The hallmark of well-tied flies is natural proportion.
This is never more true than when tying tiny trout flies. Trout are visual feeders and there are three primary criteria that a fly must meet to elicit a positive response. It must match the natural in size, color and profile. Of these three, the hardest to match in tiny flies is profile.
There are several elements to a fly’s profile. It must have the appropriate style of wing and the right size hackle, for example, but where most of us miss the mark is in the proportion of the body. Primarily because most tiers, often including myself, use too many wraps of thread.
Using too much thread builds bodies that are too thick and often lumpy and awkward. It always matters but when tying patterns smaller than size 16 every wrap is critical. Using too many wraps to secure a material will cause awkward lumps in the tiny profile which make the fly look unnatural. That can cost you a discerning fish.
Here are some techniques that will help you tie more natural flies by sparing the thread.
Make a plan
It’s easy to become task oriented when tying. When you focus only on the material you are tying in, you end up doing repetitive tasks. Plan ahead. Think of the fly as a whole and take a minute to think it through before you tie. You can often catch in several materials with a single wrap each, then secure them together as you wrap up the hook shank.
Catch materials in early
Materials like ribbing wire can be caught in as you first wrap your thread down the hook shank. This conserves an entire layer of thread. There’s no need for a thread base to tie the wire into, because once it’s wrapped around the body, it can not be put under enough pressure to be pulled free.
Lock materials with alternating wraps
Once you’ve wrapped a hackle or body material it’s common to use too many wraps to secure it. The most effective way to lock material in is by alternating thread wraps on top of, and then under the material. There are two ways to do this. When tying the abdomen of a fly, with pheasant tail for example, wrap the material up the hook shank and secure it with two wraps. Then lift the waste end of the material and take one wrap around the hook shank tight against the material. Then bring the waste end of the material forward and take two more wraps. Weaving the material between the thread locks it for keeps.
When finishing the thorax of a fly, where a little more bulk is appropriate, you can secure materials like wing cases and hackles by taking two turns over the material then pulling the waste end back over the body and wrap back over the first two wraps. That’s a secure connection.
Use superglue for extra hold
When you need to lock in a slippery material or material that you expect to take some stress you can get extra hold by applying superglue to your thread. Use the super glue with the brush applicator and coat a bit of your thread before wrapping over the material. Two glued wraps are as good as six unglued.
Whip finish with superglue
You can save wraps when whip finishing by applying superglue to your thread before you whip finish. The superglue is drawn into the whip finish for a foolproof finish. Three turns is plenty. On super tiny flies I often skip the whip finish all together by coating the thread with superglue and simply taking a few glued wraps. Just let the glue dry before trimming the thread. It does hold.
Form your head as you whip finish
Save the last few wraps by building the head of the fly with your whip finish. On tiny flies it’s all you need.
Use light thread
Don’t be intimidated by fine thread. You can put a surprising amount of pressure on materials with 17/0 thread. Just be cautious of nicking the thread with the hook point. That’s what usually breaks thread.
One of the cleanest tyers I’ve ever seen is Scottish tyer, Davie McPhail. Davie never wastes a wrap. You can learn a lot about the economy of wrapping and many other great tying techniques from his videos.
You can buy his book, “Modern Flies and Fly Tying Techniques Volume 1″ HERE
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