On The Vise Q & A- “Quill Bodies- Part 2: The importance of a uniform underbody, tutorial with troubleshooting”

If there’s one thing a fly Tyer knows all too well, it’s how quickly your good intentions can immediately look like crap, due to a thread underbody that is not uniformly wrapped.

The underbody can be a very overlooked step, and when done in a hurry with haste, it’s something that your final product will reflect.

Quill Bodied Jig

It’s easy to find prime examples of excellent flies, macro up close photos of what to do “right” But there are not as many photos explaining in clear detail what you may have done wrong.

And that is exactly what I’m going to do here today.

In this part two of Wrapping Polish Quill Bodies, I’m going to put some emphasis on why a uniformly wrapped under body is so important, show some mistakes you may be making that you didn’t know how to correct ..until it’s too late and you already have a ” lumpy quill body” 😂😂😂 No worries! I myself have fallen victim to that a few times, and it’s really not a big deal. These are things I can be corrected.

Here’s an example of a uniformly wrapped under body with a slight taper.

Uniformly Wrapped Underbody

Tip:  now remember there is no rule set in stone on how the taper should be in this tutorial, because it depends on exactly what you are tying. For example a dry fly will have a very slight taper as opposed to a Caddis or a jig, so adjust the taper to what it is you’re trying to tie.

What I am doing here is just helping you troubleshoot.

Lets backtrack:

So how is tying a polish quill supposed to work?

Try again.

Tapered Body: Check

OK great body is tapered to your liking? Add a drop of head cement and keep going.

Wrap the quill..

OK get it to where you want it..

Get ready to tie it off..
Check it from underneath…


Looks good right?

Looks pretty close?

Yours looks like this?

What? No?

 Then you may be having some of the issues below. 

We’re going to take a look at some troubleshooting and break down exactly why they look the way they do,and what you can do to correct it.

Take a look at the example below.

What the heck happened?!

Well here’s what happened. The underbody is a mess, Yes you can give it an “E” for “Effort” but it simply isn’t gonna cut it.

Due to the lumpy underbody..
The quill not only slides, but comes to a “stop work order” since it cant get over that hump without having to wrap over itself 10 times..
And by then, its a mess and you will run out of quill.

If this is the case just scrape your hook and start all over again..

All Done?

OK got it this time?

looks good right!?


Then take a look below because this may be another issue that could be going on.

Photo below is the result of a poor underbody with twisted thread.

Does your fly look like this?
That is the result of a twisted thread underbody.
As you can see here this on your body is all over the place, and looks like it has the consistency of a wicker basket.
And when you bring the quill forward it will slip into those grooves and get stuck.

Solution to this issue?

Try using a flat thread when tapering your body it will result in a smoother finish, if you don’t have a flat thread just try to spin your thread the opposite direction that it is twisting. I will demonstrate that below after.

OK let’s try this one more time.


Looks good right?



Let’s check one more thing below

Does the quill on the bend of your hook look like this?

That is the result of using too much thread to tie in your quill.

This is the result of using too much thread when tying in your material. You only need one wrap and then you come forward towards the eye of the hook too many wraps will result in this big butt 😂😂

By using too many thread wraps your underbody gets that “Big Ol Butt” and once again the quill starts to slip and cant get over the hump correctly.

And the biggest problem with doing that, is that its not easy to get the quill body over that bump without sliding back towards the bend of the hook, and then, once again, you get halfway up and you have run out of quill because it’s all at the back of the hook spinning around the big ol butt.

So how can you get a good tapered body?

One thing in which may help a lot is the type of thread you are using. Remember that depending on the size hook that you are using, you will want to match the thread. So if it’s a small hook yes use an 8/0, A little bit bigger? OK use a six 6/0 ..  but some of it may also be the difference in a regular “round” un-waxed thread as opposed to a flat thread.

Without going into too much specifics on each type of thread (I will save that for its own post since trying to compare something such as a 6/0 and The actual denier completely varies by manufacturer)

I’m just going to demonstrate the two threads in relation to an underbody for quills.

Lets Start with some 8/0 uni thread

Start tying..
Eh… looks ok
WOAHHHH wait a minute..

See that?

What’s going on there?

The thread is spinning which is creating more of a rope effect, and this is something that when you’re trying to create a tapered body you need to keep an eye on.

If not It will result in the quill being “stuck in those ruts” so to speak

How to correct it?

That happens all you need to do is back up a couple wraps and let your bobbin hang for a second.. it’ll start spinning.
It will be spinning in the direction that it needs to go in order to unwind the “rope” so all you have to do is give it a little spin to push it along and then keep tying. That will flatten out the thread.
That’s better!
Now you have a pretty uniform body!
Now wrap your quill.

Now let’s take a look at some flat waxed thread

Flat waxed thread
Start your thread..
Notice how it flattens out? awesome isn’t it!?
Tie in your material with one wrap.
Then keep moving toward the hook eye.
Closeup. Awesome!
All done!

As you can see the flat waxed thread makes a great underbody that is more uniform,  as long as you continue to keep an eye on the spinning of the thread.

Tip! -When using the waxed flat thread, use a little head cement because it is a little bit slippery.

So if you find that your fly now looks like this example below..

Is this you now?

Then it may be two problems combined, let go of the quill and let it unwrap, then take a good look at your underbody

First glance it looks pretty uniform but about a third of the way from where the thread started at the bend there’s a little dip underneath, now go back and fix that or start over again.
Add a little head cement..

Make sure you don’t use too much, because you are going to add some after; but too much cement is just as bad as not enough. I will go down your bodkin and get into the hook eye.

Now that you have fixed the dip underneath the bottom edge, and added a drop of the head cement you can now wrap your quill forward and try again
Much better! Now you have it!

As you can see it worked much better by fixing that spot and adding the head cement to keep it in place.

70 Denier works just as well depending on your hook size.
Nice uniform underbody.

Now The best way to find out what works and doesn’t work is as simple as experimenting. It’s all personal preference and if an un-waxed or “round” thread works well for you then by all means use it.

“What’s the best way to get a uniform body do you have any techniques?”

What I have found over these few years is kind of the opposite of the old saying “one step forward and two steps back”

What I like to do is take “five steps forward and two steps back.”

For a total of seven wraps and then move up and repeat.

It doesn’t have to be 7 the number is whatever works for you.

I seem to have a 3-5-7 OCD thing where I have to tie 3, 5 or 7 flies at a time before I get up and wander off to do something else. 🤣🤣🤣

So try it with the seven, as in “five forward and two back” and then adjust it to yourself based on what type of thread you are using and the size of hook but the technique should be about the average of twice as far forward- and half as far back

Let’s give it a try!

Lets Begin!

Tip! turn your vise upside down, this is what I love about my Regal

This will allow you to wrap the thread in an up-and-down motion without hitting the hook.
First things first- take about five touching thread wraps forward towards the eye.
Stop after 5 wraps..
Now take two wraps back.. go ahead..
Down and under, now start again.
Do another set of 5 forward and two back.
And again..

See how quickly the body is building up?

Continue to do this until you reach where the end point of your pattern says to.
One more set!!

That’s it!

Once here you can add a drop of head cement, wrap that quill and finish your pattern.

Now you’ve got it.

Remember, as much as we can all take a look at flies in photos, magazines and shows and say “woah that’s a nice fly!”

The reason we are so quick to say that, is because we don’t see anything wrong with it. On the other hand, if we do see something wrong, we can be our own worst critics.

There is much to learn in the art of tying and there is always room for improvement, for many of us it’s also a personal challenge to learn to tie something to the standards we hold, more so than it is for the fish.

So Don’t give up if you are having trouble. Just take a break and try it again. Don’t forget: We all began as beginners.

I really hope this tutorial has helped you achieve a uniform underbody, please feel free to leave me any additional comments or questions that I may be able to help with.

Thanks so much for reading and happy tying!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Your site is amazing. Do you have instructions on how to achieve that style of collar with the dubbing? I know this post is about the body, but I’ve been struggling to get that leggy look with the (guard hairs?) sticking out perpendicular to the shank.

    Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But I don’t have one of yet but I can actually put that up as one of my next ones in the next week or two, the biggest thing is also the kind of dubbing you’re using. I like to use squirrel and I will also take a squirrel pelt and separate the guard hairs. Sometimes I will just throw a little bit of them in to something I am dubbing. But yes I can put that up soon!


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