Category Archives: Step by step tying

Step by step – the SRM emerger

I should have done this a while back but since my focus has been on pike fly fishing and fly tying only these past two years it kind of slipped my mind. This is an article that has been published twice, first in US magazine “Hatches magazine” back in 2009 (I think) and then in Swedish magazine “Fly and tie” 2013. Thanks to Roger Enger Lie who put my mind right to posting this, I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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“For the sixth time I place the CDC fly upstream from the long shadow at the verge of the gravel on the bottom and for the sixth time I see it pass him without any reaction. Further upstream I see Chris catch another good sized grayling. Dammed it, why won’t this particular fish rise to the one fly that seems to be working for everyone else today. In my frustration I put a little too much force in the back cast and I feel how the fly hooks into the bushes and then the tippet snips off.

 I do a quick consideration if I should go back to Chris and get another CDC fly or if I should try something else. While thinking about it I see the fish rise once more from it’s lair in the gravel and take something just below the surface. So far I had only seen them take the duns as they sail past but that looked much more like a rise to an emerging nymf. Slight tremble in my hands as I put on a new tippet and a size 18 SRM emerger. Two false cast, and then easy on the back cast and… yes! Perfect placing about two meter straight upstream from the fish! In slow motion I see how the fish backs off, quick movement in the tail fin and more than anything it looks like it’s just floating up towards to surface to meet my fly, opens its mouth and, YES! Strike! Oh my, it’s a trout… and a good sized one too!”

  I am very fortunate to have been invited to fly tying shows around the world to show my flies and ramble on about my realistic fishing patterns and my view on fly tying. One question that I always get no matter where I tie is: “do you really catch more fish with those flies than with normal flies?” Normally this question will come either from an elderly gentleman who never would dream of fishing any fly pattern younger than hundred years or so or from a younger sturdy looking guy with long hair and a baseball cap who fishes 99% of the time with a wooly bugger, I think you know both types. I love these guys because they give me another opportunity to further ramble on about my view on realistic fly tying.  I would say that on nine days out of ten you would have no, or very little, benefit from using a more realistic patterns than a more traditional pattern, but then again you probably won’t catch less fish either, but on the tenth day… that’s when you are going to see the difference! When the fish is selective for a specific hatch, and when it seems like it doesn’t matter what you put on, then these flies can make the difference! And once you experience such a day, and see what I mean… well once you go realistic you won’t go back!

The SRM emerger is the very core of what I love doing, and one of the flies in my box that I fish with the most myself. I use it often as a searching pattern when I see occasional fish rising before knowing what they are rising to. It is also the only pattern ever that I have designed by order, most of my patterns will come from my playing around at the vise with a very rough idea on what I want to do but not this one.

About six years ago I got an order of flies from a guy who was going to New Zeeland to fish, and I got the order six months before he was going away. He wanted a lot of different semi realistic flies and he also wrote “and I want you to tie me a realistic looking mayfly emerger.” Since I was a big fan of the Klinkhammer special pattern my reply to him was “What do you need that for, you will never need any other emerger pattern than the Klinkhammer anyway.” But he was persistent and still wanted me to do something for him.

Two year earlier I had experienced one of the biggest mayfly hatching I have ever to witness. It was for a hatch of the Ephemera Vulgata that we had come but we were fortunate to see 3-4 other mayfly species hatch at the same time also. After having fished a big drake imitation with some success I started to watch the fish feed and I found that every fifth take or so was duns on the surface being taken and the other was something just underneath the surface; the emerger. When a mayfly nymf reaches the surface it will stop there for a duration of time, sometimes only a second and sometimes much longer, to catch its breath so to speak before starting to break free of the nymfal prison. And boy is it in trouble hanging there because the trout loves an easy prey! What I saw was that it was actually the emerging nymfs of the Leptophlebia that was taken much more often than the drakes. My own conclusion was that these nymfs hung still several seconds before starting to emerge compared to the drake nymfs who started almost directly as the reach the surface. The drake nymfs were hardly ever taken and the same thing with the adult Leptophlebia. And I will say that the SRM emerger is designed with this behavior clearly in mind.

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So to make a long story short: I took off from the Klinkhammer and its special look used the experience I had gained from the hatch two years earlier and added the same attributes that I then had in my mayfly nymf patterns along with some technical inspiration from Oliver Edwards and eventually the SRM emerger was born!

So would I call this fly an advanced fly to tie? Yes I think I would, but the main thing to remember is to be patient, patterns like these takes slightly longer to tie than a traditional fly. If you manage to keep patient and don’t rush then it should just be a matter of carefully follow the steps here. And if you need any more motivation just try and imagine the look of your fishing friends when they open the box and see a row of SRM emergers there!

General guidelines on how to tie a better SRM emerger:

–          Use a good quality hackle and keep the length of the bars so that they when winded are in line with the bend of the hook
–          Make sure that you wind the last 2-3 turn of hackle underneath the previous once, this will make all hackle barbs stand out and slightly upwards.
–          Adjust the thickness of the foam to the size of fly you want to tie
–          After having winded the nymf skinn and secured it with the front thread, add a drop of superglue to the whip finishes and cut off the nymf skinn before cutting the thread
–          Keep the segments straight on the underside, this way all leg pairs will be in line
–          If the legs are not centered on the underside of the hook, you can push them along the edge of the segment with your finger nail or dubbing needle.
–          If you are fishing faster flowing waters you might have trouble spotting the fly, just tie up a few with a regular Klinkhammer style white wing and it will be much more visible.

Tying the SRM Emerger – step by step

Hook: Patridge BNX16B sizes 10-20
Thread: Veevus 14/0
Tails: Micro fibbets, synthetic quills or any other tail materials
Body: VN nymf skin
Hackle post: Yellow foam
Hackle: Good quality rooster
Legs: Golden pheasant tail “Veli auti style”

Even though I like to tie the fly in different sizes and colors to adapt to different mayflies that might be hatching I often find myself using a size 16 more generic emerger as a searching pattern. So the fly displayed on these photos is tied as a generic mayfly nymf appearance that can fit a lot of different hatches.

Step 1

Tie in your thread at the hook eye and just cover the obvious thorax area with tying thread.

Step2

Cut a strip of foam the same width as the thorax area. Chose the thickness of the foam to the size of fly you want to tie, here I have used 1mm thick foam. Rotate the your vise half a turn so that the fly is now upside down and fold the foam in the middle over the hook like on the photo with the thread hanging to the side of it.

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Now hold the foam down folded over the hook with one hand and start winding the thread around the base of the foam just under the hook shank.

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Keep winding the foam and eventually you can rotate the vise back up and keep winding until you have created a nice slot to wind the hackle in. Doesn’t have to be super neat, the hackle will wind nicely in it anyway and the nymf skin will partly cover it anyway.

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Step 3

Now take a long hackle feather and strip of the fluff close to the root of it. Tie it in on top of the hook just behind the foam post.

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Now raise the feather up and tie it in along the foam post also and then cut of the waste hackle quill.

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Step 4

Chose three tails and make sure they are the same length and then measure them in to the right length on the hook. Start tying them down just behind the hackle tie down point and tie the tails down towards the bend and stop when the tails are at a 45 degree angle to the hook. You can now split the tails with your thread or do the “lazy way” in the final step. Either way wind your thread up to the foam post again.

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Step5

Now we have much too steep “bumb” of foam on the underside of the thorax. To create a smoother underbody to wind the nymf skin over we need to dub the hook backwards to smooth out the transition and create a tapering. Simply just dub your thread and start dubbing the hook to the same thickness as the foam and then dub the hook thinner and thinner like you see on the photo.

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Step6

Cut the end of the nymf skin to an angle and tie in at the corner.

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Stretch it hard and tie it down to the tails. Hang the tying thread to the side and tie in another thread at the hook eye. Wind a few thread wraps towards the foam to smooth out the step down towards the hook eye. The whole idea here is to use the back thread to accentuate the segments and also trap in the legs, Oliver Edwards style tying!

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Step7

Now wind the nymf skin forward, the first 2-3 turns that it will take to hide the small “tag” that the corner of the short end of the nymf skin I will use full stretch of it.

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After that I will apply the same tension on the nymf skin all the way. Wrap it in smooth turns, making every turn cover the previous by 50%. Wrap so that the segments come straight on the underside, this will give you straight pair of legs once you tie those in.

Now this next thing is something that is hard to put in an instruction because it will take a certain amount of “feeling” on how to do this correctly and also will take the experience gained from tying a few to get the hang of it. So instead of trying to explain on how to stretch it to get the right result I will explain what we want to achieve.

When you have winded the nymf skin all the way up to the foam post you should have done one turn of the nymf skin just behind it like this. Don’t mind if you have it just slightly over the foam.

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If you are out of place, try winding back and use more or less stretch on it instead. Now after you have done that turn just behind the foam post you need to lock down the foam as well as hide it and create good segments for the legs so sit in. So go with the nymf skin under the hook and half way over the foam thorax and back up again covering half the previous segment, this will cause the nymf skin to partly fold up over the foam post, this is not a problem.

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Now go around the hook again and come down on the underside and cover the previous segment once more by 50% and come back up on the other side of the foam post. Now if this is done correctly you will now have covered the foam thorax and still have room to do one more turn of the nymf skin behind the eye.

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Now you can tie it off with the thread at the hook eye. To cut the nymf skin without leaving any bulk at the hook eye, simply just stretch it hard and cut it close to the thread.

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Step8

So now we have a nice tapered segmented body and some tails. Time to start adding a little realistic touching to it! Grab a dark brown marker pen and stroke the back of the body with it, front to back making it go down slightly on each side of the fly creating the very typical mayfly nymf appearance with the top side being dark and the underside light. Now you can also adapt the color used to do imitate a specific mayfly species, for example use a dark olive color for the Baetis etc.

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Step9

Now bring back the thread left hanging at the back and start tracing each segment as you wind the thread forward, use a light tension on the thread and it will almost follow the segments by itself. Also, you don’t want to break off your thread at this point! As you wind your way forward you will see that the segments get more accentuated as you do this. Stop when you have only three segments left, should be just behind the foam post.

To do Veli Auti style legs you need to pluck a few fibers from the Golden Pheasant tail feather in a special way. It’s dead easy once you know how to. Use the feathers from the middle of the fibers and upwards, not to close to the tip, I like to say that the 3rd quarter of the feather is the best. Separate 6-7 fibers from the rest and hold it at a ninety degrees angle from the quill and do a quick pull of the fibers straight out and you will have these nice looking “feet” at the root of the fibers.

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Now rotate your wise so the fly comes upside down and open up your thread wrap half a turn. Then pair two legs together so they are the same length. When you tie in these they are gonna rotate slightly away from you, so place them slightly towards your side of the hook at the egde of the segment and trap them in with your thread in a loose turn and then tighten to see them rotate into place and rise up.

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Now cut of the fibers close to the body.

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Go one segment forward to keep the legs in place and pair another pair together. Now open up that thread wrap by half a turn but keep pressure to the thread at all time otherwise the pair of legs that we have already tied in is going to come loose. Repeat the exact same thing as you did with the back pair; slide them in to your side of the hook and then wrap a loose turn of thread, tighten so see them rise up and then wind a segment forward so that you thread is now hanging in front of the foam post. What I try to do is to keep each pair of legs slightly shorter than the previous one, another fine detail to keep it more realistic.

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Now you got it, so last pair is dead easy; open up half a turn, keep tension, slide in legs on your side, loose wrap and tighten. Now wind the last turn forward to the hook eye and do a half hitch here to secure the thread, you don’t want it to come off here and have to tie in the legs again!

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Step10

Now we have something that really looks like the bent shape of a mayfly nymf don’t we! So it’s straight downhill from here, you have now done the hard parts. So wind the hackle around the foam post, I usually wind it like three turns down first, then three turns up and then down again. Depending on your own preferences you might want the fibers to curve down towards the surface or up away from the surface. No matter which way you prefer, what you want is for the “nymf” of the fly to be totally submerged when fished without any hackle fibers sticking downwards trough the surface film. So for the last 2-3 turns of hackle lift the whole hackle bundle upwards and force these last turns under the previous once to make sure no fibers are trapped down. Tie off the hackle on top of the hook and then finally add some whip finishes here and varnish the tie in point and cut your thread.

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Step 11

Three small steps left, first cut down the foam to leave only a good “spot” of yellow when viewed from the top

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Next take off the fly from the vise and look at it from the front to see if any hackle fibers are sticking downwards, if there are just pluck them off with a set of fine tweezers rather than cutting them off. Final step is optional, depending on if you have split the tails in step4 or not. If you haven’t, simply just heat your tweezers for 3-4 seconds and slide them along the middle tail pressing the other two to each side of it. Now you are done!

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Once you see it sit on (or rather hang underneath) the water, you really see why this pattern is so good!

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Another tying video done!

Having had so much fun doing that Wild thing tying video I decided to let the cat out of the bag and do one for my absolutely most successful fly of last season. I developed it as a tube fly during the spring but when I adjusted it as a articulated hook + shank fly during the summer it really started catching fish after fish! There are a few things that I can add that’s not visible in the video itself.

It’s tied using three layers of Nayat pelt over Bucktail that is gradually flared out more and more to create a fly that has a lot of volume but still a hollow take to it. In order to achieve the right effect consider this:

– Keep all layers of Bucktail quite sparse, that goes for the Nayat too, if the fly gets too bulky it will not move like it should and it will be hard to cast!
– First layer of bucktail is cut from top part of Bucktail where it’s not as hollow and will not flare out as much when tied in.
– Second layer is cut from bottom of the tail where the hairs are more hollow but is tied in with the tips pointing back
– Third layer is Bucktail that is cut from bottom of the tail and is tied in reverse style
– Back pair of sadle hackles should be just slightly longer than the Nayat tail, and the flash on top of that just slightly longer than the feathers. This creates a nice tapered effect to the tail.

Have fun!


Tying the electric shrimp

Hook: Partridge YK12ST size 10
Body: Super flash dubbing
Legs and antennas: blue crystal flash
Shellback: Blue flashback foil covered with bug bond

I got a lot of questions on that shrimp I posted the other day and people asked me for a step-by-step and since it is quite a fast fly to tie I sat down and did one tonight. Ain’t I a swell guy! 🙂 It is a very easy pattern but still looks great, a lot of suggested movement and rides up side down. Please fell free to try other colors if you don’t like the blue one.

Step 1 – add a strip of tungsten sheet to the top of the hook shank, this will let the fly go the way we want it, upside down. Tie it in and treat the whole tie in area with super glue to prevent it from slipping around the hook.

Step 2 -tie in a couple of shrimp eyes. I make mine by dipping tippet material that I have touched with a flame at the ends in Bug Bond and then colour it black.

Step 3 – add some 6-8 strands of crystal flash to mimic both antennas and legs just behind the eyes.

Step 4 – Dubb the thread quite heavily, preferably trough a dubbing loop because that will make it easier when you comb it out later. And wind the dubbing from the eyes and backwards about one third of the hook shank.

Step 5 – Go to the hook eye and and dub the thread again quite heavily.

Step 6 – dubb your way forward to the thorax area, should look something like this, quite ugly for the moment but it will get better!

Step 7 – use a piece of velcro or simillar and comb out the dubbing properly and make sure you comb it all down and forward, now it starts to look better!

Step 8 -cut a shell back to shape, I like this Flash back foil from Sybai, then place a thin layer of super glue along the top of the fly and place the foil there.

Step 9 – rib the fly backwards in progressively smaller segment to the hook eye.

Step 10 – if you want you can add a little triangular piece of the back material as a tail over the hook eye.

Step 11 – Finish it all off with a layer of bug bond on the back and cut down the combed out dubbing to a tapered look, voila!


How to do (simple) realistic legs

Okay, so this is not going to be your ordinary step-by-step fly tying tutorial, instead it’s a certain technique I use sometimes.

No matter if you like to focus on semi-realistic fishing flies or full blown super realistic display flies I think there is one tying section that is a real pain in the ass because it takes the most time; doing the legs. Then again these are often the details you want to focus on because it is what sets the fly apart from an ordinary fly.

I started doing a variant of thread legs about 4-5 years ago, first for my super realistics and then adopted a simplified variant for my fishing flies.

It all starts with two pieces of thread, thickness depends on the fly you want to create. For the sake of visibility I’ve used quite thick sewing thread here, the same type I would use if I were to tie for example a golden stonefly.

Start with just doing an open over hand knot on one of the pieces, but don’t tighten the knot.

No slip the other thread trough the open knot.

Now tighten the knot and you should have a cross like structure like this.

Hold on o the top thread end and stroke the other ends downwards to make them clump together. You see where this is going don’t you?

Now, add varnish or super glue to the thread and repeatedly stroke the three ends together to make them stick together permanently. Super glue is actually (in my experience) the best for this because it gets the stiffest but still makes it possible to bend it to the shape you want. Voila! Two clear segments of a “leg”; femur and tibia!

Cut it to shape, colour it and make a compressed “foot” at the end of the single strand and there it is, the simplest of realistic legs.

Once you start experiment with it you will find many more uses, the right leg is the one we just did. The middle is a section of brown 6/0 thread together with black 8/0. But the far left is the most interesting because it involves three pieces of thread creating an even more realistic look to the leg, but still it takes just a few seconds to do it!

Finally here’s some examples of flies that uses this technique for the legs, including the ant from yesterday.


Tying the “Still got the blues for you” baitfish

Now this is a patter that hasn’t got more than a season behind it, and it hasn’t any spectacular catch on its conscience yet, but I think that its a darn nice pattern, it moves perfectly and it is pretty straight forward to tie, so I’ll share it with you!

It involves a realistic touch with the tail fin, a feature that of course is optional, which does give the fly a very nice vibrant movement when retrieved. My intention when I created it was to use it for our coastal run sea trouts here in the baltic sea, but I’s proably a good fry pattern to use for big browns or any salt water fish too.

Now you might ask why I use two feathers for the tail, I haven’t seen any fish with a double tail fin like that have you? Well the answer is simple. The curving shape of any feather will make the fly rotate like a propeller if you only use one, if you use two you will have them work against each other creating a nice vibrant movement.

Hook: Partridge YK12ST size 10
Tail: 0.30 mm mono with two varnished feathers
Body: Blue fox fur on top with white fox on the bottom over blue angel hair.
Head: Blue Small/Medium Fish Skull

Start the creation of the tail by treating two feathers of choice (these are small mallard feathers) with a varnish or like I do with the UV resin Bug Bond. Here’s one varnished and one who’s not.

The tail is gonna be created on a piece of mono, and I like to use a cheap 0.30 mm mono for spinning fishing for this. It is thick enough to stand a little beating without breaking but still thin enough to move with the tail “fins” when retrieved. I flatten the mono where the feathers are gonna be tied in, this will make the tie in point much more secure and prevent the tail feathers from coming off.

Now, I do the tails with the mono in my hands. Pinch the first feather where the mono is flattened and with the tying thread tie on the feather as close to your fingertips as possible.

Do the same thing with the other feather, and once you have tied both feathers in treat the whole tie in point with a double layer of super glue.

Press the two feathers together and cut them into a nice tail shape.

Step1
Now let’s get to the tying! Insert the hook in the vise and tie in the tail section letting it stick out about 6 cm. Don’t cut the waste mono just yet.

Step2
Now fold the mono back and tie it down again, cut off the mono waste and treat the whole tie in point with super glue. This folding of the mono will ensure that it doesn’t slip off the hook.

Step3
Take a small amount of blue angel hair or wing and flash the same length as the tail section, the same thing goes here don’t cut the waste just yet.

Step4
Now fold the forward part of the flash backwards and spread it around the top section of the hook and then cut it down to shape and also secure the whole thing with a couple of good wraps of the thread.

Step5
Tie in a small amount of blue fox hair on the top of the hook, make sure it is not longer back than the tails. And again don’t cut the waste!

Step7
Do the same thing on the underside of the hook with white fox fur.

Step8
Now fold the access blue fox backwards and spread it around the top section of the hook. This makes the fly more streamlined and also gives a better fit on the head once it is slided on.

Step9
Tie down the white fur down to the hook eye and cut off the waste. Finish the fly here and cover the whole tie in point with super glue. And…

Step10
..now slide on the fish skull while the glue is still wet.

Step11
Glue on the eyes on each side socket with a drop of super glue.

Step12
Now what I like to do is fill up the top crease of the head where the hair meets the head with some Bug Bond UV Resin like this, and the same thing on the bottom section.

Step13
Also I cover both eyes with Bug Bond to secure them a little extra. Also makes the eyes look more 3D like.

Hold the fly under the warm water tap for a while will make it more streamlined and you will see why I liked to bond the hair with the head with Bug Bond like I did, it makes a more seamless transition between head and hair.



Guest blogger – Dennis Shaw

This weeks Guest blogger makes me VERY proud to be able to publish what I regard as one of the most comprehensive articles ever written on the subject of dubbing. If you are anything of a Fly tying geek like myself you are gonna like this a lot! The author Dennis Shaw is together with Paul Ainsworth the driving forces behind one of the best fly tying forums on the internet UKflydressing.com.

This article was originaly written for ukflydressing but I are very glad that I am able to publish it here on The way of the /:Fly:/ aswell. All the things you ever wanted to ask about dubbing but didn’t dare to; here are all the answers and them some more! Thank you Dennis!

Enjoy your reading, I sure did!!!

Introduction

All instructions assume right-handed tyers!

It’s been a while in the making, but at last here is the all new “dubbing techniques” I promised a while back. My initial thoughts when re-doing this was to simply add better quality pictures, but as you’ll see as you read on, what started as a simple “fix” turned into a complete re-do. All new photographs and text and it sort of grew a little on the old one with new sections added and more details included. There are no videos this time. They were hugely time-consuming to prepare and upload and the results were, for me, less than satisfactory.

Hopefully with the help of what follows and a little practice you’ll be able to utilise a variety of techniques to suit your own needs, and best of all, you’ll soon realise that the various dubbing techniques are actually very easy techniques to master.

What follows are a list of the most common techniques (and a few ideas for when you feel more confident) and how I use them. There are other techniques and other tyers will have their “own way” of doing things, with practice and research and by listening to others, you will soon develop your “own way.” I don’t profess to be an expert, so take what you will from this article and use it and adapt it to your own needs.

Let’s start with a few tips to help you…

Wash your hands before you start tying. Dirty hands will discolour dubbing.

If you have very dry or chapped hands you may find dubbing difficult, the “cure” is very simple, regular applications of hand cream. Believe me when I say this will make a huge difference, not only to the dubbing process, but also to many other areas of your tying. I suffered from dry, chapped hands for many years until I started using hand creams to replace lost moisture in my hands. I now use hand cream two or three times daily and the difference it has made is astounding!

When dubbing less is better! You will be surprised at just how far a tiny spec of dubbing will go, and in most cases how much better, more translucent and life-like your flies will look.

In the following posts I have concentrated on the techniques, one aspect of dubbing which I haven’t touched on is the effects achieved by using different threads and under-bodies. When you start using the techniques try using threads to compliment or contrast with the colour of the dubbing to see how much they can affect the final outcome. Also try different under-bodies. For instance, try dubbing a body over a dark thread under-body, then do it again with a tinsel under-body. You will be surprised at how much a simple thing, like the colour of the thread, can affect the final outcome.

Most of the terminology used in the following threads are self explanatory, but just to clarify and avoid confusion here are a few regularly used ones..

Dubbing medium – This simply means whatever material is used for dubbing.
Staple length – Means the average length of the individual strands of dubbing.
Dubbing noodle** – Simply an amount of dubbing gently rolled or pulled into a small elongated wad of dubbing.
Dubbing rope** – What you have when you complete a split thread loop or dubbing loop. Dubbing ropes are also available pre-made in packets.
Work in the fingers (or hands) – Means to work the fibres in your fingers or in the palm of your hand by rolling and/or pushing the materials together and then tearing/pulling them apart repeatedly until you have achieved the desired effect.
Under-fur – The soft downy fur next to the skin. The under-fur on animals is usually a drab pale colour.
Guard-hair – The longer spikey hair. The guard hares are usually coloured, (especially towards the tips) these hairs are what give the animal its colour.

**Whilst doing some research for this article I discovered that there is some confusion as to what a “Dubbing Noodle” is, some people refer to a dubbing noodle to be what I call a dubbing rope. At the risk of opening up a debate on the subject, I believe my use of the terminology to be correct.

*edit*
When I started this article Seal’s Fur was a readily available dubbing, though not necessarily a “politically correct” one to use. It now looks though that a ban on the sale and/or use of seal products, including Seal’s Fur, is looking inevitable. I have kept the references to it and its uses in because it is still available for the moment, and hopefully you and I will still be able to use any stock we have!

OK, let’s get started…

Tools

The basic tools I use are shown below.

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From left to right they are…
1 – The most important tool of all, your hands!
2 – Velcro, used to “rough” up bodies. This one is simply the “hooked” side of a piece of Velcro glued onto a lollipop stick.
3 & 4 – Dubbing rakes. The brass one is from Ken Newton. The white one is the “Ceramiscrape” from Lawrence Waldren, I think the best dubbing rake available. You can also make one from an old hacksaw blade.
5 – Dubbing twister. Mainly used for twisting dubbing loops with very course materials.
6 – Dubbing Whorl. Used for spinning dubbing loops.
7 – Nit comb. Used in the preparation of various long fibered yarns and wools.

This second picture is a coffee grinder, used during preparation or blending.

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These are the main tools I use when using or preparing dubbing. Apart from the hands none are essential, but they do make life easier.

What can I use for dubbing?


There are literally thousands of commercially available dubbing materials and 100x’s that in materials you can utilize for a dubbing medium.

Below are a few selections, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here we have a selection of commercially available synthetic or part sythetic dubbings.
Polypropylene, SLF, Spectrablend, Antron, Glister, Lite-Brite and Mohair with a bit of flash added.

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Here we have a selection of natural materials on the skin.
Snowshoe Rabbit, Mole, Fox Squirrel, Mink, Hare’s Mask. You can use virtually any animal fur as a dubbing medium.

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Here is a selection of fur taken from the skin.
The top row is three different blends of fur taken from a Hare’s mask. The darkest one on the right is the dark hair taken from near the tip of the ear.
The bottom row is Mole and Rabbit.

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This is a small selection of dyed and blended dubbings of my own. They are mainly a blend of Seals Fur, Rabbit, Antron and Hare.

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Not to forget Seals Fur. An important point to remember when buying seal’s fur is to buy baby Seal, some places sell adult seal. Adult seal is, quite simply, a pig to work with. Avoid it like the plague!

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Finally we have a selection of materials many wouldn’t normally associate with dubbing.
Mending Yarn, Wool, Egg Yarn, Sparkle Yarn and Zelon. All of these, and things like carpet yarn and a million other unusual items can be used as a dubbing medium. I will cover how to use these later in the post.

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What is pictured is only a tiny selection of what’s available. A look through the many step by steps will give you a fair idea of what dubbings are the preferred choice for particular styles/patterns of flies.

Properties of some dubbing materials.

There are so many different types of dubbing available that it would be impossible for me to show and explain them all.
So below is a resume of some of my favourite dubbings and what I use them for. (Mainly)
It is not meant to be a comprehensive list or appraisal of the various dubbings available. Any brands or types or their uses mentioned are purely for reference, they are not necessarily my recommendations.
What I want you to take from the post is a basic understanding of some of the dubbings that I use and why. With experience you will develop your own favourites and when to use them.

When choosing your dubbing you have many choices, do you want a natural or synthetic dubbing, do you want the texture to be coarse, medium or fine, should the dubbing absorb water or not? At this point you’re probably thinking; Crikey! How do I know? Well it’s not as difficult to decide as you might think; it’s really just a process of elimination…

Natural or synthetic? This is probably the most difficult choice you will have to make, and one that only experience can really teach you. Personally I tend to err on the side of natural for wet flies and synthetic for dry flies. The main reasons for my choices are that natural materials tend to absorb water and I think they have a more life-like appearance on wet flies, though some of the synthetics dubbings available to us now come close to the appearance of natural dubbings, and are also an excellent choice. Most synthetics dubbings do not absorb water and many are lighter than water, so make a good choice for dry flies. There are many exceptions though, natural materials which come from water-borne animals such as beavers, seals and otters also make excellent dry fly dubbing. To add to the confusion, modern floatants such as Watershed, Dilly Wax and Gink are so good as to virtually eliminate any problems of water absorption! So this is one choice that only experience will teach you. It may even be down to simply choosing natural materials because you don’t like synthetics or vice-versa because you don’t want to use fur from a dead animal!

Fine, medium or coarse texture? Many things can affect your choice here. Do you want a tight or smooth body, if yes then generally this will easier to achieve with a fine textured dubbing. If no, you want a fuzzy body with little or no defined shape, then maybe a medium or coarse textured dubbing would be a better choice. Hook size can also affect your choice, if you’re tying very small flies for example, a fine textured dubbing would, generally, be a better choice.

Should it absorb water or not? If it’s a wet fly then a dubbing which absorbs water can be an advantage, once it is wet it may help the fly sink. If it doesn’t absorb water you may need to weight the fly to help it sink. If it’s a dry fly, a dubbing which absorbs water may be a disadvantage, so one that doesn’t absorb water may be a better choice.
So as you can see by a process of elimination you can make your choices a little easier. Though as stated above, with experience you will soon develop your own personal favourites to suit particular flies.

Let’s look at some commonly available examples, but remember these are just a few of my chosen favourites and are not meant as recommendations.

HARE’S MASK

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The picture above is a blend of hare’s mask fur taken from the cheeks of the mask. By choosing fur from different places on the hare’s mask you can get a range of colours from a pale fawn (as above), through ginger to dark grey. (Almost black)
The texture is fine to medium, depending on the part of the mask it came from.
I use hare’s mask for a variety of nymphs, wet and dry flies. It touch dubs well and you can also form a noodle with it for dubbing loops. It is also very easy to twist dub. You can alter the spikiness of hare by controlling the guard hare to underfur ratio. More guard hares = spikier dubbing.
This is a picture of the mask, as you can see there is a huge range of colours and textures.

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SQUIRREL

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The picture above is squirrel fur taken from the back of a red fox squirrel pelt. Squirrel is similar to hare’s fur, and as such can be used in the same situations as hare.

RABBIT

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Rabbit is another with similar properties to hare, and again, can be used in the same situations. The underfur is a little softer than hare’s and squirrel underfur. I tend to use rabbit more as a binding agent when blending coarser dubbing.

MOLE

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Mole is fine textured and short fibred with no guard hairs. This is a great fur to use for touch dubbing.

BEAVER

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This is dyed beaver underfur; a fine textured dubbing, great for forming slim bodies on dry flies.

MUSKRAT

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This is muskrat underfur. Similar in texture to beaver, and like beaver it can be used to make nice slim bodies on dry flies.

SEAL’S FUR

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Seal’s fur is a medium textured dubbing with a unique translucence and sheen. This is the dubbing (IMHO) to use on traditional style wet flies and on dry flies such as the Shipman’s Buzzer.

FLY-RITE

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Fly-rite is one of a plethora of fine textured synthetic dubbings available. It doesn’t absorb water and is also lighter than water, making it ideal for medium to small to tiny dry flies.

SPIRIT RIVER FINE AND DRY

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Another fine textured synthetic similar to Fly-rite above. There are so many of these types of dubbing available that it really is a case of “take your pick”

WCB FLYTING EASY DUB

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Another synthetic similar to the two above, but this one is a slightly coarser texture. This is good for medium to larger dry flies. It is also great for the dubbing noodle technique shown below.

ORVIS SPECTRABLEND

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Orvis Spectrablend is one of my favourite “all round” dubbings. On its own it makes great bodies on nymphs or dry flies, it is also great for blending with natural furs, such as hare’s mask, to add a little sparkle. According to Orvis it incorporates translucent and reflective trilobal Antron fibers to add sparkle to any fly.

SLF MASTER CLASS FINESSE BLEND

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This is another favourite of mine. SLF stands for Synthetic living fibre. I like to use it for bodies and thoraxes on small buzzers and as a substitute for seal’s fur on small wet flies. It is also good on medium to small dry flies.

HARELINE DUBBIN, INC ICE DUB

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Ice dub is a medium textured sparkly dubbing, great for blending with natural dubbings such as hare’s mask to add a little bit of sparkle, or on its own it can be used to add a “hot spot” to any fly.

VENIARDS GLISTER DUBBING

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Glister is a medium to coarse textured sparkly dubbing. Like ice dubbing this can be blended with natural dubbings to give an extra sparkle to them, or used on its own to add “hot spots”

As I said at the beginning of this post these are just a few of my favourite dubbing. There are literally hundreds more to choose from, available in a huge variety of colours and textures.
In time you will find your own favourites and their uses, but until then, hopefully the above will help you to make your choices a little less haphazardly!

Preparing Dubbing.

There are various ways of preparing your dubbing. Below I have outlined some of the most common methods. I am only showing you how to prepare them here and a few examples of flies tied with the prepared dubbing. Their application is shown in separate step by steps.

Natural Furs.
The main technique for harvesting natural fur is by using a dubbing rake. There are many dubbing rakes available ready made. You can also make one yourself using a hacksaw blade attached to a piece of Dowling, or similar. I personally use commercially available ones. My weapon of choice being the “Ceramiscrape” made by Lawrence Waldron.

Pictured here are a Stonefly dubbing rake, a Ken Newton dubbing rake and the “Ceramiscrape.” The first two do the job very well, the “Ceramiscrape” is, in my opinion, exceptional.

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Using a dubbing rake is a simple process.

Simply draw the rake (under pressure) across the fur, following the direction that the fur lays.
I have shown you here on a Fox Squirrel skin, but the process is the same on all skins.

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After two or three draws you will have a decent amount of ready mixed dubbing.

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Here in close up you can see the blend of underfur and spikey guard hairs achieved.

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This is mole using the same technique.

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If you don’t have a dubbing rake, another technique you can use on mole is to scrape a razor blade over the fur. Razor blades are sharp, exorcise extreme caution when using!

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The result

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Seal’s Fur dubbing almost always come ready to use, but in some cases the staple length of the fur is too long.

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The “fix” is simply a case of tearing it a few times between your fingers.

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You will then be left with a more manageable medium.

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Other dubbing mediums

Wool

As well as normal dubbing mediums such as animal furs and purpose made synthetic dubbing you can also use a range of mediums found in the average flytying kit and/or sewing/knitting box.
Most of these mediums will need some simple preparation before you can use them.
One of the most common items available is wool. It comes in a variety of colours, is cheap and easy to use.

To prepare the wool you will need the following. A fine toothed comb and a pair of scissors.
The comb shown is a nit comb I purchased from Boots for this job.

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Now simply comb the wool to separate the strands. Do a small section at a time, if you try to do too much it will get stuck.

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Once you’ve combed it a few times it will look like this.

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Remove it from the comb.

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Then cut it in to short to medium lengths.

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Finally, work it a little in your fingers and it’s ready to use.

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Whilst combing some of the fibres will stick in the comb.

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Pull these out and work in your fingers as well.

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Shown here is a fly dubbed with a body of black wool prepared using the technique shown.

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You can also use the same technique on other mediums as well.

Shown here is a trainer shoe lace prepared in the same way.

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Here is one tied with the prepared shoe lace used as the dubbing.

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You can also use mediums such as floss and mending yarn. These don’t need combed. Simply cut into short to medium, varying lengths, then after working a little in your fingers they are ready to use.

Floss.

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A fly tied with a dubbed floss body.

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Mending Yarn.

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A fly tied with a dubbed mending yarn body.

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Z-Lon.

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A fly tied with a body of touch dubbed Z-Lon.

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As you can see the materials you can use are almost limitless. By using the simple techniques shown here you can turn almost any medium into a usable dubbing.

Blending

Blending is a technique you can use to mix different colours and textures of dubbing.
Blending is also a useful technique to use if you have a dubbing which is too coarse to dub on its own. By adding a suitable dubbing, as a binding agent, such as rabbit you can turn an unusable dubbing into a usable dubbing.
Most of the dubbing blends here contain adult seal’s fur which is almost impossible to dub on its own, but by adding some rabbit and other materials, I made a perfectly usable dubbing with a nice mix of textures.

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There are various ways of blending. If you have large amounts of dubbing to blend it’s best done mixed with warm water in a food processor/blender.
For most of us though we are only blending small amounts.
For blending small amounts of dubbing, enough for just a few flies, hand blending is perfectly adequate.
Hand blending is simply a case of working the fibres together then pulling them apart several times in your hands.

Here I am blending Red, yellow and natural Seal’s fur.

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I work them together and pull apart repeatedly with my fingers.

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In a short time I have a nice blended dubbing ready for use.

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For larger amounts of dubbing a great tool is an electric coffee grinder. These make great dubbing blender.

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A point to remember with coffee grinders is that they do not cut the dubbing, so if the staple length of the dubbing is too long, you will have tear or cut it to more manageable lengths before you blend it.

Here I have the same colours of Seal’s Fur that I have just hand blended.

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Pop the lid on and give it a whizz.

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And it will turn it into a nicely blended dubbing.

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As shown on this fly here.

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Here I have added some Hare’s mask and Flash-Brite to the original mix.

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After a whizz.

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A fly with the resultant mix.

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A different blend of colours of the same materials.

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Whizz, and..

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A fly with the new blend.

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Finally here is a blend of Muskrat underfur and roughly chopped CDC fibres.

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After a whizz.

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And the fly tied with the mix.

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I could go on showing you an innumerable amount of possibilities, but hopefully I’ve given you enough for your imagination to run riot or at least a good grounding of the principles involved.

WAX

Where dubbing is concerned this is a contentious issue!

There are many tyers who swear by wax and there are many who think wax is unnecessary. I am firmly in the unnecessary camp.
If you wish to use wax or think that wax will make dubbing easier then use it. This is just my opinion, it is not set in stone. If you are unsure, listen to what I and others have to say then experiment your self and come to your own conclusions.
There are two reasons I don’t wax. The first is it is simply unnecessary. In the picture below I have dubbed, from left to right, Squirrel, Seals Fur, Orvis Spectrablend, Flash Bright and Glister. All without wax and onto copper wire. Proof, I think, that wax is unnecessary.

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The reason that wax is unnecessary is that when you apply dubbing to the thread you are only using the thread as a convenient core for the dubbing noodle. The dubbing is simply a mish-mash of tangled fibres held together by its self and around a central core. It does not stick to the thread. You can see what I mean in this close up from the picture above.

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If you use wax you may find it easier to get the material onto the thread, but you are only using a work around for bad technique. Surely it is better to master good technique!

By using wax you also lose the second reason I don’t use wax… control.
When I apply dubbing to the thread I can control, by sliding, where I want it.

Here I have dubbed some Hare’s Ear to the thread, as you can see there is a gap between the dubbing and the hook. If I had waxed the thread first I would have had to make two or three turns of thread before I started forming the dubbed body.

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Because I have not used wax I can now position the dubbing where I want it, by simply sliding it up the thread core.

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This means that from the very first turn of thread I will be forming the dubbed body.

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As I said at the beginning if you want to use wax or think that wax is necessary then use it. I am only offering my opinion on the subject along with the reasons why I have come to these conclusions.

Twist (Direct) Dubbing

Ok, you now (hopefully) have a good idea of what you can use and how to prepare it. So it’s time to learn how to apply it.
The first technique I’m going to show you is the simple twist dub, sometimes called Direct dubbing. This is probably the most common technique and the one you will undoubtedly use the most. I have shown the technique here using seal’s fur, the technique is the same no matter what medium you use.
I have highlighted a few words and phrases, pay particular attention to them.

Let’s just remind you of how you prepare it first.
Remember that this preparation is only necessary for dubbing with a long staple length. On dubbing such as hare’s ear you can omit this step.

Take a pinch of dubbing.

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Then repeatedly push it together and pull/tear it apart to work the fibres into more manageable lengths.

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You’re now ready to apply to the thread. Two things to remember here are “less is better” and “little and often!”
“Less is better?” Most beginners and many experienced tyers use too much dubbing. Try not to fall into that trap by using much less than you think you’ll need. You will be surprised at how far a tiny pinch of dubbing will go.
“Little and often?” It is easier to add more dubbing than it is to remove excess. With experience you can usually judge how much you need, but to begin with it is better to use less.

Right, let’s get some fur round that thread!
To get the dubbing round the thread core we have to twist it round the thread. You can twist it clockwise or anticlockwise, the choice is yours. I twist clockwise which is shown in the instructions. If you prefer to twist anticlockwise, the instructions are exactly the same, the only difference being the direction of the twist.
Only ever twist the dubbing in one direction. Do not twist it back and forwards!
Take a small pinch of your prepared dubbing. Offer it up to the thread between your index finger and thumb. Then push your thumb forward (to the left as shown) and at the same time draw your finger back. (To the right as shown) This will cause the dubbing to twist round the thread core between your finger and thumb.

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At the same time as you are twisting the dubbing you need to apply pressure between your finger and thumb, meaning you squeeze and twist at the same time.

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Repeat these motions several times until you are happy with the resulting dubbed thread. You can let go at any time to check. Also at any time you can twist the dubbing to tighten it. By varying the amount of pressure you can dramatically alter the finished effect, which is something you will learn with experience. To begin with you can apply too little pressure, but you can’t apply too much! Too little pressure is a very common fault with beginners.

Done correctly you will be left with something like this.

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As you can see I have only used a little here. Not enough to cover the whole body, but it is easy to add a little more if necessary.

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Now start wrapping to form the body. You will notice that I have slid the dubbing up the thread so that the body is being formed from the very first turn.

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It’s now simply a case of wrapping towards the hook eye to form the completed body. Notice that there is a gap between the end of the body and the hook eye. If this was a fly I was tying I could now add another small pinch of dubbing to complete the body. Much easier than using too much and having to pinch it off.

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This is a simple fairly level body such as I would use on a Shipman’s Buzzer or similar fly.
As I mentioned earlier you can affect the final appearance by varying the amount of pressure you apply to the dubbing. Here I have applied much more pressure at the start of the dubbing than at the end. Of course, as you can see I’ve also added a little more dubbing at the end as well. The result of using one or both techniques is a tapered body. By varying the pressure and/or the amount of dubbing and its placement you can easily build a ready made taper into the body. Which technique or techniques you use or prefer is something you will learn with experience.

The tapered dubbing noodle.

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The effect.

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That is twist dubbing, a fairly simple process. By following the few simple guidelines above and with a little practice you will soon master this technique.
Pay particular attention to the pressure. As mentioned earlier, one of the most common mistakes beginners make is applying too little pressure when squeezing and twisting the dubbing.

The following are a few ideas for you to contemplate and, hopefully, find inspiration from.

Here I have wrapped a body of copper wire, then twist dubbed the wire with a little fiery brown seal’s fur and wrapped it back up as a rib.

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Here I have wrapped a yellow silk body and tied in a gold wire rib, then twist dubbed the wire with super fine dry fly dub before wrapping to form the rib.

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Finally this one is a body of black Orvis Spectrablend ribbed with oval gold tinsel twist dubbed with a little Peacock Spectrablend.

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TOUCH DUBBING


Touch dubbing is a versatile technique, most suited to mediums with a short staple length, mole being a classic example. Many other mediums can be used though, such as Hare’s Ear and Z-Lon (shown in the preparation posting)
Touch dubbing is the only technique I use wax on. There are several makes of wax suitable for touch dubbing, the one I use is BT’s Dubbing Wax, distributed by Veniards. As well as wax you can also use glue sticks, such as Pritt stick.
BT’s Dubbing Wax is supplied in two formulas, tacky for flies size 12 and smaller, and super tacky for flies size 10 and larger. I must admit I use super tacky almost all the time.

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When using dubbing wax you want a thin, even coating of wax on the thread. If your wax looks like this you will find it impossible.

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A tip I recently picked up is to simply wipe it on a post-it note to remove all the gunk.

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One you’ve done that you will find it easy to achieve an even coat.

To touch dub, apply a light even coat of wax to the thread. One or two wipes with the wax are all that is needed.

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Once coated, take your dubbing medium, in this case mole fur, and simply touch it against the waxed thread.

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A few fibres will stick to the wax.

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As you can see there are only a few fibres stuck to the thread in this example. When you wrap to form the body the thread will show through the dubbing.

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You can vary this effect by altering the amount of dubbing you allow to adhere to the wax. Here I’ve been heavier handed with the “touch”

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Which, when wrapped will give a fuller appearance to the resulting body.

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That’s all there is to it, a simple but very versatile technique, which with practice and experience you will be able to achieve whichever effect you want from the merest hint of dubbing to a full fat body.

Here are some variations on the theme again for inspiration.

Light hare’s mask touch dubbed on gold wire and wrapped as a rib.

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Green wire touch dubbed with olive hare’s ear blend and wrapped as a rib.

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Claret mole touch dubbed on an orange grizzle stripped hackle and wrapped to form the body.

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TWIST AND TOUCH


A variation on the touch dubbing theme is the twist and touch. Basically the same technique, but with a twist.

Apply wax to the thread as above and touch the waxed thread with the dubbing (I’ve used dyed claret mole here) but this time as you touch the dubbing against the waxed thread, twist the thread clockwise with your other hand.

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Continue doing this until you have the required amount of dubbing on the thread.

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Then when you wrap the dubbed thread you will see a different effect from the normal touch dubbed thread.

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As with the normal touch dubbing technique you can vary the amount of dubbing to influence the final outcome.


THE DUBBING LOOP


This is the traditional dubbing loop. It is a stronger dubbing loop than the split thread loop because you are effectively forming a loop of two threads thickness, as opposed to the split thread loop where you split a single thread. Its obvious advantage is its strength, making it ideal for coarser or bulkier dubbings. Its one real disadvantage is that because you are effectively doubling the thread thickness, bulk can become an issue, though in most situations the issue is very minor. After forming the loop the techniques involved in applying the dubbing are identical to the split thread loop.
For this technique you will need a dubbing whorl, shown here. This tool is used to spin the loop, doing the job the bobbin does in the split thread loop.

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To form the loop..

Wrap the thread to the mid point of the hook shank, then lengthen the amount of thread from the bobbin to the hook, take it round your finger(s) and back up to the hook.

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Then continue wrapping the thread down (to the left) the hook shank, trapping both legs of the loop as you go.

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When you reach the point where you want the dubbing loop to be, stop wrapping and take the loop in your other hand.

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Then take the working thread and wrap it once round the loop next to the hook shank. This closes the loop at the hook shank.

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Now attach the dubbing whorl to the loop and you’re ready to use the loop.

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At this point I normally hang one leg of the loop over the star wheel of my vice to keep it open, using the weight of the whorl to keep a tension on the loop. If you leave it to just hang it will invariable spin of its own accord, you will then have to unspin it. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience all the same and easily avoided.

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As said above, the techniques used to apply the dubbing to the dubbing loop are identical to the split thread loop.

Here I have applied seal’s fur to one leg of the loop.

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As before, remove your fingers and the loop closes.

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Now spin the dubbing whorl.

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And the dubbing rope is formed.

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Now wrap your dubbing rope to form the body. When you reach the end of the body tie the dubbing rope off the same as you would any other material.

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The body finished and the rope tied off.

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In this sequence I have inserted a small seals fur dubbing noodle into the loop.

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Then spun the whorl to form the dubbing rope.

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Finally, wrapping and tying off the rope.

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Some more ideas for you to mull over and amuse yourself with.

Here I tied in 3 peacock herls then twisted them round one leg of the loop and applied a pinch of peacock Orvis Spectrablend to the other leg. Then spun them and wrapped the resultant rope to form an interesting body.

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One final idea for you.

Here I have twist dubbed some fiery brown flash bright onto one leg and on the other leg I have twist dubbed black and orange seal’s fur.

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Then spun the loop to form the rope, and wrapped to form the body.

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Then a rub with Velcro, and..

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Split Thread Dubbing Loop

Firstly, apologies in advance. Due to the complexities involved in photographing some of the following sequences, some of the pictures are a little lower quality than I would have liked. But, until I can get a couple of extra pairs of arms they are the best I can do. Don’t worry though; they are clear enough to allow you to see everything.
Dubbing loops are the most versatile techniques you can have at your disposal. As you will hopefully see in this and the next three posts, the opportunities are almost endless. We’ll start with the split thread dubbing loop, this is, I think the most useful of the “loop” techniques. You can employ it to tie everything from large saltwater patterns all the way down to size 32 midges if you want. Its main advantages are that it’s quick and easy to perform, and it adds little if any bulk to the dressing. It doesn’t really have any disadvantages, the only thing you have to be aware of is that because you are splitting the thread it won’t be as strong as the traditional dubbing loop (shown in the next post) but, unless you are try to use coarse dubbing mediums, strength doesn’t really come in to it. Thread is not particularly strong and there is a limit to how much you spin it, it would be impossible for me to demonstrate just how far you can go, but with both the split thread and the traditional dubbing loops you will very quickly learn how much spin you can apply without breaking the thread.

Although the techniques employed to form the split thread and the traditional dubbing loop are different, once formed the techniques employed to apply the dubbing are the exact same for both loops.
Thread choice is important for the split thread dubbing techniques. Basically there are two types of thread, bonded and unbonded. Bonded threads are twisted and stuck together (for want of a better description) Unbonded thread is not stuck together. The bonded thread that springs to mind is UNI Thread, I’m sure there are others too. What this means is that because of the manufacturing process it is very difficult to split the thread. So for the spit thread loop it is best to use an unbonded thread. Typical unbonded threads are UTC, Benecchi, Roman Moser Power Silk, Gudebrod, (Gudebrod no longer make flytying threads, but there are plenty of places which still have stock left) Danville’s and Gordon Griffiths.
All of the above unbonded threads are suitable for the split thread loop. For reference I have used UTC70 in the following sequences.
Because you will need to flatten the thread to split it, it is important to know that all threads with the exception of Pearsall’s silks are spun clockwise. This means that to flatten them you will need to spin them anti-clockwise and when you spin the loop to form the dubbing rope you will need to spin them clockwise.

Below is a picture of bonded (on the left) and unbonded (on the right) threads. You can easily see which one is going to be the easiest to split.

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To form a split thread loop wrap a layer of thread to where you want the loop formed, then spin the bobbin anti-clockwise.

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If you’re lucky you will have a flat spot where the thread hangs off the hook. When to spot when you have spun the thread enough to take the twist out of it is something you will learn with very little practice. If you don’t get the flat spot next to the hook you can lay the tread, tensioned by the weight of the bobbin, across your index finger, then slide you finger up and down the thread a few times and you should be able to split the thread then.

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To split the thread take a dubbing needle or darning needle or similar and preferably one with a blunt point and insert it through the (roughly) middle of the thread. Don’t worry, it sounds difficult, but in reality with a little practice it is actually quite easy.

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You can see the split better here.

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Once you have split it, gently coax the thread loop open until you can get your finger(s) into it, then continue coaxing it open until you have a loop large enough to work with. If the loop sticks when you are opening it, try turning the bobbing anti-clockwise a few turns, this will usually sort the problem. Occasionally though you will encounter a spool of thread which doesn’t split well. In this case try a different spool of thread.

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That’s all there is to it.
You now have several choices on how you apply the dubbing.
The first technique here is to simply twist dub (See the twist dubbing post) the thread on one side of the loop.

Here I am twist dubbing some hare’s ear onto the thread. I am keeping the thread open with the fingers of my other hand.

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Once you have enough dubbing on the thread..

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Remove your fingers from the loop allowing the loop to close.

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Then pinch the loop immediately below the dubbed portion.

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Then with the loop pinched spin the bobbin holder clockwise.

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When you think it has spun enough stop and hold the bobbin holder, then let go of the loop. The twist will shoot up the loop twisting the dubbing and loop into a dubbing rope. If need be you can “force” the twist up the thread by holding the bobbin in one hand and gripping the thread at the end of the bobbin with the index finger and thumb of your other hand, then sliding your fingers up towards the dubbing rope will “force” the twist up. If you haven’t put enough twist into the thread, simply repeat the process until you have. Once done it should look something like this.

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Now it is a simple case of wrapping it to form the body. With practice you will learn how much dubbing to use so that the dubbing will run out exactly where you want it to.

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As with the other dubbing techniques, with practice, you will be able to affect the final outcome by varying the amount of dubbing you use.
Another technique you can employ is to insert a dubbing noodle into the loop. This dubbing noodle is slightly different to the one shown in the noodle dubbing post in so much as the noodle is formed completely in the hand.
To form the noodle take a pinch of dubbing, hare’s ear here.

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Then place it in the palm of your hand and using the index finger of your other hand gently roll it and work it…

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Until you have a loose noodle like this.

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Now form your split thread loop exactly as before and this time insert the noodle between the two threads of the loop.

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Then, as before withdraw your fingers to close the loop.

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Then grip the thread loop just below the dubbing noodle.

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Then spin the bobbin clockwise to form the dubbing rope.

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Finally wrapping as before to form the body.

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This next technique is great for forming legs or, in this case, a hair hackle.

Form your loop exactly as described above. Then take a pinch of guard hairs, I’ve taken these ones from a fox squirrel pelt, in a bulldog type clip.

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Then insert them into the loop. Once you have them in the loop, close and grip it, then release the guard hairs from the clip.

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Adjust them for length by gently pulling on either the tips, to make them longer, or the butts to shorten them. Then carefully trim the butts close to the thread.

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Then, again, exactly as above, grip the thread and spin the bobbin to form your dubbing rope.

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This time when you wrap the rope, stroke the fibres back (to the left) with each wrap of the rope.

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When you’ve done it should look something like this.

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So there you have three techniques you can employ with the split thread loop. There are a few variations, (which will appear in future step by steps) but these three are all that you will need to master the techniques involved.
You can use one, two or all three techniques in a great many flies.
Here is one example of a hare’s ear type nymph where I have twist dubbed the thread onto the loop to form the body. Then I’ve inserted a dubbing noodle into the loop for the thorax. Finally forming a hair hackle to finish the fly.

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Here’s one simple variation though for you.

Try dubbing both sides of the loop with different dubbing. To let you see the effect better here, I’ve dubbed one side with black beaver and the other side with white beaver.

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Spin the loop as above and it looks like this.

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And wrapped it looks like this.

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Here is a fly I’ve tied as above, but this time I’ve used olive and yellow beaver. The thorax was formed from a split thread loop with a noodle of olive hare’s ear blend inserted. The effect is subtle and, I think, attractive.

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If you want to get complicated you can combine the dubbing loop and split thread loop!

Here I have formed a dubbing loop then split one leg of the loop and inserted an orange and a black slf dubbing noodle into the split thread. Then I inserted a pearl ice dub dubbing noodle in the dubbing loop.

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Then gave it a spin for an interesting dubbing rope.

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Wrapped to form the body.

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Then a rub with Velcro for the resulting body.

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As you can see, once you’ve mastered the basic techniques involved you can let your imagination and creativity run wild.

NOT A LOOP


Hopefully what follows will provide you with some inspiration and encourage you to sometimes “think out of the box”
Most of what is here is a direct result of the inspiration I have received looking at the techniques subtly introduced to us in the many recipes and pictures of flies posted here (and elsewhere) by, among others, Hans Weilenmann
The following are variations on the dubbing loop technique that opens up a myriad of possibilities, only a few of which I’ve shown below. As with the techniques shown above the only real limit is your imagination.

Here I have inserted some natural seal’s fur between two plys of sparkle yarn. Then gripped the resultant “loop” in a pair of rotating hackle pliers.

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Then using the hackle pliers as a dubbing twister I’ve twisted it into a dubbing rope which I have wrapped to form, in this instance, the whole fly.

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The result when you add water is..

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Doesn’t really look much like a fly though! But notice I left a portion of the yarn at the head free of dubbing.
A quick wipe or two with a brown marker pen and, I think, a very passable sedge pupa appears.

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Here I have inserted a hare’s mask blend of dubbing between 4 strands of pheasant tail fibres.

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Then twisted them with my rotating hackle pliers.

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The result is an interesting fuzzy body.

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Finally one here using 1 strand of green copper wire and 1 strand of red copper wire with a clear Antron noodle inserted between them.

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Then twisted with the rotating pliers again.

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And wrapped to form a body.

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Finally a rub with Velcro.

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The effect when wet is interesting to say the least.

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Once again you can see some of the interesting results that are possible when you let your imagination run riot.
Have fun!

DUBBING NOODLE


This is a technique I rarely use, but it is a useful technique to have in your armoury. Its main use is for bodies on larger flies. This technique is only really suitable for dubbings mediums with a medium to long staple length. Mediums such as Hare’s Ear, Mole, Squirrel, Seal’s Fur, etc don’t really lend themselves to this technique.
For reference the dubbing I have used here is WCB flytying supplies “Easy Dub” a synthetic dubbing.

Wind the thread half way down the hook shank.

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Take a wad of dubbing and pull some out, then twist the end to a point.

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Then tie it in.

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Now place the dubbing next to the thread.

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Then pinch the dubbing and thread between your fingers. Don’t pinch too tight, you want the dubbing to feed from the wad as you wrap.

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Now start wrapping. With this technique you do not twist the dubbing onto the thread. Any twisting is imparted naturally during the wrapping process.

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Keep wrapping and feeding from the wad until you reach the tie-off point.

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Separate the thread from the dubbing and then tie in the end of the dubbing noodle.

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And that’s it, a quick and easy way to apply a larger amount of dubbing to the hook. It’s also much stronger than normal dubbing techniques.
I scrubbed this much harder than I normally would with a Velcro brush.

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Had I scrubbed the same material, twist dubbed, as hard I don’t think there would have been much left! But with this technique..

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A simple example of this techniques usefulness..

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THE DOUBLE LOOP

I swithered on whether to include this technique or not. It is a little used technique, but decided to include it anyway, if for no other reason than it’s here if you want it. This is the double loop, for use with very coarse dubbings. In this instance Deer hair dubbing. This one from Roman Moser is a blend of Deer hair and synthetic fibres. You can also use Deer hair cut from the hide if you like.

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As its name suggests this technique utilizes two loops. The obvious advantage is its strength. Its one disadvantage is bulk, though again, in reality it is a really minor disadvantage.
The dubbing whorl used for the dubbing loop is not up to the task for this technique, the sprung wire is not strong enough to tighten the spun rope tight enough. You need to use a different tool.
The dubbing twister.

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This tool differs from the dubbing whorl in that rather than spinning it to form the dubbing rope, you simply twist it with your fingers to form the rope.

To begin, wrap the thread to around the midpoint of the hook shank.

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Then start by forming a normal dubbing loop using the dubbing twister as an aid. Unlike the normal dubbing loop you do not take a turn of thread round the loop.

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Then wrap the thread towards the bend and over the legs of the dubbing loop.

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Once you have reached the bend, wrap the thread back up the body (to the right) for three or four turns.

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Then form a second loop. You need both loops to be the same length, so form the second loop using the dubbing twister to ensure both loops are the same length.

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Let’s take a little break here and go over how to form and use the double loop in a little more detail. Because of the difficulties of trying to photograph this one with the deer hair dubbing I’m using a synthetic dubbing noodle to simulate the dubbing. The noodle makes it much easier for me to photograph and it will also let you see things in more detail.

So here I’ve formed the first loop and this time I’ve taken the thread much further up the hook shank so that you can see the loops and how to use them easier.

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The second loop formed.

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As you can see here with the dubbing twister removed we have two separate loops. The dubbing will go between the two loops.

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Here the dubbing twister is back on and I’ve arrowed where the dubbing will be inserted.

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Here I’ve re-done the loops closer together and inserted the dubbing noodle.

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Before you twist the dubbing into a rope you have to take one turn of thread round both loops to pinch them together at the top.

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Next I’ve taken the thread up to the shoulder of the fly, where the body will be tied off.

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Make the first turn of the dubbing rope at an angle as shown so that your dubbed body starts at the end.

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Hopefully that’s made things a little clearer for you.
OK, break over, so now it’s back to the deer hair..

Once formed you can insert your dubbing material into the loop.

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Then take one turn of thread round the two loops to close them at the top, then twist the dubbing twister clockwise to begin forming the rope.

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Keep twisting until you have the formed rope.

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Then wrap the dubbing rope to form the body. Stroke the fibres back with each wrap of the rope.

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Then when you have the body formed tie the rope off.

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Then all you have to do is trim the hair to shape with scissors.

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Here I’ve added a wing of cow elk hair to make a simple, but durable sedge.

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Well finally you’ve reached the end!
I don’t think there’s much to add, from me at least! But as always, the experiences and thoughts of others are most welcome.


The last of the mohicans (step by step fly tying)

The last of the mohikans

Say the word “Baetis” to someone and most will just look at you strangely. Say “Ephemerella” and  and they will start to think you have gotten some kind of stroke, and when you say “Lebtholebia” you might just get a kick in the groin! But if you say these words to a trout fly fisherman he or she will get a very special look in the eyes and you will instantly see how he or she drifts away in the thoughts reminiscing on that special occasion when that special fish rose to the fly. In other words, there are no insect more connected to trout fly fishing than the family of Ephemeroptera; the mayflies! The life cycle, the explosive hatches, the “live hard – die young” attitude and the way the fish stops eating all else when they start to hatch have all contributed to the legends of the mayflies.

We all have our inspirational sources, persons that can be regarded as having had a significant effect on us. Fly fishing and fly tying is no exception, most people doing it have someone that they regard as their inspiration, idol or even hero. To a caster it might be someone like Mel Krieger or Hywel Morgan, to a salmon fisher it can be Mikael Frödin, to a trout fisherman it can be someone like Garry LaFontain. Honestly there are so many fantastic profiles in our sport so many of us have several heros that we look up to. When it comes to Fly tying itself I have a few people who have affected my tying more than others, the already mentioned Mr LaFontain being one, people like Doug Swisher & Carl Richard, Poul Jorgensen, Bob Clouser etc. are others and of course Oliver Edwards. I can’t remember exactly when I saw his flies the first time but I know that the first I saw was the Hydropsyche larva and the second I saw was the Mohican mayfly, those two flies alone sent me off on an exciting journey in my fly tying that I hopefully never will finish. Honestly, he was the reason my fly tying changed from just a mean to fill my box to an obsession.

All great fly patterns have a habit of spawning variants and side development where people change material, simplifies things and changes the original to fit their needs and their waters. This is exactly what I have done with my adoption and experimentation from the Mohican mayfly. It has developed to something quite a bit from the original to something that can almost be described as my own pattern, the SRM dun. As brilliant as the Mohican mayfly is it is not the easiest of fly to tie and in its original design it is not suitable to tie in smaller sizes for the mid and small range mayflies, it’s a pure Danica/Vulgata imiation. To be honest for me it was the complexity of the Mohican that made me start tampering with it some seven years ago, but things that I did with it also meant that it got possible for me to tie it in smaller sizes. This meant I had much more use for it over a longer period of the season because now I could use it for the early Lebtholebia hatches of early may, for the big olives and Aurivilli of the summer and for the late Stoneclingers of early fall.

So when does a variant of a fly pattern get so far from the original so that it end up being a different pattern? I look at internet forums and see people add a tail to the Klinkhammer fly and call it the “Jeff’s lethal emerger” and claim it to be a new pattern just because of that tail. I have certainly changed the original Mohican mayfly quite a bit with this fly, but I still give Mr. Edwards credit because I know that without the original this fly wouldn’t ever have been borned.

I think that the only thing that I have kept from the original is that I do the extended body of foam on a needle. All others I have experimented away and changed, and even though there is a hackle in “my” pattern aswell it is used differently than in the original. It is surprising how few people actually know and feel comfortable with the technique of doing extended foam bodies on a needle. This is something that is far from limited to only mayfly imitations; sedges and stoneflies and even terrestrials like hoppers can easily be tied with this technique, and it is a great way to learn thread control as well as adding a realism to any dry fly. Personally I will like to use quite thin foam, 0,5 mm or 1 mm, even for larger patterns. The reason for this being that even though foam has good floating abilities it is quiet heavy when it is thick, and keeping the foam thin will make a much lighter fly which sits better on the surface IMO. Another thing that I changed is the wing for the same reason; the deer hair in the original simply is just too heavy and clumsy on the smaller sizes. Started out with poly yarn but these days I find myself using the TMC aero wing instead.

It is interesting sometimes with fishing. This fly has worked good for most hatches but it has worked absolutely flawlessly excellent for one particular mayfly hatch, the one of the Stoneclingers; the Heptagenias. Theories, theories, theories, all we have some time are very little fact and a lot of theories.  Well my theory for this is the fact that no other mayfly sits longer on the surface after hatching than the Heptagenia, and since the SRM Dun sits quite deep on the surface it makes a very good footprint on the surface no matter how long you leave it there.

I normally will fish it close to a dead drift upstream or across, depending the circumstances I can sometime give it a little twitch to get it to just skip over the surface. One thing that works very well sometimes in fast currents is to let it swing downstream and let the current pull it under and fish it home almost like a streamer against the current, works extremely well for trout in most northern rivers in Sweden.

Tying it is straight forward once you get the hang of it.

–          The smaller the imitation the smaller you should make the segments in the foam.

–          A thin tying thread will allow for more wraps around every segment which will give you a more durable fly.

–          If you keep the foam strip on the underside narrower you will get more of an angle to the hackle and get a fly that rides higher on the surface.

–          Keeping six segments on the body is a good measurement for the right proportion of the fly.

–          Using an emerger hook like the Partridge 16BNX will keep the main point of gravity much more central to the fly, making it more balanced.

 

Step by step description

Materials:
Hook: Partridge 16BNX size 16-20
Thread:White Sheer 14/0
Tails: Syntetic mayfly tails
Body: 0.5 -1.0 mm foam double folded and tied on a needle
Wing: TMC Aero wing
Hackle: Good quality dry fly hackle.

Step one

Take your foam and cut it into a long strip about 2 mm wide.  Fold it double and at the folding point cut off the corners of the foam so that when unfolded it looks like a bowtie.

Step two.

When unfolded cut down the four “corners” of the crease to create a more smoothly tapered shape like this.

Step three

Insert a needle in the vise. I like to use a dressmakers pin with the head cut off. Now carefully insert the foam in the middle at the most narrowest point of the tapering.

Step four

Now pull gently on the foam upwards to open up the hole in it slightly and take the tails and insert them into the hole in the foam as well, takes a little practice but you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Step five

Now tie in your thread close to the vise at the same time tying down the tails and make sure you slide the foam as close to that tie in point as you can. It doesn’t really matter if the tails are not perfectly aligned or slightly too long at this point, we will adjust those later.

Step six

Now the fun begins! So we now have the thread tied in, the foam at a straight angle from the needle and the tails backwards. Now with your non tying hand fold the foam strips over and under the needle forwards and while holding it down like that tie in two  turns of thread over both strips and the needle making sure you have that little piece of double folded foam behind the tie in point for the first segment.

Step seven

Looks nice now! For these first segments you want to learn just the right enough tension with the tying thread so that the foam don’t spin around the needle when tying it down, after about three segments it is secure enough. Now fold both strips up from the needle again and slip the thread in between the foam strips again and tie it forward over the needle and tails about three turns and then let the foam down again.

Step eight

Now we want to repeat steps six and seven again. First make sure that the thread is at point enough forward (but not far off) from the first segment and then again tie three turns of thread over both foam strips, needle (which is under the foam) and tails. Then lift up the foam and slip the thread underneath and get it in place for the next segment. Voila! Now two segments are done and the rest is a piece of cake!

Step ten

Repeat these steps to create five segments, you want the segments to be evenly spaced and slightly larger than the previous one to get a nice tapered effect.

Once you have done your five segments you finish the fly with a whip finish on the tying point of your last segment, when you cut the thread though you leave a piece of thread about 5 cm long.

Now carefully roll the foam body back and forth between your fingers and at the same time sliding it off the needle.

Step eleven

Insert a Klinkhammer special hook in the vise and tie in your thread. Take a piece of wing material and tie it in with 3-4 wraps on top of each other.

Step twelve

Lift the wing up and tie around the base to get it to stand up.

Step thirteen

Go back to a point where you are at equal distance behind the wing as the distance to the hook eye is in front of the wing and tie in a dry fly hackle feather here.

Step fourteen

Remove the hook from the vise and carefully pierce trough one of the strips in the foam body, about a mm from the tie in point so that you will be about half way into an imaginary next segment.

Step fifteen

Now it is time to get the tails right, they can easily be slid back and forth trough the foam body still. So get them aligned and at the desired length and tie them down behind the wing and hackle feather , one on each side. Also tie in the tying thread that we left long from the abdomen. This is purely just to secure the body tie in further and excluding the need for varnishing the tie in point at the foam keeping it lighter.

Step sixteen

Now create a last segment of the foam by folding both strips of foam over and under the hook and tying it down with three wraps of thread. Then hold the foam up and away from the hook and wind the thread forward past the hackle and wing to the hook eye. Just like we did the segments on the needle earlier.

Step seventeen

Wind the hackle forward, 3-4 turns of it behind the wing and 3-4 turns in front of it. Tie it down with the thread just behind the hook eye and cut off the waste. Don’t mind if you tie in a few barbs of the hackle forward over the hook eye, this will just make the fly look better on the surface.

Step eighteen

Take the strip of foam on the underside of the hook and fold it forward, gently moving it from side to side while folding it to ensure a minimum of hackle fibers are trapped down. You want the hackle to be pressed up and to the sides. The more narrow this strip is the more downwards you will get the hackle to point and the higher the fly will ride, so experimenting with cutting it or stretching it will give you different effects.

Step nineteen

Take the top strip and lengthways cut it so that you create two equally wide strips. You might want to shorten it before doing so.

Step twenty

Take one of the strips and fold it forward, if you slide it down the wing you ensure to minimize any hackle fibers being left pointing upwards.

Step twenty one

Do the same with the other strip and tie both down just behind the hook eye.

Step twenty two

Cut off the foam strips but leave the slightest piece of the top ones forward to mimic the head of the mayfly. Finish the fly off here and varnish the tie in point.

Step twenty three

Lastly you cut down the wing to the right size and shape. Voila! If you want you can add markings with a permanent marker to the abdomen to add further realism to the fly.

When you view the fly underneath or from the top you will see how nicely the hackle is flared out!