Floss is used to form smooth wound-on bodies (sometimes in conjunction with different-color wool or chenille thoraxes) for countless salt and freshwater fly patterns. Three main kinds of floss are available, each in a good range of colors.
Silk floss is the finest type, and is commonly supplied in two thicknesses: a thin-gauge floss, packaged on small reels, with up to four strands twisted together (the strands must be untwisted before use); and a thicker-gauge single-strand floss, supplied on larger reels. Thin silk floss is suitable for most kinds of flies, but larger flies and lures need the thicker gauge.
Rayon/nylon flosses are cheaper alternatives to silk but give good results nevertheless. Most suppliers only offer one thickness, which may be single-strand or multi-strand. The single-strand kind can, if required, be split into two or more thinner lengths with a dubbing needle.
Acetate floss, which is usually supplied in single-strand form, has a property all its own. When a body tied with acetate floss is dipped quickly into acetate solution, the outer layer of floss is partly dissolved and then dries to form a hard outer shell, making a more durable fly. The same property can be employed to imitate the hard wing casings of nymphs, and the "melting floss" technique gives scope for further experiments. Note, however, that a treated acetate floss body may shrink a little, so that any ribbing may need to be wound on after treatment.
The following photographs show how to tie in, wind on, and tie off a floss body for a larva or midge pupa. With floss bodies for normal flies the technique is similar, but the floss should be tied in using the chenille method. (For bi-color floss bodies, the surplus for the first color should reach only halfway along the shank.)
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