This is not how I was taught

Mark, I agree and even mentioned that to Hans. However, for a pattern such as a WB, I don't think a head means much to the fish. A soft hackle??? I don't know. Field testing will be required... which is simple enough. I almost always use two flies when stillwater fishing so I'll tie on a pattern of each style to see if it makes a difference.

Of course, if we're going to get down to heads on patterns, why do the fish ignore the hook eye and a cable tied to the head? It's kind'a like adding antenna.

I found the technique new for me and because I don't tie spey patterns nor ever plan to, I was not aware it is common knowledge for some fly tyers. My bad :p

Gene, you're absolutely right and I agree with you, heads on flies are pretty much for us fly tiers more than the fish, IMO they just look better, just like some people swear that eyes on there flies makes a huge difference.... I figure it can't hurt but I'm pretty sure the fish probably doesn't really care.
I'm as guilty as the next tier as far a trying to make my flies look they way I think they should look and having some kind of head is part of that, especially trout flies. Show me a nymph or adult mayfly or damsel that doesn't have a head? The fish might not care... but if the real bug has a head, then so will mine.

It's a neat and not well know way of doing it and it's always to one's advantage to learn new techniques in tying cause they all come in handy at times, I think it's cool that you took the next step and used it on something you tie and I'm sure you'll find other uses for it as well. Han's is a very good tier and has a little different approach to things than we do, probably due to being one of those European guy's, and that's good for all of us because what he ties is fresh and different from what we usually see.



Mark, there is significant evidence that fish will key-in on eyes when it comes to baitfish so I believe those are important. And yes-sir-ree-bob, if I'm tying a large nymph pattern meant to represent a bug with a large head, I tie one. Some aspects of a real bug I ignore for tying the counterfeits. Antenna and extended bodies for dry flies are tied in for the angler, not the fish.

When it comes to soft hackle that are usually meant to represent an emerger, I doubt if a head comes into play.

As far as a WB goes, what the hell does the thing represent? Who knows? So it is unlikely a head makes any difference in the least.

Hans travels all over the planet and gleans patterns from all over the world. He is a fan of Rene Harrop patterns. How he runs across all the patterns he does is a mystery to me. He attends a lot of fly tying demonstration events from here to Vulca... evidently he has a lot of frequent flier points. I'm glad Hans joined this site. I've learn a lot over the years from the guy with the funny accent :D

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this site is full of excellent fly tiers and anglers. If there's something the folks here don't know about tying flies or fly angling, it isn't worth knowing.
I've learn a lot over the years from the guy with the funny accent :D
Funny you should say that Hans has a funny accent. When I listen to his videos, I hear some of the clearest, best articulated English I hear anywhere. Yes, it does have a somewhat different intonation than American English, or the Queen's English, but if I ever wanted a voice for a machine that speaks perfectly articulated English, I'd ask Hans.



Active Member
I can't help but notice everyone missed the two biggest reasons for using this technique on most flies with palmered hackle: 1) the fly is very durable because the wire (or fine oval or small oval tinsel) locks the hackle stem to the body each place it goes across the hackle stem; thus, if the hackle stem gets broken somewhere along the body, the rest of the hackle stays put; and 2) it makes tying the flies a little faster, which is especially useful when tying something like the General Practitioner with it multiple body segments each having its own palmered hackle.

The size of the fly's head has very little to do with tying the palmered hackle this way.
The small head is a by-product, and one which happens to be pleasing to me, the tier. I do not believe it is a key to making a pattern more effective in itself.

The main driver is a construction and a result which I believe to be superior in durability in a number of ways, as well as being easier and faster to tie.

I fail to see the problem with that :cool:


Hans W


The Good Ol' Days are Now!
A consideration relative to if and when the head of a fly can make a difference is if and to what extent the head is visible to a fish. The more prominent a feature the head is to the overall
impression of an imitated fly and how deep that head is in the surface film or under it is a consideration.

Take a PMD (this one courtesy of Westfly) if it is a high dry riding on its hackle and tail then the overall size shape and color win the day and a neat little head is probably no big deal. But if it is a spinner fishing down into the film I'd be inclined to make the head both bigger and orange-brown. Sic.....

Nymphs....sure. Stoneflies, dragonflies, chironamids...sure. According to Mike Lawson's account about the origin of the Henry's Fork Hopper fly, a cigarette butt will be taken by the odd fish, in which case (the cigarette butt fish) the details are not important.

The greater the pressure and the softer the water the more important the details. Tail water, spring creeks, and high pressure areas are legend for frustrated anglers trying "everything in the box" without success until the pattern with the correct detail was found.

You weave a convincing story, but I am left with this one question... how do we 'think away' the eye of the hook?

My story is a little different - I consider the hook eye an integral part of the imitation - let's call it the head of the bug :cool:

Hans W


The Good Ol' Days are Now!
My purpose is not critical, nor to advocate for one vs the other approach.

I tied and fished Leisenring's patterns for several years to exclusion, and was caught up in the Halford vs Skues until the facts were known to me that: first both of men were fishing ONLY to rising fish, and second that here in Washington the water I was fishing is decidedly different. Well that was liberating because the austerity of their approach is way more self flagellation and standing on principle than is comfortable on a Saturday. And, subsequently although the preference is for fur and feathers, there were no worries and no shame fishing another technique, and to include dare I say it, garden hackle.

With respect to the hook, I suspect that the hook is mostly seen from below and possibly blends into the silhouette of the fly, or possibly as zen leecher aka bill w subtly suggested: fish aren't too smart.

A fish brain is small enough that they aren't probably thinking about much, but I'm not the fish psychologist and do not profess to know what a fish thinks.

I do know that if they eat one thing over and over to the exclusion of other fare, they will under the right circumstances do so to the exclusion of everything else. I have personally seen it and have personally seen also those fish that have seen enough to know that what you've shown them this time is not quite right somehow.


Often pondered, much pontificated, but never proven.


Yesterday, I performed a field test of the WB tied with no head and it didn't work...
of course neither did the other 15 patterns I tried so perhaps it wasn't a good test. Nothing was working, head or not. :)


The Good Ol' Days are Now!
?About the red on the Clouser, there was a piece in a book that described minnows flashing their gills when frightened. I wonder if it is like the gasp that we humans make when surprised and get a fright!?
A number of minnow and streamer patterns have a flash of red at or near the front end of the fly.


Well, anyway, regardless of the head or no head factor, I've found tying in the hackle feather first does make things a bit easier for tying soft hackles and WBs. Probably other patterns as well but I'm not tying those at this time... it's subsurface stillwater pattern time.
Well, anyway, regardless of the head or no head factor, I've found tying in the hackle feather first does make things a bit easier for tying soft hackles and WBs. Probably other patterns as well but I'm not tying those at this time... it's subsurface stillwater pattern time.
Just as easy on the other hackled patterns. Gene :cool:

Sub-surface stillwater patterns for me also - meeting a friend from UK at Lake O this weekend.

Hans W


Hans, I hope your stillwater trip turns out better than the one we went on Saturday. I don't have enough of my ass remaining to freeze off much more . ... especially when I'm catching no trout.