Some basic tying techniques
Another FAQ in progress to support our beginner fly tying step by steps
In this one will discuss some basic thread handling techniques including
- thread twist (why it happens, how to correct it and how to use it to your advantage)
- thread torque
- different wraps used to attach material (Pinch, Angle, Distribution, Slide, and Slack Loop Wraps)
Thread Handling Techniques
In these examples I'm using a 5/0 hook and bright flat waxed nylon for illustration
Some basic terms referred to
Thread hand- right hand if you wrap righty
Material hand- left hand if you're a right handed tyer
Near side of the hook closest in relation to the tyer
Far side of the hook opposite side of the hook in relation to the tyer
Basic wrap is going to be up from the near side and over the shank to the far side. Viewed head on from the eye of the hook, the bobbin goes clockwise around the shank for a right handed tyer.
What is thread twist and why does it happen?
Assuming you're wrapping by hand, every time you take a wrap around the shank, the bobbin makes one clockwise twist.
Problems caused by twist
This will gradually tighten the thread into a narrower and narrower cord and may eventually cause the thread to break. If thread is very tightly twisted it may also become more difficult to work with because it's harder to wrap a smooth thread layer, the tighter thread cuts into material, or it starts to "furl" by forming a loop and twisting up on itself.
If you leave your bobbin hanging from the shank (instead of in a bobbin cradle) after taking a bunch of wraps, you'll probably notice it start to spin counterclockwise (for right handed tyers). The bobbin is unwinding twist. So periodically you can let the bobbin do the work and let the thread unwind by itself to remove excessive twist.
Using thread twist to advantage
In some cases you'll want to deliberately flatten or twist thread to secure materials, build a smooth thread base or a firm platform. You'll often see instructions in fly pattern Step By Steps to twist or flatten thread. For a right handed tyer:
Twist thread: by spinning bobbin clockwise
Flatten thread: By spinning bobbin counterclockwise
Example of flat and twisted threads:
Flattened thread (chartreuse)
Twisted thread (orange)
In this section will introduce several types of wraps,
Soft Loop Wrap - another method of attaching material. Depending on the orientation of the bobbin and the grips in your material hand it can be used to either lock material into a precise position or spin it around the hook shank (as in spinning deer hair)
Isolation Wrap - used to attach bundles of fibers to position them precisely, strengthen divided flank fiber or hair wings and parachute posts or provide distinct bands of color in a multicolored bucktail wing
Distribution Wrap - used to distribute materials by rolling them around the shank
Slide Mount Wrap- used to secure materials to the shank and then adjust to proper length by pulling them into position
Figure 8 Wrap used to divided wings on dry flies, attach dumbbell or beadchain eyes and constructing bodies of dubbing and other material
Thread Torque (examples of problems caused by thread torque and how we can control it and use it to our advantage when securing materials)
Angle Cut to taper the butt end of materials
Pinch Wrap very useful, especially to attach soft materials.
Place material on top of shank and index finger of material hand firmly against far side of shank. (This will backstop the material and prevent it from twisting to the far side as you take a turn of thread)
Place the thumb of your material hand tightly against the near side of the shank and pinching both the material and hook shank between your thumb on the near side and index finger on the far side of the shank
As you cross over the top of the hook, bring the bobbin rearward to trap it between your thim and index finger in the pinch
As you cross over the far side of the shank, bring the tip of the bobbin rearward on the under side of the to again trap the wrap in the pinch. This will allow you to precisely position the material and begin to secure it in place. Repeat these steps with another wrap or two.
After 1 or 2 more wraps the material should be secure enough that you can remove your hands to take a peek
a few more tight turns of thread will secure it
In this example we want to build a smooth under body, so we're leaving a long portion that we will wrap over. Once we bind it down with additional thread wraps it will form a smooth under body of even thickness. If we cut the butt end shorter, say to cover just the rear half of the shank, we'd have a bump when turned over the portion of the shank with just a layer of thread.
But when trying to lock the material down and build a smooth under body, thread torque takes it around the shank
We can undo the wraps and lift the butt end of the body material, advance thread in open turns towards front of hook to tie-down point....
... and tie down material with pinch wrap.
Open turns to rear to bind material to top of shank and form smooth under body.
Angle Cut -
Cutting materials to get a more gradual, tapered transition to the shank. Cutting material with the scissor blades in a vertical position will result in a "cliff" of material where the butts are trimmed, requiring many wraps of thread to build up a gradual taper. When butts are trimmed into a "cliff" it also often results in poorly fastened material since only the outer layer of fibers may be in contact wit thread. Instead, angle in with the tips of your scissors in a more horizontal angle and lift up the butts and cut, leaving a smooth "ramp" that you can easily cover with tight thread wraps
Return thread in open turns to what will become the tie off point for the body material
Danger Danger-- after wrapping in touching turns up the shank and binding the material down on the bottom of the hook, we want to trim the excess. But see how easy it's going to be to cut our thread too?
Before we zoom in with our scissors to trim, the excess material is hanging dangerously close to the thread. To avoid cutting the thread too, if you have a rotating vise, spin it so the hook point is up to get safe access with your scissors to make the cut. If your vise doesn't rotate, lift the thread bobbin straight up above the shank with your material hand to give you plenty of room to safely cut the excess body material
Once the excess material has been cut, you bind the material securely and build a thread foundation for the next layer with additional wraps
Continued with more stuff below....
Re: Some basic tying techniques
Continued from above...
In this example we will be mounting a tail at the start of the body which will be directly above the barb of the hook
Here we're using the bobbin as a plumb bob in line with the hook barb, and have reached the end of the straight part of the shank
Pinch wrapping stiffer materials seems to work at first....
But after the initial pinch wrap the when we take additional tight turns, the thread torque tends to roll the material off to the far side of the shank.
Instead we can use the thread torque to our advantage in an Angle Wrap. Positioning the butts on the near side of the shank pointing down at an angle....
--- take a tight turn and use the thread torque to ride the material on to the top of then shank.. Once the material has been "torqued" into position, bind it down with additional tiuht wraps of thread.
Soft Loop Wrap
to be added
Can be used to attach bundles of fibers to position them precisely, or to provide distinct bands of color in a multicolored bucktail wing. It can also be used after the material is secured to provide definition and strengthen divided wings of flank fiber or hair and provide a firm thread foundation for wrapping hackle on parachute posts. Here we'll use it to build a 2 color brown over white bucktail wing with distinct separation between colors
Hold the material of the first (white) layer in position above the shank and take a loop of thread around just the material (not the shank)
Slide the looped material down into position while maintaining tension on the bobbin to close the distance between the material and the shank and take a couple of wraps over both the material and the shank.
After binding the butts of the first layer, trimming them with an angle cut, wrap a firm foundation for the next ( brown) layer of the wing. Attach the next bundle with another isolation wrap, secure, angle cut excess and bind down butts
Here's a comparison of two bucktail streamers using different wrap techniques for the wing.
Stacked bunches put on by pinch wraps, less distinct transition between white and brown layers
Wing assembled with isolation wraps-- a thread wrap just around the wing material before attaching to the shank gives a marked separation of layers.
Used when materials may difficult to initially tie in to proper length, it's a way of securing material with a couple of semi loose wraps and then adjusting the length of material.
Tie in material with a couple loose turns. In this case we want a feather extending to rear, 1/2 the length of body
Slide material by pulling stem of feather through loops to front until desired length then secure with tight wraps to lock in place.
Lock Wrap for tying in synthetics and other slippery materials. Here' we're using Silver Mylar Saltwater Width Flashabou
Leave a tag end and tie to shank using a pinch wrap. Take a couple tight turns....
....Fold tag end back and take a couple of tight turns sandwiching the material against the shank
Distribution Wrap A method for "distributing" materials evenly around a hook shank, can be done over a thread base but works even better around a bare shank
First squish materials around the hook shank and hold in place with a firm pinch with your material hand
Take a couple of tight wraps
And pull the bobbin towards you-- the thread torque will help to spread material out 360 degrees around the shank
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