All hair tails are prepared in the same way. For fly patterns with short hair tails that have to be made from naturally long hair like buck tail, first cut the hair full length from the skin, then give it a second trim to make it more manageable. This avoids having the cropped fibers on the buck tail skin mixed up with the uncut hair.
I do not recommend using the rejected, cropped hair for other flies, even if this does seem wasteful; it usually gives them an amateurish, "butchered" look.
- Prepare the hook shank by winding on turns of foundation thread to the tail position. (S)
- Using straight scissors, cut a full-length bunch of hair from the skin or tail, making the bunch a little "fatter" than you will need for the finished hair tail.
- Holding the top of the bunch in one hand, run your dubbing needle through the lower section, several times, to draw out the waste hairs. Then pull out any remaining loose fibers by hand.
- Matching the tips: holding the bunch by its center in one hand, use the other hand to pull out the few longest fibers.
- Keeping hold of the longest fibers, now pull out the next longest fibers, holding them so that their tips are aligned with those of the first few fibers you selected.
- Repeat until you are holding a tail of the right proportions, made up of the fibers you have selected. Realign the ends if necessary.
- Place the tail against the hook to check the length, but do not tie it on.
- Hold the tail in its final position (as though to tie it on) but be sure to grip it just behind the point where it will be tied on. Then lift it away from the shank.
- With your dubbing needle, work glue into both sides of the tail at, and just in front of, the tying-on point. See photograph.
- Place the bunch at the tail position again, and tie it on with four or five turns. (S)
- Trim off the glued surplus in stages along the shank, tapering toward the eye end.
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