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This week the new Tie Talk man, Jay Zimmerman brings us one of his favorite tricks for spicing up a multitude of different flies. The Sharpie. Read Jays simple yet elegant tips below on how to use the pedestrian black magic marker to bolster your tying skills.

Unconventional tricks. Cheap tricks. I love ’em all. Peek into any avid fly tier’s kit bag and you will learn some cool new stuff to add to your own arsenal. The best ones are usually the simple ones. One of my favorites is having a black Sharpie marking pen handy on my fly tying desk. Here are some of the ways I like to use it.


Sex up a streamer. This is a trick to add parr marks or other stripes and markings on otherwise bland streamers. Sometimes I will just darken the very top of a baitfish or sculpin, but every now and then I will completely change the appearance of the streamer by adding very aggressive markings. When I do this I will use one of my larger pens and be sure to have a folded napkin or old newspaper underneath. Be sure to press down hard enough on the first side so that it outlines the markings to follow–to maintain a sense of natural symmetry.


Touching up a midge. I never like spending too much time on any one midge pupa. Simple and slender is the key to tying them successfully, especially a larger chironomid. Keep the abdomen long and skinny and build the thorax up slightly fatter with thread. Use the Sharpie to darken up the top of the thread thorax before coating the fly with Softex or Loon UV Knot Sense.

Dot your own eyes. Instead of finding sloppy ways to adhere stick-on eyes to your foam flies (that will inevitably fall off after the third or fourth cast) use the Loon UV Fly Paint to create your own. The yellow paint comes out an excellent glowing green when applied over a solid green foam.


Once the paint is cured with a UV light it adheres fairly permanently to the foam. I do my frog eyes in four steps. 1: Apply yellow UV paint and cure. 2: Sharpie black pupils. 3: Cover with a coat of clear UV Knot Sense and cure (this prevents the pupils from smudging). 4: Apply a final coat of Hard-As-Hull or some other glossy head cement.

Ribbed for dry fly pleasure. Nothing looks as good on the slender body of an adult mayfly as quill or Biot, but if you need some fast ribbing build up the body with thread, then hit an inch or so of the thread with your Sharpie and wrap it forward. Pow! Ribbed.