Stack Scoville

"We now come to the most difficult part of fly tying.[1]" This is the first sentence of Hale's chapter regarding winging of salmon flies. For me, in fact, the most difficult aspect of tying classic salmon flies has been setting the wing. In writing this article, I have two goals in mind. First, I want to compare, contrast and condense the techniques used by past and present tyers for mounting wings on classic salmon flies. Second, I hope that other novice tyers, such as myself, might advance in their tying skills and execute these steps with greater precision, rather than discovering by trial and error a good or better way of mounting salmon wings. I believe that practicing ineffective techniques over and over leads to perfection in doing it ineffectively. Hopefully, this article will prevent other tyers from "reinventing the wheel", and give them an understanding of the development of the various techniques. I would emphasize that this article is not intended to be dogmatic regarding technique. But if it generates any discussion, we all benefit.

In 1892, Hale publlished the book How to Tie Salmon Flies. In his book, he referred to two different types of wings which other, earlier tyers also discussed. These are built wings and mixed wings. Hale referred to single strip wings but I will not specifically deal with strip wings other than to say how they may relate to built and mixed wing techniques.

Hale's built wings consisted of an underwing and an overwing. In mounting the underwings, whether they were whole feathers or strips such as white-tipped turkey, he recommended that they be "tied in on top of the hook, both together in the same way as feathers for a jointed body... two or three turns of silk will be sufficient. If the stems of the feathers are thick, taper them slightly on the underside with a sharp knife. The taper should be a long one."[2] Hale preferred turkey for the Jock Scott tied at the side of the hook as the strips are lower and the head is smaller. "A turn or two of tying silk for each wing will be sufficient."[3] I surmise that "for each wing" means tying each strip separately. My conclusion is that for under wings, if whole feathers are used, are tied on simultaneously. If strips are used for underwings, such as in the Jock Scott, these strips are tied on separately in two different steps.

If tippet in strands is used as an underwing, they are tied in on top of the hook with the forefinger and thumb of the left hand grasping the hook and strands at the same time and utilizing a soft loop technique. The thread passes up between the left thumb and hook shank over the top of the strands away from the tyer, and between the tip of the forefinger and hook shank on the far side. Then the thumb and forefinger are squeezed gently against the hook while the tying silk is pulled down tight. In this technique, Hale does not advocate an extra half turn around the bottom of the hook and lifting upward to tighten the soft loop as other authors recommend. It seems to me, that without lifting upward to tighten, there would be a slight tendency for the tippet strands to "roll off" the far side of the hook. This apparently was not a problem for Hale, however.

In placing the overwing for built wings, Hale gives the following instructions: "Place the strip (note the word strip is singular - S.S.) against the side of the hook; wind a turn of silk; but before pulling it tight, press the thumb tightly onto the strips and silk, and don't remove the pressure until the silk is tight; two turns are sufficient. The left strips are tied on in the same way, the second forger being pressed down onto the silk and the strips before the former is pulled tight.[4] There is no mention of thread reversal in these steps. Hale goes on to point out that successive married strips of two to three colors are added. In the further description of adding strands or slips, each successive strip is placed higher up on top of the hook shank. It is my assumption then that this would lead to an overlapping of strips like shingles on a roof. I believe, however, that this assumption is subject to your own personal interpretation.

Moving on to mixed wings, Hale describes a technique where individual strands of different feathers are apparently randomly arranged and married into strips. There are three or four strips for the right wing and three or four strips for the left. He then recommends forming one broad strip by consolidating the three or four narrow strips made of randomly arranged married strands. A broad right and a broad left strip are thus formed.

The strips are then placed against one another side by side with the best sides of both outward " that they coincide, and form one double wing. The wing must now be tied on top of the hook in the manner described."[5] Hale refers to the just described soft loop technique. He goes on to state, "After you have wound four or five turns of silk, remove the left hand and pinch the root ends of the fibers onto the top of the hook. Then wind a turn or two more. The wings should then be perfectly upright, and not a single fiber standing out."[6]

We will find from other authors that the root ends of the fibers need to be worked back up onto the hook shank in order to make the wing sit both vertically as well as parallel to the hook shank. I would point out that the wing should not be released from a firm grip with the left thumb and forefinger until the roots have been thouroughly and, perhaps, even roughly or forcibly worked onto the top of the hook shank.

In 1895, Kelson wrote The Salmon Fly. In it, he also made a distinction between built wings and mixed wings. We starts first with built wings with underwings. Kelson states, "The left forefinger and thumb grasp loosely (also from above and right up to the hackle tie) both the strips and the body of the fly. Then, working from the wrist, draw the left forefinger and thumb, with a curving movement over the wing, so as to conform it to the bend of the hook. Having done this, hold the strips close down upon the top of the body-work in the left grip."[7]

He continues, "I guide them (after they are grasped in the left forefinger and thumb) until they are well extended for tying down, the left hand being so level as to permit a tumbler resting on it,"[8] i.e., parallel to the hook shank or the floor. I believe that if the thumb and forefinger are not held parallel to the floor, but up at an angle, the wing may tend to cock up at an angle as well.

Kelson continues, "...proceed to tie down the wing thus: A turn of silk is passed lightly over the wing closest to the hackle and put into CATCH. Then, with these CATCH fingers, draw the silk gently taut downwards, while the right forefinger and thumb grasp the strips at the point of tie, so that the wing shall not be bent over to one side or the other, but sit regularly on edge when completed. This regularity is secured on the one hand by grasping, and on the other, by keeping the other end of the strips strictly in position by a well sustained pressure of the left forefinger and thumb, while the silk is being pulled taut. Maintain the left pressure, and before putting further turns of silk headwards, lift up the waste ends on top of the hook. This lifting serves a double purpose. In the first place, it so effects the strips that they 'sit down' close along the body work, leaving little space between them and the butt; and secondly, it helps to keep them in the desired position when the fly is finished. The waste ends are taken into one grasp and somewhat forcibly made to rest on the shank, instead of posing by the side of it give further turns..."[9]

Kelson then recommends that the waste ends of the underwing be cut off. Some modem tyers suggest that the underwing waste not be cut off but allow it to serve as a platform for mounting the overwing.

The overwing is placed as a far wing and as a separate near wing. For the far wing, Kelson states, "Take in the right forefinger and thumb the married strips intended for the far side wing, and lay them bright side out, with their root ends against the shank at the tying point, and at such an angle to the shank that, not only the lower edges of married strips may conform themselves to the upper curve of the underwing, but also that the tip shall extend in gradation beyond its extreme point."[10] At this point, Kelson describes a technique for humping the wing.

Referring to the far wing, he continues, "Seize with left forefinger and thumb the main part of the strips... then: ...keep the fibers in their regular, natural order and not overlapping each other, pass the silk around them, but not as if you were running cord around a parcel. The silk must be passed loosely, the STOP finger must be pressed down from above against it, and be kept firm whilst the silk is drawn fairly taut... place silk again over the far side, give another turn, tighter still... keep all fibers in position... with the right forefinger and thumb, lift up the waste ends of the strips of the wing upon the top of the shank."11]

Kelson describes mounting the near wing in this manner... "The near wing strips are similarly laid on and treated," except, "make the left thumb serve the same purpose as the STOP finger in the former instance, that is to say, the thumb presses the part of the strip that is to be tied down from above without relaxing the pressure, so the thumb is slightly drawn back out of the way temporarily, in order that the tying silk may be placed over and the work continued."[12] Kelson does refer to the technique of reversing the thread and mounting the near wing by wrapping the thread toward the tyer over the top but he does not advocate it.

I certainly cannot understand the logic of utilizing a reverse wrap, that is, wrapping over the top of the hook shank toward the tyer for mounting the near wing. There is some logic for this technique in tying down the far wing so that with each wing mounted independently, the wraps would make each wing tend to roll towards the center of the hook shank, toward its mate.

For mixed wings, Kelson describes the process of creating strips or "slips" of fibers which, I believe, he has married one by one. He then creates a "skin" by combining two or more "slips". The outer skins are composed of shorter fibers such as "teal, ibis, gallina, tippet, powder blue macaw and summer duck."[13] The inner skins are composed of longer fibers such as "peacock wing, golden pheasant tail, turkey, bustard and swan dyed..."[14] The inner skins are formed as previously described "...manipulating their parts so that they shall gradually increase in length towards the top of the wing. Put each of these two new made up sets (read: "inner skins" - S.S.) on the inner side of the two skins, taking care that, in so doing, their points extend beyond the others to the length of the wing desired.

"The right and left wing, so composed, that is to say, enveloping the 'two new made up sets' are now put together 'back to back' and tied on the hook by the following method...

"...Seize the whole wing by the roots with the right hand and measure the proper length of the wing by offering them to the hook. Now hold the wings and the hook in the left hand, the fingers being straight with (read: "parallel with" - S.S.) the shank. The fingers and hook shank being now in a horizontal position (see Figure 1), release tying-silk and pass it first round the left little finger from point O towards you to X, then up, under the left thumb, over the wings, and under the forefinger grip. Now pull X - X together until the wings are gently and symmetrically brought straight down upon the hook and into place, maintaining the grip of the left hand upon them throughout. Remove little finger ... not the left grip...bind with three more turns in the usual way, headwards..."[15]

Kelson goes on to explain " pulling X - X together, with due care, all tilting is obviated, and the wings are drawn evenly down into their permanent position on top of the shank. The first turn of silk should rest close against the throat hackle and go straight up over the wings. It must not pass beyond that turn (tailwards) in subsequent fixing."[16]

This technique by Kelson introduces a procedure for mounting both the right and left wings simultaneously and minimizing the tendency for the wing to roll off the far side. This may be the first description of a soft loop, even though it is brought tight by thread pressure from below.

In 1914, T.E. Pryce-TannPatt published How to Dress Salmon Flies. Pryce-Tannatt is not as specific in his instructions as some of the earlier authors. He does not address the technique for married wings but says the "manipulations are similar in general principle to those already described..."[17]

I believe that the technique he describes for mounting vertical strip wings is what he intends for married wings. As he describes, "In this method, both wings are tied on together at the same time, and as is the case with all wings which are dressed in this way, it will be found that reversing the silk will help considerably in making the wings sit in the proper way."[18] He does not explain further why he believes that this is the case. I assume he prefers this 1 technique to prevent the far wing from tending to roll off the far side.Having advanced the tying silk to a point "just a fraction" from the end of the bare shank to the eye, "hitch the silk between the gut loop and the small portion of bare hook shank still left exposed and wind in tight and even coils in the reverse way back until the roots of the hackle are reached.

"...Grip the strips, keeping them in a horizontal position with the left forefinger and thumb, and then tie them in with precisely the same manipulation described in tying in the tail; (see below - S.S.) not forgetting, of course, that the turns of silk in this case will be in the opposite direction - i.e., over the hook and towards you. The first turn of silk should be close up to the hackle and the next and subsequent turns closely, evenly, and firmly applied to the right."[19] Pryce-Tannatt points out that it is most important to keep the feathers all in the same vertical position.

His technique for tying in a feather fiber tail are as follows: "Throw a loose turn of silk over, and having grasped the fibers to the left of, and close up to, this turn of silk with left forefinger and thumb, hold the silk in CATCH and pull it gradually tight... It is important to keep the opposed strips on edge - i.e., in a vertical plane - throughout the whole manipulation... This can be done by keeping the forefinger and thumb of both hands touching each other whilst the silk is being drawn tight."[20]

In 1931, Salmon Fishing was written by Eric Taverner. This text largely reiterated, with minor variations, the techniques of previous tyers' published works. Taverner, however, makes some interesting points relating to mounting wings. The only technique for mounting wings which he gives explicit instructions is for strip wings. I believe, as I have stated before, that this technique is probably applicable to married strips.

Taverner states "...Construct a foundation of silk upon which the wings may rest; if this is left out, the wings are very apt to stick up in the air, because the silk will pull down part of the fibers into a hollow between the turns of silk and the rest will be raised against the fulcrum of the hackle-seating. Wind the silk in even turns to the head and back again as far as the point where the hackle has been fastened off. Take up the pair of strips between the left forefinger and thumb; adjust them until the outer parts of the web cover one another accurately; place them vertically over the shank in what is judged to be the correct position; change hands and pass the tying silk over the strips at the point where the actual fastening is to be done; grip the strips and the silk firmly and draw the silk tight and with it the fibers which are thereby compressed. Still holding the strips in position, bring the silk around again over them and to the right of and hard up against the preceding coil. Then lift up the ends of the fibers; take a turn under them; remove the waste with a slanting cut; whip to the eye and back again; and finish off with the whip-finish... It is better to take the silk under the waste as it will grip the foundation firmly and hold the two important turns in place. There is always a chance of turns out over the roots slipping forward and letting the first turns go slack."[21]

Taverner also provides an interesting illustration (see Figure 2) which is take from the notes made by A. H. Gribble on Kelson's system of fly tying. The method is identified in the accompanying illustration. As mentioned previously, Kelson's technique may be one of the earlier references to what is actually a soft loop.

Elsewhere in Taverner's contribution, there is an interesting set of illustrations which, I believe, shows the historical development of mounting mixed wings (see Figure 3). It begins with Blacker's technique in 1855 followed by Rogan's in 1880. Then comes Hale with two techniques in 1892 and Kelson in 1895. Finally Crossfield in 1910 has a method similar to that of Rogan. Although it is not clearly stated by Taverner, I would guess that the Rogan-Crossfield technique involved securing a limited number of strands to the hook shank and then perhaps marrying each successive few strands to the already previously mounted strands. This would certainly serve to minimize the size of the head, especially if a turn or two of hackle were taken in front of the last wing component and then sides and/or cheeks were utilized to cover the bindings of the wing fibers. It seems to me that this would be a cumbersome technique for producing a married wing but the head would be extremely small, which, for some tyers, is clearly aesthetically pleasing.

The next major reference was published in 1978 and authored by Poul Jorgensen. His book entitled Salmon Flies, Their Character, Style and Dressing outlines instructions for underwings as well as overwings. His instructions for the strip wing technique involves tying the right and left strips on individually and reversing the thread for the far wing. Jorgensen's instructions are as follows: The near strip is grasped in the left hand... "place your index finger on the far side of the hook and hold the feather strip against the hook with your thumb on the near side. The finger should be positioned so the first turn of thread will fall directly in front of and close to the fingertips. Hold the feather strip tightly with your forgers... then take the first turn of tying thread slowly over the wing strip, while your index finger prevents it from being pulled over the top of the hook. Allow the thread to roll the upper edge of the wing slightly so that it falls in the middle, longitudinally, of the hook shank. Now take a second complete turn of thread and come all the way around so both the thread and bobbin are above the wing. At this point, tighten the thread windings with the slow upward pull while holding the wing strip firmly in place; then add three or four more turns to secure it tightly. Hold the wing while trimming the surplus end directly across close to the windings." [22] Jorgensen points out that the wing is sitting slightly down on the side and not directly on top of the hook. "and that there is still space remaining for the head.[23]

Jorgensen than gives instructions for reversing the thread as follows: bring the thread over the top of the hook shank and down the far side, to the tip of a bodkin (or finger), make a loop over the bodkin, and return the thread back up the far side of the hook shank and over the top toward the tyer. Then take several wraps around this loop until it is secure to the hook shank much as creating a dubbing loop. The empty loop is then cut off and the thread can be wrapped toward the tyer over the top of the hook shank to secure the far wing. The process is then reversed when the far wing has been mounted. The far wing is tied in a similar fashion to the near wing. This appears to be Jorgensen's technique for mounting strip wings either as the underwing or the overwing.

His technique for mounting whole feather wings involves placing the feathers back to back and securing them to the hook shank simultaneously. he then advocates cutting the surplus stems while holding the wing in place and applying a drop of head cement.

In tying the built wing flies, such as the Black Doctor, Jorgensen applies tippet in strands as an underwing and then follows with golden pheasant strips as an underwing but these are applied simultaneously, unlike the strips of turkey previously described in other flies. Again, Jorgensen uses a "soft loop technique". He draws the loop down tight by upward pressure of the thread passing between the thumb and near wing. The married main wing strips are then tied on, according to Jorgensen, using the method just explained for the underwing strips.

In 1987, Fly-Tying Methods by Darrel Martin was published. In this book, Martin describes the Langley wing loop method. It was apparently created by Ken Langley and first explained in the "Fly Dressers' Guild Newsletter", Nulmber One, 1985. Martin points out "several advantages (of the Langley Loop) over traditional methods: 1) It creates a thread loop for compressing or "stacking" the fibers vertically; 2) It permits positioning of the wings during the mounting process; 3) It allows observation while placing and compressing the wings."[24] In this method, the Langley Loop begins with wrapping about twenty edge to edge wraps immediately behind the eye apparently to form a thread base. Then "...after wrapping the thread foundation, a four inch thread length is exposed between the shank and the bobbin. With the left index finger held one and one-half inches above and parallel to the shank, loop the thread over the finger and down the far side of the shank. Bobbin weight maintains thread tension.

"Next matched wing slips are positioned in the loop and held by the right hand directly on top of the shank. The wings are held firmly between the thumb and the middle finger of the left hand, trapping the thread on the far side exactly opposite the thread on the near side.

"Accurately match and position the wing slips. To view the wing placement, drop the left thumb while trapping the wings in the tight 'crotch' of the thread. Reposition the left thumb against the wing before continuing.

"Now slip the index finger out of the loop and release the wing butts with the right hand. The left thumb and index finger pressed laterally against the wing slips as the thread is drawn down, stacking the fibers directly on top of each other.

"While the middle finger firmly presses against the hook, the left thumb drops down to reveal the initial compression of wing fibers. If splitting of the wing fibers occurs, the wings are corrected or removed. If no problems appear, then, with the left middle finger still against the wings, another loop is made over the index finger, directly in front of the previous wrap. Again, the far strand of the loop is positioned directly opposite the near strand. As before, hold the shank and wings, remove the left index finger from the loop, and draw the thread down over the wings. Follow with a third finger loop. After tightening the loop as mentioned, hold the wings firmly while the wing butts are trimmed. Finish the head wraps and whip to complete. This method, especially appropriate for traditional wet wings, plants the wings directly on top of the shank."[25]

This again appears to be another but interesting variation of the soft loop method. The advantage of this method appears to be the accurate positioning of the wing during the tying process. With the traditional soft loop technique, the tailward end of the wing is usually obscured by the thumb and hand as they hold the wing in position. The Langley Loop method allows for intermittent observation of the positioning of the tip of the wing during the tie down process.

In March-April 1981, Bill Hunter published an article in "Rod and Reel". In that article, he gave a pictorial description of his technique for tying a Green Highlander. In the instructions for the article, he referred to a "loose-loop" capture technique. Setting the underwing was also equally vaguely described with the words "secure tippets in place with three to four turns of thread."[26]

What is not said in Hunter's article may be more important than what is. In the photographs, it appears as though the butts of the underwing are left uncut until the main wing has been secured. This perhaps allows for a larger platform on which to mount the main wing.

In a recent personal communication from Hunter, he further expounds upon the technique he utilized in the early 1980's. Accordingly, "...Set a wing on top of the hook, held by the thumb and forefinger of the serving hand. While lightly squeezing the two wing sections in towards one another as well as the hook shank... wrap a couple of loose turns of thread about the wing butts, and tighten these loops with a smooth upward tug on the thread.

"... Imagine that you could divide the tips of your fingers in two sections - a rearward part and a forward part. The rearward part of your fingertips would apply pressure against the wing sections pressing them together and downward towards the hook. While this is going on, the forward part of the thumbs and fingertips would loosen just enough to allow the thread to slide down against the wing sections, pulling them down against the hook. The tip of the forefinger, however, would continue to exert some pressure against the wing sections to counteract the circular motion of the thread compression preventing the wing from folding.

"Once the wing is compressed, the serving hand continues to hold the wing sections in place while the butts of the wing are twisted and squared up on top of the hook by the tying hand. This finished ... apply a few more turns of thread and then remove the serving hand.

"Thus technique would often produce a wing which bore an exaggerated shoulder or sharply angled hump at its front and then flow rearward in a flat line.[27]

Hunter is not fond of this exaggerated shoulder since the fly does not swim well and according to him "looked a bit pretentious." Subsequently he has developed a different technique for securing wings to the hook. To continue, "I tie wings on by first being sure all the fibers are in a more or less straight and relaxed line, with just a slight 'hump' imparted in their set before mounting them on the hook.

"I place the far wing on the hook first and then the near one, lining the two up... setting them pretty much in the position I want them to be when attached. Since the feathers will 'spring' upward a bit after being tied on, I set them just a bit lower than the final desired angle.

"I set the wings in place on top of the hook, grasping them by the fingertips of the thumb and forefinger of the serving hand, which are also grasping the hook shank ever so slightly. Now I push the wing sections downward against the hook shank, while squeezing them together.

"...what I am doing is pushing the wing mass downward, compressing it from its vertical profile straight down in a Accordion-like manner, without allowing the sections to twist or roll outside the hook shank area. This effort will actually convert the tie-in area of the wing from a high, stiff vertical to a soft, miniscule, round sheaf of feather fibers.

"I find that using two hands works best, first compressing a little bit with the serving hand. I next grasp the butts of the wing with tying hand, holding the compression thus far attained.

"Then I re-grasp the wing with the serving hand, releasing the tying hand; I then compress the wing down further, and then repeat the exchange of hands once more. I will work back and forth from one hand to the other three or four times until I feel I have the wing compressed to a comfortable dimension.

"Once the wing is compressed and being held in position with the serving hand, it is a simple matter of winding a few loose wraps of thread around the compressed tie in point and draw the loops tight with an upward pull. Without releasing the wing from the serving hand's grasp, I twist the butts up on top of the hook shank, if needed, and then give a few more turns of thread to the tie in point securing it to the hook. I then release the serving hand's grip.

"If the wing looks okay, then I re-grasp it with the serving hand, and while holding it thus, I snip away the excess butt materials, and wind a few more turns of thread through the fiber ends."[28]

Hunter's description of alternating hands in order to provide compression to the wings sounds to me somewhat tedious and for the novice, perhaps, may result in misalignment of the wing tips due to possible movement of the wing halves either forward or rearward during the process. Nevertheless, as in all things, practice could make this a very satisfactory technique.

Al Cohen of Dallas, Texas, has offered several thoughts. In order to make the wing tie in area flat Al applies cement to the area after he ties in the throat hackle. After an hour or so, he takes pliers and flattens the tie in area and then attaches black monocord to tie in the wings. He comments that the first two attempts at setting the wings usually are unsuccessful but by the third attempt the fibers of the wing at the tie in area should be crushed and softened so that they may be compressed with minimal resistance.

An additional highly relevant point he makes is that the step-down from the end of the body/throat to the hook shank, at the wing tie in point, should be minimal so that when the wing is attached up against the body/throat, there is less tendency for the wing to cock upward from the parallel. Another consideration for avoiding collapsing and buckling of the outer wing is the nature of the underwing and how the outerwing touches it. Cohen, however, does not comment further on how this may influence the outerwing, but I believe the implication is obvious.

In Volume I, Number 4, Fall 1989 of "The Group" and Volume II, Number 1, Winter 1990 of "The Salmon Flyer", Wayne Luallen presented a two part article entitled "A Method for Mounting a Wing on a Salmon Fly". Since this article is of fairly recent vintage and available to most of our members, I will only briefly touch on some pertinent points. From the article and from personal communication with Luallen one of the more important aspects to consider is holding the wing with the thumb and middle finger of the left hand in order to maintain a parallel relationship between the fingers, wing, and hook shank. According to Luallen, this will help prevent the tendency for the wing to cock upward when tying in. He also recommends that, in addition to pinching the two wing halves together, the hook shank be incorporated in the pinch with uniform pressure on the wing from top to bottom.

He believes mounting the wing completely on top of the hook shank will yield a flat or two-dimensional wing. If the lower fibers of the wings are tied against the upper third of the hook shank, the wing will have a more three dimensional quality and present a sense of depth. In order to facilitate compression of the wing fibers, Luallen will apply either water (sparingly) or saliva at the tie in point after the wing position relative to the body is established. Once the wing is positioned, he reverses the wing wraps and applies the saliva/water to the cut-off wing butts then re-wraps the butts. This seems to soften the fibers so that they will compress more completely. He points out that he does not use head cement in mounting the wing because this results in hard spots which do not compress well, especially during subsequent steps, particularly if applying shoulders, cheeks, roof and toppings.

In Volume I, number 3, Summer 1989 of "The Group", Luallen introduced a video tape in which he, with the assistance of Larry Goates and Scott Stisser, tied a Baron. The following comments relating to wing mounting are noted.

First, Luallen is very emphatic in stating that after making the three soft wraps of thread around the wing, the slips are held very tightly between the thumb and middle finger. This is in contradistinction to other tyers' recommendations who have suggested perhaps a light grasping of the wing slips. Second, he is clear that the butts of the underwing should remain uncut so that they can provide a slightly broader platform for mounting the main wing. Thirdly, on the tape he makes one soft loop and a preliminary compression during the mounting of the wing. He then makes three soft loops, each with upward pressure to the limit of the thread in order to compress in stages. Each successive wrap will allow greater compression.

In summary, a variation of the soft loop technique seems to be the most popular and effective one for mounting both the underwing and the main wing on a salmon fly. Further, firmly pinching the wing halves and the hook shank seems to assure more accurate placement with fewer chances for misalignment. As all authors and experienced tyers have noted, practice will enable the tyer to achieve a high degree of proficiency with a great level of satisfaction. And as Hale wrote in 1892, "So far, every process described is mere child's play compared to it and nothing but continual practice will make the beginner really efficient."[29]

1) The transition from the body/throat to bare hook shank at the wing tie-in point should be tapered. If not, the "step-down" should be as small as possible.

2) Do not cut off underwing butt fibers until the main wing is attached. Allow these butts to serve as a platform onto which the main wing is secured.

3) When mounting the wing, grasp both wing halves and hook shank/body between the thumb and middle finger and do not remove grip until the wing is securely mounted.

4) Utilizing a soft loop technique, make three soft loops pulling each tighter. Unwrap and reposition here if necessary.

5) Use saliva or water (sparingly) at the tie in point. This will soften the fibers which will enable the thread. to crush them more completely as they collapse onto the hook shank.

6) Lift the butts and make two wraps under them onto the bare hook shank to act as a "lock" for wing wraps.

7) If the wing does not sit properly to your liking, do not hesitate to remove, steam, remarry, steam, and remount before cutting off the butts.

8) Utilize the wing butts as levers to forcibly "right" the wings on the hook shank before cutting off the butts, a few fibers at a time.

9) Remember, if the underwing is askew, the main wing may be similarly affected.


I would like to thank Wayne Luallen, Bill Hunter, Al Cohen, Mike Radencich, Dave Paris and Tom Juracek for their advice, assistance and encouragement in the preparation of this article.


1. John Henry Hale, How to Tie Salmon Flies, The Centenary Edition (London: The Flyfisher's Classic Library, 1992), p. 78.
2 Ibid., p. 83.
3 Ibid., p. 87.
4. Ibid., p. 88.
5. Ibid., p. 85.
6 Ibid., p. 86.
7 George M. Kelson, The Salmon Fly (Goshen, Connecticut: Angler's and Shooter's Press, 1979), p. 83.
8. Ibid., p. 83.
9 Ibid., pp. 83-84.
10 Ibid., p. 86.
11. Ibid., pp. 86-87.
12 Ibid., p. 87.
13 Ibid., p. 94.
14.Ibid., p. 95.
15. Ibid., p. 95.
16. Ibid., p. 96.
17. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt, How to Dress Salmon Flies (Souderton, Pa.: Van Dyke Press, 1977), p. 168.
18. Ibid., p. 129.
19. Ibid., pp. 130-132.
20. Ibid., pp. 122-123.
21. Eric Tavener, Salmon Fishing (London: Seeley, Service and Co., Ltd., 1931), pp. 281-282.
22. Poul Jorgensen, Salmon Flies and Their Character, Style and Dressing (Harrisburg, Pa., 1978).
23. Ibid., p. 67.
24. Darrel Martin, Fly-Tying Methods (New York: Nick Lyons Books, 1978), p. 178.
25. Ibid., pp. 178-179.
26 William Hunter, "The Art of the Salmon Fly," Rod and Reel, March/April, 1981, pp. 38-43.
27 William Hunter, Personal Communication, 1993.
28 Ibid.
29. Hale, Salmon Flies, p. 78.