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I just saw a post from CapeBSalar asking about the best tying book for a beginning tier.  I answered Helen Shaw's "Fly Tying" for many reasons but if I had to choose one it would be this - there is NOT ONE fly pattern/recipe in the entire book!  I challenge anyone to give me another example of this in a tying book!  It concentrates on handling and tying one material at a time - one chapter to each.  Think of it this way, if you wanted to learn an instrument would you like someone to give you a song and teach you how to play it or would you like to learn how to handle the notes and the various sounds each makes if you do this or that while playing it?

This gets me to this topic of thread control and this is not covered in deep detail in many books and even if you watch a video or a live demonstration you may not see the subtle ways the thread is manipulated.  (Ever see a person play the clarinet - can you see what their tongue is doing to manipulate the sound??) 

Let me show you by an example.  First, tying a Wooly Worm - many a tiers first or second fly they learn to tie.  Basic recipe/directions.  First is the materials list - normally in the order tied in on a well written recipe.  ( I'll forgo that here.) Next - 1) Start your thread an eye diameter behind the eye. Then wind a smooth thread base back to the bend.  2) Cut a piece of red yarn and tie it in to form the fly’s tail. As we did on the last fly, wrap down the yarn on the hook shank from the bend of the hook up to a point about one eye diameter back from the rear of the hook’s eye. After tying in the yarn, cut the tail to a length roughly equal to the gape of the hook. After tying in the yarn, leave your thread hanging at the bend.  3) Prepare a 6-inch piece of chenille and tie it in by stripping off about a 1/4" of the chenille exposing the base thread.  Tie down the thread and return your thread the starting point just before the bend of the hook.  4) Select and prepare a hackle feather by stripping the fibers from the tip of the feather leaving a bare stem. Then tie in the hackle feather at the bend of the hook. The feather should be extending rearward beyond the bend.  5) Move thread forward to one eye diameter behind eye.  6)Now begin forming the body by making one turn of chenille behind the hackle feather. Then wrap the second turn of chenille in front of the feather. Continue wrapping the chenille forward (over the tied-down tail material) to a point one eye diameter from the eye. Tie off the chenille and trim away the excess.  7) In this step, we will wrap (“palmer”) the hackle. That’s the key to creating the Woolly Worm. Grasping the feather firmly but not too tightly, wrap it in an open spiral toward the front of the hook. Space the turns no closer than about an eighth of an inch; a little wider spacing may be preferable. Wrap to that point one eye diameter back from the back of the hook eye, and then tie off the feather. Once the feather is tied off, add a couple of “security wraps” in front of the feather tie-off point as described earlier. Then use the very tips of your scissors to cut away the excess feather, trimming closely (but don’t cut your thread!).  8) Now form a small tapered head at the front of the fly. Use your half hitch tool to tie a couple of two-turn half hitches or use a whip finish to secure the thread  Trim the thread, apply a drop of head cement, and you’re done.
With that, your Woolly Worm is complete!

First I believe that most tiers of any experience level would read this and say that it's a pretty complete set of directions and very similar to what you'd read in ANY fly tying book.  But there is more going on that is not even mentioned!  (Again why I love Helen Shaw's approach!)  There are 6 mentions of the word "thread" and 10 mentions of the word/or form of the word "tie" in those directions (if I counted correctly on my fingers that is!).  But beyond that it doesn't say what the thread is doing!  Here's the more complete tying directions.  (Anyone fall asleep yet?)

The Wooly Worm (again I'll forgo the standard list of materials). 

1) Start your thread an eye diameter behind the eye. Then wind a smooth thread base back to the bend using a relaxed thread that will allow you to cover more of the hook and tie a smoother base (not as important here because of the bulky materials we are using on this pattern but a good habit to get into.  2) Cut a piece of red yarn and tie it in to form the fly’s tail using a tight thread that will "cut" into the yarn to better secure it to the hook shank. As we did on the last fly, wrap down the yarn on the hook shank from the bend of the hook up to a point about one eye diameter back from the rear of the hook’s eye. After tying in the yarn, cut the tail to a length roughly equal to the gape of the hook. After tying in the yarn, leave your thread hanging at the bend.  3) Prepare a 6-inch piece of chenille and tie it in again using a tight thread for the same reason as above by stripping off about a 1/4" of the chenille exposing the base thread.  Tie down the thread and return your thread the starting point just before the bend of the hook.  4) Select and prepare a hackle feather by stripping the fibers from the tip of the feather leaving a bare stem. Then tie in the hackle feather again with a tight thread at the bend of the hook. The feather should be extending rearward beyond the bend.  5) Move thread forward to one eye diameter behind eye use your relaxed thread here.  6)Now begin forming the body by making one turn of chenille behind the hackle feather. Then wrap the second turn of chenille in front of the feather. Continue wrapping the chenille forward (over the tied-down tail material) to a point one eye diameter from the eye. Tie off the chenille again using your tight thread and trim away the excess.  7) In this step, we will wrap (“palmer”) the hackle. That’s the key to creating the Woolly Worm. Grasping the feather firmly but not too tightly, wrap it in an open spiral toward the front of the hook. Space the turns no closer than about an eighth of an inch; a little wider spacing may be preferable. Wrap to that point one eye diameter back from the back of the hook eye, and then tie off the feather again with a tight thread. Once the feather is tied off, add a couple of “security wraps” in front of the feather tie-off point as described earlier. Then use the very tips of your scissors to cut away the excess feather, trimming closely (but don’t cut your thread!).  8) Now form a small tapered head using a relaxed thread so the head comes out smooth at the front of the fly. Use your half hitch tool to tie a couple of two-turn half hitches or use a whip finish to secure the thread  Trim the thread, apply a drop of head cement, and you’re done.
With that, your Woolly Worm is complete!

Now how do I get a "tight" vs. a "relaxed" thread?  By the spin you put on your bobbin.  I your thread is wrapped in a clockwise or counter-clockwise manner.  How can I tell?  Attach the thread to your hook and let it hang - the direction your bobbin starts to spin in is the direction to relax your thread - anything wrapped will want to unwind!  Think rope vs. a strap handle.  Rope round and can cut in to your hand due to the smaller surface area.  A flat strap handle spreads the pressure over a greater area.

Another example I could've used is  any fly where you need to pinch tie down a material.  A tight thread will angle towards the tips of your finger/thumb where a relaxed thread will be perpendicular to the material being tied in or even point back into your finger thumb.  Usually the directions will say something like tie in using loose turns and then remove your fingers and finish tying in the material.  It should say to first tie in with 3-4 wraps of relaxed thread and then finish tying with a tight thread to secure the material.  Oh, and why is it bad for the thread to be pointing to your fingertips - because at that angle it can miss/push the material back that you are tying down!

If you've ever placed a newer tiers fly next to a professional/experienced tiers fly one just looks better than the other and you may not see the reason why.  Thread control is probably the reason.  One last thing take two of the same fly - one by a newer tier and one by an experienced/professional and carefully take each apart.  The more experienced tiers fly will use less tying thread than the newer tiers (sometimes by up to half!).  Again, thread control.

Thanks for reading my musings.  I tend to write like I talk and I've been told I have the gift of gab!

If you tie an ugly fly you can do two things 1) Take your glasses off and things will look better and 2) Go out fishing on an ugly day and catch an ugly fish!  See you on the waters.

 

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Sorry WW ... TLDR.

Perhaps the newer tiers will get more out of it.

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56 minutes ago, mikechell said:

“TLDR. “  is acronym for.....?
 

 

“Perhaps the newer tiers will get more out of it.“  Hope so, wish I would have read this in 1993, would have saved me time, money, frustration, and MUCH ugliness! Tho ugly still a problem....

 

 

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6 hours ago, WWKimba said:

I challenge anyone to give me another example of this in a tying book! 

I can't help rising to the challenge... Schollmeyer's and Leeson's Benchside Reference. Not really for beginners, though.

Nice to have you aboard, WW. I like FAOL a lot. 

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24 minutes ago, chugbug27 said:

I can't help rising to the challenge... Schollmeyer's and Leeson's Benchside Reference. Not really for beginners, though.

Nice to have you aboard, WW. I like FAOL a lot. 

Number 2 on my list of authors besides anyone named Beatty.

Their Western Hatch guide travels with my fly boxes

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I bow and give homage to the better and well read man in the second row! :)  And, yes, this was started by a newer tier looking for a book suggestion for newer tiers.

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mikescell, This IS the beginner's section!  You see your the one that would write the first tying description (well, so would I normally!).  I've seen some of your work and comments on this site - this is an elementary level article - you are Masters college level!

Thanks for the comment it's nice to know that someone listens when I write, now if I can only get that to carry over to when I speaking! :)

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😉It was just a comment on the length, not the content.  I actually did get through some of it, but didn't get in depth.  Being an instructor by trade,  I am very familiar with today's attitudes towards learning and information (new tiers are probably similar to my attendees).  One of the unfortunate side effects of the digital age is that people don't READ technical information.  We have a hard time getting people to use Shop Manuals when they're 'hands on' an engine.   

I think you'd get  your point across to beginners better if you'd throw a picture or 20 in there.

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Hear me out on this one. This is not an argument. 

Back in the yonder years of fly tying one needed a Jedi master to teach one the finer nuances of fly tying. Back in the day fly tying secrets were learned slowly because the fly tying circles were small and not well connected outside of local areas. A book such as the one mentioned did at one time unlock many secrets to a more spread out group of fly tiers. Nowadays, there's 10,000 YouTube videos out there's that show "thread control" and mention it. Thread control needs nothing more then a mere mention on a video to be clearly understood in both technique and importance. The need for dissertation on thread control has long since past. The world is interconnected and anybody watching almost any fly tying video out there will pick this up within one or two tying videos. To me, to any beginner, "thread control" is no longer a great revelation slowly leaked from a small secret society. It's out there on so many videos for every kind of fly tied that it is nothing more then easily and quickly learned common knowledge.

Tying feathers and fur to a hook is way easier with absolutely no mystery nowadays thanks to the WWW, not because of old books from the good ole days of fly tying. The  mystique is gone. Like every other facet of life, connectivity is so great there are no secrets anymore. Books are great but their revelance in a digital age has been lessoned. Some will argue the importance of a book but I view a site such as this one as way more valuable then an old out of date book collecting dust on a shelf. This site is akin to a book that one reads but Its a new age book with interaction. So the importance of your post is greater then the book cited because of interaction. It's a great thing. Thank you. 

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Appreciate the view Poopdeck.

 

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2 hours ago, WWKimba said:

Appreciate the view Poopdeck.

 

No argument from me PD, and I am a big fan of tying books, use them daily, and will buy more, at least from anyone named Beatty.  But shit oh dear age 67 is less than 4 months away- for me....

 

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I learned to tie from Helen Shaw's book back in the 60's.  I agree with the OP.  It gives you a much better foundation than videos. 

You can read a book sequentially, you know you haven't missed anything the author had to say.  With videos, it's hit or miss and you could watch dozens of them without learning basic skills.  Yes, some videos might mention "thread control" but you might not run into one for a long time, and have no idea that the concept even exists.  Videos have their place, but they're a long way from replacing books.

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It's so common that thread control no longer needs a special name like thread control. I guess if you are trying to explain it in a book some term is needed but when actually watching it on a video it just becomes common with no need to term it as something. Reading only gives you a long winded one dimensional interpretation of an act. Imagine trying to learn to replace your disc brake pads by reading about it. You can even throw a bunch of still pictures in there. Now imagine changing the brake pads after watching somebody show you. How about reading about fly casting over watching and doing fly casting? Nobody can say reading about it is the better way, nobody. 

Reading is great for learning about things that can't be readily and easily shown. Such as reading about the formation of a new dynamic constitution driven country. Reading about how to secure thread to a hook or any action related task, not so much. I fully understand that some people are insatiable readers and love to read for the sake of reading. Me, I'm still trying to finish the first book I ever picked up. I just can't because I get bored to tears after one fish, two fish. Regardless of your persuasion, fly tying is best learned by watching and doing with a very small smattering of reading, in my ever so humble opinion. 

 

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Poopdeck, part of my background is as a first aid/CPR instructor for the American Red Cross (was the professional in overseeing over 500 instructors in a larger chapter for 10 years).  I do agree that teaching a skill is better when shown than when read, but I've also found that different people learn through different means.  There are some that seem to get and retain the information through a book, some through some AV method and some by actually being there to see the skill performed.  Oh, and by the way, I wrote a book on first aid/CPR as well.  No attack on your viewpoint - just me bragging! :)

 

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