Choosing the Right Thread: By Mike Hogue

Thread is a confusing to topic to some no doubt because of all the really good choices we as fly tyers have. I didn't realize that I had so much thread until I decided to redo all of my thread displays for some of the upcoming winter shows. Thread itself isn't very confusing. We are lucky that there is simply a lot of really good product out there on the market now. A fair number of these threads are a lot alike and it is for that reason that I think some people get confused.

The 2 most common ways to evaluate thread are the "ought" system and the denier system. In the ought system as the number increases the size falls. For example 8/0 is SMALLER than 6/0. In the Denier system as the number raises the size increases. A 70 denier thread is smaller than a 210 denier thread. The big trouble is trying to compare say a 70 denier with a 6/0. How do you compare? Sometimes you can't until you pull some of the thread off and spool it up. You will see and feel the difference ( or you should be able). More or less 210 deneir is about 3/0 sized

A couple of other things are the flat twisted versus spun threads. Flat threads are turned, a typical example is the Danville thread which is a flat thread. UNI thread is almost always twisted. Sometimes this style of thread has a glue used to bind the fibers together. The main difference ( in some tyer's eyes) is that a flat thread binds tighter, ties and blends better. A spun thread can be argued that it has more strength. A flat thread also has the advantage of being able to split the thread with a dubbing needle so that you can dub with a single strand.

Most thread is polyester or rayon that is spun. Some threads like Kevlar are supposed to be a miracle thread in that it doesn't break. Kevlar is slick, doesn't lay flat and it will score a bobbin and wreck scissors, I don't recommend it. GSP is a Kevlar that is spun with Polyester and it supposed is a bit easier to use and has smaller diameters. It is very expensive in that it can be as high as $4.50 for a 50 yard spool.

Another confusion is British versus American. British spools are narrow sewing machine bobbins. You purchase nice metal spools at sewing and discount stores and rewind them with an electric drill, although standard British spools will fit in any American Bobbin. Some tyers prefer this size for tying midges.

A few tips:

Breaking threading has been blamed on bobbins, the thread and all sorts of issues. 99% of the time the thread breaks because you nick the hook. I will repeat this: 99% of the time the thread breaks because you nick the hook. Would you like me to explain this again? Usually this happens because you are turning the thread in a circle. As you turn you hit the point of the hook. There are 2 solutions: remove the hook and insert the hook deep into the jaws of your vise. This blocks the point and prevents you from striking the point. Solution 2: Turn thread in an oval. If you turn the thread at perpendicular motion you will always strike the point of the hook. If you change the angle and turn the thread at a 15-20 degree slant and turn in an oval you will NEVER hit the hook point.

Tiny heads are some of the most prized skills of a true master tyer. Here is the one tip no one told you. For salmon flies, many tiers have the real head and the " show" head. They make the fly such that the real head is hidden in the wing. The head exposed is false head, so in effect there are two heads to the fly. Think about this for a minute. I am stacking 40 colors of goose, horns and all this other stuff and the head is supposed to be the size of a pin? Right. Can't happen. OH, now I get it!

Another tip: use less wraps. This will make the head smaller. I often wind up into the head then taper it down. I can do this with a whip finisher. This same technique I use on wets. I have seen all these issues about folding hackle, twisting wings, complicated instructions for hackling wets, horse hockey! If you hold a soft hackle tight and wind into it then make the head it is perfect every time.

Winging buck tail. It is generally assumed that if you put a flat cone the size of your thumb on a buck tail it hold the wing really well. WRONG! All you are doing is reducing your inventory of thread by burning up a ton of it. Actually go ahead Danville and UNI will love you for it! Bucktails and hair wings are held by the first 3-4 wraps. The rest of the thread is a waste. To make a nice head, make 1-2 wraps to secure the hair. Then clip the hair tight at a 45 degree angle to the hook exposing the eye. Wrap the thread down to the eye and then taper it down. Go back over the tie in point and make a really tight 1-2 wraps behind the point where you tied in the wing. The wing will almost never pull out.

Crowded eyes. Most eastern tyers or older tyers had a large open space behind the eye. Years ago this was done because gut was used as a tippet and you had to slide the knot through the eye from behind, making a small collar with gut behind the eye of the hook. Today, we don't need to do this. I tend to have a much more crowded thread because I learned to tie in the Midwest. We felt that dries balanced better if the wings were more forward. A true Catskill tyer's wings are more likely in almost the center of the hook if you compare dries of the same design.

A common mistake is to crowd the eyes. To avoid this, I simply start the thread back about 1-2 eye lengths. This avoids crowding the eyes and will remind you not to jam the wing so tight to the eyes. This same idea transfers to saltwater and bass flies. When I make Clouser minnows, I mount the eye about 3-4 lengths back giving me lots of room to tie in 2 bucktail wings.

There you have it. Wind yourself up.


For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946