1 mm apart.

This will make a groove for the wing shafts to be placed.



Prepare two fan wing feathers by stripping off the lower fibers from the shaft. Dont worry too much about the wing tips not being too square this we will fix later.



Place one of the fan wings in the groove and tie in as with a regular dry fly hackle X whipping.



Now repeat with the second fan wing on the opposite side.



Tie down the hackles keeping them vertical and run your tying thread to the rear of the hook shank. Take a long peacock herl. To get the peacock herl to warp correctly, tie it in by the point with the concave side to the hook shank. Again tie in the herl the full length of the body too the wing. Wind your tying thread about 1/3 of the hook shank.



Wind on your peacock herl in tight even turns about 1/3 of the body length and tie off. Now carry on winding your peacock herl 2/3 of the body length.



Cover the second third of peacock herl with wraps of tying thread and the a few wraps further into the wing. The wraps of tying thread over the peacock herl will give the body the required thickness.



Now make the next segment of peacock herl into the wing base and tie off with a couple of turns of tying thread.



Select and prepare a hackle and tie in so the hackle is vertical and then run your tying thread for ward to the hook eye.



Remove the hackle stem and wind on the end of the peacock herl and tie off a couple of mm behind the hook eye. This peacock herl will give you the best foundation for your hackle. It creates a track that each turn of hackle will fall into and ensure that the hackle points stay vertical when wound.



Attach a hackle plier to the point of your hackle and wind on your hackle in nice even turns, taking care that it doesn’t twist or buckle. Tie off a couple of mm behind the hook eye.



Now take some flat edged scissors. While holding the wings in one hand, and holding the blade along the desired wing length position press your thumb against the blade trapping the wing points and whip off the points with a twist of the wrist. Take care that you are holding the wings tightly, otherwise you may pull them off!

fly tying traditional dry fly by barry ord clarke


The finished fan wing dry.

Nesting Hair Stacker set

12 thoughts on “Techniques for traditional dry fly

  1. You haven’t posted the list of materials needed to tie the fan winged dry fly, lesson 9, unless I can’t see the wood for the tree’s and if that is the case I apologise. Nick, twenty five years fly fishing, three months tieing my own flys and really enjoying your lessons, cheers Mr Bender.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      This is not really a pattern as such just something I made to illustrate the different techniques in one fly.
      But it is as follows:

      Hook, Mustad R50 # 12
      Tail, Golden pheasant tippet
      Butt, Peacock herl
      Body, Floss silk
      Thorax, Peacock herl
      Wings, Mallard breast feathers
      Hackle, Badger



    2. ck reply as a prompt reply goes a long way with me as it shows you value your readers.keep up the great work and I look forward to my next fix from your blog, and I mean that literally as I’m finding that tying my own flies is very addictive, so once again,
      cheers Barry, keep up the the good work. Nick.

  2. High Barry it’s Nick, sorry to bother you again but in lesson nine you mention x whippinh a dry fly hackle is that where you tie in using a figure of 8 motion, if not, what exactly do you mean.
    Cheers, Nick. ( I’m still very much the novice )

    1. Hi Nick,

      Yeah, you could call it a figure of 8, but its very simple you whip your hackle stem to the hook shank by starting bottom right of the hackle stem with your tying thread and cross the hackle to top left and the revers. So that your tying thread makes an X over the hackle stem. I think if you clik on the image that shows this step it will go full screen so you can see closer.

  3. great lessons, I may have asked this question before, not sure. do you always tie in a hackle by the but end.? I have seen it tied in by the tip. 2) have you ever tried plastic shopping bag plastic for wings, I have and it seems to work????. I have only been tying for about six months and find your site about the best around.

    1. Hi John, Thanks for the kind words.

      You can tie in the hackle with the tip, but this technique is normally used for a palmered hackle (body hackle) where you require an increase in the length of the hackle fibers from the rear of the body towards the front. Plastic bags or similar, when used as wings have a tendency to behave as a propeller under casting, twisting the tippet into a serious mess

  4. thanks for the tip. will test it out next trip(long way to trout waters from here) tied several flys from this lesson last night and managed to get a couple pretty close, scale has always been a problem.

  5. Hi Barry
    Just a comment on the length of tippet tail. I have seen a few recommendations that it should be tied in just after the second black bar. Presumably a bigger feather could have been selected to keep the overall proportion of the fly?