This week's Fly Friday is from PRO-Team member Paul Little, it's The Soft Loop...

Designed for flight, courtship and in some instances camouflage, bird plumage is not designed for the fly dresser. Hence it is not surprising that some materials are difficult to use. Manipulation of a delicate feather with a tying thread into a position it was not designed for can be difficult to say the least. We must therefore design techniques to overcome obstreperous feathers; the soft loop is such a technique.

The March Brown from Pryce-Tannatt pictured above uses the dreaded Hen Pheasant centre tail as a wing; flimsy at the best of times because the fibres in the tail do not marry well. When creating the wing shown (described as “mounted horizontally”), the soft loop technique is invaluable.

The stem can be cut from the butt to the tip with a pair of double serrated scissors (these will grip the stem and not push it away), leaving only half the stem on each slip. The retention of the stem is paramount in giving stability to the fibres at the mount point.

Cut a section of the centre tail for the far side wing retaining the rachis (stem) on the strip and offer up to the hook with the tip of the wing extending to the tip of the tail. The slip should be on the side of the shank and tilted towards the tier. Now take a loop of thread around the wing slip with the return leg of the loop touching the underneath of the shank. The top leg of the loop should not be touching the wing at this point. With the wing firmly pressed against the hook, draw the loop tight VERY SLOWLY. This allows the feather fibres to move and go where they want to. Only and the last moment, tighten the thread and take a couple of extra wraps for security. Apply the same technique for the near side wing slip. It must be noted that if the mount point (the position at which the thread is drawn tight) is too close to the stem retained on the slips then it will resist the wing mounting process and crease the fibres. Finding the correct position will come with experience.

Paul Little

December 2015

Paul Little

Pike fishing in the English Lake District was and still is a great passion I have. Fly dressing began in those early years with the necessity to dress small Stoats tail tube flies fished in conjunction with an artificial lure to catch pike. Natural progressions followed into fly fishing and hence fly dressing for both trout and salmon. An article by Oliver Edwards titled “The quest for perfection” published in Trout and Salmon after he won the “Fly tier of the year” competition two years running was inspirational.

It was a chance meeting in 1996 at one of those enjoyable Partridge fly tying days with a fly dresser that turned my fly dressing and life on its head once again, Marvin Nolte. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Marvin. The world of classic salmon flies beckoned. My early attempts at this fine art demonstrated that my knowledge of materials and how they behaved in hand was sadly lacking. Books were a great source of advice but they only went so far. I was once again to turn to that same fly dresser whom I met earlier that year. Early examples of my flies (which I still possess) were critiqued in the gentlest manner so as not to discourage, techniques were revealed that were to make vast improvements to my flies. My passion is for dressing salmon flies, the classics. I most enjoy dressing the grubs, Spey flies and those flies that most people have forgotten.

In recent years I have given both salmon and trout fly workshops in the US and the UK and enjoy the experience very much. The important thing to me is mastering the basic techniques and having done so, to disseminate those skills for the benefit of other Flydressers.