Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Oscar Wilde once wrote “I always pass on good advice. It’s the only thing to do with it. It is never any use to oneself.” (1895).

I must admit that most of what I practice at the tying bench was learned from someone else. I either read about it in a magazine or book, saw it on YouTube or witnessed it at a tying demonstration. Over the years, specific techniques became routine when the hook was in the vice. Here are some I can remember. Also, if I can remember, I’ll attribute the tip to its rightful genius.

Don’t Throw Away Those Hackle Tips.

Applying some form of cement to the thread wraps of a finished fly is something we all do. It is essential for securing thread heads, regardless of the size of the fly. For all kinds of reasons, many times the cement will migrate into the hook eye and if allowed to dry there will cause problems streamside when you go to tie the fly on a tippet. To solve that issue, I save all my hackle tips, including peacock herl ends in a container on my tying desk. When I cement a head and the cement migrates into the hook eye, a hackle tip is used to clear it before it dries. The hackle fibers do a good job of soaking up excess cement and the stiff hackle stem is easy to push/pull through the hook eye. This technique has an added benefit that allows you to apply a liberal amount of cement to the thread wraps without fear of clogging the hook eye.

The Tail Starts at the Hook Eye

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from studying A.K. Best’s Production Fly Tying (1989) is that tails should start at the hook eye. Well not literally. What he really was saying is that tailing materials should be secured whenever possible along the entire hook shank, not just at the hook bend. Doing this creates a uniform base for the body materials and eliminates a lump at the hook bend. Additionally, when tailing materials like hackle fibers, synthetics, fur, feathers, etc. are secured along the hook shank they are less likely to pull free when the fly is in use.

Save Some Time and Frustration at Streamside

Hopper droppers, double nymphs, buggers and soft hackles are just a few of the setups we use on the stream for trout. Although there are multiple methods of creating double fly rigs, the most common is tying a length of tippet to the hook bend of the top fly using an improved clinch knot. This is not difficult in good light and no wind, but gets increasingly more difficult with cold hands, small flies, blustery conditions and poor eyesight. Additionally, if you are using barbless hooks, the dropper tippet can slip off the hook, no matter how good your clinch knot is. To remedy this, you can pre-tie some dropper rigs at the vice and store them on a foam patch or box designed for dropper rigs. When I tie buggers for the Firehole on barbless hooks, step one is threading a length of tippet through the hooks so there is at least 15” of tippet extended beyond the hook bend. The tippet is folded back so that two strands straddle the hook shank while I lay a thread base. The shorter end of the tippet is trimmed, and the fly tied as normal. When complete, a soft hackle is tied on in the warmth of the tying room and stored on a foam patch. Not only does this prevent the tippet from slipping off the barbless hook, it is also far more efficient and comfortable than fiddling with dropper tippets streamside in cold, blustery weather.

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