Basic Techniques

It is easy to underestimate the importance of basic flytying techniques, especially if, as with the preparation of the hook shank, they are "hidden" in the finished fly. In fact, no part of the dressing is really hidden because poor preparation will invariably mar the appearance of the finished fly. You cannot hope to produce well-made flies without mastering the humble, but necessary, basics.

The techniques illustrated on the following pages are:

  • how to put the hook in the vise (and how not to ... )
  • how to wax the tying thread
  • how to start tying the thread onto the hook shank
  • how to finish a fly with a wrap knot
  • how to judge the proportions of the parts of a fly.

For the sake of your fingers, please pay particular attention to the instructions on the right way to place a hook in the vise. Flytying materials are colorful enough without accidentally dyeing them with your own blood. Breaking the thread on an exposed hook-point, just as you have finished laboriously winding it down the length of the shank, is another hazard to be avoided.

It is important, too, to use well-waxed tying thread (see opposite). It is not impossible to tie flies with unwaxed thread, just more difficult. The wax helps the tying thread to stick to the hook and makes it easier to wind on close turns of thread, to tie on wings, and so on. Waxing also waterproofs the thread, which improves the durability of the fly.

"The Beginning of a Fly", "The Wrap Knot", and "The Proportions of a Fly" have their own text introductions on the following pages. There is, however, one topic not described under "The Wrap Knot" that I should like to mention here. Some flytyers prefer not only to finish the fly off with a knot, but also to use knots (usually half-hitches) to secure all the stages of a dressing as they are tied. I do not do this, nor is it shown in this book, because my technique of using a length of well-waxed thread, which is locked in the rubber button at every stage, makes any further securing unnecessary. This is only my personal preference, and if you find that intermediate knots help you to tie a better fly, then by all means use them.

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