Keeping Down Wings Down

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

I've been tying flies for about a month now and one item that continually challenges me is trying to keep the "down wings" on stimulators and elkhair caddis in a laid back/down position. I've read various hints on how to do this and have mixed success. I'd like to gather ideas from any of you who have encountered this.
For what it's worth, I use both deer hair and elk hair. The deer hair is some I gathered on my own while the elk hair is something I bought. I do use a stacker and take pains to get my tips lined up. The problem occurs when I tie down the wings and get the flaring action - worse with the elk hair.
Maybe I'm being too critical, but I do like the results better when I get the down wings to lay back and stay together. Examining the flies I've purchased suggests that this seems to be the objective. However, I haven't had the chance to fish my own flies yet and perhaps the fish will provide the best feedback!
Any slick ideas or hints?
Thanks as always!

Mike :dunno


Mike -
All I do to counter the excess flaring action of deer, elk on downwings is this...
1. Make sure I have a base of material (thread) to lash the hair upon, so that when I...
2. Make my first three to four wraps (I go up, down, between the fingers) I can pretty much get the hair positively lashed to the shank - this sets me up (even with alot-o flarin' goin' on) to...
3. Make several successive wraps BACK on the hair in the pure interest of putting the wing down without using enough pressure to make it flare.
Bear in mind that this will make the fly look "neater", but that the flaring of the hair can mimmick the wing-beating activity of the adults these patterns are normally meant to immitate. At least once the fly is neat, you can still flare out the fibers as desired, whereas vice-versa just doesn't "fly" (flared to neat).
Good Luck!

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here


I appreciate this, as well as what I think you're suggesting - that maybe what looks good to us - a neat, by-the-book fly - isn't what matters to the fish.
I'm over here in eastern WA and of course the rivers like the Touchet and Tucannon are closed until June 1, so I haven't had the chance to "test drive" any of my own flies yet. The Yak is also reachable but my impression from other posts is that the fish there are pretty finicky and if you're not matching the hatch you're not going to do well.
Locally I had good luck with my purchased stimulators and elkhair caddis patterns last year.
Anyway, I intend to give your techniques a try. I think as I read this it occurred to me that I've not been laying down a good bed of thread, so I can do better there. I am conscious of making the "soft loop" between the fingers, but I think I've started somewhere close to the middle of the bundle rather than starting towards the hook eye and working back, as I think you're suggesting. Good idea also.
Thanks for the ideas!

Mike :thumb
The trick is the amount of pressure on the thread holding them down. The first wrap must not have too much pressure of the materials splay. The next wrap has a bit more tension and the next more yet. The 4th or 5th wrap is where you really bear down and hold the materials to the hook.

The same is true when applying wings to Salmon or Spey flies.

Try it!


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

Thanks...I've been playing around this evening and the above tips have made a difference. I've assumed from your directions that your first loop is "high" on the wing and that you work down towards the eye? That's what I've been doing and it seems to do the trick.
I sure appreciate the help!


Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
Another good technique is to do a wrap or two of thread around just the bunch of hair before wrapping it on to the hook. Position the hair over the hook. Bring the thread up on the near side of the hook and around just the bundle once or twice and then back down the far side and around the hook. Then follow the guidelines in the previous post regarding wrapping back before wrapping forward. This keeps the hair compacted on top of the hook in a nice bundle. Thread tension is the key to all hair handleing no matter how you do it.