Tie Talk: Tying Bendable Bodies

Here’s another excellent tying tip from master fly tier Jason Borger… – TR

_This week, I decided that I’d send Tim a technique-related post rather than a pattern-based post. The subject of this TieTalk is bendable bodies. There are several ways to go about making bendable bodies, but this one allows the tying of fairly small bodies (and rather big bodies) all “on the fly,” so to speak. It’s really just a slight expansion of a dubbing technique that goes by various names, including “Extended Dub.”

__So, why do bendable bodies? Hey, this is fly tying, and a good part of our hobby/craft/madness is doing cool stuff because we can! That should be enough reason to at least give it a shot.

I should warn you ahead of time that this technique does require a fair bit of bobbin-handling dexterity, and you may experience some frustration until you get the feel for it. That said, let’s tie.

What you’ll need (in addition to the hook): copper wire, poly yarn, pheasant tail fibers, fine-denier dubbing (silk, SuperDry, etc.)._

Step-by-Step (for a typical mayfly nymph):

1) Prepare the hook by wrapping thread over an area the length of the thorax.

2) At the rear of the thoracic region, tie in a three-inch-long piece of copper wire (of equal or lesser diameter than the hook shank). When preparing wire for tying in, first double it back on itself sharply. Then run your scissors into the doubled-section and clip the wire right at the apex of the bend. This creates a miniscule hooked end on the wire that prevents such an inherently slick material from pulling free of the thread wraps (see that first little illustration).

3) Once the wire is in place, tie in a three-inch-long clump of poly-yarn that is one to two millimeters in diameter. The poly-yarn should lie along the wire. This serves as filler material for the abdomen, adding bulk and a surface to which dubbing can better adhere.

4) On top of the poly-yarn, tie in a small clump (six to eight) pheasant tail fibers. The fibers will be the nymph’s tails, and can be trimmed back to three after the body is finished. Tie the tails in so that they are twice the anticipated length of the abdomen. This is easily done via an old trick for legging: Tie the fibers in with a wrap or two of thread; do not be concerned if the fibers are too long. Then, keeping tension on the thread, simply pull on the butt ends of the fibers to draw the tips to length. Once they are the right length, tie the tails down. The wire, yarn and tails make up the body “core.”

5) Apply a thin layer of dubbing to the thread, twisting it as tightly as feasible. It is important to make sure the dubbing noodle on the thread is long enough to wind over the length of the abdomen twice. When making the noodle I prefer to create an elongate, razor-thin dumb-bell shape. Ideally the waist of the dumbbell should be half-way down the noodle (the length required to wrap the abdomen once). This type of noodle will allow for a tapered body that also creates series of tight, core-locking wraps at the rear tip of the abdomen.

6) Once the dubbing is ready, hold all three body materials firmly between the thumb and forefinger of your materials hand, and begin to tightly wind the dubbing up the length of the core, taking each wrap next to the last. Once you get up to speed, you should be able to flip your bobbin over the core, catch it with the middle, ring and pinkie fingers of your materials hand, and then transfer it back to your bobbin hand again.

Note: You may find that you have to adjust the dubbing noodle a few times as you do this. That’s part of the game here. Once you have it figured out, you may be surprised at how quickly you can wrap the body.

7) Once you have wrapped an appropriately long abdomen onto the body (or used up half your dubbing), reverse your wrapping direction, heading back toward the hook. When you have returned to the hook shank (having used up the remainder of your dubbing), let go of the body core and you will have an extended, dubbed (and bendable) body. Trim the excess poly-yarn and wire at the end of the abdomen, and then prune the tails so you have the requisite three (or whatever you like).

Note: If you wanted to wind a rib over the extended abdomen, you could do one of a number of things. Perhaps the simplest is to incorporate the tag end of your tying thread into the body core (after wrapping the thorax, do not cut the tag off). After the body is dubbed, just spiral back down it with the thread.

8) Finish the fly as you see fit.

9) Bend the body up, down and all around as you admire your slick tie-craft.

10) Go catch something!

Tie Talk: Tying Bendable Bodies