HELP! Newbie fly tying questions [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: HELP! Newbie fly tying questions

01-30-2002, 09:03 PM
Well, I tied my first Deceiver tonight but it probably won't deceive anything other than bluefish (maybe!). I decided not to post a photo because I didn't want anyone to waste their coffee and ruin their keyboard.

The major problem I encountered was trying to tie on the hackle feathers in the prescribed "praying hands" style. The feathers kept crossing over each other and spreading out. I was trying to tie all four feathers in at the same time, on the top of the wrapped hook shank. Also, I stripped the bases of the feathers and wrapped the thread over the stripped part only, not on the fibers. Is that the correct method? Is it better to tie them in one or two at a time? Do they go on the top of the shank or on the sides? Is it better to not strip the bases of the feathers?

I also had trouble trying to get the belly and wings to look right. I used four colors of bucktail (white belly with olive over chartreuse over flourescent yellow wing) with some pearl flashy fiber stuff on the sides. I was trying not to use too much, but I think I "under" did it. This thing looks like it's been chewed already! Any tips on the typical amounts and proportions of material to use?

Thanks for any and all suggestions.


01-30-2002, 09:16 PM
Yup that crossing feathers thing is a pain. I always struggle with it. But one thing that helps is to do a loose yet firm (or not too tight) wrap around the feather bases only-no hook shank. Then do a regular wrap around the hook shank which pulls the prewrapped bunch down onto the hook.
Also I cut the feather base (or bone?) back a bit cause they are too thick sometimes at the ends. That thickness adds to them fighting against eachother and causing the crossing. Don't be afraid to use a touch of superglue here and there to keep the feathers lined up. Good luck. You should have seen my first deceiver. :chuckle:


01-30-2002, 10:16 PM
Four at a time is too hard to control. Try tying the first two and then add the other two one at a time. Terry's suggestion about looser initial wraps should help too.

Don't throw that fly out. You may be overestimating the fishes taste.

01-31-2002, 12:24 AM
Congrats Q!

You'll be chasin' John Morin's numbers in no time. Keep in mind it's not always the angler but sometimes it's the materials... feathers vary radically and this plays a big role in the way they work when wrapped on a shank.

Without seeing it I would suggest paying some heed to the follwoing:

a) underrwrapping the shank - feathers and thread grip much better on a good base of thread, although you don't need to over do it a base of thread is key

b) selection of feathers - some are inherently curved while others have a moderate curve. Some have a rigid stem (as Lefty points out) and others have a supple one. Some have barbs that seem to stay in order, others have barbs that collapse into clumps. Selection of hackles is about as important as anything else

c) positioning the hackles - try to select feathers that complement each other, for deceivers I prefer those with very little curvature to them. Since stripers aim for the noggin' you can also tie the stems in so the feather comes off a tangent to the curvature of the hook along the spine, an extension straight back in other words. Even still you want the feathers to lay comfortably alongside each other instead of under any kind of tension so go with straight ones with a good profile.

d) lay the stems parallel to the shank at a tiny angle so the stem comes together as it rises above the shaft. This will help hold them together when you wrap it up, which pushes the feathers back down along the shaft. Match the feathers so the profiles are similar, and line up the end of the feathers on the 'tail'. I prefer to do them all at once, holding the assy with my left hand while I wrap with my right - but whatever works best is the right way for you.

e) bucktail is famous for splaying out when tightened... make sure you choose a skin whose hair is thin, straight or slightly curved inward, and does not have a large diameter of hollow hair at the base. For deceivers I use the curved tips down to form a leaf-shaped body. Using an epoxy head over an eye makes it more durable and holds the bucktail in check.

Most importantly tie a lot - the little tweaks will become second nature. And yeah, hang on to that fly! I have an old box of my first flies... I call them Frankenflies... some of them have caught some nice fish for me, but the others are always fun to look at because they are like evolution running amok with a bobbin and a vise :hehe:

01-31-2002, 09:33 AM

I had (and sometimes still do) have trouble with hackle & bucktail. I friend showed me that if you make your first few wraps relatively "loose" these natural materials will be less likely to "Spike Up". Then when you get it laying like you want it go back over it with some tighter wraps. Also, I've found that Danville's Waxed Monocord size 3/0 is good for beginners, because it grips, does not build up a big head & fishishes clear after applying some hard-head. After getting a little better go to Fine Monofiliment; it has very good properties, except it does tend to slip a little.


01-31-2002, 07:42 PM
When I tie in hackle you usually find that you have to trim to legnth so rather than striping the fiber at the tie in point on the hackle cut the fiber from the stem leaving a 32 or so which will lock in the thread or mono and prevents twisting.


01-31-2002, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the tips guys. I think I'm getting the hang of it. Sort of.

I know that some of my problems are due to the lack of quality materials. The selection at the local fly shop is somewhat limited so I didn't have much to choose from. Still, with your help and a little patience I was able to get the 3rd and 4th attempts to come out ok. Here they are:

I found that tying in the hackles was much easier when I didn't strip the bases of the feathers. (I haven't tried Ron's suggestion yet.) I still had trouble getting the bucktail to lay properly and not leave gaps, and I tried to top a couple of the flies with peacock herl and found that to be quite unruly as well. I also keep running out of room for the wing material. I guess I need to start tying it in a little further from the eye of the hook.

Any further recommendations?


02-01-2002, 08:07 AM
Nice flies! You're hooked now! You're gonna be a tying fool like the rest of us. Recommendations? Find a tying group. There you will pick up the rest of the tricks like spinning deer hair etc.. That one you have to see to learn. Great start. I really like the one with the peacock herl.


02-01-2002, 08:42 AM
Doesn't look like there's anything wrong with those flies - nice looking.

An idea to use fewer wraps while binding materials may free up head diameter for you; perhaps you are too concerned with holding (marrying) component parts to the tie-in point. What are you using for thread/how many turns on the bucktail/how much material being tied in at once - all questions to ask your fingers/eyes while you apply these things. The heads look well proportioned.

This is not a jab - I don't know where you are in level of experience doing this; is it to your advantage to get a couple tying methods/patterns books like the Benchside Reference Book, etc.???

Also, you may be pleasantly surprised by visits to different websites, i.e., et al. Just by looking around the Web, you might gain information you don't have.

Anyway, nice looking work. Keep it up.

02-01-2002, 09:48 AM
Another tip for bucktail. When selecting a clump of hair to cut off the tail make it about 50% more than what you need. After cutting it off, firmly pinch the last 1/2" of the tips. with your other hand gently pull the material through with you thumb & forefinger toward the cut end. This will pull out the shorter, less uniform, & coarser hairs. This will give you a better look on your fly & it will also help keep the material from building up too fast.

02-01-2002, 09:49 AM
Great looking flies Q!

No fish in their right mind would pass up those morsels. The biggest thrill is yet to come... in a couple months... :smokin:

02-01-2002, 10:15 AM
Thanks for the votes of confidence!

Lefty, I don't know what (if any) tying groups meet out here in western MA. Definitely a good suggestion. No matter how detailed the written instructions are, it's always easier to "get it" if you can watch and be coached by someone who knows what they are doing. I'll see what I can find out.

DFix, all comments and critiques are welcome. Don't worry, I won't be offended! My SW fly tying experience consists of the four deceivers that I just tied (# 3 and 4 shown above), the spreader fly that I tied with Rich S. at the Marlboro show, and a few simple bucktail teasers and jigs. Many years ago (4th grade - 9th grade) I used to tie trout flies, although I never learned the more difficult techniques like dubbing or spinning fur. I could certainly benefit from some "how to" books (or web sites) that would help me with the basics and allow me to better understand the fly recipes. I have found a few good web sites (thanks for the link) and am planning to pick up a few books. As for my wing tying problems, I think I just need to leave more room so I can form a nice taper instead of piling up the material right behind the hook eye.



Looking forward to it Juro! The countdown is on!

Grego, thats one trick I was able to pick up from the online info, although I wasn't sure how much of the short stuff to pull out. Just a matter of practice I guess. I also found that each bunch of hair had a few extra long hairs that didn't fit with shape of the rest of the bunch. I either pulled those out or repositioned them so the tips didn't stick out quite so far.

02-01-2002, 10:28 AM

"Pop Fleyes" is an excellente tying book. Great step-by-steps with Large Photos. Also, it deals Solely with SW patterns, so it goes into great details on some SW specifics, like working with synthetis, epoxy, silocon, Large Flies, etc.

02-01-2002, 10:39 AM
Grego, I saw "Pop Fleyes" on the list of recommended reading and checked out the description on Amazon. I didn't add it to my list because it sounded like it is more specialized and advanced than what I need. Maybe not! I'll have to see if I can find a copy in a book store so I can look it over.

02-01-2002, 11:36 AM

What hooks are you using on those flies? It's hard to tell but from the image they look like FW ones which won't last. If so go with stainless my .02.

BTW, very nice job.

02-01-2002, 11:36 AM
There is quite a bit of Advanced stuff, But the step-by-steps are so clear that almost anyone can follow them. Also, the first chapter has a very nice overview, of tools, materials, adhesives, etc., which I found very usefull. Overall, I think it is a very clear & concise book.

John Desjardins
02-01-2002, 12:21 PM
Quentin, the flies look good. For tapering the heads one thing that I some times do is shown in the sketch below. It's easier to sketch than to try to describe in words.
If when tying more than 1 fly at a time I find it usefull to glue together the feather stems for the wings in advance, and then just add them while tying. For me this helps in making a consistent size fly.

Darn, I tried to attach the sketch and it didn't work. What I do for the head is to bind down all the hair, then I pick up~ 20% of the hair and hold it perpindicular to the hook. Next you bind down the 80% of the hair lying down on the hook (5 or 6 turns of thread. Repeat the lifting of 20% of the hair and binding down until the fly head looks like it has a mohawk. Trim the butts of the hair and wrap over the head. This is a strong binding method, and makes it easy to create a tapered head.

02-01-2002, 12:39 PM

Two great tips! I will try them both!

02-01-2002, 12:45 PM
Thanks John, I'll give that a try. I have a (possibly stupid) question. If you are using more than one color of hair for the wing, do you use this method after you tie each color? (that is, tie down and trim the first color before adding the next color) Or do you tie in all the colors first and then tie down and trim the hair?

Sully, thanks for the warning. Not sure why the hooks look that way in the image, but they are Mustad 34007 stainless steel. Must be the scanner.

BTW, I see what you guys mean about the dull points on those hooks. Maybe it's a safety feature for beginners!


John Desjardins
02-01-2002, 12:56 PM
Quentin, I do each color separately, but try it and see how it works for you doing them all at once.