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opus manuum – handycraft. Doing things with your hands. Bringing imagination to life. Imagination is the key. Without it you can not create. You have to have an idea in your head – long planned or rather spontaneous to create something.

Fly tying is bringing an amazing amount of imagination to life. An imitation of life if you so will. This takes technical skills which can be learned. Don´t be afraid. It is not that hard, but very very rewarding on many levels.

The most obvious reward is that you´ll be catching fish with your creations. I am sure you will. The other is the very process itself. Making things with your hand is very cool. Looking at your „finished product“ fills you with pride. It should. Even Paul does it.

On the next pages I explain the techniques used for tying flies. Once learned, the basics you should be able to tie pretty much any pattern. The techniques are pretty similar for all sorts of flies.

about this manual

The articles/lesson are arranged in such a fashion that the beginner fly tier should start with the first page (the uppermost in the list) and than work his / her way through to the end of the list.

Once you have been through the 20something pages you should be able to tie most of the flies which are presented during the course – and out there. The basic principles are very similar and once you have mastered them, no pattern is difficult any more.

Furthermore there is a FlyTying section in the “blog” part of These entries are also searchable and tagged with material and techniques, so you can find related patterns easily.

My goal with the website´s design was to make it informative and interactive. All pages of the FlyTyingSchool do have a comment file below. This is to ask questions and simply interact.

fly recipe rating system

Matt Klara wrote a very nice article about rating flies on sexyloops called Matt’s Fly Tying Complexity Rating

We discussed the idea on the board and the result is a combined rating of skill level and complexity.

Skille level is indicated with the letter A, B and C. A being “pro level” and C the beginner stage, which leaves B for intermediate.

The number behind indicates the number of “modules” the fly has.


Hare Emerger – (2) hare dubbing for body, artic hare foot´s hair (try to say that after a pint – that would make that a 3)

Real Caddis Larva (8) ledfoil underbody, filo plume for tail, nymphskin for body, ostrich herl for breathers, pheasant tail fibres for legs, use of two bobbins, UV glue, marker pen

These number should help to fidn through the recipes and pick the ones fitting one skill level and comfort zone and minimize frustration. However, this has nothing to do with how well a fly catches.

More often than not the complexity rating is inversely proportional to the catch index. “unknown”


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FTS 01 – what you need


You do not need “all” this, really. Don´t get confused by all the paraphernalia „they“ try to sell to you. A little tool for this and a little tool for that. No worries.

Fly tying is a matter of getting thread and some fur and feather to a hook. That´s it really.  As simpler you approach the issue as better your results will be.  The „INDUSTRY“ will of course disagree. They live on selling dubbing in at least 50 shades of olive. But no worries – you do not need all this. However, if you are into collecting „stuff“ – 50 shades of olive can be exactly your thing.

What you need though:

tying desk / workspace

I like to have a dark surface under the materials and in my view. It really helps when trying to focus on the fly in the vice. A busy backdrop confuses the eye and is tiresome.

Make sure you have enough light when tying. I found a nice daylight lamp with a magnifying lens for rather small money.


I mostly tie with very thin Dyneema in white. It is very hard to break and the thread is mostly a means to hold the materials. Of course one can use thread as „tying material“ as well which results in a different choice of thread based on the fy designs various parameters – as in North Country Spiders for example.


  • a set of small, very sharp scissors
  • a larger pair of scissors for cutting rougher materials
bobbin holders

It is handy to have two at least. It is essential for some patterns and can be a live saver when one thread breaks and one needs to continue tying without having to redo the whole fly.

I like bobbins which only have one “arm”.  Look for ritebobbin or the stonfo bobbins.

material clamps

Regular paper clips sold in office supply stores are very sufficient for the job, however – there is several specialised clamps and even clamping systems on the market. Should you like tying with CDC than it might be advisable to get the tying tools from Marc Petitjean for that.

knotting tool

I use a very simple version or my fingers. Other options are a half hitch tool (or a ballpen) or one of these weird looking things called “whip finisher”

bodkin needle

basically a needle with a handle. Stick a sewing needle in a winecork if you can´t find one.

You can use a piece of velcro or an old toothbrush for roughing up the flies.

fly tying vise

The vise is a tool holding the hook. In the older days flies were tied on hand, meaning by holding materials and the hook in the hands without any vise.

A vise is very handy though. In my mind it has two main functions

  1. holding the hook and
  2. support the hand which is offering the material onto the hook. I prefer vises with pedestals. Clamping a vise to a table did not work so well for me, but this is personal preference really. The drawback on pedestal version is the weight.



try to get hold of good quality hooks. Nothing worse than loosing a fish because the hook brakes or bend open. I use Partridge of Redditch hooks. They carry most I need and they make really nice barbless hooks as well.



CS 54 SE


I mostly use seals fur or hare dubbing. The dubbing is stored in small plastic pouches. I cut one corner of the pouch to access the dubbing. The other storing method is to stuff the dubbing in to see through drinking straws or in a plastic container made from greenhouse window material.

 wing materials
  • Fibres from an arctic hares foot , also known as snowshoe hare. Beware of copies, the arctic hare is not a rabbit.
  • deer hair – I trie to get it directly from a hunter. The stuff sold in shops is processed and softer as a dried skin.
  • antron yarn for wingpost of parachute flies
materials for extended bodies
  • synthetic yarn like antron or polyester nylon
  • closed cell foam
  • deer hair
body materials for nymphs

I mostly use Virtual Nymph products. They are easy to use and quite reliable in their quality.


I have a whole skin from a partridge, a few pheasant tail feathers and a big bundle of peacock herl.


I use very little genetic rooster hackle in my flies and keep it to either black, brown or grizzly.

  • a hares mask is very useful and can be used for many flies. It supplies hackle, dubbing, tails & legs … you name it
  • squirrel skin
  • mink strips for zonked streamers
ribbing materials
  • copper wire
  • tinsel
  • gold wire
beads & led
  • Tungsten beads are a good choice. Due to the high specific weight of tungsten beads from that material can be of smaller size as other materials. Lately some new form of tungesten heads cam onto the market featuring up with eyes and such. Pretty cool stuff and it gives that nymph the extra edge … for catching the flytiers wallet.However, cool never-the-less – – let me know if you need some of their stuff. I mostly have some or am ordering a batch. We tie a few of our shop products with these.
  • adhesive led foil
    Veniard has some, but this stuff can also be found in stores selling gear for golfing or tennis rackets.
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FTS 02 – thread – C1

Let´s have a more technical look at flies.

What is a fly?
… technically speaking from a handicraft point of view I mean.

I would suggest to break it down in it´s components. For starters – pretty much every fly is constructed around a hook. Based on targeted species the fly tier chooses a hook appropriate for the job. Size and shape should support the fly design. To find the right hook for the job it helps to scribble a little sketch of the intended fly. Even the very beginners profit from this simple trick. A little drawing always helps if something is to be constructed. It does not need to be fancy and super correct. This little sketch is for you – the fly tier – to understand the proportions and elements of your construction.

The next thing no fly is without is thread. There is flies without hooks (tube flies for example) but thread is used in all flies.

So lets´s stop here and look into the techniques and concepts behind wrapping thread around a hook or tube.

The basic, common function of the thread is to hold the material in place on the hook (or tube). This is achieved by winding the thread onto the hook. Sound simple? It is …. but NOT. First obstacle is to fix the thread to the hook so it does not slide off and keeps sittig tight. This requires a certain pressure which needs to be maintained.

So how does the thread actually hold on the hook? I think it is that the thread grips onto microscopic surface roughness of the hook metal. However it actually works, the main point is that your fly will only be as good as your first wrappings. The right pressure needs to applied when winding the the thread around the hook. The first wraps of thread around the hook are your flies foundation so to say. A sloppy foundation results in a bad fly which starts to rotate around the hook and comes aparte rather quickly. No fun really.

Even pressure wraps

It helps to imagine the hook being in the center if the rotation (which is actually is) and rotate the thread around in 4 zones. Upwards, forward (away from yourself), downwards, backwards (towards you). It´s pretty much the same idea cyclist apply when training their leg-motion. Try to have even pressure. Play around and try to break the thread in all 4 directions (not advised with dyneema or kevlar threads) so you know how much pressure you can apply. Watch what happens to the hook as well. Try not to bend it.

I told you this will get nerdy, but this is sexyloops and we go into detail here. Here comes the practical bit:

The Start

– explained for right hand tiers thing clockwise – Hold the thread in your left hand. If you have difficulties holding onto the thread you can wrap it around your left index finger 4 or 5 times. Hold the bobbin holder in your right hand and cross the thread over the hook in about 45 degrees angle (preferably close to the hook eye). Make two wraps forwards towards the hook eye and then go back towards the bend. This way you cover the thread over itself. 5 wraps should be sufficient. Cut off the waste / tag end. Pull hard to check if the thread stays on the hook.

More thoughts – Twist in the thread.

In the „good old days“ flies were tied with a given length of thread. This has changed. Nowadays one leaves the thread on it´s bobbin, which is held in a bobbin holder. That holder prevents the bobbing to „run away“. Quite practical and nifty this. However, as the thread is fixed to the bobbin, it twists around itself when wrapped around the hook in the general fly tying fashion. This is not too big an issue when one is aware of that and counter-twists the thread. This is quite a simple manoeuvre. Just let the bobbin holder hang down from the hook by the thread and give it a counter clockwise spin. This is for right hand tiers tying clockwise. Should you be using your left hand or tying counter clockwise, you need to reverse the motion.

Keep the counter-spinning. Make it a habit. It pays off. I keep hearing tiers complain about that the thread broke right when they wanted to finish the fly. – funny, eh? This is because all the twisting did eventually cause the thread to break.

The knot

The fly is typically finished by tying a knot – them pro´s call it a whip-finish or halv hitch. You can also secure the thread from coming undone and use this knot as an intermediate step.

Basically there is two ways of doing the whip finish. You can either do it with you fingers as shown in the video, or use a whip finishing tool. That really is up to you and a matter of personal preference.

The other knot used is the half hitch. This knot is done by using a so called half hitch tool – (which looks a bit like a pencil 😉 – the use of this tool is shown in the video.

Types of threads

“Thousands” — I will not go into all the different materials. It rather confuses than it helps. Just think of hat you want to tie. I personally use pretty much exclusively Dyneema thread in white. My fly designs do not include the thread as a „material“. I hide the thread mostly. However, there is fly designs in which the type, material and colour of thread plays a important role in pattern. North Country Spiders for example.

However, the techniques used are the same or at leas very very similar.

2015-09-24 18.48.52
The first wraps ….
2015-09-24 18.49.30
Snipping off the tag end …
video 1 – the finger whip finish


video 2 – the half hitch

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FTS 03 – first fly – C2

What is a fly? …

so you learned bit about thread — and tension, I hope. If not, please read the previous article about thread.

Now come the first practical instalment of these „ideas“. A fly which seems difficult to many. The fly we will have a look at is known as the Black Gnat, when using grizzly hackle it changes it´s name to Griffths Gnat. A tiny little fly which features two materials. Peacock herl and cock hackle. … and thread of course.

The Fly

This fly is a very generic representation of some sort of insect lying on the water surface. Such flies are called „dry flies“ as the do not sink. At least they shouldn´t. The hackle represents legs and maybe even wings leaving an imprint on the water surfacefilm. The image below shows the fly on water.

fly tying desk water glass
TIP: Have a glass of water on your tying desk for testing your flies.
The materials

Hook: A properly proportioned dry fly hook – size 22 to 14 (Partridge SLD2 for example) depending on what „fish-food-item“ you intend to imitate

Underbody: peacock herl. Peacock herl is a natural material. The feathers from a peacock have a very nice dark greenish colour, very much like a blue bottle housefly. You can obtain the material in a fly shop, but it is also sold in other stores selling interior design items or DIY shops.

Hackle:  There are specialized chicken farms growing animals specifically for fly tying. Unbelievable, but true. The feathers from roosters and hens are used for many fly designs and come in a myriad of colors. I mostly use black, reddish brown and a color called grizzly. The fly shown is tied with a black feather.

Why hackle?

Hackle – or hackling – I look at it as a technique to spread material around the hook so it stands off (the hook shank for example) in a say 45 to 90 degree angle.

Traditionally one uses feathers for this job. A feather normally has two parts

  1. stem and
  2. fibers, which are attached to that stem.

If one winds the feather stem around a hook (or wing post in a parachute fly) the fibers do stand off. The feather or material one uses to hackle a fly is depending on the planned result. Parameters to decide on material are the overall appearance (thickness of the fibres, coloration) and stiffness.

So why is this the first fly to learn?
  1. It is an amazing versatile designto start with. It works in rivers and stillwaters under many conditions.
  2. You learn to perfect your tying technique – „Even pressure“. Remember?

In the last article I talked about this. Here is the text about „even pressure wraps“ again (read the whole article should you have missed it)

It helps to imagine the hook being in the center if the rotation (which is actually is) and rotate the thread around in 4 zones. Upwards, forward (away from yourself), downwards, backwards (towards you). It´s pretty much the same idea cyclist apply when training their leg-motion. Try to have even pressure. Play around and try to break the thread in all 4 directions (not advised with dynamo or kevlar threads) so you know how much pressure you can apply. Watch what happens to the hook as well. Try not to bend it. —-

With this fly you can practice this technique. On top you get a very usable fly as a result.

The Video shows Konstanse tying a Gnat. That was very early in her career as fly tier.

Wrapping material around the thread

This technique is ancient as fly-tying itself. Very handy to have that neat little trick up your sleeve. It looks dead simple – but there are few little obstacles to master. But as with many things in live – it is about practicing. So tie few of the little bugs and will recognize your progress.

Another method of tying this fly is to tie the peacock herl body first and than wind the hackle feather over it. Works as well, but takes way more time and the result may look neater, but is not anything as sturdy as the version shown here.

Sparkle Gnat tied on Partridge of Redditch SLD size 16.
Sparkle Gnat tied on Partridge of Redditch SLD size 16.
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FTS 04 – PTN – B2

In the previous chapters we talked about thread in general and the first fly – the Black / Griffiths Gnat. The next fly is hands down one of the most effective nymphs in a freshwater flyfishers fly box. The  – Pheasant Tail Nymph, or PTN in short.

A nymph pattern is supposed to imitate aquatic insects in their larva stage. Aquatic Insects live under water between 1 and 3 years until they hatch and become flying insects for a short mating session. What a life. They must be very bored by all this waiting for the big day. They live off even smaller particles in the water and some of them, maybe even many – become fish food.

There is a huge variety of them in the water. Hooks one can use for the imitations ranges from size 22 to even 10. Funny though is that specifically smaller nymphs are very successful. A size 18 or 16 brings quite good fish to the net.

The key to a good nymph imitation is to hit the general proportions and shape, not to overdress them. Tying them simple and easy is a good idea. These things often get lost on the bottom of the water you are fishing.

The pattern I want to show you today consist of two materials (plus the hook). Fibers from a pheasants tail feather and thin copper wire. I find it tricky to tie. One really needs to pay attention to the power one applies when winding the materials onto the hook.

About weighting nymphs – It is a question of the fishing rig you want to use / cast. I think it is good to remember how light the actual insects are. This does have an effect on their behavior (the way the trundle / float about) Many choose to weight the nymph itself so it sinks as fast as possible.

The other option would be to use split shots on your leader / tippet. I think one has to experiment a little to find out what works best for the fishing situations and the rod / line combinations one is using. Keep trying … the important part is to get the nymph down to the fish. Once your lure is at the water depth the fish are feeding – they take it.

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FTS 05 – fingertips

how to hold and present material on to a hook

… a very tiny step which can make a big difference for your tying …

Here´s the graphics to illustrate the little “trick”. Hold the material with you thumb and forefinger forming an O.
Say that is your zero, or start point. By simply stretching your forefinger and thumb you can move the material by an inch (2,5 cm).

Rest your hand on the tying vice.
Rest your hand on the tying vice. All the weight of your arm is on the vice, you hand resting relaxed over the hook. Much less tension in you neck too.
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FTS 06 – Red Tag – C3

The FlyTyingSchool is a modular concept. I will go through techniques, rather than patterns. I use fly pattern to show the use of the various techniques, but please feel free to try them with other materials and in different context.

The next fly is the Red Tag. Maybe one of the most effective dry flies around. I know many who fish it for trout and grayling.

So let´s recap what we have done so far:In part 2 we talked about Thread. How to attach it to the hook and how to finish the fly with a whip finish knot. What happens when it breaks and so on. Check it out if you haven´t done that already.

Than we hopped right away  in to cold water tying a tiny little dry fly – the Black Gnat. A killer pattern by the way. This fly features a technique I use very often – twisting brittle stuff around the thread to reinforce the construction.

In part 4 that „twisting-brittle-around-sturdy“ technique is used again to tie the famous Pheasant Tail Nymph in it´s original way Two new modules were added as well. The TAIL, and the WING CASE module, if you so will.

So now in part 5 – we put the „TBAS“ technique into use again. The Red Tag is consisting of three parts. Tail, body and hackle. The tail is made from red wool, the body consists of peacock herl and the hackle is done with a cock feather. Pretty straight forward. If you have mastered the Black Gnat, the Red Tag will be a piece of cake. It is a „separated“ Gnat if you so will.

Attached a set of images I took quite a while ago – as you can tell by the rusty vice. No worries, I got a new one 😉

Red Tag tied on Partridge of Redditch SLD size 16.
Red Tag tied on Partridge of Redditch SLD size 16.


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FTS 07 – dubbing – C

Dubbing. Well, what exactly is dubbing? Dubbing in fly tying lingo is a verity of fluff. Synthetics, fur, chopped feathers (CDC), wools … whatever. Look around and you find a myriad of stuff you can use. Tie a fly with what you found and test it.

One of the very interesting dubbing materials I came across is seals fur. However, one can substitute it with wool. You know the ones “grandma´s” wool sweater is made of. (MohairWool)

To me it is important to understand what the chosen dubbing should do – or better worded – what type of parameters you want to achieve.

Even though the main aspect is to give the flies body the right shape, dubbing also adds the ability to float for example. My main goal is do add “liveliness” to a fly. Make the fly look more real by adding micro-movement, trapping air bubbles and so on. Such is achieved partly by the chosen material, but also by the chosen method.

I use three different techniques:

a) touch dubbing

This is good when using very fine chopped dubbing. The thread need to be covered with wax, which works as a sort of “glue”. The tricky bit here is to use a wax which is not too soft and not to use too much of it.

To avoid mess and the stuff flying about, it helps to store fine chopped dubbing in drinking straws or small plastic pouches. The corner of the pouch is clipped off to feed the dubbing through.

b) “standard” dubbing

This method can be applied to pretty much all types of dubbing. One lays the dubbing one needs (remember – less is more) on your own index finger. Take the dubbing with your material hand … hang on – here is a terms we have not used before. The material hand and your thread hand. I will try to keep this consistent. It makes it easier for left hand tiers to understand. – so you take the dubbing between you thumb and index finger of your materials hand. (left hand for right hand tiers)

Now loosen up the little clump (have I mentioned that less is more?) and distribute it over your index finger with your thumb. – at this stage we need to talk about the shape of the body. Generally speaking a fly looks best (to me at least) if the body has a conical shape. This means it becomes thinner towards the bend of the hook. Or in other words – there is more material at the front (front meaning hook eye or close to it). So why not create that shape on your finger. It´s like a triangle. One has to think about the tying strategy one has chosen. Do you start at the front or the back? The wider bit with obviously more material should be placed strategically so it ends up in the front part of the hook.

Most books show a method which starts at the bend of the hook. I turned this around at pretty early when I started tying flies. It was much easier to start at the front part of the hook and tie towards the hook bend. One ends up with the thread at the hook bend obviously. To continue tying the front bit or making the whip finish at the hook eyer one has to “bring” the thread back to the front. I do this by making open turns at an about 45 degree angle. This adds stability to the fly and the body looks more realistic with the segments this method creates. I see more and more tiers doing that too.

c) dubbing loop

Specifically the dubbing loop technique became a quite an eye opener for me. Once having mastered to split even the thinnest thread, fly design and construction took a leap forward. The material I really love is seals fur. It almost seems to have a magnetic effect on fish. Dubbing it in the traditional way can be a bit hideous though.

I also don´t like to use wax with seals fur. In my mind it takes that specific shine and the mobility seals fur has away. Seals fur can be substituted to some extend by mohair wool.

There is two ways of making a dubbing loop. One is by making a separate loop and using a dubbing twister or splitting the thread. I almost exclusively use the split thread dubbing loop technique. The other tends to become too bulky for the flies I tie.

I found that most threads used for fly tying can be split. Important is that they are not twisted around themselves. Remember – we talked about the twist in the thread before. So the first thing one has to do is to counter the twist in the thread.   This is pretty simple. Simply let the bobbin hang from the hook by the thread and rotate it counterclockwise. This is for a right hand tier winding “away” from the body.

Flatten the thread by stroking it with your bodkin needle, from the hook towards you. The bobbin still rotates freely spinnig the thread. Observe the thread and watch for it untwisting by becoming wider. Now come with your finger under the thread and place it onto the tip of you index finger. Set the needle in the middle of the now flattened thread and push softly through it. Split it further with moving the needle inside the thread towards you. Open it further with the fingers of your left (materials) hand.  Keep it open and with your other hand you can now insert the dubbing in between the thread. Close it and twist the bobbin clockwise. This traps all the fibres and the result is a rope not unlike a microscopic brush. As longer the fibers of the dubbing as “fluffier” it gets. It helps having practiced the material distribution in the “standard” method.

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FTS 08 – Klinkhamer – B4

Section 8 … we are stepping up the game a few notches. The famous Klinkhamer. Some say it was sort of a revolution in fly design. Even though halv of the fly is submerged, it´s a dry fly. Even purists agree, I hope.

Anyway – you will benefit fully from the modules and techniques we have covered so far – so fear not. You will master this very complex pattern without any problems.

The Klinkhamer is a generalist type of pattern. It is made to imitate a hatching insect. Hatching insects do have a specific appearance. The nymph body is sort of hanging off the water surface film whereas the flying insect is crawling out of it´s old shell. An amazing and very dramatic „birth“.

Predators love such drama for a simple reason – their prey is momentarily stuck and can not escape too quick. An easy meal, easy to identify too because the body hanging under the water film does reflect in the film like in a mirror. So when looking at the fly from under one can see two bodies. The original and it´s reflection. Such rarely happens with other objects in or on the water.

The dutch fly-fisher Hans van Klinken tried to imitate this impression and came up with pretty interesting design. The story is that he had the idea for the fly when fishing the Glomma River in Norway for Grayling (they grow big there – Bernd got one with 1,8kg this summer). So one evening when their fishing party felt the need to give his creation a name they put part of Hans family name and the Norwegian word „hamer“ (hammer) together. One can also call it a parachute emerger, I think.

Parachute is the key word here. Other than the conventional version the hackle is not wound around the hook. It is wound around a „wing-post“ over the hook. This poses a few problems in the construction, specifically when using rather thick thread. By the time Hans invented the fly new, thinner threads came in to use for fly tying. It is advisable to use very thin thread for that and other parachute flies.

I agree with Bob Wyatt though – this fly is difficult to tie, but for me that is a challenge I like. However, don´t worry – we´ll get to much easier emerger patterns. I just showed this one for a) it is a classic and really fishes well and b) you can use the modules we have covered before.

The tying steps:
Klinkhamer Special - tan version - tied on an old K4A Partridge of Redditch Hook which is not available any more.
Klinkhamer Special – tan version – tied on an old K4A Partridge of Redditch Hook which is not available any more.

not that I advocate blending adult drinks with flytying … but sometimes you know …

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FTS 09 – Shipmans buzzer – C3

1, 2 …..  The common fly, Diptera (from the Greek di = two, and ptera = wings) classifies as a Buzzer. The term is derived from the noise these insects make when flying. But don´t get fooled by the small size of that food item. This has nothing to do with the size of fish one can catch on such small flies.

However, the number 3 plays a big role in this fly. In the big book of (f)lies it says: “Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out! Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then …. well you know the drill. Amen.”

I heard about this fly from Paul. The name comes from an English fly tier, mainly because English fly tiers are eager to give things their name. I believe such flies have existed for long. Much longer than fly tying is documented even. However, let´s grant Mr. Shipman the honor and keep the name. At least he was brave enough to break out of the general rule of slip wing flies and other complicated constructions and brought a simple concept back into the light.

The tying steps:

I have substituted the Antron yarn of the original version with Snowshoe Hare hair fibres. The imitation is one of the easiest patterns to tie, but don´t let be fooled by it´s simplicity. It is really a good fish catcher when nothing else works.

The ones you learn on the following pages are rather generic and feel free to change colour and size to match your fishing situations.