"Dubbing" is the spinning of fur, wool, or other fibers (such as poly fibers) onto the tying thread. The dubbed thread is then wound onto the hook shank to make a fly body with a furry texture. Bodies made in this way are used in a large number of fly patterns, and dubbing is certainly one of the most important flytying techniques.
Even so, I have met flytyers who despaired of ever mastering the technique, and it usually turns out that they have been making one (or more) of three basic mistakes:
- Trying to spin too much fiber at a time onto the thread. (The first photograph shows just how little you need.)
- Applying liquid wax or clear lacquer to the tying thread before dubbing it. (My advice is never to use liquid on the tying thread before dubbing it. I do recommend applying lacquer or glue to the prepared shank before winding on the dubbed thread, however, because this helps to make a more durable fly.)
- Failing to bees-wax the tying thread thoroughly at the outset. (Wax the thread four or five times before starting to tie; the fibers will then adhere to the thread instead of falling straight into your lap!)
- Prepare the hook shank by winding even turns of foundation thread to the tail position.
- Use your left hand to keep the (well-waxed) tying thread taut, and to hold a supply of dubbing material.
- Take a few fibers from the supply of dubbing (the fibers in these photographs are black-dyed seal fur).
- Put the dubbing fibers between the tying thread and the tip of the right index finger.
- Place your thumb on the fibers, as shown.
- Move the thumb to the right and the index finger to the left, thus "rolling" the fibers around the tying thread. This initial rolling action is counterclockwise, viewed from above.
- Next, firmly roll the fibers back (clockwise) from the position shown, until the thumb and index finger have returned to the starting position, as shown in the next photograph.
• Repeat the firm clockwise rolling action (up to three or four times) until all fibers have been spun onto the tying thread.
Note: Some fine dubbing materials (such as mole fur) will not slide easily (next step) if spun too firmly onto the thread.
• Keeping the tying thread taut with your left hand, slide the first section of dubbing up the thread to the hook shank. Twist the dubbing clockwise as you slide it up the thread.
- Apply a second section of dubbing to the tying thread, as described in steps 1 to 4.
- Slide the second section of dubbing up the thread, twisting it clockwise, until it just touches the first section.
- Gently twist the fibers clockwise at the point where the two sections touch (as shown), to join the two sections into a single, uniform, length of dubbing.
- Add as many more sections of dubbing as you require. (S)
- Use the dubbing needle to coat the prepared hook shank, above and below, with clear lacquer.
- Now wind the dubbed tying thread onto the hook shank. (S)
- If necessary, trim the dubbed body with scissors.
- For a bulkier dubbed body, wind the undubbed thread back in three or four wide turns to the tail position, then do steps 1 to 8 again. Repeat until the body has the required thickness. To taper the body, start and finish each winding-on stage two or three turns short of the previous one, at one or both ends. The photographs shows a tapered dubbed body being trimmed.
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