Wool and Chenille

Wool and chenille can be used for the wound bodies of many fly patterns (though wool is more often used as a dubbing material). Different patterns and different hook sizes require different thicknesses of these materials; wool can be split into strands as needed (see "Wool Tails" in Chapter 3) but chenille cannot, and the flytyer must select thick, medium, or thin gauge. Both materials are available in a wide range of colors and styles, including tinselled, bi-colored, and fluorescent. (For convenience I cut a length of each color stocked, knot the ends together, and hang the lengths up near my bench; this saves me having to rummage around in the bottom of a drawer to find the exact coloi; I need.)

Wound-on wool and chenille can, unless you are careful, produce the most bulky and unnatural-looking bodies. You can avoid this by careful preparation and tying-in especially when dressing wool bodies in which strands of two different colors have to be combined.

The following sequence of photographs shows how to tie the wound bi-color chenille body of a Western Bee (but the same general method also applies to wound wool bodies). Steps 1 to 3 show the initial tying-in of a length of chenille; this method is suitable for many other body materials and is referred to as the "chenille method" elsewhere in the chapter. Note, however, that the preparation of other materials may be quite different.

  • Prepare the hook shank with even turns of foundation thread to the tail position. (S)
  • Good quality chenilles are manufactured with a "pile" (like a carpet). Hold one end of the length of chenille between thumb and finger, and run your fingers down it. If it feels rough, tie in the end that is at the bottom of your length of chenille. If your fingers run downward "with the pile" (that is, you feel no resistance), tie in the top of the length.
  • Cut a six-inch (150 mm) length of black chenille. Prepare % inch (6 mm) of one end by pulling out the chenille fibers, leaving just the cotton strands.
  • Holding the chenille about % inch (20 mm) from the prepared end with your left hand, place the strands directly in front of the tying thread, as shown.
  • Bring the chenille up, so that the strands are underneath the shank.

• Trap the strands against the far side of the shank with the left-hand middle finger, as shown. Keeping the long end of the chenille well to the left, tie in the strands with two turns of thread.

  • Continue winding the tying thread toward the eye, binding the strands underneath the shank (keep them there with the left-hand thumbnail). Take these turns far enough toward the eye to allow room for the next stage (see steps 5 and 6). (S)
  • Take the chenille up and over the shank (away from you) and continue winding so that each turn touches the last one. The Western Bee has four bands of chenille (two each of alternating black and yellow), so wind this first band on for one quarter of the body length. No tying thread should show between the turns.
  • Maintaining a light tension on the chenille with the left hand, use your right hand to unwind the extra turns of tying thread to the point where the first band of chenille is to be tied off.
  • Bring the chenille in front of the tying thread (and almost parallel with the shank); then take the tying thread over the shank to lock the chenille as shown.
  • Wind on at least one more turn of tying thread. (S)
  • Cut off the surplus black chenille close to the securing turns of thread.
  • Pull out excess chenille fibers from the cut end remaining on the hook.
  • Now prepare, tie in, wind on, and tie off the first band of yellow chenille in exactly the same way as just described for the black chenille. (S)
  • Cut off the surplus yellow chenille close to the securing turns of thread.
  • Pull out any excess chenille fibers from the cut end on the hook.

• Add alternate bands of black and yellow chenille as already described. Tie off the final yellow band, (S) and closely trim off the surplus.

  • The finished body of a Western Bee.
  • To complete the fly, tie in a ginger cock hackle (see "Soft Hackled Flies" in Chapter 5), wind it on, and then tie off. (S) Add a pair of gray duck wing slips (see "Matched Wet Wings" in Chapter 6), cut the surplus, and finish with a wrap knot. Lacquer the head.
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