1. Start the thread at the head and wind to the bend and back, forming
a foundation of thread on the hook shank.
2. Clip a rather long length of the red yarn from a skein or tangle.
Tie one end in behind the eye (don't forget to leave room to tie in
the wing and head) and wrap your thread back to the bend of the hook
in smooth turns, taking the yarn with you. While doing so, sometimes
it helps to hold the yarn toward you as you're wrapping, so the wraps
of thread will force the yarn to the top of the hook shank as you're
winding. You'll see what I mean when you try it. Also, now is the time
to pay special attention to your thread wraps, because you are also
forming the underbody for your tinsel. The smoother and better the
thread wraps, with no bumps from the yarn, the better your tinsel body
will look when you're done. You don't have to get crazy, this ain't a
salmon fly, but keeping an eye on your thread work is a good habit to
3. When you've wrapped the yarn back to the bend, tie in a length of
oval tinsel and wind your thread carefully back to the head area. As
this is the final layer before the tinsel, you should be paying double
attention to your thread wraps, making them as smooth as possible.
At this point, you can clip the tail to lenth. I clip it square (as
opposed to an angled cut) leaving only a little stub maybe half the
hook gap, maybe less. I just want a little spot of red showing in the
rear of the fly, that's all.
4. With your thread back at the head of the fly, tie in a length of
silver mylar tinsel. Some people find that cutting the tinsel off at
a sharp angle to create a "point" helps them reduce bulk at the tie
in point. Remember, with mylar, it's going to flip with your first
wrap, so if you want a silver body, you tie the tinsel in with the
silver side DOWN. Selecting a tinsel width that's appropriate for the
size of the hook will make the tying much easier.
5. Wrap the tinsel to the end of the yarn underbody and back to the
head in smooth and touching (but not overlapping) turns. Even if you
have the luxury of a rotary vise, I find it better to wrap a mylar
tinsel body by hand. I seem to have more control over where each wrap
is going that way. Save the rotary feature for when you wind the
rib. As you wind, keep an even and fairly heavy tension on the tinsel.
When you've reached the head, tie off the tinsel on the bottom of the
hook shank and trim the excess.
6. Wrap the oval tinsel forward over the mylar in an open spiral.
Don't make the turns of tinsel *too* close together. Space them out
a bit (but again - don't get crazy). Use a good tinsel that has a
strong core and pull that tinsel tight as you wrap. This will help
to keep it from slipping around when the fly is fished. When you
get to the head area, tie off the tinsel under the hook shank and
trim the excess. If you really want to limit your thread bulk, you
can unwind just a few of the wraps you used to secure the mylar
before tying off the oval tinsel. You'll then be using those same
wraps to secure two materials, thus cutting your total number of
thread wraps about in half. This is another good habit to get into.
7. Pluck a few fibers from a package of pearl Lite Brite and try
your best to get them straight and fairly controlled (it won't ever
get perfect, so don't worry too much). The bundle should be no more
than 2 or 3 fibers and should be double the length of the fly. Tie
the middle of the bunch at the rear of the head area with one or
two wraps, half extending over the hook eye and half extending over
the body. Fold the "front" half back over the body and add another
couple wraps, thus doubling the underwing and ensuring that it will
never slip out of the thread wraps you've made. Trim any that extend
much beyond the end of the tail.
8. Select a marabou feather that is very soft, whispy, and without a
heavy stem. "Wooly Bugger" marabou tends to have blunt ends to each
marabou barb, but they still fish ok. The best stuff is the "blood"
feathers, as they have virtually no stem and each barb is quite thin.
If you're gonna be tying a bunch of these in one sitting, it pays to
select all your marabou feathers up front, thus saving you a big
chunk of time for each fly. With marabou and hair wings, less is more.
Select feathers that are fully, but not *too* full. It's not something
that can easily be described in words, so you'll have to fake it and
pay attention to how different wing densities work for you when you're
9. Sort of bunch up the marabou feather in your fingers by stroking
it from the butt to the tip. Measure this against the body for length
and trim the feather. I like the tips of the marabou to reach the
tail, sometimes just a smidge longer, but never past the very back
edge of the bend. I find it much easier to trim the feather before I
tie it in rather than trying to do so afterwards. I get a much neater
head this way. Some people recommend lightly wetting the marabou with
saliva to make handling it easier. I don't do that, but it's something
to consider if you're having troubles.
10. If you are ever going to violate the purists' "no glue" rules in
fly tying, now is the time. Marabou is not as slippery as, say, Squirrel
Tail, but it can be a bit cranky at times. You can either secure the
marabou with several very firm wraps of thread and hope for the best
(usually good enough), or you can add a tiny drop of zap-a-gap to the
head area where you're going to tie in the feather and have peace of
mind. Your choice.
11. Select some peacock herl for the topping. Here you have some
choices. I prefer to use prime herls from just below the eye of my
full peacock tail feathers. I get them at a local craft store
(artificial flower section) for a half a buck each, so I'm not stingy
with them. These are really plush and just a couple will make a
wonderful herl topping. They really come alive in the water. The tips
of each herl taper down to a point, adding a classy touch to the fly.
The tips also have much finer stems, so they move better in the water
as well. Or you can just use strung herl. Whatever. Tie them in right
on top of the windings used to secure the marabou wing and then trim
off the butts.
12. At this point, everything is tied in and secured (hopefully), so
all that is remaining is finishing the head. I like the heads on these
flies not to be terribly large, but certainly proportionate to the
fly. Always black. Strive for a smooth head that tapers nicely to
form a cone or bullet shape. Whip finish and trim.
13. Apply a coat of thin penetrating head cement and let it dry
overnight. Come back the next day and add a coat of something thick
and glossy to finish the head. I think that a glass smooth glossy head
adds a lot to a fly's appeal. To me, that is. Tying flies is at least
as much about pleasing me as it is about pleasing the fish.