Flies & Fly Tying Can’t tie wings for nuts on a wet fly

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    Hello, I’ve tried a lot and watched a few videos but I cannot get the wings right on my attempts at a wet fly. They are either crooked or one side folds in, or the feather falls apart. I might be using the wrong part of the feather or any number of things. I suspect my method is completely wrong from the get go. I am just learning and I know I am making plenty of mistakes … crowding the eye and some thing too long etc but I would mostly appreciate some guidance on the wings. … how to select the correct part of the feather and how to actually tie them in straight and even, and anything else constructive you might think helpful. Rob

    ps, I’d like to add a pic but I don’t see anywhere I can do that.

    pps, I found the attachment part !!





    Ah come on Rob… thats not completely disgusting, a bit agricultural perhaps but you are getting the idea. I am thinking that you might try to get things understood by going up a few hook sizes. Wee wets are all well and good, but they do take a bit of finesse. I was nearly driven mad by the tented wings on a Lady Caroline till some clever sod told me some tricks. I know it sounds a bit over the top but there really are left hand(wing) and right hand feathers, so maybe look a bit closer at that reality and its implications.

    With a bit of luck some genuinely talented blokes will jump online about now to help you out… Lord knows I am well down the list compared to a lot of others on this forum. JC does flippin good wings…

    Cheers… Jimmy



    Thanks Jimmy … Yes the hooks are #14 in this case. Perhaps I’ll try a #10. I tried the tip of a feather on another one and the thing kept turning and I couldn’t get it to sit flat on top of the hook. Rob



    Rob, your flies may not win first prize in a fly tying competition, but they’ll catch fish.  That’s all that matters.  Bear in mind that fish don’t carry copies Veniard’s Fly Dressers’ Guide, measuring calipers or colour charts to judge your fly.  Also, despite your best efforts, you can never create a fly that perfectly replicates the real thing or its behaviour.  At best you are creating a caricature to fool the fish, and as Bob Wyatt says, if it looks buggy enough, trout will take it.

    If you do want to improve your technique then I suggest the following:

    • As you appreciate, start on bigger hooks and then work smaller.
    • Use finer 8/0 (72 Denier) thread for smaller hooks – it looks like 6/0 thread on your flies.
    • Find an experienced flytier for one on one instruction, providing COVID regulations in your area permit.
    • If that is not possible, check Davie McPhail’s videos on YouTube. He’s a first class tier, his videos are very clear and the best I’ve seen.  Start with his March Brown wet, or Silver Invicta.
    • Practice, practice, practice, and with a good dose of persistence you’ll get there. You could try tying just the wing on the hook.

    Good luck.


    Phoenix Bird

    Rob,I thoroughly endorse everything that Dr Graham has said.

    Some of the biggest mistakes are crowding the eye and using too thick thread as previously mentioned.Allow twice the room at the eye that you would normally.Incorrect hook choice can contribute to this.

    Most folk use far too many wraps when adding things and also overdress  the fly.Profile, Proportion and Balance can be difficult to achieve when a fly is overdressed,

    Some of the subtle one percenters to bear in mind:

    One of the golden rules of fly tying is to remember,that you are only tying on one thing at a time,this helps to not be intimidated by a pattern and not rush .  Take your time.

    Before tying an item to the hook,visualise how you would like it to look,slow things down and remember if it doesn’t look right you can always unwrap and do it again.The mental aspect is just as important as the  hands on.Things tend to run much smoother when when one is relaxed and having fun.

    To finish up,I remember an interview with Bart Cummings,he was asked what is the secret to getting a horse to Stay,he smiled and said “getting it to relax”



    Pair the wing feathers (right wing/left wing) and use the hook gape to take slips out of the same area of each feather.

    and everything DrG said above. Dave McPhail is a superb reference.



    Micmac, good tip using the hook gape to make the slips.  I’ll try that myself.

    Phoenix Bird, agree completely about visualizing the end product, and also about going back a step or two if necessary.  One of my more important fly tying tools, one I using only occasionally, is a scalpel.  If I’m not happy with a fly, I’ll cut everything off and start afresh.  If I’m not happy with a fly, then I won’t have confidence in it and I won’t use it.



    See? Told ya so.

    This is why and how this forum functions so well. I know there a lot of others out there, but…  here you get the Doc and the Phoenix and MM all happy to jump in when needed. All you need to do is manage the occasional feelings of inadequacy or ineptitude and wait your turn to help.

    Usually I do my paybacks by dragging victims around the island. This year it looks like my role will be photo bitch for Redders…

    Practice Rowboat…practice. Avoid Traherne at all costs.




    Thanks everyone so far. I am taking all those tips and helpful hints on board. And yes, Jimmy, you were right. I will admit though that the last part of your last contribution was a bit too ethereal for me and went over my head, but all the rest of your comment and the other directives so far I get and will put into practice.  I’m also glad some hints influence others as well as me. BTW, I have never been afraid of being a learner in many things I’ve attempted and try to seek the best informed answers to help me. The forum rarely disappoints.




    Major John Popkin Traherne   1826-1901

    It demonstrates what becomes possible with practice….

    Ever cryptic… Jimmy



    LH and RH slips, by squeezing the wings together near the tie in point on top of the hook,  do one loose wrap with the thread around both wings, then pull the thread tight in an upward direction, this compresses one layer of wing on top of the other gently without twisting it on the hook. duck and goose wing feathers are easiest to start with as each section is stiff and definate.

    There are winging pliers available if you struggle with holding the slips with big fingers.

    I hope this makes sense?

    practice,then repeat.


    Good luck


    mitch aka 2 fish

    go to a gathering and I’ll do the first three for you. after that there’ll be a shunt from my/your seat and you’ll never think of me again.






    thanks Mitch …. I’m not sure a gathering is available at present, but I presume the shunt means I’ll be watching from 1.5 meters away.

    Re Traherne … beautiful stuff there but I won’t live that long to master that level. Besides, you wouldn’t wet one of those surely!! He must have had some very pretty birds in the yard.

    So, ok … getting on with practice, then repeating … on bigger hooks, finer thread for the small hooks and some appropriate feathers, patience and a scalpel, not to mention the method and technique. Cheers, Rob


    Moderator 3

    thanks Mitch …. I’m not sure a gathering is available at present, but I presume the shunt means I’ll be watching from 1.5 meters away


    The 2021 Gathering thread link is below. Who knows what will be happening in March next year!

    FLYLIFE Forum Gathering 2021 – Fri 5/3 to Mon 8/3



    Thanks, so much to learn, so little time !!!

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