Tying Effective Hair Wings

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Photo by Bob Reece

By Bob Reece

Social media allows for the viewing of frequent and numerous fly patterns. 

As with all things fly fishing, there are seasonal trends.  This time of year dry flies make a common appearance.  Many of those incorporate some form of hair as a wing imitation.  While effective, this material can provide tying and durability challenges.  

When spinning deer or elk hair, a bare hook shank is helpful.  Yet, when tying in a hair wing it is detrimental.  The smooth surface of the hook shank creates much less friction than one wrapped with thread.  This lack of friction causes the hair wing to shift position when being tied in.  The simple correction of this issue is to lay down sparse thread wraps over the hook surface where the wing will attach.  

Glues should never be used as a substitute for sound tying techniques.  However, they can greatly help to enhance the durability of the parts that make up a pattern.  Any time I tie in a hair based wing, I always follow it with a small touch of Zap-A-Gap Thin.  This helps to further anchor in place and hold the hairs, subsequently enhancing the on-the-water life of the fly. 

Lastly, but most commonly seen in the pictures that I view, is an excess of hair.  The hair wing of any dry fly pattern needs only to provide the impression of a wing.  Using too much hair can negatively affect the profile and effectiveness of the fly.  It can also reduce durability since large clumps of hair tied to the smaller shanks of dry fly hooks are more prone to rolling and shifting.  

Dry fly season is still upon us.  As we continue through it, evaluate the construction of your hair wing.  Take the needed steps to ensure that your wings help the fly and survive an on-the-water attack. 


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Bob Reece
Gink & Gasoline
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