Sexyloops - fly tying basics

fly tying basics

fly tying basics

t.z. | Friday, 19 January 2018

The “trickiness” (or lack of it) of a fly is directly related to how much tension you are able to apply to the thread while tying.

This is based on technique and experience, as well as on proper tools and materials. This term is rather self-explanatory, but I would really like to emphasise on the subject. The quality of fly you are able to tie is directly proportional to the tension you are able to apply to the thread and so the material. The control over this is essential. You, the tier should have control over the material at any stage in the process.


Let's look at the basics - the techniques and concepts used to wrap thread around a hook or tube.

The basic, common function of the thread is to hold the material in place on the hook (or tube). This is achieved by winding the thread onto the hook. Sounds simple? It is .... and IS NOT.

The first obstacle is to fix the thread to the hook so it does not slide off and sits tight. This requires a certain pressure which needs to be maintained.

So how does the thread actually hold on the hook? I think that the thread grips onto microscopic surface roughness of the hook metal. However it actually works, the main point is that your fly will only be as good as your first wrappings. The right pressure needs to be applied when winding the the thread around the hook. 

The first wraps of thread around the hook are your fly’s lowest load bearing parts. A sloppy foundation results in a bad fly which starts to rotate around the hook and eventually coming apart. In accordance with Murphy's law, this will of course happen while you are trying to catch your personal best. No fun really.

Even pressure wraps

It helps to imagine the hook being in the centre of the rotation (which it actually is) and rotate the thread around in 4 zones. Upwards, forward (away from yourself), downwards, backwards (towards you). 

It is pretty much the same idea cyclists 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 Dyneema® 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.

I told you this will get nerdy, but this is fly tying and we will go into detail here.  Now to the practical part.

The start

– explained for right hand tiers tying clockwise – 

Hold the end of the thread in your left hand and the bobbin holder in your right. If you have difficulties holding onto the thread you can wrap it around your left index finger 4 or 5 times. While holding the bobbin holder in your right hand, cross the thread over the hook in about 45 degrees angle (preferably close to the hook eye). Make two or three wraps forwards towards the hook eye and then go back over these first wraps towards the bend. 6 to 8 wraps should be sufficient. Cut off the waste / tag end. Pull hard to check if the thread stays on the hook.

Counter spinning – twist in the thread.

In the “good old days” flies were tied with a given length of thread. This has changed. Nowadays, one leaves the thread on the bobbin, which is then kept in a bobbin holder. This prevents the the thread coming off the bobbin.

This is very practical and nifty but has one disadvantage: the thread fixed to the bobbin is twisted around itself when wrapped around the hook. This is not too big an issue when one is aware of that and counter-twists the thread. This is quite a simple movement. Just let the bobbin holder hang down from the hook by the thread and give it a counter clockwise spin. This has been explained for right hand tiers tying clockwise. Should you be using your left hand or tying counter clockwise, you need to reverse the directions explained above.

Keep repeating this “counter-spinning”. Make it a habit. It pays off. Tiers often complain about the thread breaking right when they are about to finish the fly – a strange coincidence? No, far from it! The breakage is caused by all the turns in the thread breaking the individual strands. 

Offering materials onto the hook

This is a little trick that will help you to hold and present material onto a hook. It is a tiny movement which can make a big difference to your tying.

By simply stretching your forefinger and thumb you can move the material by an inch (2,5 cm). It is also useful to separate underfur from guard hair.

The knot - finishing the fly

The fly is typically finished by tying a knot. One possibility is doing a whip-finish and the other is the half hitch. You can also secure the thread by using a knot as an intermediate step.

Whip finish

Basically there are two ways of doing the whip finish; with your fingers as shown in some of the videos, or by using a whip finisher tool. That is really up to you and a matter of personal preference.

Half hitch

The other knot used is the half hitch. This knot is done by using a so called half hitch tool. It looks a bit like a pencil. This method is also used in some of the videos in my book.

if you would like to see the related videos please feel free to download a free sample of the book on