The Possibilities of Wire (wire and woven wire bodies for flies)

just sent in by friend and professional fly tier Alan Bithell, here’s a wonderful article on tying wires and its creative and practical uses. a real gem, thanks Alan !

 The Possibilities of Wire 
  A couple of years ago a friend mentioned an idea to me about using wire to weave fly bodies. Since then I have been “playing” with this idea rather extensively. Just about all of us have a spool or twenty of wire in our fly tying kit. It has many more uses than just ribbing flies. Today more colours of wire are available then the three (gold, silver, copper) that have been the staple for many years.
The first step, beyond ribbing flies is to wind the body from wire, as in the Brassie and Copper John. With the new colours many flies can be adapted this way.

A good place to start is spider or soft hackle flies. For these you can just wind a body of appropriately coloured wire then use thread to attach a hackle at the head.

Winding a body of wire means that a heavy fly can be made without the bulk normally associated with heavy flies.

Other features, such as head, thorax, tails etc. can be added if you wish.  A ribbed effect can be gained by using more than one strand of wire. In the example below three have been used. If one colour of body and one of rib are required then I would recommend using two strands of body colour and one of the rib, to get the correct spacing. You can coat the body with varnish or, as in the fly below, UV cured resin.

You can also dub the body. However this requires an understanding of what is really going on with dubbing, exposing myths like the need for wax!
Chronomid patterns, generally called “buzzers” this side of the pond, also benefit from the use of wire in this way.
Many interesting effects can be made by twisting two (or more) colours of wire together before winding. For small quantities of twisted wire I find a dubbing whirl works very well.
Dubbing can be incorporated by placing between the two strands of wire, in the same way that a dubbing brush is made.
For larger quantities of wire a cup hook in the chuck of an electric drill will make yards at a time. Wind one end around something solid, best is a cup hook wound into something firm. Then twist the other ends around the cup hook in your drill and start the drill. Start it slowly and build up speed.
To incorporate a palmered hackle into a wire wound fly body is quite simple and very, very strong. Wind the body and rib wires together along the hook shank, Tie off the body strands and unwind the rib one. This creates a channel in the body. Tie in the hackle at the head and wind it down the channel to the tail. While keeping the hackle under tension, rewind the rib. Once you have made a couple of turns you can let go of the hackle. Tie off the rib at the head and trim out the excess hackle. As the hackle stem is now buried in the fly body it is protected from the fish’s teeth. Like I said, it is very strong.
This isn’t the limit of the use of wire. More weight can be added by weaving the body from wire, it also produces some very interesting effects, not least because there are small gaps in the wire. If the wire is woven over holographic tinsel tiny bits of it shine through.
The immediate place to apply this is in tying nymphs for Czech style nymphs.
The examples above have a touch of loose dubbing at the head to imitate legs, and give the fly a little movement. The back is coated with two layers of UV cured resin. After applying the first layer the head and thorax area are given a wipe with a dark coloured marker pen, the mark tapering off towards the tail end.
The examples above are made using single strands of wire. Heavier nymphs (or “bugs” as these are called here) can be made using twisted strands of wire. It is, of course, possible to use a single strand combined with a strand made from finer wire twisted to give a strand of similar thickness, or gauge, of wire.
Another place I use wire bodies is on salmon and sea trout flies. They are not a total solution, but do enable the angler to fish smaller salmon flies deeper. It is much quicker to change a fly than it is to change the line you are fishing on. And they also look good.
Many of you may have been put off by the thought of weaving fly bodies. Don’t be. Weaving with wire is very easy. What makes weaving difficult with other materials is maintaining the tension throughout the weaving process. With wire it stays put where you want it. You are free to let go whenever you like without the weave unravelling.  The weave I use is the shuttle weave. This requires no exotic tools and is fast to do.
For the purposes of illustration I’ll use the tying of a Czech style nymph. First you need to select your wire colours. My constant frustration has been obtaining a flat yellow coloured wire, not gold, yellow. I’ve been pointed to a supply in the States at less than $5 a spool. It would be ideal except for the $25 shipping! I can get it here in the UK but the minimum order quantity is 50 kg (110 lb). Most of my spools are 1 1/2oz 50 kg is a bit much. Anyway I digress.
Once the colours are selected, the next step is to decide on the shape you want. The choices here are wide and flat or deep. For wide and flat tie the two strands to opposite sides of the hook shank. For deep tie them side by side on top of the hook shank.
Now is the time to tie in any under body colour you like. Here I’ve used holographic tinsel. If I were tying a tinsel bodied fly I would use a double layer of tinsel, tying it in at the head end of the body, and winding it down the hook shank and back. Here there is no need to take this belt and braces approach. Tie the tinsel in at the tail end of the fly, and wind your thread, and then tinsel, forward; tying the tinsel off at the head. Whip finish and trim out the thread, it will only get in the way while you are weaving.
Now the weave.
Fist, turn the vice so that the eye of the fly is facing you. You need to be able to see both sides of the hook shank in order to get the weave even. Take the strand that will form the under side of the fly, under the hook shank, and in font of the other strand.

Take the strand that will form the top under the under side strand and over the hook shank.

The under side strand is now pulled under the hook shank in front of the over side strand. Keep going like this until your body is complete.
To tie off the wires pull them both down so they are out of your way when you restart the thread. Start the thread on the hook shank. Don’t try to start the thread and tie down the wires at the same time. It can be done but if you want them secure it is best not to. Then tie down the two strands. Remove the excess wire.
Note. I never cut wire. There is no need to cut wire. Two things result from cutting wire. It ruins scissors, and it isn’t as secure at the tie off point. Instead I worry the wire off twisting it until it breaks. Copper (which is the base for these coloured wires) hardens when you work it. If you twist it around a fixed point it becomes harder until it gets brittle, then it breaks. When it breaks it leaves a burr. This burr acts like the head or a rivet helping the thread wraps stay in place.
Once the wire is secure you can finish the fly in whatever way you like. Here I’ve used a spot of straggly dubbing, and then coated the back with UV cured resin coloured with a marker pen.
The wire I use is in the range of 0.18mm to 0.3mm depending on the size of fly I’m tying. For tiny flies, below size 18, I use finer wire. UTC wire is available in a huge range of colours and sizes, however, it is expensive. When you start using wire by the foot a spool doesn’t go a long way. Most of my wire comes from beading supply stores. The best supply of these wires I have tracked down so far is They supply a good variety of wires on larger spools as shown in the photo at the top of the page. I’ve included a UTC spool to give an idea of how much you get for a similar price as a spool of UTC.No doubt there is more potential to wire than I have explored here. It would be good to see your innovations with wire. Give it a go; don’t be limited by what has gone before. Three years ago I only made ribs from wire.One last thought. Have you ever bought a bobbin threader? Why? You have lots of wire in front of you. Just take a length of wire, double it and push it down the bobbin tube. Thread the thread into the loop and pull. If you want to get really fancy you can whip some to a handle. There you go I’ve just saved you the cost of your first spool of coloured copper wire.