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Wings first, or tail?


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#1 muddler14

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 10:10 PM

I've always read that in tying "traditional" Catskill dry flies, the wings are tied on first. Then the tail, the dubbing, the hackle, etc.

 

But my question is this: Is there an actual advantage of some sort to doing the wings first? Or is it just tradition for tradition's sake?

 

What I mean is, I've also noted that some talented fly tiers do the tail first. This is the way Poul Jorgensen instructs us to make a dry fly in his book "Poul Jorgensen's Book of Fly Tying." And he lived in Roscoe -- the very heart of Catskill fly-tying tradition!

 

Personally, I do find that tying in the tail first is a little easier than measuring for a tail and tying it in after the wings are already in place. But I do it both ways -- it doesn't really matter that much to me. Still, I'm curious about the traditionalists' emphasis on doing the wings first. I keep wondering if there is some obvious advantage to this method that I'm too dense to figure out.

 

Forgive me if this subject has been dealt with in this forum before...

 

Cheers,

muddler14

 

 



#2 Gene

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 12:01 AM

Nothing is set in stone, although there are people that will say it is. If you find it easier to tie the tail first then by all means do it. The main reason tiers tie the wing first is to blend the stubbs of the tail into the wing but tie down area. This makes for a smoother body transition for your dubbing or body material.

Gene

#3 muddler14

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 04:14 PM

What you say is reason enough, I think, to prefer the wings-first approach. Thanks!

 

The more I work on my tying and the more I look into the way other, vastly superior tiers make their flies, the more aware I am of the truth of your first sentence. We (some of us, at least) start out believing that there must be strict rules that can be traced back to the old masters and that must never be broken. But gradually we realize that fly tying is a creative act and that there are often a couple of different ways to achieve the same successful result. The brain becomes educated in sync with the fingers. But it sure doesn't happen overnight...

 

muddler14



#4 Gene

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 08:15 PM

Mud, nicely said, it's a place to start and evolve from there. Keep tying and it will all come together.

Gene

#5 andy

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 01:05 PM

For what its worth, I always start at the tail and work my way forward.  The tail length seems to dictate the proportions for the rest of the fly and makes it easier for me to splay the tail barbules over a small ball of body dubbing material which is my standard tailing procedure.  IMHO, the wings just get in the way when they are put on first which is most noticeable on smaller flies where there isn't much space to work.

 

I tend to gravitate to doing everything the easy way and this works for me.



#6 Fly Guy

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Posted 18 February 2017 - 05:11 PM

I agree with Gene, nothing set in stone . I have been tying flies for a hundred years, or so . ( just kidding)  The more you tie , everything becomes second nature. I personally prefer to tie from left to right, being right handed its a natural flow for me . so , tails first , no obstructions to tie over , all clean , all good for me 

You will develop your on style , use books as guides only . Things get lost , distorted over time , don't be a slave to tradition. Good place to start , and learn , but doing your own thing and getting creative has been what keeps me engaged in this life time hobby . Once it gets in your blood you are done , hook line and sinka !!!



#7 muddler14

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Posted 18 February 2017 - 07:14 PM

Thanks to everyone for responding.

 

It's interesting to note that Rube Cross, in explaining how to tie a dry fly in his books, did the tail first -- a clear departure from Catskill "tradition" by one of the greatest of the Catskill masters!

 

According to Mike Valla, though, no less an authority than Walt Dette was suspicious of Rube's published instructions. Walt, Winnie, and Harry Darbee, in teaching themselves to tie way back when, had taken apart Rube's flies to see how it was done, and one of the things they discovered was that the wings had been tied in before the tails. So there was a direct contradiction between Cross's instructions and his own flies.

 

Most of you may already know this story. I learned about it in Valla's excellent book "Tying Catskill-Style Dry Flies." I'll finish up with a quote straight from the book:

 

"Walt used to give Cross some benefit of the doubt, and stated that maybe Cross changed his technique, but it does seem odd. Winnie, on the other hand, thought the change described in the book was deliberate, to hold secret his true technique."

 

Even in fly tying there is intrigue...



#8 Allan

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Posted 24 February 2017 - 04:02 AM

"According to Mike Valla, though, no less an authority than Walt Dette was suspicious of Rube's published instructions. Walt, Winnie, and Harry Darbee, in teaching themselves to tie way back when, had taken apart Rube's flies to see how it was done, and one of the things they discovered was that the wings had been tied in before the tails. So there was a direct contradiction between Cross's instructions and his own flies."

 

Without going back to the books you referenced, here's something to ponder. Walt Dette and Harry Darbee examined Cross' flies when they were just starting to tie (1920s or so). Cross wrote his book 20-30 years later. Maybe Cross changed his style between their examination and his book writing? It's certainly not uncommon for a tiers' techniques to evolve. In fact, I'd say it would be very common for a tier to try various methods and techniques as he/she gains more experience.This might be especially true with commercial tiers like Cross as they try to improve speed or uniformity. I don't necessarily see a contradiction.

 

Allan






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