Quick and Easy Split Tails

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by GAT, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    For awhile I was into tying Compara-Duns. I latched onto Micro Fibetts the minute they were available to use for the split tails. Tying the tails in a V was always a challenge. I used he old ball dubbing trick to spread the fibers but it was time consuming and not all that easy to tie.

    While I was attending an Oregon Fly Tyers Expo (coming up next month) a gentleman showed us how to tie split tails that was so easy I never forgot the technique. Some of you may be away of this trick but for those who are not aware of the technique, here's how easy it is:

    You tie in the desired number of tail fibers you wish to use at the desired length. I'm using a lot of fibers for demonstration purposes.


    Then, you cut a section of tying thread that is the color of the body material. You wrap the thread around the hook bend.


    Separate the fibers into equal numbers on each side of the thread. Then pull the thread forward to split the fibers into a V.


    Tie down the splitting thread, whip-finish and cut away the excess.

    Taaaa Daaaaa

    Split tail... quick and easy:


    You probably will use less fibers than I did for the tail but like I said, the numerous fibers were so they'd show up in the photos.
  2. McNasty

    McNasty Canyon Lurker

    thats awesome!
    Mark Mercer likes this.
  3. Norm Frechette

    Norm Frechette Googlemeister

    an age old tying trick but a good one
  4. Steve Saville

    Steve Saville Active Member

    I like that a lot better than the dubbing ball. It looks very easy.
  5. zen leecher aka bill w

    zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    Dang!!! Just a question as I use dubbing balls for biots.... how would that split biots?
  6. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    You know, I've never tried it with biots because I'm usually able to tie those guys on in a V without a lot of trouble. This trick primarily works best with thin tail fibers... like the Micro Fibbets.

    It is very easy and you'll never bother with the dubbing ball bit again... at least, I don't.
  7. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    I use a similar technique but instead of using a separate piece of thread, I simply make several figure-eight turns of the tying thread to separate and hold the fibers apart. I usually use only two (or three) fibers and find that Microfibbets are too small in diameter for any but the smallest sized flies. Instead I use paintbrush fibers and have found several housepaint brushes with nicely-tapered, synthetic fibers; a lifetime supply for six or seven dollars. One of my favorites is a nice, medium-dun-colored brush which seems to work well for most mayfly and stonefly patterns.
  8. silvercreek

    silvercreek Active Member

    Three ways on video.

    Here are two tips for the method Gene outlined, you can use a bit more tying thread when you star wrapping the hook and use the cut of tag end to split the tails. Another method is to use orange or yellow floss to split the tails when you are tying spinners, and the floss will look like the egg sac of a female spinner.

    Here's another tip about microfibbets. Microfibbets and artist paint brushes are identical. Note the tiny parachute fly below with the fan tail of paint brush fibers. Also note that I have cut fibers off the left side of the paint brush. Since the fibers are lined up on the brush, there is no need to "stack" the fibers before tying them in.

  9. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Well, hell. The video is much better than the photos. Like I mentioned. Some folks were aware of the technique while it is new to others. I also use paint brush fibers for tails on larger patterns but I opt for the cheap brushes and don't cut up my expensive art grade paint brushes... they don't give those things away. :)
  10. silvercreek

    silvercreek Active Member


    I don't know if you have a Michaels or Joannes craft store near you but you can get the artist paint brushes at a steep 40-50% discount with their coupons.

    Stop in and check out the lowest cost artist brushes. They go for about 8 to 9 bucks each before the discount. Then buy the widest brush with a straight non tapered end. They will be about $5 with a coupon.
  11. McNasty

    McNasty Canyon Lurker

    new to me, ill be getting me some paintbrushes, and tyin up some mayflies with this technique today.
  12. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    While we're on the subject of paint brush fibers, you can also use them to tie "quill bodies" and create whiskers for mouse patterns.

    Some of the fibers for paint brushes are natural, some are synthetic. The natural fiber brushes are the expensive ones.
  13. If you go to your local hardware store to pick up a paintbrush for this purpose, be sure to look at the bristles closely. Many paintbrush bristles are frayed at the ends to hold paint better; be sure to get the ones with bristles that come to a point.
  14. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Yup. That's why the artist grade brushes are better but also more spendy.
  15. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    You can find nicely tapered synthetic fiber paint brushes at your local hardware store. This brush was purchased probably five years ago in the paint department of a local Fred Meyer store and cost about six dollars; as you can see I've hardly made a dent in it in five years of tying. You don't need to buy expensive (understatement) artist's brushes.

  16. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Okay, fine. Buy your damned hardware store paint brushes... :p:p
  17. dryflylarry

    dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"


    I basically do the same thing, but instead, I leave a long piece of thread hanging out the back of the hook when starting to tie in the tail. When the tail is secured, I just pull the single thread that has been left out of the end of the fly and divide the tail, pull the thread forward and tie it off with the thread that is still hanging there from the bobbin. Don't have to pull two pieces, but one piece of thread to divide the tail! :)
  18. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Yup, as long as your tying thread is the same color as the body, you can certainly use it as the splitting thread. It was easier to show a separate thread (and the technique I was shown) for the photos than attempt to use the tag end of the tying thread -- I don't have enough hands. :)

    Anyway, everyone gets the basic idea. Use thread instead of a dubbing ball to create V tails.
    dryflylarry likes this.
  19. Dottiesdad

    Dottiesdad Member


    Was that gentleman Dave Roberts by any chance? He is a guide out of the Medford area -- also an Ex-Marine and a big bamboo fanatic. He is a skilled tyer.

    I remember picking that tip up from him at "The Eugene show that's in Albany now" a few years back.

  20. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    It sure sounds like the guy. Yes, it was at an Expo in Eugene before they moved it to Albany.

    Back in the day, it was a new tip for my friends and I. It was during one of the first Expos held and may have been the first one I tied at... which was the second event. Compara-Duns were relatively new... as were Micro Fibets. He was using the technique for a Compara-Dun he was tying. Of course now, there's even a video on the technique and most likely, it's in Ted and Jim's book The Fly Tier's Benchside Reference. .. I didn't check.