Tips on Tying Small Flies

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Chef, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. Anyone have any problems when they started tying small flies? Am having trouble tying size 18 flies. Seems like it is tough to get the materials into position and tied down. I practised on larger flies before going to size 18 and then last night when I started tying size 18, i found it to be very hard.

    any tips or suggestions?
  2. Chef

    It is practice and more practice. But something that helps me is magnification. Generally I tie wearing 1.25 cheater glassses. When I tie small stuff I will switch to 2x cheaters. The smaller the fly the better the light quality. Another thing, I place a white piece of paper under the vise and tying area.

  3. Hehehe.... Size 18 is about the min size that I tie for this very reason. On size 20's and 22's I use a size 18 hook and tie a smaller fly on them. Not an answer to your precise question but an idea to keep in mind if/when you go below 18's. The first thing I had to learn was to make certain that I'm using very sparse amounts of material. For me the amount of material was much less than I expected. Also, a magnifying glass/light combo is a great tool. It took me a little getting used to working under magnification but after a bit of time I got the hang of it. For me, holding itty bitty pieces of material in place (such as wings) and trying to tie them is very difficult. I adjust my patterns and materials where ever I can so that I can tie on longer materials and trim to desired length afterwards. Also, I picked up a pair of scissors that have very slim ends that have a slight curve to them. This has made it much easier to trim the smalll amount of materials close to the hook shank and has greatly improved the finished look of my flies.

    No great revelalations here but maybe there is an idea or 2 that will help. Just think, when you go from size 18 midges to size 6 streamers you will be able to fly through the streamers. Much like target practicing out to 70 yards on bottle caps with a bow and then hunting elk at 45 yards where your target is the size of a microwave oven.
  4. i also have issues. i usually only tie chironomids that small for the time being, and i shake like a dog shitty razorblades. kinda tough. so i just stick with my big fly patterns.

    i just clued in that this helps you in no way, shape, or form haha.
  5. Fine thread, fine tools, good light, good magnification and if you have trouble with your big meat hooks of fingers, consider using a fine hackle pliar or tweezers to hold tails, ribs or other fine materials in place until you get then secured. 18 and under force me to struggle too. I like how TD framed his response, once you get the 18's to a comfort level you will find your buggers a walk in the park.
  6. Less material, particularly dubbing. Less thread wraps, along with using a finer thread. I'll do 8/0 for 18, but anything smaller and I switch to an even thinner thread. I usually forgo lead or anything else that adds much bulk. You definitely have to think ahead and carefully plan out proportions and spacing on the hook. Being a millimeter too far up or down the shank has a much more dramatic effect on the proportions of of a #20 than it does on a #14.

    And pay close attention to how and where you're holding the material between your thumb and forefinger--you're can't have a big gap between the material and the shank and expect the tie-down to go smoothly. If your pressure point is buried deep in your fingers, the edges of your fingers will be fighting the hook and the material will still be way up off the shank. The material needs to be positioned lower down in you thumb-finger connection--lower down meaning towards the floor or the way gravity would go, regardless of what angle you're holding that thumb-finger pinch.

    Likewise, when you put our thumb and finger together, the space that forms between the fingers (knuckles) needs to be more circular, and not like a tear-drop. (You're trying to bring the tips of your fingernails together.) This forces the pinch-point to be closer to the tips/ends of your fingers instead of back on the pads. Otherwise you can end up with 1/8" or more of fingertips sticking out beyond pinch-point. Those tips will cause a barrier between the material and the shank, and then between the materials and the thread. If you can get your nail tips close together, the thread will slight off your nails and down onto the material.

    Speaking of which, your thread shouldn't be too twisted up or any attempt at finessing the thread into place will cause it start to kink and move and wiggle all over. So don't be afraid to let the bobbin hang and and unwind the thread a little.

    Fine-pointed scissors are a help with small flies too. Good luck.
  7. This ^

    Couple other tricks.

    For dubbing, get a sticky mouse trap. Find a business card with a slick surface. Cut a 1 inch by 2 inch piece and fold it like a book. take a dap of the sticky stuff and place it inside the folded card. When dubbing, pinch the "book" on the thread and drag it down. Then you can touch dub with minimal bulk because you make a dubbing rope as thick or as thin as you desire.

    For finishing, take some Zap a Gap and squeeze it on the half inch of thread closest to the eye. Take a few turns and you're done. It's not cheating. The old boys lacquered the heads, right?

    Things like hackling and winging, you just have to learn. You can tie in a properly trimmed, and crimped hackle with two turns if you have control of how much pressure you're applying when winding, and maintaining sufficient pressure on the bobbin. You can't do it if you just let the bobbin hang. You need to learn to use both hands, switching materials and bobbins back and forth without much change in tension on either. It take time and stubbornness.
  8. I use 3.5X glasses when tying flies. It really helps especially with small flies.

  9. A.K. Best has a book on tying flies that I have checked out from my local library. He has photos and descriptions on the finger pinching that is mentioned by tkww above. When you see his photos and then sit at your vise and practice it makes perfect sense.

    I use a Renzetti vise and I do not like how my hand lays on the vise when tying itty bitty flies. So, when I'm tying them I break out my old Thompson vise which angles upward and allows me to position my hand in such a way that I can comfortably get my fingers in position with small materials to place them on the hook. Had I thought of this when purchasing my new vise I would not have chosen the Renzetti. Now I'm saving money so I can pick up a Regal. I've tried this vise and really like the way my hand fits it and holds the hooks.

  10. The smallest thread you can get
    sharp scissors
    3.5 glasses
  11. td: what book was it... do you remember?

    Thank you all for the advice. I know it comes with practise and patientace...two things I need to work on! :)
  12. Book you need is Ed Engle's 'Tying Small Flies'

    Absolutely brilliant

  13. Magnifier. The one I posted earlier with the light ring. 5X mag, but I do tie #30 and #32's
  14. I really enjoy tying the small stuff dries down to a # 28 and the best advice has already been mentioned a few times, practice, it takes time and you'll cut up a bunch that don't just won't make the cut but after awhile you'll get the hang of it, the hardest thing I find is fishing them, it take some finess to set the hook on a #28 hook you really have to learn to use a soft setup just a gentle lifting of the rod or else often times you'll just pull the fly away never hooking the fish but then some times you get lucky and the fish hooks itself but I usually find myself missing the fish by getting over excited and do a # 16 hook set.
  15. Ultra 70 denier thread is MONEY! Something I do sometimes is to use some sandpaper or emery board on my finger tips. Any snags in your finger tips will kill you, so sand them off! I use some super magnifiers that are custom made for me in my dental practice and they are my back up pair. Makes small things look huge! Rick
  16. I like the 70 but also Sheer 14/0. And like I always say...."less is more"
  17. Joni,

    I'm with you on the Sheer 14/0 for small flies. Good strength and lays very flat or can be corded tight as you want.

  18. Blue, WHY??? When I stocked up on hooks I checked them all out and I did go to size 18 . Nothing else was at all reasonable to try to use and fish too some I stopped at 16. On top of being too small it's just extra expence to me, and I don't need that. I do agree with using the smaller threads and any fine materials to help that is only smart or I would be stopping at 14 or 16 hooks. I know my dexterity is poor but with the hooks too small I would have to tie them on at home with my tying magnifyer and light and go back home eveery time I lost a fly to do it again. I Know it's the "challenge." Mine is just to be able to tie a while longer and to fish a little longer than that.. Happy fishin!!

Share This Page