Fly Tying · fly tying 101

“Fly Tying 101”: Creating a Split Thread Dubbing Loop

Getting ready to split some thread!

The Split thread dubbing technique is mainly used when you don’t want to add extra bulk to your fly. It works well when you are applying material to the head of a fly such as a hackle collar. Keep in mind that all threads are not good for splitting. Here I am using Danville thread which works just fine. This technique can be used for many different patterns, large or small, and the way you put the dubbing on will also have a different effect.

Relaxing the thread

Once you have stopped your thread where you are wanting to start your dubbed body, just let it hang for a second. You will start to see it spin.

What it is doing is relaxing, and untwisting itself. Once you see which way it is going you can give it a little spin to help it along.

“Preparing the thread”

You want to be sure that you wont get a knot in the thread when splitting, and with a little preparation you can prevent this from happening.

Flat thread is great for splitting, and as you can see here with a little untwisting it starts to flatten out.
What you want to do is to run your fingernail down the strands towards the bobbin
Now that these strands are flattening out, you can get read to split.

Splitting the thread

While still holding your thread in one hand, use a bodkin to separate them in the middle.

Take your bodkin and insert it into the thread.
Now slide the bodkin down closer towards the bobbin.

Holding the loop open

Once you have reached this point, remove the bodkin and replace it with your finger to keep the thread loop open.
With the loop open, its time to add some dubbing.

It’s up to you if you want to use wax here. If so, you only need to wax one side.

Hold open the dubbing loop with one hand, and add a pinch of dubbing.

Dubbing the loop

There are different ways you can dub this loop. Either create a dubbing noodle where you directly twist the dubbing onto the thread, a touch dubbing where you use a little wax or in this case, just put in a pinch of dubbing.

Take a pinch of your dubbing and place it in between the two strands, move it to the top or bottom.. then add a little more.. and a little more if needed. What you are trying to accomplish is having enough dubbing so that you dont have big bare spots. Some flies are tied very sparsely so use your own judgement.

Be sure to pay attention to how much room you leave between the dubbing and the hook.Those will be extra bare turns that you will have to take if left empty.


You can also put the pinch of dubbing inbetween the fingers that are holding the thread open, then use the other hand to pull them up into the loop. Give it a try! After one or two flies you will be able to grab a pinch and flatten it out between the two fingers all at once.

Keep practicing!

It doesnt have to be full, you just want enough so that when you twist it it fills out.

How to twist dubbing

Once you have dubbing loaded between the open split in the thread, take your two fingers and grasp tightly right at the base of the dubbing. Keep them holding, right towards the tip of the bobbin. Hold that the thread loop tightly!

What you want to do now, is to hold the thread loop closed tightly one hand..
And give the bobbin a good spin. But don’t let go yet!

Once the bobbin starts to slow down.. you can let go. Then grab the bobbin to stop it. Take a look at your thread loop now.

Pretty cool huh?!

What’s happening here is the thread is spinning and twisting that dubbing between the two strands that you split. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look twisted enough, all you have to do is add tension again and spin it one more time.

Repeat the tension and twist until its pulling together tightly.

Experiment with this because it isn’t set in stone. You can do what you wish with different materials here!

Once you have gotten it to where you like it all you have to do is wrap forward just as if you were wrapping thread.

How do you want to wrap is up to you, you don’t always have to brush the fibers back it depends on what you’re tying.
Keep wrapping the dubbed loop forward, brushing back if needed.
Once you reach the stopping point, continue with your pattern.
Split loop dubbed soft hackle.

Doubling up the colors

What I like about split thread is sometimes I find myself tying the entire fly by splitting the thread, I will do one color for the body, one for the thorax and even split the thread for the hackle fibers.

Give it a try!

Once you finish one color, simply flatten and split your thread again. This time adding a different color or material.
Wrap it and brush back.
Then continue with your pattern.
Split loop October Caddis

As you can see the possibilities are endless, so dont be afraid to experiment.


4 thoughts on ““Fly Tying 101”: Creating a Split Thread Dubbing Loop

  1. what camera do you use ? it takes great pictures.

       Harry Kerrigan, Program Lead Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing         New City N.Y.  VA


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