The Christmas season is upon us, which means it’s only a couple of months before the fishing on the Moy begins again for those brave enough to venture so early. I am counting down the days until April myself but might even try late March this year if conditions and restrictions allow.
Along with the new East Mayo fishing clothing wear available here…fly tying kits may be on the Santa list this year for some, so I thought I would cover basic hair wings. These flies are relatively easy to tie, require little materials and can be tied on hooks and tubes of all sizes and colours to cover all situations from Spring right through to Autumn.
I’ll kick off with the Golden Stoats Tail variant. This is a basic fly that can be replaced with different tinsel, hackle and hair to create other flies. I will go through some examples towards the end of the article. The dressing for the fly is:
• Tag: Oval silver tinsel
• Tail: Golden pheasant topping
• Body: Flat gold tinsel
• Rib: Silver wire or oval tinsel
• Front hackle: Hot orange cock
• Wing: Dyed black squirrel/fox/runner/zonker
• Thread: Yellow/white under body and black for the head
So here we go…
While the head on a Golden Stoat is typically black, it is best to tie the main part of the body with a lighter colour just in case the flat tinsel slips and an obvious black underbody shows through. Typically, people would use white for silver bodies and yellow for golden bodies. For this fly, I am going small with a size 14 Patriot for low water fishing. First, we secure the yellow thread on to the hook and lock in a length of oval tinsel for the tag. Run the thread to above the hook point while securing the tinsel to the shank.
Fig 1 – Attaching thread to the shank and securing the oval tinsel for a tag.
With the tinsel now secure, begin winding it towards the bend of the hook for three or four turns. On the final turn bring the tinsel through the two hooks and tie it in under the shank to create the tag.
Fig 2 – Wrapping tinsel over bare hook and bringing it back through the gap before securing.
Secure the tinsel by running the thread the full way up the shank to the head area. This ensures a nice smooth, level body with no bumps. Now we need to bring the thread back to the tag.
Then select a golden pheasant crest feather. The size will depend on the hook size and the river but allowing it to extend to the back of the hook is plenty. Tie the crest curved upwards and run the thread the full way up the body again. You can spend silly money on nice crest feathers which are suited to amazing fully dressed flies but this one was a cheap Turrel feather and I just wet it with my fingers and gave it more curve by running it through my thumb nail and forefinger.
Fig 3 – Securing the golden pheasant crest and cutting off at end of body.
We now secure a piece of silver wire as you run the thread back to the tail. Small oval tinsel will also do, but will not be able to secure the tinsel as well. As before, ensure the wire is tied in securely the full lenth of the body to prevent any bumps.
Fig 4 – Tying down wire the length of the body.
Now with the wire secure we lock in our tinsel and run the thread up to the head area again, ensure any lumps and bumps are leveled out as you do, which will ensure a flat base for the tinsel to lay on.
Fig 5 – Adding flat tinsel with the waste trimmed at same point as the wire and crest.
Before laying the tinsel down, I paint a small bit of superglue on the body to prevent slippage. I use Loctite as being totally waterproof, it is the least likely to go white and crumble.
Fig 6 – A levelled body ready for a flat tinsel body.
Now we wind the flat tinsel down the body, in touching turns, until the head area. Next, we secure it with three turns forward and three turns back.
The wire is now wound in evenly spaced turns on top of the tinsel in the opposite direction the tinsel was wound. You can see from the photo; this tinsel was wound clockwise, and the wire is wound anti clockwise. Tying the wire this way will help prevent slippage of the tinsel. As before, a few wraps forward and back again will secure the wire.
Fig 7 – The body is created with the flat tinsel wound clockwise and wire wound counter clockwise.
When the wire is secured, instead of wrecking your scissors and to prevent a bulkier head, you can twist and “jig” the excess wire while having a taught bobbin and the wire will break off neatly.
Fig 8 – Hold the bobbin with one hand and use the other to jig the wire to break.
Now we do a short whip finish or a couple of half hitch knots and cut off the lightly coloured thread to make way for the black spool.
It is common practice, if time allows, to varnish over tinselled bodies. You may want to do this in small batches to save time.
Fig 9 – Varnishing tinselled bodies will add durability and prevent tarnishing.
While your tinsel will be very secure and unlikely to slip due to the wire and superglue, this is still recommended for certain rivers. Some use to do this to prevent tarnishing with the old metal tinsels but the main reason why I do this is to add durability. This is even more relevant with the large number of hungry brownies on the upper Moy, that may wreck the bodies of your flies before a salmon gets sight of them!
Fig 10 – Adding black thread to ensure a dark head.
You will need to secure the black thread onto the head area and now secure a very small cock hackle. For this example, I have chosen a feather with fibres that will extend to the hook point, but everyone has different preferences. Before tying in the feather, I make sure I have rubbed some tying wax on my thread which will help secure the hackle. I first break of the tip of the feather, and splay out two or four fibres. I then tie in the tip with the excess fibres pointing towards the eye. After two wraps, I fold the excess fibres back and take two or three wraps of thread on top.
Fig 11 – A well secured hackle with the fibres trained downward for easier doubling.
Now we have a well secured hackle. Next, we prepare the hackle by holding the stalk and running the back of our scissors along the edge. This will point the fibres slightly downwards making it easier to double.
Now we can wind the hackle in overlapping turns, doubling the feathers back after every full rotation around the shank. The amount of turns is down to personal preference and hook size but for this one (size 14 Patriot) I am only doing one turn for very low water. I have ripped some fibres off but will keep enough for the full turn. This means I can tie it down neatly and will not have any rogue fibres pointing forwards. I would also do this if I plan to do two or three turns of hackle, pausing to rip fibres off on my second last turn of the hackle. We can now secure the hackle and cut off the excess
Fig 12 – Ripping off excess fibres for your estimated wraps will give a neater finish.
Some people will tie this kind of fly with a false or beard hackle and I would do this with smaller size 16 or 18 flies. This consists of tearing a small pinch of hackle fibres and tying them in below the head. Alternately, some would wind a hackle normally and then pull all the fibres downward and secure over with thread.
Fig 13 – A sparse low water hackle is secured.
The final part of the dressing involves creating a wing of black hair/fur. The example here uses artic runner which, even in low water, will provide excellent mobility. Other hair which would be suitable for this is rabbit or artic fox for small flies and squirrel for larger flies or for faster water such as the Ridge Pool in Ballina.
You will need to cut a selection of hair suitable for the fly size and prepare it before tying in. Hold the fur by the cut ends lightly and pull the longer stiff guard hairs out. Now we hold the end of the hair, again lightly, and pull any soft underfur which will prevent any bulk on the head of the fly.
You can just secure the hair and cut the excess off, but this will take extremely sharp fine point scissors. I have a habit of dropping my scissors on the garage floor so I would rather spend the money on a few nice capes than expensive extra sharp scissors.
Fig 14 – Sizing up the wing before cutting to size.
Instead I measure up the hair against the hook and cut to size before tying in. I then twist the end of the hair and hold it over the top of the hook. I now very lightly wrap a turn or two of thread over the ends of the hair and remove my left hand to see how it looks. Sometimes small adjustments are needed but once you are happy with the position, you can fully secure with additional wraps.
Fig 15 – Hair ready to be tied with loose loops and then secured.
I usually add some superglue to the thread for a few of the turns closest to the eye, ensuring no glue gets near the hair which would significantly reduce its mobility and shape.
Fig 16 – This wing is sitting a little tight to the body, but this can be easily adjusted.
You now have an extremely well secured wing which would need some beating from several fish to be thinned out. If you aren’t happy with how the wing is sitting, you can tie a wrap or two of thread over to bring the hair closer to the body. If you prefer the wing to be well kicked up from the body, you can pull the wing forward and add a wrap or two of thread under, it which will kick the hair upwards.
Fig 17 – An adjusted wing and a whip finish gives a final fly awaiting varnish.
With the wing complete all is needed now is to secure the fly by building up the head with thread and tie it off using a whip finish.
Finally, the head receives two or three coats of black or clear varnish for added durability. The fly is now complete and ready for a swim!
Fig 18 – The completed fly, just add (low) water.
The principles of tying this fly are the same for many of the simple hair wings including the Silver Stoat, Editor, Black Brahan and the Haugur.
Using a floss body and changing the colours around, you could also tie flies like the original Stoats Tail, Blue Charm, Hairy Mary and Green Butt.
Fig 19 – A selection of hook flies from size 10-18 tied very similar to above.
These types of flies are not just popular on hooks, they are also regularly tied on small mini or micro tubes. These tubes can then be tied as a regular tube or a hole can be added to hitch it across the surface of the water. An even simpler fly is the Sunray Shadow and its variants, which usually doesn’t even have a hackle.
Fig 20 – A selection of flies tied on tubes from 1/4 inch upwards.
As before, I hope you found this article useful and If there are any other types of flies you would like me to cover over the winter months, please do not hesitate to get in touch via Kathleen on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wishing you all a very happy and safe Christmas.
Seán Woods, Co. Antrim