Split Wings

Duck primary and secondary wing quill feathers make excellent, sturdy, upright split wings (as illustrated below). For small single split-winged flies, I prefer to use starling primary wing quills.

If the wings are to be "advanced" (pointing forward), prepare them slightly longer and thinner than shown in the following photographs. Place them with their inside surfaces together, pointing upward, over the hook eye. Tie on the wings and, to force them up out of the way of the hook eye, wind on three or four turns in front of them, hard up against the base. Complete the fly as the pattern requires.

The following photographs show how to tie single split wings. For double split wings, prepare and tie four identical wing slips in the same way.

  • First pull the near wing gently down, and take the tying thread between the wings.
  • Wind close turns of foundation thread halfway down the shank, then return the thread in wide turns halfway back again, to the wing position. (S)
  • Select a pair of matching right and left quills and cut as long a section as possible from the middle or lower half of each.
  • Holding the two slips with their inside surfaces together, gently move them around until the tips are even and the tip angles match. Stroke the fibers of one slip until it matches the other. If necessary, strip fibers from one slip with the dubbing needle.
  • Holding the wing slips in your left hand, with the tips pointing downward over the hook eye, adjust them for wing length and tie on using the wood-duck (tails) method. (S)
  • For upright wings, pull the wings back, as shown, and wind on at least three turns of tying thread in front of the wings at their base. (S)
  • The wings may now be split far enough for some patterns. If so, cut the surplus fibers, wind the tying thread in close turns down the shank and complete the rest of the fly as the pattern requires. Otherwise, follow the next five steps.
  • Release the near wing and begin forming a loop exactly as shown. (The loop technique prevents damage to the rear fibers of the far wing; it is not necessary to form another loop to prevent damage to the near wing.)
  • Maintaining tension on the thread, tie in the loop with three turns of tying thread wound directly behind the wings. (S)
  • Release the loop and hold the far wing away from the shank. Bring the tying thread up the near side of the shank and between the two wings as shown.
  • Wind on two or three securing turns around the hook shank, immediately in front of the wings. (S)
  • Stroke the wings upward, together.
  • Cut off the loop and trim the wing tips, if desired. Trim the surplus wing material in layers. Wind the tying thread past (not through) the near wing, and bind down the surplus with close turns. Complete the fly as the pattern requires.

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