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Fly Dressing – A few helpful tips in dressing spiders

By Paul Little

  1. Remember to keep the Pearsall’s silk out of sunlight; one it can fade the colour and two, it will degrade and become “brittle” i.e. it will snap very easily when used.
  2. Use a good quality tying wax i.e. one that is reasonably pliable with good adhesive properties. Using was should only require one run down the silk to apply a sufficient quantity.
  3. Hook selection; we all have our own preferences but a standard shank hook with a “Captain Hamilton” well suits classic spiders.
  4. Spiders look best with small heads; this is not easy when using Pearsall’s silks which are not as fine as the modern threads. The first thing to do is to leave a small section of bare shank behind the eye when commencing the initial thread wraps. The length of bare shank depends on two major things; the feather being used as a hackle, those with a thicker rachis will eat up shank length per turn, and a head constructed of herl (Peacock or Magpie for example). Hence make an allowance, the length will come with practice.
  5. Stripping one side of the feather will when wound look sparser; try it you may like the appearance.
  6. Some feathers have curved fibres on one side and straight on the other. As a right handed tier, I look for the fibres to be straight on the right hand of the feather (good side facing) and hence strip the left hand side; I then wind the feather clockwise. However if this is reversed and the straight side is on the left hand side of the rachis strip the right hand side and wind the feather counter clockwise.
  7. If a feather has bent fibres, steam these back to perfection by holding it with tweezers by the steam of a boing kettle.
  8. Well waxed thread is a must for forming the heads. Secure the waste end of the rachis with a single wrap (if you must two wraps towards the eye is ok), cut off the waste end of the rachis and then secure with a two turn whip finish back towards the hackle.
  9. If say a Peacock herl head is required, move the thread (wax again) to the hackle attached a small section of herl and wind to the eye. It is important to “lead” with the bare side of the herl stem, it just looks better. Secure with a single thread wrap and add a single turn whip finish.
  10. With the application of wax there should be no need to varnish the head.

Articles by Paul Little