Tying Small Flies
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Wrap the hackle forward to the hook eye, leaving small spaces between each turn. Tie it off at the eye with one wrap of thread. Wind the thread to the back of the hackle area, taking care to not mash the fibers. Next, wrap the feather down the hook, filling in the spaces. Tie off the feather with one thread wrap, and wrap the thread forward to the hook eye.
Once again, wrap the feather forward, tie it off, and form a thread head. Clip off the waste part of the feather. On this fly, the author tied off the hackle with several wraps of thread. Now he'll have to clip the surplus feather and then cover the stub with more thread wraps. The result will be a bulbous and misshapen head.
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Perhaps we could do better. Once the mistake is made, the fly is disfigured forever. Here's a better way to tie off the hackle and finish the thread head. Secure the hackle with one firm wrap of thread. In the first photo, Al has tied off the feather, making a common mistake.
The finished head will be very large and lopsided. Does this happen to you? Brush back all the hackle fibers and length of excess hackle. Wrap the thread back on the excess hackle. This jam knot will firmly secure the feather to the hook. Pull the excess hackle forward and clip. Any stub will be hidden in the hackle collar. Now you may whip-finish the thread and clip.
This neat idea will help you make tidier heads on your dry flies. Hold the wrapped hackle in place using only one wrap of thread.
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Use the left thumb and first two fingers to gently pull the hackle fibers and feather tip back and out of the way. Next, place nine wraps on the hook as a head or jam knot. This knot kicks the feather back into the wrapped hackle. Because he hated customer complaints about hackle-clogged hook eyes; he knew this problem was more common on smaller flies. Wrap the hackle.
Tie off the feather around the base of the wing post. When we got married, we spent three months living in the back of our pickup, traveling and fishing anywhere we wished. When we needed money to get another tank of gas, we would tie an order of flies. We spent two days sitting on the banks of the Gallatin River figuring out how to tie those little parachutes without clogging the hook eyes.
The solution was quite simple. Our technique changes the location on the fly where you tie off the hackle. Construct the parachute body so it ends with the thread behind the wing post rather than at the hook eye. Wrap the hackle, tie it off at the bottom of the post, and trim. Pull the thread forward to the hook eye, and tie off the thread using a knot-tying tool. Note: We used a marker on the thread to better illustrate its relationship with the materials. Tie the herl to the hook. Next, make a thread dubbing loop. Catch both the loop and the herl in a dubbing-loop spinning tool.
But making a durable peacock body is really simple. Tie several peacock herls to the hook by their tips. Form a dubbing loop about as long as the herls. Capture the thread and herls with a clubbing-loop tool. Pull the loop tight and rotate the tool. The chenille appears starting at the hook. Now you may wrap the rope up the hook to create a very durable peacock-herl body. Caution: The loop and herl will grow slightly shorter as you rotate the tool.
Allow it to do so, or the herl will break under the tension. The tail is in place and the calftail wing is tied to the hook. Most tiers then clip the butt ends of the calftail with the scissors positioned straight up and down. But the disguise lasts only as long as the fly is dry; when the dubbing gets wet, it reveals the dirty little secret under it. The butt ends of this wing were clipped straight up and down. There's no way to hide the resulting hump. Perhaps there's a better way. Hold the scissors flat along the top of the hook, and cock the butt ends of the calftail up at a degree angle.
Now clip the excess fibers. If you cut the excess wing material off with the scissors straight up and down, there is no amount of dubbing, thread, or other materials that will hide the resulting bump. Wrap the tapered fibers tight against the top of the tail. This level underbody will help create a smooth dubbed or floss body. If, on the other hand, you lay the scissors flat along the shank while holding the waste hair ends up at a degree angle, the resulting cut tapers toward the tail.
The angle on this cut provides a much smoother transition and a better looking body. Stack a bunch of hair for the wings. Tie the bunch to the top of the hook with the tips pointing forward. Gretchen tended to get hers too short, and Al was all over the scale.
Then we stumbled on a really easy fix using a spare hook as a gauge.
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This solution was lying in front of us for years. Pull back on the hair until the wing equals the length of the spare hook. Select, clean, and stack a clump of hair for the wings. Tie it to the hook shank on the near side so it is much longer than needed; use snug but not tight thread wraps.
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Mount a spare hook in an electronics test clip or hackle pliers to use as a measuring gauge. Pull back on the wing until enough hair has slipped out from under the thread wraps to equal the length of shank. The wing fibers are now the correct length. Next, tighten the thread wraps to pull the wing into position on top of the shank. Here we see the original Wonder Wings. The stem, tied to the hook, causes the fly to spin and twist the leader when cast. Clipping the base of the stem from the wing is a poor solution; you'll also cut some of the desirable soft fibers that form the wing.
The first photograph shows the Wonder Wing in its original form with the feather stems tied to the hook shank. It has a beautiful profile with one major problem: the stiff stems in the wings cause the leader to twist during casting. We discovered that removing a section of the stem next to the hook shank solves the problem, but this cut other fibers unintentionally.
Tying Small Flies
Tips on fishing techniques come from Ed Engle's 30 years of experience fishing small flies on the South Platte River. What a great book. Lots of great information and patterns. I really appreciated the discussion on small hooks.