Fly Tying: A Complete Dubbing Techniques Tutorial

DEAR READERS, due to Photobucket’s recent online-photo sharing policie change (read blackmail), every single of the 204 images accompanying this article have been hidden from public view…

i will do my best to try to get those images back from author Dennis Shaw and restore them to the article.

in the meantime, and even though most of this tutorial relies heavily on the missing images, there’s still a lot to learn from the words. i still hope you’ll enjoy !


 

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

Introduction

It’s been a while in the making, but at last here is the all new “dubbing techniques” I promised a while back.
My initial thoughts when re-doing this was to simply add better quality pictures, but as you’ll see as you read on, what started as a simple “fix” turned into a complete re-do. All new photographs and text and it sort of grew a little on the old one with new sections added and more details included. There are no videos this time. They were hugely time-consuming to prepare and upload and the results were, for me, less than satisfactory.
Hopefully with the help of what follows and a little practice you’ll be able to utilise a variety of techniques to suit your own needs, and best of all, you’ll soon realise that the various dubbing techniques are actually very easy techniques to master.
What follows are a list of the most common techniques (and a few ideas for when you feel more confident) and how I use them. There are other techniques and other tyers will have their “own way” of doing things, with practice and research and by listening to others, you will soon develop your “own way.” I don’t profess to be an expert, so take what you will from this article and use it and adapt it to your own needs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, let’s get started…

Tools

The basic tools I use are shown below.

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

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

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

What can I use for dubbing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

HARE’S MASK

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

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SQUIRREL

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

RABBIT

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

MOLE

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

BEAVER

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

MUSKRAT

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

SEAL’S FUR

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

FLY-RITE

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

SPIRIT RIVER FINE AND DRY

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

WCB FLYTING EASY DUB

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

ORVIS SPECTRABLEND

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

SLF MASTER CLASS FINESSE BLEND

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

HARELINE DUBBIN, INC ICE DUB

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

VENIARDS GLISTER DUBBING

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

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

Preparing Dubbing.

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

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

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

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Using a dubbing rake is a simple process.

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

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

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

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This is mole using the same technique.

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

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The result

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

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

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You will then be left with a more manageable medium.

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Other dubbing mediums

Wool

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

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

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

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

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Remove it from the comb.

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Then cut it in to short to medium lengths.

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

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

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Pull these out and work in your fingers as well.

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

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

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

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

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

Floss.

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A fly tied with a dubbed floss body.

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Mending Yarn.

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A fly tied with a dubbed mending yarn body.

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Z-Lon.

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

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

Blending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pop the lid on and give it a whizz.

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And it will turn it into a nicely blended dubbing.

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As shown on this fly here.

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

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After a whizz.

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A fly with the resultant mix.

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A different blend of colours of the same materials.

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Whizz, and..

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A fly with the new blend.

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

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After a whizz.

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And the fly tied with the mix.

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

WAX

Where dubbing is concerned this is a contentious issue!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twist (Direct) Dubbing

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

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

Take a pinch of dubbing.

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

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

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

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

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

Done correctly you will be left with something like this.

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

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

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

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

The tapered dubbing noodle.

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The effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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TOUCH DUBBING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A few fibres will stick to the wax.

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

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

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

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

Here are some variations on the theme again for inspiration.

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

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

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

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TWIST AND TOUCH

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

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

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

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

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

THE DUBBING LOOP

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

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To form the loop..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As before, remove your fingers and the loop closes.

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Now spin the dubbing whorl.

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And the dubbing rope is formed.

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

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The body finished and the rope tied off.

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

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Then spun the whorl to form the dubbing rope.

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Finally, wrapping and tying off the rope.

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

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

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One final idea for you.

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

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

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Then a rub with Velcro, and..

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Split Thread Dubbing Loop

Firstly, apologies in advance. Due to the complexities involved in photographing some of the following sequences, some of the pictures are a little lower quality than I would have liked. But, until I can get a couple of extra pairs of arms they are the best I can do. Don’t worry though; they are clear enough to allow you to see everything.
Dubbing loops are the most versatile techniques you can have at your disposal. As you will hopefully see in this and the next three posts, the opportunities are almost endless. We’ll start with the split thread dubbing loop, this is, I think the most useful of the “loop” techniques. You can employ it to tie everything from large saltwater patterns all the way down to size 32 midges if you want. Its main advantages are that it’s quick and easy to perform, and it adds little if any bulk to the dressing. It doesn’t really have any disadvantages, the only thing you have to be aware of is that because you are splitting the thread it won’t be as strong as the traditional dubbing loop (shown in the next post) but, unless you are try to use coarse dubbing mediums, strength doesn’t really come in to it. Thread is not particularly strong and there is a limit to how much you spin it, it would be impossible for me to demonstrate just how far you can go, but with both the split thread and the traditional dubbing loops you will very quickly learn how much spin you can apply without breaking the thread.
Although the techniques employed to form the split thread and the traditional dubbing loop are different, once formed the techniques employed to apply the dubbing are the exact same for both loops.
Thread choice is important for the split thread dubbing techniques. Basically there are two types of thread, bonded and unbonded. Bonded threads are twisted and stuck together (for want of a better description) Unbonded thread is not stuck together. The bonded thread that springs to mind is UNI Thread, I’m sure there are others too. What this means is that because of the manufacturing process it is very difficult to split the thread. So for the spit thread loop it is best to use an unbonded thread. Typical unbonded threads are UTC, Benecchi, Roman Moser Power Silk, Gudebrod, (Gudebrod no longer make flytying threads, but there are plenty of places which still have stock left) Danville’s and Gordon Griffiths.
All of the above unbonded threads are suitable for the split thread loop. For reference I have used UTC70 in the following sequences.
Because you will need to flatten the thread to split it, it is important to know that all threads with the exception of Pearsall’s silks are spun clockwise. This means that to flatten them you will need to spin them anti-clockwise and when you spin the loop to form the dubbing rope you will need to spin them clockwise.

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

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

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

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

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You can see the split better here.

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

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

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

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Once you have enough dubbing on the thread..

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

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Then pinch the loop immediately below the dubbed portion.

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Then with the loop pinched spin the bobbin holder clockwise.

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

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

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

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

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Until you have a loose noodle like this.

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

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

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Then grip the thread loop just below the dubbing noodle.

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Then spin the bobbin clockwise to form the dubbing rope.

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Finally wrapping as before to form the body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s one simple variation though for you.

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

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Spin the loop as above and it looks like this.

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And wrapped it looks like this.

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

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

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

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Then gave it a spin for an interesting dubbing rope.

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Wrapped to form the body.

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Then a rub with Velcro for the resulting body.

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

NOT A LOOP

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

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

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

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The result when you add water is..

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

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

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Then twisted them with my rotating hackle pliers.

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The result is an interesting fuzzy body.

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

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Then twisted with the rotating pliers again.

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And wrapped to form a body.

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Finally a rub with Velcro.

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The effect when wet is interesting to say the least.

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

DUBBING NOODLE

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

Wind the thread half way down the hook shank.

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

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Then tie it in.

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Now place the dubbing next to the thread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A simple example of this techniques usefulness..

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THE DOUBLE LOOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The second loop formed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep twisting until you have the formed rope.

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

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

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

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

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© Dennis Shaw 2009

Isonychia-ing

Isonychia Emerger from Matt Grobert  via Tightline Productions

Isonychia… cool name.

torn somewhere between the desire to go fish these critters in their home waters and lavishly repeating that word in some lovely redhead’s ear, i guess for today we’ll (well, i’ll… ) have to just enjoy this creature and tying video from afar.

Primarily an East coast, Midwest (US) insect, this rather handsome emerging ‘Slate Drake’ pattern is simply awesome by it’s simplicity, sturdiness and general profile. in a sense, a mayfly is a mayfly is a mayfly and as such, by changing colors and sizes, the basic pattern will make an all-over all-around great emerger for any waters.

as always, the Mat Grobert/Tim Flagler team make an excellent tutorial displaying excellent technique and know-how well worth paying special attention to.

 ” Their nymphs are among of the fastest-swimming mayflies in the world. They can power their way through fast riffles with ease, and their imitations should be fished with fast twitches.

They are unique among mayflies in that they have extra tuft-shaped gills at the base of their fore legs, a structure normally found in stoneflies. ”

images and nymph quote from TroutNut.com. be sure to click either pic for more info on this sexy bug. enjoy !

Fly Tying- a CDC indicator Caddis and the difference between Croupion and Cul

Marc Petitjean didn’t invent Croupion De Canard* feathers nor was he the first to use them to tie flies but when it comes to this particular material he’s one of if not the best in the field so getting the chance to watch and hear Marc demonstrate one of his patterns is not only a treat but an enriching experience. be sure to pay attention to all the details as this pattern encompasses just about every cdc technique there is. enjoy !

* contrary to popular usage, CDC actually means Croupion De Canard which translates from french as Duck Rump, the not very specific region where these feathers are located whether it be duck, goose or other waterfowl.
the more popular moniker of the first C, Cul is the vulgar translation of butt or arse (think old school here. let’s say the word wouldn’t have been pronounced on tv until the 70’s or 80’s) and while those two bird parts aren’t very far from each other and even if butts tend to be nice generally speaking, waterfowl butts are rather inexistant and mostly consist of a hole that isn’t very exciting to say the least… and while its function is secretion, its nothing that would help any feather float.

where the more common Cul comes in (that was a fun thought), is when Henri Bresson, a long ago dead frenchman created a pattern using the very same feathers and made a slightly vulgar play on words when giving it its name. somehow that name stuck even if the very vast majority of fly anglers around the world have never heard of Bresson or that particular fly pattern. funnier still, is there’s no available image or tying description of his fly, only written stories so, for all we know it all might have been a dream.

sorry to be so anal but this butt stuff makes it fitting…

Two flies for Friday

just sent in by buddy Trevor Hayman, a Large Dark Olive spinner – Baetis rhodani
“Quite a few of these around on the (Southern England) chalk streams right now.”

Trevor Haymen Large Dark Olive spinner

this kind of ultra-lovely bug image gets me going in a good way. i wish i was on those chalkstreams right now but that’ll have to wait till next month so, to get in the mood i immediately went to the local café, ordered a double espresso and got to work on making a few somewhat dark olive imitations for the trip. i’m feeling really positive about this one !

friday's candy fly m.fauvet-TLC 6-6-16

thanks again Trevor !

Fly Tying Tutorials- the Antr(onW)ax Worm

sorry, couldn’t help it.., that should have been  Antron Wax WormWax Worms

“In the wild, they live as nest parasites in bee colonies and eat cocoons, pollen, and shed skins of bees, and chew through beeswax, thus the name.” for us fishos that means these are terrestrial wormies that apart from very rare occasions, never get anywhere close to to waterways, but !
i mean, hey, just look at these things and tell me fish aren’t going to be all over them in less time that it takes to ummmm… i don’t know, but let’s just say quick. real quick.

pros: they’re gummi-bear fatty and juicy and squirmy and they can’t escape. that all may sound like wishful anthropomorphic fish food reasoning but apart from being right, it also makes me feel good.
cons: none whatsoever. (that was easy !)

on to their imitative fly. i’ve seen all sorts of wax worm imitations and they all looked like, well… but this one ticks a lot of boxes. as mentioned in the vid, the very same Antron body will make an as-lovely caddis pupae abdomen and in my eyes, a skinnier version would be just as yum looking on any mayfly or whatever nymph.

simple and easy to tie, a little tip to get the first wrap of twisted Antron just right is to put a dab of superglue at the base of the fly and continue up from there.
a big thanks to HacklesAndWings for this great tutorial. enjoy !

Fly Tying- More than an Egg

we’ve taken the egg tying route before with the standard egg yarn design- the Good side of Clowns and a pretty darn realistic, resin-based- a Perfect Embryo.
most tiers would leave it at that and consider their eggy needs complete but this recent video by Matthew Pate takes the egg yarn technique to another level and its brilliant and super-easy.

the concept here was to make a softer egg and the technique is very-very similar to how we would use deer hair, both in its application and consequent trimming to shape. Matthew’s tutorial shows us not only a really nifty way to make an egg imitation but what i’m also and maybe mostly seeing is a really-really cool way to make streamer heads, bodies or other fly shapes that can be trimmed to any form and will shed water easily making casting a piece of eggy cake.

the creative tier might have already figured out that by alternating different coloured bundles of egg yarn we’ll get a barred-bodied effect. other options might be including flashy synthetics here and there and, and, and, it seems like using the same technique can lead to myriad results: the egg yarn’s the limit.
once again, brilliant stuff. enjoy !

Fly Tying- Oh Wanda !

i’ve always liked this name. it sounds primal, prehistoric, powerful and psexy.

Wanda White

Wanda (/ˈwɒndə/ won-də; Polish pronunciation: [ˈvanda])

is a female given name of Polish origin. It probably derives from the tribal name of the Wends. The name has long been popular in Poland where the legend of Princess Wanda has been circulating since at least the 12th century. In 1947 Wanda was cited as the second most popular name, after Mary, for Polish girls, and the most popular from Polish secular history. The name is popularly interpreted as meaning “wanderer.”

this hot-off-the-vise streamer pattern by Kris Keller via FlyFishingTheOzarks  looks like it’ll be super-steamy wanderer for any fish that wants a nice seductive mouthful.

Wanda Olive:White

as Kris says: “A very cool little single-hook pattern. In the right color-combo and size, I believe this fly could catch every species of game fish in the world.” and i don’t doubt that for a second and i’m sure you won’t either after seeing the way it swims.

simple to make and rather inexpensive (as far as modern streamers go), tie them as in the tutorial or like the featured variants and as always smaller or bigger to suit your particular needs. enjoy!

Fly Tying- Should upsidedown flies be tied rightside up ?

this recent article from Devin Olsen at Tactical Fly Fisher brings up some very interesting points on nymph design, particularly and as the article’s titled-

Wingcases, shelbacks and wings: To invert or not to invert ? that is the question.

among other great observational insights found in the article, one of the most pertinent, easily verifiable by anyone who takes the time to actually look at how a nymph swims when attached to tippet facts is:

– whether the fly is tied on a standard or jig hook, it doesn’t drift horizontally or in other words, its attached by only one end and therefore tilts and it does its thing in a position that has nothing to do with the usual horizontal fly-in-the-vise or fly photo perspective.

– with this in mind another factor worth considering is, due to water turbulence and all the bazillion currents/countercurrents found in flowing water, nymphs and any subsurface fly tumbles, rocks back and forth, spins and twists while they’re swimming and this again destroys the perfect side view described above, once again reminding us that our 2D perspective and subsequent fly designs may indeed catch us fish but we’re probably not seeing a greater picture that might maybe help to make more fish-attractive designs or simply to have a better understanding how our imitations work and finally, if its worth including or subtracting elements to our patterns.

nymph design Devin Olsen-Tactical Fly Fisher

i do like Devin’s conclusion and it definitely fits in with my own experience-

“Last and most importantly, I’ve tried both methods of wingcase placement with inverted flies. Those tied with wing cases in the normal fashion have fished as well or better for me than those tied inverted. Drift theory aside, this is the only real reason that counts much to me.”

this is good stuff so be sure to click either the pic or the link at the top of the page for the complete article. enjoy !

Winged Nymphs for Dynamic Nymphing

winged-nymph-Lucian-Vasies

some high-level fly design from Lucian Vasies any and every nymph fisher might (read should) take into consideration: it’s that good.

Winged Nymphs for Dynamic Nymphing could be considered a new frontier in fishing nymphs and a new way to tie flies. Some fly tiers consider them ugly. In terms of a classic construction and after the traditional rules to tie a nymph, these flies are quite ugly. These flies don’t follow the rules for conical bodies or for the tail made from feather fibers. What about the typical streamer wings? Something like these was never seen on nymphs. But appearance is not important to these nymphs. Their goal is not to please the fisherman, but to catch fish.”

winged-nymph-tail-Lucian-Vasies

the two key elements setting this beast apart from the rest, both of CDC fibres for the reasons explained in Lucian’s complete text and step-by-step you can access by clicking either pic.

winged-nymph-wing-Lucian-Vasies


Lucian’s a buddy and i know he won’t take this sideways but the fold-over wing isn’t exactly new but that’s of no importance. what is however is this concept is as hot as it gets when it comes to wet fly and nymph design.

here’s my ever so succesful ‘bladge i started tinkering with four years ago. it’s a black midge just subsurface wet, size 20 where the soft,Bladge 25-1-13 fold-over wing was inspired by Peter Dobbs’ Shwartza (bottom pic) created in the early ’90s for the UK reservoir competition scene which in turn might have been inspired by the soft wing tied semi-upright  Clyde style flies from a hundred and more years ago. Clyde wings are typically tied with wings slips from game birds. they’re nowhere as stiff as genetic cock hackles but they retain their wing shape a lot more than the marabou used in the Shwartza or fuzzy fibres found at the base of starling feathers i use for the ‘bladge.

what they do have in common with Lucian’s ingenious idea of using CDC fibres is all these super-soft materials collapse back when wet. since they’re tied in wing-style every fibre is free to move around, both undulating with the current and creating a very life-like ‘outer shell’ of the imitation’s body, something any other tying method has a very hard time replicating. play around with the concept, i promise you won’t regret.

for more on the Shwartza click the pic

the Infernal Triangle of the Nymph World

first of all, the Sanford and Son episode that inspired these magical nymphs-

ok, that was to a) get you throught the “Oh, No ! Not Another PT Tutorial !!!” feeling you probably had when you opened this page and b) a little Sanford and Son rerun every ten or twenty years doesn’t hurt.
so, now that we have the historical background and ermm feelings covered, let’s have a look at this lovely trio of nymphs through yet another awesome video from Davie McPhail.

all three are based on the very same Pheasant Tail nymph design. one’s a straight-up PT and the other two are variants.
these two variants, in my mind, aren’t really necessary because as we all know, no other nymph will outfish a PT but they’re there to remind us that if we keep the same concept and proportions as the OGPT, we can play around and customize and make ourselves feel good and feel special and still end up with an equally succesful, inexpensive and dead-easy to tie nymph.
on a more practicle note, while the variants will necessitate more than just two materials, these materials are also stronger than pheasant tail fibres making for flies that will resist a little better to tiny teeth, forceps, angler clumsiness, underwater rocks abrasion, etc.
a lot of tiers will have an iffy feeling about tying a complete fly with wire instead of the classic thread but trying is believing. keep in mind that the wire’s weight actually weighs the fly down quite a bit or at least a heck of a lot more than it might seem at first. that weight is also distributed throughout the fly’s body instead of the usual just-behind-the-head of the typical beadhead nymph and results in a more realistic movement through the water. for even heavier versions, lay a lead wire base in the thorax region before attaching the tying wire and and skip the wire build-up sequence.

here you go, you’ll find the materials list below, enjoy !

materials used in the video- (feel more than free to improvise)
Hook, Kamasan B175 (something barbless is of course better)
Thread, Extra Small Copper Wire (thinner is better, specially if you want more weight. the smaller spaces between wraps means filling in those spaces with wire instead of air)
Tail, Pheasant Tail Fibres
Body, Pheasant Tail, Natural Dubbing and Killer Bug Yarn (this one’s hard to get but there are several equally effective substitutes available)
Thorax Cover, Pheasant Tail and Natural Dubbing

How trout take subsurface flies

this film is really interesting and not something we get to see very often.
the purists will moan and groan that this study was done on stocked fish using stocked fish flies but even if its ultimately possible, its also highly improbable that someone is going to go through all the effort and time to get the same footage on wild stock, besides, i don’t think it would make for a big difference. also, wild fish of the same size don’t tend to congregate so much, further decreasing the competitive agressivness seen in this video so, let’s just take from this what we can.
firstly, seeing fish attack flies is well, exciting. its one of the major reasons we do what we do. also, from a practicle aspect, this vid says a lot about how fast they’ll spit that fly back out; something we tend to not like as much !

i didn’t bother counting but what seems more than obvious was how fast the deer hair muddler-headed fly (the first in the series) was spit out. after viewing this several times there even seemed to be a panicked expression (i know, i know. that’s dangerous ground but please bare with me on this one, here’s my point)-
take a muddler head fly and hold it between your fingers; its prickly and stiffish and doesn’t feel like any ‘normal’ fish food and that leads me to this, at least for the moment, conclusion.
its not to say that muddlers aren’t great flies because they are but the spit-out rate and how fast its spit out ratio seems higher than with non-prickly adorned flies and this from what the purists are calling ‘dumb fish’…

fly no. 2 and 4, generic non body-hackled wooly bugger type lures (for lack of a better name) are kept in the mouth longer. had the hook point been there these would have produced more hook-ups because the angler would have had more time to react to the takes.

enough rambling, whether we come to any practicle conclusion regarding fly designs or not, its still something i’m sure you’ll enjoy watching.

GTs eat Flip-Flops

Flip,_Flop_and_Fly_single_cover

“Giant Trevally are a predatory fish that have even been known to eat birds. This video is proof that they also eat bird flies made from flip flops that wash up on the shore. Shot on location at Farquhar Atoll in the Seychelles on November 16th, 2015.”

not only amusing and inspiring, this is a great reminder that ‘matching the hatch‘ isn’t just about bugs. enjoy !

Big Joe Turner being the great man that he was had of course envisioned this event…

a Strung-Out and Wired Olive Spider

ok, there’s nothing strung-out about this spider pattern but i just like the way it sounds…

on to today’s nifty bug tutorial by Hans Weilenmann; a quick look at Mike Harding’s A Guide to North Country Flies and How to Fish Them (a reference book on this style of fly i highly recommend)  a guide to north country fliesreminds us that apart from a few style-deviant patterns, NCF’s are indeed wet flies but they’re generally unweighted and are designed to fish dead-drifted on, in or slightly below the surface but traditions are just like rules and rules and traditions are meant to be broken, bent, corrupted and distorted, at least in a fly-fishy sort of way so, just as Harding’s Brassie Boa, Brassie Midge, Woodcock and Red Brassie and Copper Wire Dun (that one’s really yummy) that also have a wired body instead of the traditional waxed or unwaxed thread bodies, Hans’ version takes the same route by adding a little tiny bit of weight to what’s normally a pretty weightless fly. this extra weight shouldn’t lead you to believe these variants will sink the flies to the riverbed because they don’t, specially if there’s anything more than a slow current. on the other hand, they will go just underneath the surface currents quite easily and also help to turn over a team of two or three flies when the wired spider is tied on as point fly. of maybe more importance, at least in my eyes, the wired bodies will automatically add a little bit of flashiness, something that will be of great use to us when the fish are in a flashy mood or when getting their attention when they’re in sleepy mode.

as always, Hans gives good tutorial and this one’s no exception and now its time for him to take over. enjoy !

the Transformer Midge

hot off of Davie McPhail‘s video editor is one the most interesting fly design concepts i’ve seen in a looooong time: the Transformer monicker sets the theme.

tied as is and with all its strong and fine trigger points, this fly looks like it’ll do the trick just about anywhere whether it be on flowing or still waters anytime a floating or in-the-surface-film or sub-surface aquatic or terrestrial fly is called for.
– need something that looks more caddisy ? just trim back the extended body with your nippers.
– want a stonefly ? nip off the legs and maybe trim the chenille abdomen.
– small grass-hopper hatch ? trim back the abdomen a little and leave it blunt instead of tapered.
– want it to sit in the film ? trim the bottom part of the hackle with either your nippers or scissors.
– want it just below the surface to fish it Loch-Style ? rub it underwater with your fingers till it’s waterlogged and it’ll break the surface tension right away.
– sound good ? no, great  !

since i exclusively use factory barbless hooks, i’m certain a wide gape curved-shank ‘scud’ type hook will work very nicely. different sizes from size 10 to 18 in black, olive and brown should do the trick year ’round.
heck, i’m seeing so much potential in this little bug that i think i’ll tie up a little box full of these and fish them exclusively…

here’s the tying tutorial, enjoy !

James Brown and Gandalf

a tasty funky streamer tying tutorial by Norbert Renaud

mix in equal parts and you’ll end up with not only one of the cutest streamers there is and if that weren’t enough,  you’ll probably start gyrating your hips while tying it. (gyrating’s good. in fact it’s the secret of all great fly tiers)

[vimeo 123338293 w=1000]

ps- be sure to tie a few extra and cut off the hook and give them to your kids and cats as toys.  enjoy !

Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice

dryflyfishing cover halfordanother doozy from the infamous “Detached Badger of “The Field” *,  Frederic Michael Halford, first printed in 1889 via openlibrary.org

while all of us in the Northern Hemisphere are secretly hating all those that aren’t, impatiently waiting for open waters and better days… here’s a more than amusing and informative and oh boy, once again reminder that while certain details have changed through fly fishing history, the bigger picture hasn’t evolved that much.

a few tidbits-

reels

rod action

changing

rod length
and if those don’t get your interest, this one on rod-holding ‘butt spears’ should do the trick.

butt spears

click either text/image to access the complete 400 or so page book. its well worth the read, besides, well, its well worth the read.
the guy sure had a lot to say about everything one might want to know and then more. enjoy !

* please don’t ask. i have no idea and i really don’t want to know.

Fly Tying- Herman’s Roy-style Reversed Parachute micro caddis

Herman as in deGala and Roy as in Christie !

i of course don’t mean any disrespect as i really like this video and Herman’s demeanour but ! apart from the bright green egg sack, to be honest, i can’t for the life of me see this fly as anything caddisy… but (again) ! lets have a closer look at this fly’s other component, one we can easily transfer over to countless other dry/emerger/floating nymph patterns; the Christie-style Parachute hackling method.

no style is an end-all but this one really stands out from the crowd on several levels, most notably by its ‘puffed-up in a ball’ fibre positions but also overall strength and resistance to fish teeth and other abrasions.
more ‘traditional’ hackling around the hook shank has the fibres oriented vertically when the fly is resting at the surface whereas others where the hackle is wound on a post such as the Klinkhammer or Christie styles have them horizontally, parallel to the water’s surface.
generally speaking, vertical fibres will have only their tips in contact with the water’s surface, thus the fly’s body is suspended above the surface whereas horizontal fibres are splayed out on the water. the latter leaves a bigger imprint on the surface but also does a better job at suspending what’s beneath it, in this case, the fly’s body or ‘floating nymph’ as it where.

as to it’s sturdiness, what makes this one so close to the proverbial bullet-proofness is that the hackle stem is enclosed within the nylon loop. should one segment be torn, the rest still hold their place, something traditionally wound hackles can’t claim. one little nick and the fly needs to be changed.
i don’t loose a lot of flies so how they hold up through time is important. (i’m also very lazy when it comes to tying sessions, or rather, it’s hard for me to actually start tying flies. once i’ve started i can’t stop and it’s not like flies are precious but i just don’t know when i’ll feel like tying again so the ones that have hatched are expected to last. i’ve digressed enough….) anyhow !

a while back we’d already seen Roy’s Reverse Parachute step-by-step and complete video tutorial and while Herman’s version isn’t a night and day variant, something about it makes the whole nylon post and hackling method seem simpler, something that should be of great interest for the person wanting to learn and try out this hackling method.

my guess is the ‘simpler’ part might have to do with using a Gallows tool to hold the nylon post vertically and tight whereas Roy does without. i’ve been tying mine for years without the tool and it of course works very well but i’ll give it a try soon as i suspect it makes winding the hackle easier and more importantly, easier to keep the winds compacted close to the hook before tightening the loop.
in a pinch, you can make a little metal hook from a paper clip and attach that to a rubber band, the lot suspended from your tying light or have someone hold the nylon post while you wind the hackle. it only takes a few seconds, plus its a good way to put your partner/spouse/sexdwarf/roommate/butler or whomever’s handy to good use… ummmm, enjoy !

some previously seen yums. i loves yums !

Fly Tying- the Double-Decker

no, not this goofy thing,
doubledecker
this one !
DDecker McPhail

nice and nifty and what i like best: lotsa fishing friendly, fish attracting profile with a highly non-bug-species-specific generic aspect.

take special note of Davie’s method of breaking away the wing’s waste hairs by increasing thread tension at the tie in point while tearing the fibres with the other hand. this is a brilliant, fast and tool-less solution for getting a great tapered body without having to cut away and ending up with an unsightly abrupt bump.
why the double wings ? the same amount of deer hair over a larger surface stabilises the fly on the surface, specially in faster flows or choppier water and is more translucent, something that’s gotta be more realistic or at least, less put-offish to the fish below than some dense lump. the larger surface will also help the angler track the fly without having to resort to adding some gaudy fluo pink shit to the fly…

lastly, this winging method of course reminds us of Bob Wyatt’s infamous* Deer Hair Emerger and i can’t help but think that a double-wing version added to it would be the bee’s knees, once again, specially in the faster waters or when it might be a little hard to see the fly or even as a ‘stronger floating’ indicator fly with a nymph or wet hanging below it. good stuff huh ?

thanks again Davie for giving us another great tutorial. enjoy folks !

* yeah, yeah, i know. once a kid always a kid…

a Disco Shrimp

even if it isn’t even half as discoish as the infamous ‘discodildo on a hook’  what remains is a really nifty shrimp imitation well worth having for when its time to dredge river and stream beds for as noted in the title, grayling, but also trout, barbel, carp, masheer (i caught my first masheer in Malaysia on a shrimp/scud imitation), yellowfish and whatever else species you might have in your part of the world that eat freshwater shrimp and most do.
maybe more than the pattern itself, what caught my attention where several really good tying tips and tricks that are more than worth looking at carefully for tiers of all levels.
several of these methods can easily be taken over to other fly patterns, such as:
– controlling latex back widths by varying tension and stretching it well before cutting off so the little uncut part of the strip retracts.
– cutting the brush fibres of a toothbrush to make a nifty dubbing puller. serrated blade scissors work very well for this. apart from my usual tying tools, two that get used a lot are toothbrushes, one left as-is for general brushing and fly grooming (yeah, i know that sounds a little weird but weird is good !) and one trimmed as in the video.
the trimmed brush, with its longer fibres does a better job with bushier flies such as this shrimp or streamers than the standard velcro on lolly-stick tool.
– flattening the finished fly with pliers to finish its shape. i do this regularly with nymphs. sometimes in the vertical way as with this shrimp, sometimes on the horizontal as with crawling/stone clinger mayfly nymph imitations. using the striations of the pliers is also a cool way to add texture to varnished or uv resined flies.

i probably forgot a few tips but i’m sure you’ll find them in this great tutorial. enjoy !

Roy’s Flat Spent Mayfly Spinner

yet another lovely-lovely bug and step-by-step by Roy Christie

flatspentspinner R. Christie

“This is another cabin-fever fly, the result of sitting down with a notepad, drawing what we want the trout to see; then building it in a useable form.
This and many of my other working flies come from this process.
Concept flies may eventually become working reality.
This fly will always land gently, right side up and can be easily presented on a sunk tippet.
Build it from materials chosen to match your local fall of spinners.
The fly is built on a curved hook of your choosing, which is cranked about twenty degrees toward the tyer, a quarter way back from the eye. It is dressed round the bend to get the tails to support the weight of the hook shank over the greatest possible area, so it can be dressed sparsely.”
very astute thoughts there showing us what creative and effective fly design is all about: studying the naturals, the prey, how the imitation should ‘behave’ upon presentation and do its job of enticing that prey.
a fly designed to catch fish, not inspired by what other tiers have done but one inspired by trout.

to access the step-by-step and learn how to tie this little cutie click the image.
for more of Roy’s flies previously posted on the Cobra click here. enjoy !

going down deep

where most anglers would walk on by.

here’s a little excerpt from the video’s page, underlined is the interesting part for us fly fishers-
“The snow is melting in the high mountains, flooding the lower rivers. The lowest, clearest water lies in the upper river tributaries. This pool is usually a bit easier to swim in low water, but today powerful rapids create a vortex of currents. Beneath the churning rapids lies a surprise- 15 feet of deep calm water.” where the fishes are !

now, getting our flies down to 15 feet in fast water isn’t the easiest thing to do (and in most cases impossible given the short drift times and adding that the faster water above is pulling the line/leader downstream, etc, ) but, these calm and fish-holding zones aren’t always that deep. sometimes it’s just a few feet and that’s very feasible.
how ? by dumping heavy/hydrodynamic flies (sleek and slender, nothing bushy !) into the very base of the waterfall using CNT ‘contemporary nymphing techniques’ (i’m trying not to use the term euronymphing… ) and letting the falling water push those big-heavy-nasty flies down deep where the fish are holding up in the slower waters waiting for just that:
food being pushed down to them.
finding the right approach position is crucial here or we can’t keep contact with the flies. it can be from upstream or usually to the side of the deep zone but for once we have an easy job discretion-wise as there’s a lot of bubbles, debris and stuff obstructing the fishes view. i wouldn’t go stomping the ground or rocks but it’s a safe bet they won’t hear us or detect unnatural vibrations either given all the ruckus created by the falls.

we’ll notice in the video all the smaller, curious and oh-so cute trouties hanging out by the diver but rest assured that the bigger dominant fish scuttled off before being filmed. these zones are prime holding areas for the bigguns because its a perfect place to eat in peace and stay away from predators.

another treat from River Snorkel i hope you’ll enjoy.

half french, half italian

with a nice twist: narrated by a woman, which is, as far as i know, a first.

Luca Montanari demonstrates here how to tie a still very big classic dry in Europe’s Latin countries: Aimé Devaux’s Olive
although only slightly accentuated in Luca’s vid, Devaux’s dries typically have a distinctive pushed-forward, sorta ‘funnelled’ palmered hackle. his idea in this design was the fly would twist less whilst being cast (in this aspect, ‘traditionally’ palmered hackles have a corkscrew/helix profile in line with the leader), would give a more pronounced parachute effect thus alighting gentler on the water and maybe mostly because the lower half of the hackle facing forward visible to the fish is more realistic because real mayfly legs point forward.

smart guy and quite a looker as well ! aimé devaux 1

explained in italian, its ok if you don’t capisce, the visuals are solid. enjoy !

gotta love that face…
aime-devaux-2

Fly Fishing Literature- G E M Skues The Man of the Nymph

‘The Man of the Nymph”. if the title alone isn’t just the sexiest thing ever than i don’t know what is !
piscatorial lasciviousness aside, check out the video. Hayter’s enthusiasm gives me the idea that this book’s a winner.

“The long awaited definitive biography of a fly fishing icon. Written with a rare authority by Tony Hayter one of our foremost angling historians, and published by Robert Hale Ltd. We had the honour to film the book launch at the Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge, Hampshire, and conduct an interview with the author.

This video contains clips from the launch and excerpts from the interview” enjoy !

the last Molt

i can’t figure out why but this dun to spinner transformation stuff gets me all excited ! after two seconds i immediately shut down the sucky music and found myself grunting along with the beast simultaneously shouting PUSH – PULL – PUSH !!!
for the full exhilarating experience i suggest you do the same. note how near the end it just ‘walks away’ from its front-right leg just as any self-respecting zombie might do. too cool, enjoy !

 

White Trash and a Puss

two great new vids from the guys at Gink&Gasoline

first up and another fine example of “one of those bread and butter, no real need to stray from the basic design fly/streamers”, Garner Reid’s White Trash has everything a baitfish imitation should have.
proportions, profile, a combined mix of opaque and translucency and of course the necessary (imo) sexy-seductive action of the bunny fur strip to make it come alive even when not retrieved or affected by current. as a bonus the dumbbell eyes also gives it an up and down jigging action. a fine variant leading to a different swimming action would be to not add the dumbbell and glue on plastic eyes instead.

tie them in different sizes and colours to match your local baitfish and you can’t go wrong. simples.

and now for a trippy puss. enjoy !

be sure to regularly check out the G&G blog. it’s one of the best out there.