BEWARE THE BACK CAST- or, More on Jean Dujardin

for the third time now, Pete Tyjas at Eat Sleep Fish asked me to send a little something to be included in issue 41 that came out last week.  this breaks the ‘more than twice’ barrier, meaning that ESF is kinda turning into a home away from home and i couldn’t feel more honoured because it’s a really nice place to be and i’m very grateful towards Pete for inviting me in.
so far my contributions have been fly casting related: the first was Poetry Grace Fluidity and the state of Relaxed Butt, the second on How to Loose your Fly in Trees and now this one about this goofy french movie actor.
here’s a preview-

“Fishing in tight spaces is always a tricky situation because casting and therefore fishing successfully involves thinking and more precisely, thinking before acting. What I’ve noticed in life so far, is that thinking after the fact usually doesn’t do much good because contrary to popular belief, most people don’t really learn from their mistakes.

Lefty’s still saying that God won’t let you cast this way or that, we still burn our tongues biting into a hot pizza and rap is still a popular music form…

When encumbered by trees and brush, cliffs, girlfriends/boyfriends and livestock, to get the fly out to the fish in an inciting manner the successful angler needs to look around and be aware of all those dumb things that nature surounds us with and puts between us and our slimy friends before going about it or they’ll just have to risk being as silly as the guy below.”

for more silliness briefly interspersed with hopefully-helpful mind-set casting/fishing tips click on the frenchman above and while you’re there, be sure to check out the whole edition for a more than fine as-always selection of great fly fishing related articles from around the globe. enjoy !

Exploring and Water Music

some great thoughts from Paul Harps.

“How much do you need to know before you go fishing somewhere? Knowing the regulations is an obvious need, but what else is required? It’s good to know a basic target species so that you can be prepared with the size of rod and fly. But assuming you are in an area with trout, do you research Google Earth ahead of time to find where the best looking pools are? Do you search the web for every fishing report? Do you go to some fly shops and ask subtle or not so subtle questions? There is something grand about exploration and discovery with your boots in the dirt, walking no known trails. But as I sit here behind a desk for too long, there is some else inspiring about looking at contour lines on a map, guessing if they direct a little stream down a hill. There is an excitement that comes with looking at a tree lined image on Google Earth, guessing the size of trout that might live in the shadowed waters. The idea of turning blindly down a road, only knowing that it goes downhill to some little creek is grand; no other preparations but an explorer’s mind, a rod in the truck, and the knowledge that eventually gravity and terrain will force the water into something that can hold fish. But also the idea of following those hastily jotted down notes or that printed map from Google Earth, down a road also never traveled, to a creek never seen. Either way, it’s a trail you’ve never explored, and when you reach the creek, you are never disappointed. Fish or no fish, you attained greatness, you became a dying breed; an Explorer.

some might start debating whether it’s ethical or not to use satellite maps or whatever other gadget to plan a fishing trip and i’ll leave them to argue on their own as i have no problems with this as long as the locations don’t get shared in public.
Mystery River X is the was to go.
now Paul’s piece got me thinking in a traverse wave sort of fashion, and maybe because i can’t help but mix up my waves in one way or another but this exciting exploring stuff reminds me that this is precisely the subject of the book i’m currently reading and very much enjoying although there aren’t any electronic devises as it happens in the sixteenth century and they where far from being invented yet.

water music TC Boyle cover



“At an age when most young Scotsmen were lifting skirts, plowing furrows and spreading seed, Mungo Park was displaying his bare buttocks to al-haj’ Ali Ibn Fatoudi, Emir of Ludamar.  The year was 1795.  George III was dabbing the walls of Windsor Castle with his own spittle, the Notables were botchings things in France, Goya was deaf, DeQuincey a depraved pre-adolescent.  George Bryan “Beau” Brummell was smoothing down his first starched collar, young Ludwig van Beethoven, beetle-browed and twenty-four, was wowing them in Vienna with his Piano Concerto no. 2, and Ned Rise was drinking Strip-Me-Naked with Nan Punt and Sally Sebum at the Pig & Pox Tavern in Maiden Lane.  
Ali was a Moor. He sat cross-legged on a damask pillow and scrutinized the pale puckered nates with the air of an epicure examining a fly in his vichysoisse.  His voice was like sand.  “Turn over,” he said.  Mungo was a Scotsman.  He knelt on a reed mat, trousers around his knees, and glanced over his shoulder at Ali.  He was looking for the Niger River.  “Turn over,” Ali repeated.

While the explorer was congenial and quick-to-please, his Arabic was somewhat sketchy.  When he failed to respond a second time, Dassoud–Ali’s henchman and human jackal–stepped forward with a lash composed of the caudal appendages of half a dozen wildebeests.  The tufted tails cut the air, beating on high like the wings of angels.  The temperature outside Ali’s tent was 127 degrees Fahrenheit.  The tent was a warp-and-woof affair, constructed of thread spun from the hair of goats.  Inside it was 112 degrees.  The lash fell.  Mungo turned over. 

Here too he was white: white as sheets and blizzards.  Ali and his circle were astonished all over again.  “His mother dipped him in milk,” someone said.  “Count his fingers and toes!” shouted another.  Women and children crowded the tent’s entrance, goats bleated, camels coughed and coupled, someone was hawking figs.  A hundred voices intertwined like a congeries of footpaths, walks, lowroads and highroads–which one to take?–and all in Arabic, mystifying, rapid, harsh, the language of the Prophet.  “La-la-la-la-la!” a woman shrieked.  The others took it up, an excoriating falsetto.  “La-la-la-la-la!”  Mungo’s penis, also white, shrank into his body.”

click the book for more on this well-knit, randomly wavy, highly recommended, entertaining book.

Put and Take

by Bob Wyatt

nothing like a grumpy ole’ article from a grumpy ole’ man to brighten up a dismal sunday afternoon. enjoy !

With the demise of so many great fishing waters, and increasing pressure on the remaining wild fisheries, the best thing that has come down the pike for fly fisherman is the put and take fishery. Let’s face it, who has the time these days to put in the hours, years for chrissake, necessary to catch sufficient numbers of wild trout to be able to call yourself an angler? Well, nowadays, with these fantastic put and take fisheries, all that lore and experience stuff about flies and hatches and so on is just a bunch of boring old crap preached by boring old farts. No wonder the kids aren’t interested in fishing anymore.

And, even better, the P&T waters are just getting better all he time. No nettles, brambles or mud, all nice green grass and neat wood and concrete jetties to fish from, no need for waders and all the paraphernalia. Your nice expensive Nikes stay as clean as when you stepped out of the car, only feet away from the old fishing hole. And the fish keep getting bigger! We no longer have to work so hard for weenie little sprats like on the so-called wild waters. Now the time put in is worth something, all these fish are whoppers, easy two pounds and up. Some are real hawgs too, over twenty pounds of fighting rainbow swimming around out there in plain sight, with its mouth open. It’s better than Playstation!

No, there’s no two ways about it, ‘wild’ trout fishing just ain’t worth the candle. I have to admit though, catching hawg after hawg can get a bit samey. But I was thinking these same operators could provide something with a bit more edge for all of us who have logged the hours on the trout. You know, just for a change of pace. For a bit more money you could fence an area and stock it with chickens. They’re better eating than trout anyway. You go in there with a golf club or two and pay for a limit of, say, five. You don’t want it too big an area, because you’d never get a good swing at them, and of course you’d have to think about the disabled, maybe have wheelchair access.

Anyway, that would really get the blood running, so to speak, don’t ya think?. Good aerobic exercise, too, for the heart or whatever. There’d be all the same really interesting stuff about tackle and tactics, just like fishing. You know, what action you prefer, swing weight and so forth. No end of fun. And hey, if it caught on, which I’m sure it would, you could graduate to ‘big game’ – have an area stocked with pigs or something. Use a range of hammers. Sporting stuff, say 1.5 pound ballpean for light corner work, and heavy sledges for long range. You could have a weight class competition.

You can imagine the chat around the artificial campfire up at the lodge. “Man, that last one was a real stonker. I was going too light, definitely. Struck too hard and he broke me. I know where he’s hiding though. I’ll sneak up on him at dusk with the post maul.” 
Best yet, who doesn’t prefer BBQ ribs to fish farm trout? If you get a big bag, you could donate the catch to charity, hospitals and old folks homes and such, who are probably getting mighty sick of rainbow trout by now…

i feel better now, thanks for allowing me to share this Bob.


go on, say that it’s about living in a world where we want everything and everything happening at the same time and i’m just a sucker like almost everyone else but, fly fishing, at least when we’re fishing is mostly about looking down.
sure, we’ll look around for casting obstacles and such and check our back cast (you better !) but most of the time is spent staring into the water, tracking our flies, looking for natural bugs or baitfish and trying to not fall in by sliding on round-slimy rocks and logs and shit.

on the other hand, if we had something like this:

behind-the-head-vision (and a built-in super-duper telescope) we could enjoy observing the whole Universe while doing the things we love and still catch a few fish.
maybe one day…

“And I won my division,” he said. “It’s the over 60, gray hair, profuse grey chest hair, paralyzed from the chest down, colostomy and urine bag carrying, lung cancer division. You have to use a bamboo fly rod, 2-pound test line and dry fly only.”

old farts fishing

gotta admit, it’s always charming to see old farts stream-side.

semi-cheerfull, flaccid and reminiscent in their own special geriatric way they’re always good for a laugh or two but more than that they remind me of what’s coming up next.
i, we, can chose to see that as an inevitable miserably depressing fact or, maybe that certain activities during our ‘working age’ should be pushed away for the sake of being waterside instead of at work so, thanks, your mumbling words hit home.

today’s lovely quote comes from Passion, controversy and rain at America Cup fly fishing tournament
i actually abhor competition fishing but it’s still a nice read, specially the old fart part.

hey Papa !

i usually have this unwritten rule of not writing about my personal life. it’s not like i have anything to hide or feel bad about, it’s just that i don’t find it all that interesting and tend to live for the future and sort of forget the past. having grown up in the cold war, hippy era, Vietnam war, rock and roll, punk and you-name-it whatever other events since the 60’s that have encouraged people to rethink established ways of thought has also taught me that rules are meant to be not necessarily broken, but a little bending now and again seems to keep things fresh. maybe digging up the past is a way of  finding some sort of roots where i don’t really have any. maybe, but this isn’t about me. it’s about my dad.

he started off his teen years as a keen airplane model maker. he specialized in gliders and won national titles in both the construction and flying events. his father was the president of the local amateur airplane club so, the logical step was to move on to a bigger scale and make planes both with and without engines, and fly them from inside instead of on the ground. he was really good at this and also won many events. designing and making planes, pylon races, altitude and speed records, endurance and etc, and etc, and etc.
i can’t remember if it was at age 16 or 18 but he made sure to pass his pilot’s exam on his birthday. he was eager to fly on his own.

dad&chick planeridebringing some chick for a ride. it’s still one of the better ways to score.

a bit later my grandfather crashed his plane into a mountain peak and family obligations brought him back to earth and forced him to seek out more terrestrial occupations.
he wasn’t into fishing or hunting or any other outdoors activities.
outdoors, i guess, was a place where barbecues and picnics with friends and family would happen. we’d go there regularly but in a way, these outings where mostly based around the cooler. in order to keep some sort of sanity in this young boy’s mind, i always had a rod and reel stashed away in the car, just in case these outings happened near water. they usually did and these where wonderful opportunities to discover on my own all these countless treasures that laid between the cooler and the shoreline.
i often read odes to dads that have shown their offspring the ins and outs and ways of nature and i used to think i should be envious of those lucky people but i wasn’t. my papa didn’t know much about trees and animals and soil and water but he did know about the things above. every single cloud had a name and so did each star.
as fishers, we spend most of our time looking down and this early upwards apprenticeship brought a balance to my vision of life in general and maybe mostly of the outdoors.

his name was Bernard and he died when i was 22. i had worked out long before that, that death was just part of life so in a sense, even with the big empty space left, it wasn’t such a big deal. at one point or another it’s supposed to happen. besides, people only really die when they’re forgotten. i obviously won’t forget him but maybe these few words will help that from happening with those who weren’t so close to him.

papa&methe two of us, 1962

today, August 2nd is his birthday. i wish i could have known him better but wishes don’t always come through. i’m still looking up papa.

Worms, Salmon Eggs, Marshmallows, Erin and S’mores

by Erin Block via MidCurrent

It’s about tying nice flies…
FlyDesigner-1 by Erin Block

but maybe s’more than fly tying, it’s about love.
the love of doing something oneself, of giving it ‘that special touch’, of adding a bit of your personality; what some may refer to as ‘soul’ to everything you do to make every moment, your moment. of not doing good but of doing nice.
personally, i’ll add an extra layer of chocolate to my S’mores so the marshmallow goo is completely surrounded by the good stuff. after the tenth or so i might keep the same inner configuration and work on the crust volume by adding another layer of chocolate on top (and bottom) of each cracker and then add another cracker top and bottom as crust.
a sandwich within a sandwich…

’nuff said. here’s Erin’s top cracker-
“Once upon a time, in a world not as very far away as we like to think, we had to tie our own flies. Just like we had to grow our own food and build our own homes. And we did these things, and they were hardy and served us well. There was no online ordering, no fly shop bin of options, no grocery store or butcher. You did it yourself because you had to. And sometimes life still requires of us that we take up the slack and drive like we know where we’re going—there will be time for looking at the map when you’re lost.  As I often feel, discouraged, sitting at my tying desk.”

and here’s the bottom one-
“One of the things that sticks with me is not the catching, not the fish.  Rather, it’s watching a new fly tied the night before swim lucidly through a backcountry lake, never ceasing to make me feel like a kid again, surprised by the fact that it works. Casting out I do it again, but only for myself, not for the trout. Because it’s not about not half-assing it.  It’s about tying nice flies.”

CrumplerCricket2 by Erin Block

if you liked the crunchy parts, click either pick for the soft, delicious, creamy filling.
enjoy !

Fly Tying: A Complete Dubbing Techniques Tutorial

by Dennis Shaw

Here, ladies and gents is simply put, the absolute reference in dubbing techniques.

Still in awe after reading and studying this tutorial back in August 2009 on Dennis’ site UK Fly Dressing Forum, it’s one I keep going back to both for guidance and inspiration.

A lot more than just a ‘how to’, among other goodies we’ll also learn about preparing various dubbings, the pros and cons of using wax and what materials might suit some flies better than others.

As pointed out several times throughout the page, the author’s hope is that it inspires your fly tying imagination. It most definitely worked for me in my own development and I couldn’t be more grateful for this very generous gift.

Adding any more on my behalf would be superfluous, so with Dennis’ kind permission, here’s the complete tutorial reproduced in full. Enjoy !

Note- the UKFD site has since been shut down, an enormous loss for the fly tying world.

A Complete Dubbing Techniques Tutorial

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.


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…


The basic tools I use are shown below.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.

A bit about the 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 ofmyfavourite dubbings and whatIuse 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.



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.




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



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



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 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 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.



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”



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 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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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


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


This is mole using the same technique.


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, exercise extreme caution when using!


The result


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


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


You will then be left with a more manageable medium.


Other dubbing mediums


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.


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.


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


Remove it from the comb.


Then cut it in to short to medium lengths.


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



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


Pull these out and work in your fingers as well.


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


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

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



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


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.



A fly tied with a dubbed floss body.


Mending Yarn.


A fly tied with a dubbed mending yarn body.




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


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 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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


Pop the lid on and give it a whizz.


And it will turn it into a nicely blended dubbing.



As shown on this fly here.


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


After a whizz.


A fly with the resultant mix.


A different blend of colours of the same materials.


Whizz, and..


A fly with the new blend.


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


After a whizz.


And the fly tied with the mix.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The effect.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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


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.



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


A few fibres will stick to the wax.


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.


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”


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


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.


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


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



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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.



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


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.


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.


As before, remove your fingers and the loop closes.


Now spin the dubbing whorl.


And the dubbing rope is formed.


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.


The body finished and the rope tied off.


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


Then spun the whorl to form the dubbing rope.


Finally, wrapping and tying off the rope.


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.


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.


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


Then a rub with Velcro, and..


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.


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


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.


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.


You can see the split better here.


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.


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.


Once you have enough dubbing on the thread..


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


Then pinch the loop immediately below the dubbed portion.


Then with the loop pinched spin the bobbin holder clockwise.


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.


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.


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.


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


Until you have a loose noodle like this.


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


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


Then grip the thread loop just below the dubbing noodle.


Then spin the bobbin clockwise to form the dubbing rope.



Finally wrapping as before to form the body.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


Spin the loop as above and it looks like this.


And wrapped it looks like this.


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.


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.


Then gave it a spin for an interesting dubbing rope.


Wrapped to form the body.


Then a rub with Velcro for the resulting body.


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


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.


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.


The result when you add water is..


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.


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


Then twisted them with my rotating hackle pliers.


The result is an interesting fuzzy body.


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.


Then twisted with the rotating pliers again.


And wrapped to form a body.


Finally a rub with Velcro.


The effect when wet is interesting to say the least.


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

Have fun!


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.


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


Then tie it in.


Now place the dubbing next to the thread.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


A simple example of this techniques usefulness..



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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


The second loop formed.


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


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


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


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.



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


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


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.


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.


Keep twisting until you have the formed rope.


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


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


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

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


© Dennis Shaw 2009

How to be a happier fly casting instructor.

(And make your students Happier !)




by César de la Hoz – FFF-MCCI Madrid, Spain
translation and text editing: Marc Fauvet
from the Federation of Fly Fishers – The Loop spring 2012

After the first approach on the happiness of the fly fisher, we need to talk about another important character in this equation, the fly casting instructor. Why? Because the fly fisher speaks with himself, he only has to care about his own happiness. The instructor also talks with others so he is responsible for the happiness of his pupils for a time of their lives. To achieve this goal is a huge responsibility.
How many of you remember a very good teacher? All of you, for sure. How many of you remember a bad one? All of you, for sure. And what kind of emotions bring back these memories? Of course, you are the one to answer these questions, but I can imagine… Happiness or sadness. I choose the first one, so I chose the teacher of the first question, the one who woke up good vibrations. This is the key as a Casting Instructor: If you want to be one of the best CI or MCI, you need to transmit happiness with a fly rod in hand.


One of the most interesting discussions there is in the fly casting world. One in which you have to choose, Are you an engineer? Are you a poet? You can find this kind of conversation today on a river bank, a fly casting course or during a demo in a fly fishing fair. You can find a lot about fly casting physics in forums, boards, threads… And yes, people like to be a fly casting instructor “engineer”. This probably makes you cool and attractive in the casting field but not to woman because woman want happiness. Just joking: All Human beings want happiness.
And on the other hand we have the poets, these days underestimated. Oh man!, if you´re a “poet” casting instructor its because you´re no good in physics and hide yourself under the wings of assonance, rhymes, sonnets and stuff like that. In fact, Mel Krieger talked about poet and engineers at a moment when almost no one knew about fly casting physics (well may be Alejandro Viñuales did…) but today things are different, so now we need to redefine these terms.
My purpose is to create a new word, one word derived from two: poet and engineer. Maybe a casting instructor is a POETEER, half poet and half engineer. Lets try.


Do you remember Super Grover in Sesame Street? Hey I´m from mid 70´s! A Poeteer is like Super Groover. Neither an engineer, neither a poet but what does he do? He tries to make people happier. That´s it. So, a Poeteer has to create happy fly fishers, helping them to improve their skills and helping them to cast better. That´s all. Why? Because to be a happier fly fisherman is to be a successful fly fisherman. And here is where a Poeteer appears, like Super Grover, solving problems. The problem is not to be a poet or to be an engineer, the problem to solve is to teach properly.

One example: when you read a self-help book, most of the time this book tells you what you have to do, instead how to do it. Well, I´m going to try to give you some tips on how to make people happier while instructing.

There are three ways to get something: aggressive, assertive and passive. And there is one option in which we can manage this in the correct way: communication. We are beings who speak. Casting instructors are most of the time, beings who speak. We transmit knowledge by telling, not only demonstrating. And this communication has two forms: communicating technical issues (engineer) and communicating and understanding emotional issues (poet). Et voilà: POETEERS.
Remember: We learn much more by dealing with feeling and emotional issues than by memorizing technical data. If you feel the cast you will improve the cast. You can read all about physics on Google but never improve your casting. So MCI´s you need to understand and transmit what a pupil needs before technical issues. Even, when you need to talk about fly casting physics, you need to create a good rapport, a good connexion between the pupil and you. You need to be assertive, instead of passive or aggressive.

An aggressive communicator only thinks of his own interest, talking from his own knowledge and giving no attention to interest of the other. An instructor like this normally talks in this manner:
Pupil: I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Instructor:You have to do it this way: Accelerate to a stop, you need angular acceleration until RSP. Clocks and watches are only to give you the time and nothing more.

A Passive communicator pays almost no attention to his own knowledge, has a lot of doubts and has no trust in himself. Something like this:
Pupil: I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Oh yes…. 11 to 2, normally we need to do these movements to put the fly in the ring. Yes 11 to 2.

An assertive communicator pays attention to his own interest but also in the interest of the other. Trying to put both together and looking for empathy, also he asks some questions to get the job done.
Pupil:I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Yes you can. But do you think that there are other ways to do it?
Yes, of course.
And in how many ways can you do it?
May be between 10 to 3 or 10 to 2.
Perfect ! As you said you have different options to cast a fly and now you understand that you have to adapt your casting stroke to the different situations you have on the river.

Just by asking someone: In how many ways can you do something? you´re opening up their mind. This is crucial. This is the beginning of the learning process because you’re turning it into something mutual, not unidirectional. It´s a big difference. This kind of communication builds trust and generates positive emotions. In this way the pupil trusts the instructor, not only about the instructor’s knowledge but because it links the pupil to the process of learning. Someone involved is someone who pays more and better attention.

Aggressive communicators are very common in schools, companies, clubs… in life. There are a lot of teachers telling others what they have to do and how they have to do it. This makes people that learn from fear, not from responsibility and it normally kills creativity, something essential in fly casting. It also kills the “flow”. Being aggressive is a kind of style that has benefits on a short-term basis because it gives one a sense of control over a situation. But in long-term it generates rejection because the pupil dislikes this impersonal selfish style. The same thing happens with the passive instructor,  it generates unease towards the pupils through lack of empathy and distrust. So, try to be assertive, but you have to work at it, it´s not easy. Some readers now are telling themselves : Hey I´m very assertive ! And I ask them: Do you really think so? Let´s try some questions to find out:

How many times do you ask a question before you explain what to do? How many times do you ask, “Hey how do you feel today?” Instead of: “Come on, hurry up, we´re waiting for you, it´s time to go…” To make changes in the way you express yourself you need to make some little changes in the way you think. If you´re on the bank of the river before you start fishing and the guide asks you: “This river is amazing, How do you feel?” Your thoughts will be happy. You will take a look around and feel comfortable in this amazing place because the happiness runs into your organism in form of beta endorphins. They produce a state of general wellbeing and are released in pleasurable situations like laughter, sex and physical exercise and that’s what fly fishing all about: casting a fly is a form of exercise. So if exercise releases beta endorphins, don´t create through communication a bad and stressed situation telling something like: “What an ugly day, it´s raining again.” Do the opposite, stimulate this wellbeing.


It´s important to know that there’s a big difference between having good communication strategies and being courteous. Courtesy is the demonstration or act that manifests the attention, respect and affection that someone else has. Empathy is the mental and emotional identification of a subject with the mood of another. As an instructor to emphasize is to go far beyond courteous.
Do you like photography? There are three basic terms in photography that will maybe help you understand this: Depth of field and sharpness and reframe. It is essential to add depth of field to our communication, as well as it´s necessary in a photograph to see a larger area. Also you need sharpness in your language, not only in the way you talk about casting mechanics, but also about what the student needs to know. And of course you need to reframe because when we talk, we transmit a unique perspective. Try to see the perspective of your pupil. This will make yourself closer, easier to understand and sympathetic.

To be a poeteer, try to enhance these four basic thoughts when teaching:

1. Casual thinking: Is the ability to determine where the problem is and formulate it. Those who do not have these thoughts tend to attribute their problems to others: “This pupil is very difficult” “This group is very unbalanced, it’s impossible to teach them”, “They don´t pay attention, they don’t´want to learn”.

2. Alternative thinking: Is the ability to generate as many solutions as possible once the problem is formulated. The people who lack these thoughts and don´t know where to find them often seek a unique solution like: “Do this in that way” “Don´t try to cast like that” “This is the only solution”.

3. Perspective thinking: Is the ability to put oneself in another, it stems from selflessness. Aggressive instructors have great difficulties in putting themselves into others. It’s the hardest to achieve.

4. Consequential thinking: Is the ability to foresee the consequences of acts and speech.

Remember that not to be a good one but only to be one, you don´t need to be an engineer or a poet to be an instructor. Knowing a lot about casting dynamics doesn´t make you an excellent teacher and neither does certification. To be a good instructor is to practice good educational skills and to work on these abilities and thinking. I have told you four, but you can find a lot more inside of yourself if you ask yourself the correct questions: What can I do to make my students feel better? In how many ways  can I do it? Is my communication as good as I need to teach properly? How can I control my frustration when a pupil don´t understand what I´m talking about? What are the best ways to explain physics?… These are only a few.

Nowadays, as an instructor you need to know the basics of fly casting of course, but if you don´t know how to transmit those basics properly, technical teaching will be very difficult to achieve.
So first of all, you need to know exactly where the problem is and develop a strategy.
Then you need to add different solutions to fix it, not only one. If you give only one solution, the pupil can either do it or not. You only have a 50% chance of success. This is hazardous at best.
Of course you’ll need perspective thinking, this is essential. If your student does not understand you it’s because you didn´t explain yourself properly, not because he or she does not know how to understand what you are saying.
So, ask questions, and not so many: “You have to…” “You should do…”. A good poeteer, a good instructor, is an open minded communicator. This makes consequences easier to assume and make yourself happy as an instructor and your students happier because they not only learn about fly casting, they see that they have the ability to improve, are confident and of course they will see better loops when they’re casting. And this is priceless.

Sometimes I get very tired of seeing teachers who only put attention in technical stuff, leaving in the background the personal needs of those who want to learn. This classical way of teaching must be broken by putting more attention towards the happiness of the pupil, on his emotions, on his objectives. Remember: All challenges overcome with satisfaction will leave a satisfying emotional footprint which eases the challenges ahead. This makes us happy. However, when we keep in our mind the memory of a failure when facing a new challenge, the feeling is so negative that future problems seem to be second to none. This makes us unhappy.

If you leave a satisfying emotional footprint on your pupils, make sure that they will be motivated to continue on the way, looking for more. If not, they might give up. So, what are you waiting for? Make your pupils happier:
1. Not only be correct, emphatic and,
2. go beyond your typical way of teaching and put your attention foremost on the person, not just in physics, casting errors or tailing loops.

As an MCI I owe much to those who are investigating casting physics and deliver this knowledge for free on forums. I want to say thanks to all of them. I´m trying to participate in that effort by providing knowledge on how to improve teaching. Cooperation makes us happy, no doubt. So, remember:

To be a happier fly casting instructor, is to be a successful fly casting instructor.


Putting back the rocks.

by Roy Christie

this piece has always been one of my favorite reads.
it’s about not giving up, finding solutions, hard work and making a little part of the world a little better. and it’s not just about fishing.
i contacted Roy years ago to ask him if i could translate this to french and he was immediately enthusiastic about the project and project it turned out to be. this was my first rather extended translation and it wasn’t about just exchanging one word for another, but getting the tone and meaning to do justice to the original. given the feedback from all the different francophone forums and groups i shared it with, it seems like it worked.
here, in it’s entirety and in english, let’s put back a few rocks.

” When I was growing up, a hundred yards from the nearest trout stream, I led a sheltered life. I was, however, educated to some extent in conservation and wildlife; bred bantams, ducks and pheasants for their moults, made my own flies by hand and used them on the small stream at the bottom of the field. My library consisted of Skues, Hanna, Stewart and Pritt. The world was very small; tractors more common than motor cars.

The river trickled past wellington boots in the wider parts in summer. We had competitions to jump across and as we got older we would succeed. After snow melt or heavy rain she would burst her banks and come up the field, banking up behind the little bridge, rising maybe twelve feet; a torrent in the fields.

She drains a bogland of about ten square miles and about twenty square miles of farmland with woodland and lakes. She rises fast and runs off slowly, draining those lakes and bogs.

When we went off to fish the falling spates our mothers worried, but we knew the right holes through the hedges so we all came back intact, all with bags of fish, taken on worm or fly. Between spates the fishing was different. Some of the lads reckoned the trout only came into the river during a flood, though where they went to between times remained a mystery. Fishing downstream wet fly on a small stream, with a total ignorance of fieldcraft, the mystery remained unsolved for many seasons. Fieldcraft came later. Little olives and midges covered the water and filled the air. I learned that if you sat still behind the fish they would come to ignore your human presence. Later we learned to use the upstream approach and would come up from behind, keeping low, unseen.

One day in early summer I was going down to the bottom bridge to fish the mile back toward home. I noticed that the neighbour downstream had a new digger. Yellow and shining, the dragon posed at the bottom of the field. I carried on downriver to chat with the owner who would pay us to help with haymaking and picking spuds. George was feeding his animals if the acoustic fuss were to be believed. When I finished giving him a hand and the din had subsided, I learned from George that the new machinery was there courtesy of the River Authority; sent to clean out the riverbed and relieve the flooding.

Devastated! They were going to kill the stream.

It started on the Monday above the second bridge. By the time I got back from school – I carried on unto the next stop to get an aerial view from the bus – the dragon had eaten about a hundred yards and was attacking a rock face above the ledge which it had just chopped out. The walls were tapered mud and the bottom was flat.

I went home and passing up, for the time being at least, a choice of four shotguns, picked out my seven and a half foot fly rod. Putting up a team of three spiders at two foot intervals – a Greenwell’s on point, black spider on dropper and an orange partridge – I proceeded downstream to face the dragon. I was so angry I did not cry.

Arriving at the scene of devastation and corruption, I strayed so close that the dragon had to stop. A few minutes of respite for the stream ensued. The respite was brief. The digger driver asked me if I had a death wish as I had come way too close; then he realised what the problem was. We had a bit of a chat.

John was a salmon fisher. He tried his best to console me with some strange logic. John’s job was to dredge almost two miles of river, my house being halfway along the proposed canal. The new course was to take away the winter rains at an improved pace. The work was subject to inspection by the Authority and, if deemed satisfactory, John would get paid. He said there was little point in cutting rock to make the new course, so when he hit bedrock he would leave a little waterfall. Also where possible he would follow the original streambed. As he passed he left a pile of rubble, rocks, weed, larvae and eggs four feet high on one bank. The inspector should be delighted.

John explained that he was not killing any trout. They were frightened off by the machinery and ran off in front of it. He told me to catch as many fish as possible in the pools upstream of his work every evening and to drop them over the ledge into the newly cut river. This proved relatively simple, as any trout upstream of the digger had been hiding under rocks all day developing an appetite. Every evening we would catch trout up to a huge ten ounces, rarely more, and transport then downstream, where they could get safety in natural surroundings. We probably moved three hundred in a couple of weeks. After that, cutting through gravel and bog, John said let them fall over or get driven upstream.

It proved, in the end, that the driver of the dragon was one of the good guys. John did a neat job. I have only recently, over thirty years later, come to realise that in showing me how to rebuild the pools, he made me his co-conspirator and his right hand man in restoration. I had never thought of it like that before.

Progressing upstream, he made sure to leave a few good-sized boulders alongside the banks. He even managed to find a couple of invisible rock faces, coinciding with a tree hanging over a bend – just a couple. He followed the bends of the old river. He told me that when the work was completed the stream would be good for drainage for twenty years, but that it would eventually silt up again. He also told me that, if I wanted to prolong its longevity, I should make the stream clean herself.

John explained that a good trout stream rushes around without really going anywhere, except slowly to the next pool. A sprinkling of boulders, placed strategically on the streambed, could divert the water just about anywhere you wanted. Like before a drop into a pool or above a bend – placing a boulder on the outer edge of the stream would divert the water, speed it up, aerate it and force it to scour out a hole behind and downstream Another rock in front of this would protect the bank from erosion – so build a wall. Make sure the boulders are secure against the heaviest flood. Put a dozen boulders where the neck of the pool is to be and this will reinforce the pools above and below. Let the torrent do the work for you. Nature will recreate the environment. You do the planning.

Installing rocks in the pools that form has to be done with care. The rocks have to be big enough to remain stable in severe flood; yet not be so large as to overpower the stream at low water. You are after all trying to create the perfect fishery. Slabs about two feet across and a foot deep are a great help, any length over a couple of feet is good. Drop them into the river at a point above where you want to place them and the current will help you get them home. As you go, put in stepping-stones so that you have the best places to stand and cast a line up into the pools you create. You do not want to build a great holding area with nowhere to stand and fish it; nor do you need a tree behind the best casting spot.

When dealing with a length that is straight and flat, you need to build the neck and tail of the pool, then go upstream and do it again. Use boulders to stagger the flow, trying to divert it right and left, to and fro, over the rocks. In time the tail of the pool will silt up and the neck will get deeper. I found that the best pool is about three times as long as it is wide. Depending on the flow, you may see this differently. For the neck/tail area I used rocks about a foot across -combined with a few bigger slabs to stand on.

In detailing the structure of the riverbed, you can define the holding areas for the fish. Knowing where you want them to sit you make that spot the best in the pool, so you can approach it blind and catch them – on a good day. You need to provide good cover for the trout. One way to achieve this is to place good sized boulders just out from the bank. This will force the flow to speed up, erode the bank and provide shadow and a slack which will silt up and support life, weed and fish food. By providing areas of slack and turbulence you will create an environment capable of supporting a diversity of life. Thereafter you wait and will find midges, later the mayflies, caddis flies, beetles etc will come back because the headwaters and downstream areas still harbour the native species. We are talking massive destruction here – not pollution. We still have to look to the powers above to protect against that.

The digger finished. The inspector said it was a good job. The stream looked like a canal, the man had to be subnormal. John got paid, I guess. I never asked. The next inspection would be in twenty or thirty years. It was time to start work.

My pals thought a rebuild was a great idea, so they lent a hand. By now it was summer holiday time. The lads had time in hand so they worked hard for a few days, got to hand that to them. Then someone got the idea to dam part of the stream to create a swimming pool. They created a pool about two feet deep and forty yards long on a flat stretch. This became a playing ground for the young pretty and talented for the summer and, as if by magic, my workforce disappeared. There were even a few good trout showing there, more difficult to tempt in the flat water. I learned finesse.

Overall I suppose it was about two years of hard work later – with hundreds of wheelbarrows full of weed being moved; tractors borrowed to move rocks; experimentation with currents, worn out jeans and soaked pants – that the riverbed again became stable.

The stream had helped herself to the bounties of nature. The winter floods had scoured and silted. Weed was regrown, bankside vegetation was regaining a roothold. The fly life was again thick on the water and in the air and in early winter the spawning gravels looked like a herd of steers had stampeded up there. The dippers were the first birds to come back on the scene. I even saw a kingfisher one day. The best trout were now just on sixteen ounces, an increase, I believe of about fifty percent in weight across the herd; and they appeared more silvery, which I attributed to the reduced bankside cover.

One day, after a downpour that had lasted for days, I went fishing again with the lads. They had given the stream up as lost. We caught about ninety fish over a couple of hours on the falling spate, keeping a couple for the grannies, who liked a brace for the dinner.

Another balmy evening, having returned about twenty, I approached a lovely little corner pool, up near the school. I was using a size #16 copper wire and hare’s ear nymph developed from the school of thought of the great Sawyer. Taking out the rearguard and slipping them back into the next pool down, I managed twelve trout averaging about ten ounces before they stopped rising at about two A.M. Next day I crept back with a pair of polaroids and took about a quarter of an hour to count thirteen in the pool. RATS. missed one.. Thinking about it, I did prick one just before the rise stopped! That pool was about twenty feet long and at low water was five feet across and two feet deep at the neck, the rest of the width being silted up and full of cress.

Now, nearly forty years after the rebuild, she still rises fast, she drops a bit more quickly than she used to, she still drains the bogs and lakes and she keeps herself clean.

I could go on forever about this little stream as she goes on forever to the big river and to the sea. I will stop, instead, and let you get out and throw a boulder in your secret stream.

Before you go, please take a moment to join me in respect to the late John Shaw who passed over some years ago now, and whose gift of knowledge and love of nature I was privileged to receive and which I hope to have passed forward to future generations. “

 Roy guiding me on the wee burn. it was a special moment and always will be.

Why Emergers Are Important

by Mike Lawson via Rio’s blog

being one who generally shuns fishing the imago (final stage/adult development of a winged insect) for all the reasons explained below, i’ll almost always go for emerger-style patterns first or on a dropper behind a higher-floating dry.
this article is a real gem and one of the best i’ve ever read on ‘not only matching the hatch, but matching what the fishes are keyed-in on’ tactics.
it was hard selecting a teaser quote for you because it’s great from the beginning till the end and chocked full of spot-on info often kept secret. this one’s a definite keeper for the serious salmonid angler. thanks Mike !

” One of the most common questions is how to know when a trout is feeding on emergers. I simply use the process of elimination. Adult mayflies or caddisflies are relatively easy to see as they drift on the surface, even if you’re half blind like me. You need to be patient when you find a feeding trout and take time to watch. If you see adult insects drifting over a trout’s feeding position without being noticed, you can bet the fish is feeding on emergers. ”
full article here

A Christmas Present from the Queen

A True Story by Jack Gartside

“As I approached the moat I looked this way and that to make sure there was no one around, joined the two pieces of my rod together, and with one flick of my wrist sent the little brown fly I had tied to my leader out into the middle of the moat, where I could see two very large trout swimming slowly about, waiting for the tourists to show up, no doubt. The Unsinkable Molly Brown (my name for the fly, tied from mink scraps scrounged from a Soho furrier’s trash) must have looked like a crust of bread or perhaps a piece of sausage or something else good to eat and the trout lost no time in coming for it. The smaller trout got there first, inhaled the fly, and I set the hook. Then it was off to the races. It took me around the moat twice before I was able to land it. At least five pounds, I figured. A very nice trout, indeed, which I quickly released. And just as quickly I unjoined the rod pieces, hid them under my long winter overcoat, and casually walked away.”

click here for the whole story

‘specially if they look like sausages !…

Brain Farting and Tailing Loops

a funny yet insightful article, something to think about when your brain freezes up !

Brain Farts by Will Shaw

“Irrespective of our political views, I bet we all had a chuckle at Rick Perry this week. For those who didn’t see it, this potential Republican US Presidential candidate had a disaster of a TV debate when he couldn’t remember one of his own key policy proposals.3

“The Scientists say it’s the worry of screwing up that stops your brain accessing the right information. All your processing power is taken up with the “Don’t Forget, don’t forget!” thought, and nothing is left for actually accessing the info. you want.”

“I think a similar thing can happen in casting practice. The more you want to stop that tailing loop, the worse it gets. Gradually you tense up more and more, casting more and more frequently, and more and more aggressively. The only thought in your mind is “don’t tail, please don’t tail!””

“This continues until your arm seizes up, or you run full pelt and screaming, driving the rod-tip into a tree.”

turn around !

“You can’t feel, hear, smell or taste the quality of your back cast but you can see what happens.”

today’s quote by Bernd Ziesche

an old saying in casting instruction is “The quality of the front cast is conditioned by the quality of the back cast”. the back cast is 50% of a full casting cycle which means it’s just as important as the front cast. the back cast is also something that as far as i can find out, and i’ve been searching for several years, is the only activity where we throw something behind us. our physiology and activities are based on what’s in front of us and we do that very well. however, since we’re not used to throwing behind, this is an area we want to work on using what we have. luckily, that what is probably our strongest sense, the sense we rely on the most, vision.
so, as Bernd so perfectly explains, if we want to improve our casting we need to know what’s going on behind us and the solution is as simple as learning to turn the head around to watch what’s going on but maybe more importantly, to confirm or not what we think is going on and thereon we can adjust what needs to be adjusted.

in case you’re thinking, “wait a minute, am I supposed to turn around all the time ? when i’m casting just a few meters ?” the answer is: obviously not.
just as when we start off fly casting and learn to do a straight line cast (and learn to no more do straight line casts just as soon as we learned how to do them !) this is a foundation exercise and these exercises are meant to build up our capabilities and senses and here’s the paradox: we want to develop the exact same senses Bernd said we couldn’t use !  this new learning and exercise needs a little time and regular practice. don’t practice it while fishing as it’s almost always counter-productive to practice and do the activity at the same time as we do neither well.

as for the pic, yup it’s me and yup it says FF&W, Jason Borger’s site Fish, Flies & Water but more on that later !

On Ethics.

by Erin Block

“Fly fishing has a heritage of a fairly caught fish, and I want to be a bearer of this – even, if sometimes it is a burden and even, if it sometimes means long stretches of fishless days. I suppose my Midwestern Protestant upbringing understands and feels right at home with this, with the weight of expectation in action upon my shoulders — that there are things you just don’t do, out of principle and also, tradition. Sometimes the answer, “it’s just not right,” needs no explanation.”
more HERE

Ethics: oh boy, that’s a big one. that nasty word that generates so much love and hate, personal opinions of right and wrong all the while separating instead of reuniting. if you break it down, it’s a matter of faith, what one believes but maybe mostly what one wants to believe.

please take the time to read Erin’s article and the ongoing replies as this concerns all of us as fishers regardless of laws and regulations. there’s a lot of food for thought mixed in with ‘fodder for a bad fire’ as my grandmother used to say.


by Mathias Lilleheim

 “Anyway, I’m here to talk about Spaghetti, even though I don’t eat too much of it. Not because I don’t like it, of course, but because some carbohydrates have a tendency to make you fat. Potatoes and rice are other kinds, and sugar, of course, but I’m digressing again. I’m not here to discuss spaghetti as a food source, but more as a source of visual aesthetics.”

“And then, after having lain on the floor for half an hour, crying, you see the thong among all the dust balls from hell and start thinking of other kinds of emotions, pick up your mobile phone to give that special lady a call, retrieve the thong just as the already mentioned lady answers: “Hello there, loverboy..” in that special voice that normally makes you go week in the knees and THEN you see the fly line you’ve been looking for…… ”

“Even intertwined, the beauty of a ball of multicoloured fly lines is exhilarating.
Spaghetti  is madness and madness is good! “

Mathias is an Internationally know fly casting competitor from Norway, an experienced casting instructor and product developer at ZPEY.

far from the average fly fishing related article, it’s a rare treat to see such zany, deep-down personal insight regarding an object most fishers couldn’t care less about.

click HERE for the full article, it’s an amusing and interesting read to say the least !

more on catch and release

i often hear the counter-argument “I don’t care about C+R, it’s my right to keep fish, we’ve done it since the beginning of history, it’s in my legal rights”, etc, etc, etc. blah, blah, blah…

ok, so you want to keep fish and as far as i’m concerned as long as you stay within reason and local regulations then i guess go ahead and reduce a worldwide dwindling fish population a little more. you’ll have guessed that i do not kill fish any more than i would kill a horse after riding it or a dog or cat after playing with it or, as Mel Krieger once said to a young woman when asked about C+R

“If i had the great pleasure of making love to you i wouldn’t kill you after… “

‘nuff said, my point isn’t to tell people what to do. however, even if you’re going to keep fish, learning proper C+R methods is an absolute must, here’s a few reasons why:

– all of us often catch undersized fish. these little fish are fragile and can’t put up with improper handling. if they don’t go back in good shape they won’t live to reproduce and make a lot of other little fish that will become bigger fish that will make tons of other fish. easy math.

– although stronger and they can generally put up well with being caught, the same basic ideas can be applied to the larger specimens. if they got that big and healthy is because they have a very strong genetic structure. these fish will make more and better fish if they are allowed to continue reproducing.

– sometimes we’re fishing for one species but another takes the fly. they can be out of season (from varying reproduction periods that differ from one species to another) or an ‘undesirable or un-tasty’ species. either way these must go back properly. there is no such thing as a ‘trash’ fish and i feel sorry for anyone who would use that term. every single element of an ecosystem is as important as another and complements the whole.

here’s a really nice article on C+R i hope you’ll find informative from my good friend “Lineslinger“ Will Shaw.


the title says ‘trout’ but the methods are pretty much the same for most species. there will be more on this subject later as i’m slowly putting together with several other authors what i hope will be an accepted reference in this matter.


Measuring Fly Rod “Swingweight”

ever wondered why some rods ‘feel’ heavier or lighter than others even though they have the same total weight ? how mass distribution along the blank will make or break a rod’s action ? or just want to have a better idea how these seemingly-simple-but-in-actuality-ever-so-complex fishing tools work or maybe just want to increase your casting geek knowledge  ?

i’ll be posting more on fly rod mechanics in the future, this little article should help to understand why we might like the ‘feel’ of a rod or not.  it might also completely drown one in confusion… i’m somewhere in the middle…  good luck but be warned, this one’s easy !

by Grunde Løvoll and Magnus Angus, March 2008 published on

Moi image: Eric Wonhof

Stewart’s favourite colour appears to have been black.

 Stewart’s Spider

a few musings on North Country Spiders by W.C. Stewart

“Stewart’s favourite colour appears to have been black, his argument being that, in water, a fly between the fish and the light above is in silhouette, therefore colours are indistinctive, his opinion being that the movement of the hackle (legs) of the fly is the attraction, and this seems to make a lot of sense! Stewart also fiercely maintains that the fly dresser could never truly imitate nature and that Man’s interpretation of what a fly should look like can never ever be truly attained and I quote “Those anglers  who think trout will take no fly unless it is an exact imitation of some one of the immense number of flies they are feeding on, must suppose that they know to a shade the colour of every fly on the water, and can detect the least deviation from it – an amount of entomological knowledge that would put to shame the angler himself and a good many naturalists to boot”. 

i wonder if he ever considered transparency, refraction and diffraction, the understated elements in fly design.

photo and text source: Fishing with Style

Harsh or on the money ?

From an article written by well known Scottish angler Stan Headley a few years ago.

” I think that the rainbow trout fisheries have done a lot of harm to the brown trout fisheries,  People coming to the sport of fly-fishing tend to come via the rainbow fisheries. There, they find a totally artificial environment designed to provide fish for fishermen who, let’s face it, are generally of limited ability. OK, they may be very good at what they do, but it’s like comparing someone who knows his back garden intimately with someone who travels around the World.

The rainbow trout fishery environment produces anglers who believe:

1.   That handing over money is actually buying fish,

2.   That they are entitled to fish

3.   That fish are a commodity

4.   That it doesn’t matter what the fish look like or how they fight, as long as they are big

5.   That it doesn’t matter how the angler treats them either.

The above distinctions do not apply to everyone who fishes put & take fisheries, but the overlying ethos closely resembles the above, and most certainly applies to most.

Wild trout fishermen never think that they are buying fish, only buying fishing with a good chance of a fish or two if they get it right. That is a million miles away from item 1 above. And items 1 & 2 are why so many people get seriously pissed-off when they go wild trout fishing and get stiffed more often than not.

When you catch a wild trout, you are more than likely the first person ever to catch that fish, and whether it is 6 ounces or 6 pounds it is an important moment in both your lives. That fish was not born to be caught, but was happily going about doing what comes natural until you came along and interrupted it. The realization of this tends to make you a bit more philosophical than the rainbow trout fisher who only feels he is a small cog in a big wheel of fishery business. Another ‘bow, another dollar!

When people come to wild trout fishing with a rainbow ethos:

1.   They expect fish

2.   They don’t understand why every fish isn’t a specimen

3.   They fail to comprehend that size isn’t everything and that some environments produce smallish fish, whilst the loch over the hill might produce monsters

4.   They don’t understand that what makes a good day isn’t simply weight of dead fish, but the camaraderie, the environment, the sport, the means of catching, and wonderment at the natural, wild world and its products

5.   They fail to realize that just because they caught four the last time they were here, that they may catch sod all, or thirty, today,

6.   And when they have a bad day it’s because the management are spending the re-stocking money in the pub! Don’t let anyone suggest that the angler is not capable of getting his limit.

And the reason this is important is because such feelings and perspectives make wild trout fishery controllers (owners or club leaseholders) act very strangely. They try to satisfy people who are virtually incapable of being satisfied. Fishery owners start pumping in hatchery-bred stock to make the fishing uniform.

Wild fishing, by its very nature, can never be uniform, and when the fisher finally has his way and the fishing is uniform, it’s no longer wild. And instead of the wild stock being enhanced and supported by hatchery-reared stock, it is decimated by them, and more and more stockies get pumped in to address the problem of the disappearing wild fish.

Oh, god! I could go on all day on this subject. But let’s just accept that rainbows and hand-reared brown trout, and those that love them, should be kept away from wild fishing until they learn that fishing is about a whole lot more than a heap of big, ugly, dead fish. ”


A Fly Fishing Glossary

published by the Federation of Fly Fishers a few years back, here’s a a little glossary to help those starting off our activity and worth sharing.

personal note: some descriptions, specially the more subjective subjects such as casting or rods can be considered open to debate but it’s nevertheless accurate enough to understand fly shop talk and fly fishing forum content.

some subjects are only briefly covered. for a deeper understanding i’d recommend a quick Google search. as an example, we are told that an  ‘Arbor knot: Is a knot used for tying backing to the arbor of the fly reel’.  when we Google it we find out what it looks like and how to use it.


” Anadromous: A term to describe fish that travel from the sea upriver to spawn in fresh water like salmon. Fish that migrate from freshwater to the sea for spawning are catadromous.

Angler: One who seeks to catch fish with a hook (an “angle”), usually fixed to the end of a line.

Anti-Reverse: A feature of fly reels where the spool handle does not turn as line is pulled out from the reel.

Attractor: A style or variety of fly that is effective in eliciting strikes, but has few apparent characteristics of a natural food item. Often an attractor is flashy and bigger than life.

Arbor: The center part of a fly reel where line and backing (first) is wound.

Arbor knot: A knot used for tying backing to the arbor of the fly reel.

Back cast: The casting of line in a direction opposite to the direction the fly is intended to go. The backward counterpart of the forward cast which acts to create a bending action on the fly rod, setting up the conditions to generate the forward cast and present the fly. “

Rio Spey Line Recommendations 2012

” A newcomer to spey casting would be forgiven for peeping into this sport, trying it out, or listen to the many different opinions out there, and then turning tail and running away from the mass of confusion.

There is a mind boggling array of theories, techniques, tackle and styles, and it is very difficult for the beginner to make head or tail out of the world of spey casting. To explain the subtleties and intricacies of this spey world would be like trying to explain the rules of cricket to the average American, or of baseball to the average Brit. However, as fly line manufacturers, we only need to make it easier to understand the fly line – the most important part of your tackle. “

Simon Gawesworth, fly line designer at Rio just updated his spey line recommendation chart in this new pdf : Understanding Spey Lines 2012 

it’s often a debilitating experience when it comes to choosing the right line for the right application, this easy to read chart should help demystifying the process. Simon is one of the best Instructors and casters in the World, his shared experience is invaluable to anyone interested in the craft of casting fly lines.

Reels & Making Them

here’s a real gem for those who like the old stuff. personally, i use contemporary kit because i just think of it as tools where efficiency is prime but i guess the bigger reason is i don’t want to have to ‘worry’ about eventually messing up something precious while out in the middle of nature. however, as it seems to always happen in life that’s all about to change because as of tomorrow i’ll be the proud possessor of ‘The Snakecharmer’, a 7’ 3” 6wt. prototype hyper-fast bamboo rod made for me by my friend Ulf Löfdal, master split-cane builder here in Sweden. hmmm, i just might have to hunt down one of these old reel thingies to match it. great, something new to worry about…

“In creating Reels & Making Them, John Betts transcribed hundreds of pages of shop notes made over a period of two decades. The manuscript consists of over 400 pages of beautifully handwritten text and illustrations. More than 450 color photographs illustrate the background, ideas, procedures, and sequence of steps used to make reels of aluminum, brass and exotic woods.”

courtesy of John Betts and The Eclectic Angler, click on the image to download the pdf files.


Getting it Out There

here’s a little article i wrote for my friend Andy Baird and his great blogs ‘On The Burn’ and ‘Small Fly Funk’

it’s a first of a series of articles about fishing the little streams.

Getting it out There

part 1- The Approach

probably the biggest reason that holds back many fly anglers from fishing these little streams is the lack of ‘normal’ casting space.

basically, what we have are obstacles all around us in one way or an other, and if we want to present our fly correctly without getting it tangled or stuck into something at every cast, it will be a matter of adapting and using the available space that we do have.

here, i’ll try to point out a few casting techniques on getting the fly out there to the fish but also suggestions on small waters equipment and approach tactics that might help bring back the fun factor in these situations.

if you are used to fishing in wide-open spaces the first thing to do is to adopt a different mental approach and analysis to each situation.

fish in these streams rarely move around much and prefer to keep to areas that funnel food towards them and where they also feel safe.

this means we have a lot of time to decide on the best possible strategy to use in that particular situation.

in these situations the first decision i take is to decide exactly where i think a good fly presentation will be possible from without being noticed by the fish.

the actual cast needed will be decided once the actual fishing position is reached as the perspectives from where i first saw the fish and the one where the cast will be made may differ greatly. this is where having a good repertoire of casts comes handy.

will i be able to cast without lining the fish ?

do i need to cast over the shoulder or deliver on the back-cast ?

there’s a rock between me and the fish. can i throw a curve mend around it ?

there’s different currents going on. can i deal with this without inducing unwanted drag ?

those are just a few of the many possibilities that will come up in a day’s fishing. i find that they come up at each cast.

i also find that that’s what makes this kind of fishing so much fun, challenging and rewarding.

stealth in all its forms are very important in this close proximity activity.

camouflaged clothing is ideal. this is a stalk after all. outside of looking cool and being fashionably attractive… , camo clothing breaks up the human silhouette and enables to blend in better with the environing foliage. fishes are always on the look-out for predators and even if we put them back after having caught them, they don’t know this and consider us as deadly predators. we do need to move but the fish’s perception of our movements will not be as apparent compared to a ‘block’ of solid color. even if that block is of a subdued color. look into a wooded area and squint, you’ll notice that there are very few if any solid geometric blocks of one single color.

another great advantage to camo clothing is that it enables you to eat chocolate like a pig with no-one being the wiser !

rod flash is a big no-no and all of my rods have had a fine steel wool treatment. no need to dig in, just a gentle sanding of the top layer of varnish makes a big difference and does not affect its performance or durability in any way. watch an angler on a sunny day who hasn’t done this from a distance, all you’ll see is big streaks of flashing light. fish don’t like this at all and it’s one of the best ways to put them down.

as a side line, my Sage TCRs that had a shiny dried blood color now look like sanded wood. pretty cool !

some people believe that a flyline’s color is equally important and should also be subdued. i don’t, as i believe that the line should never be visible to the fish in the first place, whether its in the air or on the water. that can be tricky but i find it more important to know exactly where it is and what it is doing at all moments by being able to see it. aerial and on the water mends become pointless if you can’t see the line.

a ‘natural’ or darker colored line will blend in better with its surroundings in the air but will appear as a dark silhouette on the water’s surface when seen from the fish’s view and inversely for a lighter, more visible (to us) line. you chose. just as in fly selection, we usually don’t fish well if we don’t have entire confidence in the whole system.

we do need to move to be able to fish but these confined, close-up areas and those movements need to be as subtle and as slow as possible to not alert the fish. as noted earlier, this kind of fishing should be considered a stalk. vibrations that reach the fish emanate from walking on the bank or in the water. studded shoe soles can make scratching sounds underwater. hitting or making stones roll around while wading will have the same effect. talking loudly to a friend can be heard under water. rushing through the water causes ripples that propagate throughout the surface. as Roy Christie points out, an angler moving upstream should be going slow enough so that the ripples that are created don’t push up against the current. that’s pretty slow, specially in calm waters.

it’s always good to remember that senses under water are the same as the senses above water. specially when one considers that water propagates sound much easier than air and that the fish are in their own environment and that most animal’s senses are stronger than ours.

theses notions will of course apply to all water systems but the confined nature of tiny streams oblige us to be even more aware of all elements involved.

next time i’ll talk about specific equipment such as leaders, lines, rods and of course casting in these little streams.