Even though the main aspect is to give the flies body the right shape, dubbing also adds the ability to float for example. My main goal is do add "liveliness" to a fly. Make the fly look more real by adding micro-movement, trapping air bubbles and so on. Such is achieved partly by the chosen material, but also by the chosen method.
I use three different techniques:
a) touch dubbing
This is good when using very fine chopped dubbing. The thread need to be covered with wax, which works as a sort of "glue". The tricky bit here is to use a wax which is not too soft and not to use too much of it.
To avoid mess and the stuff flying about, it helps to store fine chopped dubbing in drinking straws or small plastic pouches. The corner of the pouch is clipped off to feed the dubbing through.
b) "standard" dubbing
This method can be applied to pretty much all types of dubbing. One lays the dubbing one needs (remember - less is more) on your own index finger. Take the dubbing with your material hand ... hang on - here is a terms we have not used before. The material hand and your thread hand. I will try to keep this consistent. It makes it easier for left hand tiers to understand. - so you take the dubbing between you thumb and index finger of your materials hand. (left hand for right hand tiers)
Now loosen up the little clump (have I mentioned that less is more?) and distribute it over your index finger with your thumb. - at this stage we need to talk about the shape of the body. Generally speaking a fly looks best (to me at least) if the body has a conical shape. This means it becomes thinner towards the bend of the hook. Or in other words - there is more material at the front (front meaning hook eye or close to it). So why not create that shape on your finger. It´s like a triangle. One has to think about the tying strategy one has chosen. Do you start at the front or the back? The wider bit with obviously more material should be placed strategically so it ends up in the front part of the hook.
REMEMBER - the material has to be twisted onto the thread in the same direction as one twists the thread when tying. While winding on the thread it i twisted around itself. Clockwise for a right hand tier tying away from his body. If you make the "mistake" of applying the dubbing counter clockwise it is most likely to come undone while winding on the thread.
Most books show a method which starts at the bend of the hook. I turned this around at pretty early when I started tying flies. It was much easier to start at the front part of the hook and tie towards the hook bend. One ends up with the thread at the hook bend obviously. To continue tying the front bit or making the whip finish at the hook eyer one has to "bring" the thread back to the front. I do this by making open turns at an about 45 degree angle. This adds stability to the fly and the body looks more realistic with the segments this method creates. I see more and more tiers doing that too.
c) dubbing loop
Specifically the dubbing loop technique became a quite an eye opener for me. Once having mastered to split even the thinnest thread, fly design and construction took a leap forward. The material I really love is seals fur. It almost seems to have a magnetic effect on fish. Dubbing it in the traditional way can be a bit hideous though. I also don´t like to use wax with seals fur. In my mind it takes that specific shine and the mobility seals fur has away.
Seals fur can be substituted to some extend by mohair wool.
There is two ways of making a dubbing loop. One is by making a separate loop and using a dubbing twister or splitting the thread. I almost exclusively use the split thread dubbing loop technique. The other gets too bulky for the flies I tie.
I found that most threads used for fly tying can be split. Important is that they are not twisted around themselves. Remember - we talked about the twist in the thread before. So the first thing one has to do is to counter the twist in the thread. This is pretty simple. Simply let the bobbin hang from the hook by the thread and rotate it counterclockwise. This is for a right hand tier winding "away" from the body.
Flatten the thread by stroking it with your bodkin needle, from the hook towards you. The bobbin still rotates freely spinnig the thread. Observe the thread and watch for it untwisting by becoming wider. Now come with your finger under the thread and place it onto the tip of you index finger. Set the needle in the middle of the now flattened thread and push softly through it. Split it further with moving the needle inside the thread towards you. Open it further with the fingers of your left (materials) hand. Keep it open and with your other hand you can now insert the dubbing in between the thread. Close it and twist the bobbin clockwise. This traps all the fibres and the result is a rope not unlike a microscopic brush. As longer the fibers of the dubbing as "fluffier" it gets. It helps having practiced the material distribution in the "standard" method.
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