Keeping the Head Small

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Jim Darden, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
    Ratings: +215 / 0
    OK guys, this is not about containing my ego.....I am always torn about the conflict beween keeping the size of the head small and making sure I have enough wraps on the head to make sure I don't lose the wing material when fishing the fly. I've tried reversing the wing and bending it back over the tie in point but can't get it to look right. Don't have any other ideas. Any tips from you "artists" out there would be appreciated!
  2. Big E Moderator

    Posts: 1,431
    Coon Bay
    Ratings: +364 / 0
    Tie it in normally but leave it long, bend back and tie in again.
  3. S Fontinalis Active Member

    Posts: 463
    Ratings: +180 / 0
    Cobblers wax. it will hold the materials with minimum wraps. use 5 wraps to get the material s secure them buildthe head.
    Stickel.back likes this.
  4. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Untwist your thread which will cause the turns to lay flat.
  5. Tim Cottage Formerly tbc1415

    Posts: 1,684
    Outer Duvall
    Ratings: +243 / 1
    Combine the last two suggestions and you've got it made. Flatten your thread and use a good thread wax (not dubbing wax) .

    TC
  6. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Then too, there is always the strategic placement of a wee dab of crazy glue.
  7. Jamie Wilson Active Member

    Posts: 961
    Arlington WA
    Ratings: +91 / 0
    Does all thread flatten? Seems some of mine flattens well but other not so much. Also - when do
    you apply the wax?
    Thanks
  8. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Any threads I have used will flatten. There maybe some that don't???? Mostly now I use UNI products.
    As you are making turns of thread on your hook, assuming you are a right hand tier wrapping in a clockwise direction, your thread will twist and tighten and in doing so become a larger diameter. So, occasionally, you spin your bobbin in a counter clockwise direction to counter the twist and flatten the thread. This flattened thread builds less bulk and is especially important in the head area where we don't always want bulk and will help build the elusive to some small, neat head. As far as waxing and when to: Most of the threads I use are pre waxed. I guess they run it through a thin liquid wax bath during the manufacturing process. I apply additional wax at certain stages of tying to add a little better gripping power to the thread. Usually, I might apply the wax when tying in winging material to get an added bite. Often the wax is applied in the head area when finishing a fly. You may want to experiment a little with the thread flattening. Take a black hook and wrap it with your white thread (or some other good contrast of colors - whatever hook or thread you have). Look at the wraps - you may need a magnifier glass - then, spin your bobbin and wrap some more. You will see the difference and how the thread flattens. Hope this helps Jamie.
    Jack
    NOTE: SPINNING THE BOBBIN. Depending which way you look at it determines whether clockwise or counter (anti) clockwise. Looking down on the hanging bobbin you would spin counter clockwise.
    If you were looking up at the bottom of the hanging bobbin the direction would be clockwise.
    Tomato, tomato.
  9. Jamie Wilson Active Member

    Posts: 961
    Arlington WA
    Ratings: +91 / 0
    Sweet. Tonight I will give this a go!
    Not dubbing wax correct?
  10. Jamie Wilson Active Member

    Posts: 961
    Arlington WA
    Ratings: +91 / 0
    I actually have another question. Do you have a 'rule of thumb' when determining the size of the thread you choose to use?
    Thanks in advance
  11. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Not a dubbing wax. Just a regular thread wax. Plenty of brand choices out there. Just a simple beeswax disc from ACE hardware would be ok. Some guys use wax some don't.
    As far as thread sizes go? I've simplified my tying life: 8/0 for small flies (trout flies) Atlantic Salmon flies, Spey) , 6/0 for medium to large size flies (Salmon/steelhead?) , and 3/0 for big stuff (big salt water??). I try and use 8/0 as much as possible. Some guys get more particular and talk in deniers. Some brands are specified in deniers. I can't help you there. So many good threads available. Maybe some one else might chime in and be more specific. If you want a good example of when to wax, I think Davie McPhail's you-tubes would be good to look at. Perhaps you already have.
    NOTE: Every once and a while, I'll use a spool of factory waxed thread and it is obviously very "dry"or I may have a spool that is unwaxed. Both will slip on the hook. So, then, there are times when I might pre-wax a good length of the thread as I begin tying. Some tiers prefer unwaxed threads. It's what make horse racing.
    Jack
  12. 1morecast Active Member

    Posts: 745
    Port Angeles
    Ratings: +49 / 0
    Another trick when tying hairwings is to tye the wing in first followed by the collar. Most Atlantic salmon style flies are tyed this way. Also you can try tying in half the wing, then the collar and finally the last half of the wing.
  13. Nooksack Mac Active Member

    Posts: 1,945
    Bellingham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +109 / 0
    Tim Cottage: Could you explain "thread wax" that is not "dubbing wax"?

    Jim: I'm not sure how Syd Glasso tied his micro-heads, but the best way I know is to trim the wing butt to exact length; tie in with two or three thread wraps, leaving a smidgen of butt exposed; then pull that exposed bit under the last wrap; add a whip finish. That works for a display fly. For a fishing fly with a small head, after pulling the butt ends under, add a bit of penetrating glue or cement; let it dry; then whip-finish and coat the head.
  14. Jamie Wilson Active Member

    Posts: 961
    Arlington WA
    Ratings: +91 / 0
    Man o man
    I've gotta a lot to learn here!
  15. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
    Ratings: +215 / 0
    Thanks for all the good suggestions, I'll give them a try. Never thought about the wax angle, have used a drop of super glue but it some times fouls up my whip finish if I don't wait long enough for it to dry. I like the collar idea with the split wing and will give it a try......
  16. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Jim, you can put a bit of super glue directly on your thread too. Just keep your tool away from it.
  17. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,483
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    Lots of good advice here.

    I'll play the role of contrarian and question your initial premise. "Keeping the head small" is valuable for certain patterns, but not necessary for all, or perhaps most. For some tiers, perhaps including many who tie flies for show, a very small head is supposed to be a mark of skill. For most flies on the water, however, the fish could care less if the head is a few wraps larger or smaller. Use as many wraps as you feel necessary to secure the materials.

    As for thread size, I prefer to use the largest thread that permits me to tie the materials on the hook neatly and quickly. A larger thread will cover more hook shank or materials with fewer wraps and will less often be severed accidentally by the point of the hook or an oaf pulling too hard on the thread when tying off a half-hitch. I tie mostly trout flies from size 8-20; I'll use 6/0 thread on most flies from size 8-12 and 8/0 on flies size 16 and smaller. I'll go either way on a size 14 hook (and larger/smaller at times, depending on the pattern and materials).

    Dick
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  18. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,201
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +955 / 1
    Dick, your comments made me think of something additional.
    Sometimes on a big I will use a larger thread for most of the tying and then switch to a smaller one to finish the head. I may throw in a color change at that time too.
    Jack
  19. Davy Active Member

    Posts: 2,021
    SIlverton, OR
    Ratings: +16 / 0
    Sheirholz and I used to play around with using as few of wraps as possible to dress a pattern : i.e AJ #3 Blue Charm can be well tied with 6 wraps of tying thread. As for real world tying .. the head should have a nice taper and if not ornamental to the pattern certainly cannot not draw the perusers eye away from the dressing en toto, as any tying mistake would elsewhere on the pattern.:)
  20. Tim Cottage Formerly tbc1415

    Posts: 1,684
    Outer Duvall
    Ratings: +243 / 1
    Mac
    While there are a variety of readily available waxes that will do both some of the soft waxes often available in a push (lipstick) tube don't work very well as thread wax.
    Here are two formulas for wax. One for dubbing and one for tying. I have only used the tying wax below and it is excellent. Not too hard not too soft. Thread stays were you put it and keeps its tension. Materials mounted on top of the thread base stay were you put them without much slipping around the hook as you wrap them tight.

    The rosin provides adhesion but dries hard as a rock by itself, the beeswax provides flexibility and its own slightly different sort of adhesion and the castor oil keeps the whole thing from drying out too quickly. If you leave it out uncovered it will eventually dry and loose its tack. I have been working off of the same puck for the past few years. I got it from Marvin Nolte who used to give them away when he demonstrated his tying methods to small groups. The blends below are from Marvin.

    The percentages are by weight. Mix together in a double boiler and pour into flexible silicon muffin/cupcake forms to make pucks about 1/4" thick. Pop the pucks out of the flexible forms when cool. Don't heat in a pot that you ever hope to use again for food.

    Tying Wax.

    70% Rosin (ordinary violin bow, pitcher's mound, rosin)
    20% Beeswax
    10% Castor Oil

    Dubbing Wax

    50% Rosin (ordinary violin bow, pitcher's mound, rosin)
    10% Beeswax
    40% Castor Oil

    TC