Fly Tying · fly tying 101 · PHWFF Fly Tying

“Fly tying 101” – Measuring and securing tailing material

Depending on what pattern you will be tying, your tailing material will be different. Some patterns call for a soft hackle like seen here, others use stiff barbules from a dry fly feather and others may call for microfibbets..Z-Lon… floss.. bucktail!

(I will have a separate page added here on how to tie in-specifically- dry fly tailing in the near future, but I hope this page here will serve as a general technique for how to fasten whatever the tailing material as to the hook)

and.. With that being said, the material could be anything!  But the technique is almost always the same.

Here I will demonstrate how to measure and tie in a tailing material from a hen neck. This tailing material is used from my Isonychia Soft Hackle pattern found here.

If you are following from our PHWFF New City Group this was one of the patterns we tied on July 27th, 2016 and a step by step can be found there.

A Hebert Miner Wet Fly Saddle in While Type Brown

Personally when I am tying in a softhackle material for tailing I like to choose a feather (now this part may vary depending on what your tying because you may not even be using a feather at this minute you might be using synthetic material)-but if you are using a softer material such as a hen neck here’s a tip:

I like to grab one that looks a little mangled (in other words i may not use it for wrapping as a collar since its all beat up, but it will be perfect for a tail) or one from the back side of the cape since the fibers are longer.

A longer feather from the backside(underside) makes for nice tailing

Tying in your tailing

Stop the thread across from the barb.

The first thing you want to do for tying in your tail is a start your thread behind the eye and  run the thread all the way back until it’s across  from the hook barb (Or where it would be if your hooks are barbless such as these)

A closeup of a feather before I remove a pinch for tailing
A closeup of a feather before I remove a pinch for tailing

Take the feather in which you will be using for tailing and hold it by the tip ( not the stem- which is the end where it was holding onto the saddle before you plucked it) and  brush those fibers down with your fingers. It will look like the photo above and will make it easier to grab.

Now grab a pinch and pull it free from the stem. By evening the tips out when your brushed it with your fingers in the step above you will have an easier time tying it in since they will be level

Measuring the tail

Different patterns call for different length tailing, but rule of thumb when you aren’t sure is just to tie in the tail so that it measures around 3/4 to one hook shank in length.

To do this you want to hold your material over the hook shank with one hand, then once you have eyeballed its length; move the area you are holding over to where the thread was stopped.

Now simply hold it in place with your ‘non tying’ hand, use a pinch wrap hold the tailing in place, then begin to wrap over the material.

Ready to wrap forward.

One or two wraps is all you need to hold it enough to make sure it’s positioned correctly. (don’t worry if the material accidentally wraps around the hook, that just means your pinch wrap wasnt secure enough. Either re-position it or remove the tailing and try again) Its not a big deal it happens to all of us!

Once its positioned correctly, wrap forward twoards the hook eye.

Ready for the next step

Depending on where you are next in your pattern stop the thread at the designated area and continue with your next step.

Hope this helped!


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