Fly Patterns - Two Tying Techniques



This month, instead of doing a specific fly, we’re going to do something different: learn two important tying techniques that puzzle most tyers. Why? Because, for the July, 2010 Leader, we will build on and use these two techniques to create an adult Hexagenia, which is the largest of all of the species of mayflies. In my view, it would be difficult to tie the Hex pattern if you have to learn everything at once; and, to boot, the article would be laboriously long.  If you want to tie the Hex that will be in the July Leader, I recommend that you study the two techniques that follow, and practice them diligently. The two techniques are: (a) creating an extended body with foam; and (b) creating a “dubbing brush” for a pull-over style fly.  Let’s get started.


Tying Instructions

  1. Creating a foam extended body.  What is the advantage of an extended body, other than the fact that it just looks dandy to the eye of the tyer? First of all, it enables you to tie a large dry fly such as the Hex, or a Pteronarcys Stonefly (commonly called a “Salmonfly) without having to use a huge, long hook. Secondly, it creates a nice, natural looking abdomen. Third, because we are using foam (in combination with the hackle-brush, pullover technique), we achieve additional floatation. There are other reasons that will become apparent to you when you tie an extended body pattern and fish it.

a.      Materials needed

·         A sewing needle about 1.5” in length.

·         Two millimeter foam

·         8/0 thread to match the color of the foam

b.      Tying steps

1.      Place the needle in your vise, with the eye-end inside the jaws, and clamp it down well.

2.      Cut a piece of foam approximately ¼” in width and 2” long

3.      Fold the foam in half and cut a tapered notch on each side of the folded end.

4.     Open up the foam and press it onto the needle in the center of the notched portion, and slide the foam back to the vise jaws.

5.    Wrap a small amount of thread in front of the foam—keep it sparse; too much thread will cause problems in removing the completed body from the needle.

6.       Press the two halves of the foam together, making sure that the thread is inside the “sandwich.”

7.     Wrap around the sandwiched foam 3 times, about 1/8” in front of the jaws; this will create our first “bubble.”

8.   Take three wraps around the needle between the two halves of the foam, moving the thread forward about 1/8” and repeat steps 6 and 7. Do this until you have made at least 5 bubbles, spaced in equidistant fashion.

9.       When you’ve completed the last bubble, whip finish at the front of the most forward bubble and place a tiny drop of super glue on the whip finish.

10.   Quickly slide the body off the needle; if you wait too long, the super glue may set up against the needle and the body won’t slide off.

11.   You’ll notice that you have, in effect, a duck-bill-like appendage consisting of the two foam stubs, at the front of the body. Trim one of the two foam stubs off close to the thread wraps. Taper the second stub to a point (this will make it easy to tie to the hook when the time comes.

12.   Make a dozen bodies. You will get better at it with repetition.


Creating a foam extended body:

Body Step 1

 Body Steps 2 & 3















Body Step 4

























  1. Creating a hackle brush.  What is a hackle brush? It is up to 40 (sometimes even a few more) wraps of hackle around a core such as monofilament, fluorocarbon, flex floss, or similar material. It is used in tying “pull-over” style flies. Certain small patterns (notably some of Bob Quigley’s gems) require only a few wraps; large patterns, such as the Hex we will tie in July, require 40 or so wraps. As indicated below, you will need to have a gallows tool for your vise in order to do pull-over hackle brushes.

a.      Materials and tools needed

·   Hook (any variety will do for practice purposes)

·     4x monofilament

·     8/0 thread to match body color

·   Dry fly quality saddle hackle (long, narrow, shiny), color to match body

·      Gallows tool for your vise

   b.   Tying Steps

1.   Cut a 1’ long piece of 4x monofilament or fluorocarbon and tie it on the hook securely at the end of the shank. Attach the other end of the material to your gallows tool, making sure that the material is taut. If it is too loose, wrapping the hackle will be very difficult. This will be the hackle post. Place a drop of super glue on the wraps.

2.   Tie in a saddle hackle at the base of the post and take 5 or 6 widely spaced wraps of hackle up the post. This step should cover about 1” of the post.

3.   Begin winding down the post with tightly spaced wraps; at the end of each wrap gently pull the hackle upwards to seat it against the prior wrap. If you have done this correctly, you should be able to get around 40 wraps around the post before hitting the shank.

4.   At the end of the last wrap, pull the hackle forward along the shank and tie it down with a few wraps.

5.   Cut the post, leaving a tag of about 1”; you will need this tag in order to pull the hackle brush forward across the top of the abdomen when we tie the Hex fly.

6.   Pull the brush rearward, and wrap the thread back to the base of the post. For now, just whip finish there. The hackle brush is complete.

7. As in the case of the extended body, practice this by doing it at least a dozen times. You will become proficient with it rapidly if you do so.

Creating a hackle brush:

Brush Step 1


Brush Step 2


Brush Steps 3 & 4


Brush Steps 5 & 6




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