January 8, 2009

Ribbed for your pleasure

I always find it interesting to see how other tyers craft their fly patterns. I marvel at how different a tyer's techniques can differ so much from my style. Even on a simple tie, there is always something to learn.

a rookie tie
Looking back at some of my earliest ties is always a trip. The naivite and lack of refinement in my tying style and techniques serve as a reminder of how far my current skills have grown and progressed. While I am not a master tyer by any means, my ability to choose and size materials to their appropriate proportions has vastly improved. I am no longer overwhelmed at the vise, as I once was, when undertaking a new pattern to tie. I've even advanced to the point of innovation, as several of my own patterns, like the Darth Clam and the Buffalo Soljah, proved very successful last season.

Here is a step by step version of how I tie a large wire ribbed nymph pattern with a wrapped body (pheasant tail or other fiber):

[The following tying demo is performed with the hook oriented in the vise with the eye and hook point facing to your right, and the hook anchored in the vise jaws on your left]

When I tie a larger nymph (size 12 or larger) with a rib, I start by tying in the tail first, utilizing two turns of thread to hold it on to the hook. I take my wire (or whatever type of rib material you'll be using) and tuck the tag end into the back of the beadhead and back along the hook shank, leaving the rib hanging past the hook bend. I wrap one turn of thread around the tail fibers and the rib to hold in place, then pull the fibers back towards the hook bend and wrap the rest of the rib along the hook shank towards the hook eye, often tying in a half-hitch there. This not only anchors in the rib but helps build up a body as well. In addition, tying the wire back to the beadhead on the hook shank helps add a bit of extra weight to the fly. You could tie the wire in on the top of the hook shank to try to get the fly to ride hook point up. If I was going to tie a pattern without a beadhead and still wanted weight, I would build the body up with lead wire instead.

buffalo soljah
When it comes time to wrap the body, I wrap the tail/body fibers away from me, palmering the fibers up towards the hook eye. From a dorsal view of the hook, looking to the anterior end (hook eye), the wrapping direction would be counterclockwise. I tie in the fibers where I want to start my wingcase. Since I also tie my thread in a counterclockwise fashion, this helps keep the fibers tight to the shank, and from unwinding in the opposite direction when tying them in and tightening up the thread wraps. I then wrap the rib in the opposite direction of the tail fibers, clockwise, and tie in and cut off the rib near the wing case. If I'm using the tail/body fibers as the wingcase, I'll pull them back toward the hook gape and put in a few few thread wraps to hold them back while tying in the thorax. Otherwise, if I'm tying a flashback pattern, I'll tie in a piece of mylar at the beadhead, and wrap thread back to where I finished off the rib. All you need to do from there is tie in a thorax, often of  peacock herl (or chenille or dubbed), add any soft hackle you desire for legs/antennae, and pull the wingcase back over the thorax and tie in behind the bead head. Trim and whip finish, the fly is completed.

I typically don't use head cement on my flies, unless they are larger pike or muskie patterns. If you use a whip finish tool, try starting your wraps as far back on the hook shank as possible and work your way forward to the hook eye. Utilizing at least 3 or 4 wraps will help keep the tag end of your thread literally under wraps, and offers more protection from your knot coming loose. This tip is especially important when tying with waxed threads that don't hold head cement very well. Cheers!

- the roughfisher

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