Fly Tying: Method vs. Material

Same pattern. Same material. Two different methods. Two completely different results
Same pattern. Same material. Two different methods. Two completely different results

In fly fishing, there are many areas where technique is the most important characteristic for success. Technique, or how you fish, is often much more important that what you are fishing with. Meaning how you fish a rod, is more important than what type of rod you are fishing. Or how you fish a fly, is more important than what fly you are fishing. There are thousands of scenarios that this could apply to, however, today I want to talk how technique is a very important characteristic at the fly tying bench.

Often times how a material is used at the vice, is much more important than what the material is. In fly tying, when an angler sees a pattern that they like, the first question asked is almost always “What material is that?”. I think a much more important question is “How are you using that material?”. This applies when trying to imitate different types of aquatic insects. Just one material can be used to imitate many different forms of aquatic insects, when used in different applications.

Dubbing can be used under numerous applications to achieve different goals. A fly could be tied by being dubbed traditionally, dubbed tight or loosely using dubbing wax, laid down on the hook shank and tied on with thread wraps, or spun in a dubbing loop. When considering which application, or technique to use when using a material, a fly tyer should consider the specific purpose of the fly.

For example, there are a variety of ways to tie a Walt’s Worm that could suggest it imitating a variety of different things. This is true even though a Walt’s Worm is tied using one material, Hare’s Ear Dubbing. How you ask? Consider method over material. A crane fly larva (Tipulidae) has a segmented worm like body that is very sleek. To tie a Walt’s Worm to imitate a crane fly larva, a tyer would want to dub the body of the fly very tight to create a sleek body. This can be achieved by traditionally dubbing the body very tight, or using dubbing wax to help twist the dubbing onto the thread tighter before wrapping. A scud (Amphipoda) has many legs which gives the body a very “buggy” look. To tie a Walt’s Worm to imitate a scud, a tyer would want to dub the body very loosely so that it appears “buggy” and “spikey” to imitate the many legs of a scud. This could be achieved by using a dubbing twister in a dubbing loop, or by using dubbing wax to hold the dubbing on the thread loosely before wrapping.

This is just one example of how one material, or one pattern, can be altered to meet the characteristics of very different aquatic insects. The next time you are sitting down at the fly tying bench, consider method over material in order to create the desired characteristics of a fly. Considering method over material will let tyers create a variety of different patterns, with a much smaller arsenal of materials. After all, how you tie a fly is much more important than what material you tie it with.

 

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Information on the Walt’s Worm can be found at www.flyfishersparadise.com.

A great resource to view pictures of aquatic insects can be found at www.troutnut.com.

A great video on how to tie a dubbing loop can be found at www.intheriffle.com.

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