sexyloops fly tying school part 3 - your first fly

sexyloops fly tying school part 3 - your first fly

t.z. | Friday, 2 October 2015

In last week's Friday FP we had a more technical look at flies.

What is a fly? … technically speaking from a handicraft point of view and learned bit about thread — and tension.
Now come the first practical instalment of these „ideas“. A fly which seems difficult to many. The fly we will have a look at is known as the Black Gnat, when using grizzly hackle it changes it´s name to Griffths Gnat. A tiny little fly which features two materials. Peacock herl and cock hackle. … and thread of course.

The Fly

This fly is a very generic representation of some sort of insect lying on the water surface. Such flies are called „dry flies“ as the do not sink. At least they shouldn´t. The hackle represents legs and maybe even wings leaving an imprint on the water surfacefilm. The image below shows the fly on water.

- TIP: Have a glass of water on your tying desk for testing your flies.

The materials

Hook: A properly proportioned dry fly hook - size 22 to 14 depending on what „fish-food-item“ you intend to imitate

Underbody - peacock herl. Peacock herl is a natural material. The feathers from a peacock have a very nice dark greenish colour, very much like a blue bottle housefly. You can obtain the material in a fly shop, but it is also sold in other stores selling interior design items or DIY shops.

Hackle - There are specialized chicken farms growing animals specifically for fly tying. Unbelievable, but true. The feathers from roosters and hens are used for many fly designs and come in a myriad of colors. I mostly use black, reddish brown and a color called grizzly. The fly shown is tied with a black feather.

Why hackle?

Hackle - or hackling - I look at it as a technique to spread material around the hook so it stands off (the hook shank for example) in a say 45 to 90 degree angle.

Traditionally one uses feathers for this job. A feather normally has two parts - 1. stem and 2. fibers, which are attached to that stem.

If one winds the feather stem around a hook (or wing post in a parachute fly) the fibers do stand off. The feather or material one uses to hackle a fly is depending on the planned result. Parameters to decide on material are the overall appearance (thickness of the fibres, coloration) and stiffness.

So why is this the first fly to learn? 

1. It is an amazing versatile designto start with. It works in rivers and stillwaters under many conditions.

2. You learn to perfect your tying technique - „Even pressure“. Remember?

In the last article I talked about this. Here is the text about „even pressure wraps“ again (read the whole article should you have missed it)

---- It helps to imagine the hook being in the center if the rotation (which is actually is) and rotate the thread around in 4 zones. Upwards, forward (away from yourself), downwards, backwards (towards you). It´s pretty much the same idea cyclist apply when training their leg-motion. Try to have even pressure. Play around and try to break the thread in all 4 directions (not advised with dynamo or kevlar threads) so you know how much pressure you can apply. Watch what happens to the hook as well. Try not to bend it. ----

With this fly you can practice this technique. On top you get a very usable fly as a result.

Wrapping material around the thread

This technique is ancient as fly-tying itself. Very handy to have that neat little trick up your sleeve. It looks dead simple - but there are few little obstacles to master. But as with many things in live - it is about practicing. So tie few of the little bugs and will recognize your progress.

Another method of tying this fly is to tie the peacock herl body first and than wind the hackle feather over it. Works as well, but takes way more time and the result may look neater, but is not anything as sturdy as the version shown here. It would be cool to get some feedback on how you get on with this tutorial. Use the board to post questions.

Next part - the first nymph - the hares ear nymph.


Black Gnat.001
Black Gnat.002
Black Gnat.003


Black Gnat.004


Black Gnat.005


Black Gnat.006


Black Gnat.007


Black Gnat.008

Black Gnat.009


Black Gnat.010


Black Gnat.011


Black Gnat.012

Black Gnat.013


Black Gnat.014


Black Gnat.015


Black Gnat.016


Black Gnat.017


2015-10-01 17.23.18
picture showing the fly in glass of water and Bob Wyatt´s book - "What Trout Want"

video - Konstanse tying a Black Gnat

picture by Al Pyke 

Thomas Züllich, or - “t.z.” as most call him - is a German flyfisher & flytier living in Norway. His flydressing is based on old traditions as well as very modern and innovative methods of creating flies. You can book Thomas for guided trips, flytying classes and presentations. He regularly gives speeches and demonstrations at fly fishing fairs. Thomas is member of the ProTeam at Partridge of Redditch as well as Regal Vises. 

Sexyloops Fly Tying School - next: pheasant tail nymph 

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