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> > Thread Legs and Tails for "Pressured" Flies



ProfessorJanuary 11th, 2007, 1:51 pm
Flemington, New Jersey

Posts: 5
Per my request, my wife gave me a copy of Lloyd Gonzales' book, "Fly-Fishing Pressured Water", as a Christmas present. I had browsed this book at the Fly Tying Symposium last November and thought it would be very interesting. Well, I've now read it through (twice) and indeed it has been both interesting and informative. I particularly liked the sections on fly posture and weighting. I now want to start tying up some of the patterns but I have some questions on one of the key components of his flies.

Innovative use of two materials characterize many of Gonzales' flies. For one, synthetic yarn, he thoroughly covers materials, tools, and techniques. For the other, thread appendages, he covers tools and techniques well but comes up a bit short in my opinion on the thread materials. He has no detailed description of the threads he uses. There are pictures of glue bottles and Rit dye packages but no pictures of his spools of thread. Does he use Uni tying thread or Coats and Clark sewing threads. There are many C&C threads available. Does he prefer straight nylon, polyester, plain cotton or cotton covered polyester thread. I would think that the various sizes of Uni Thread, C&C All Purpose, and the hard finished cotton threads would work best and these are the ones I am thinking of using in my first flies. But I don't have any experience yet. Maybe it just doesn't matter.

If any of you have experience with specific threads that you would share, I'd be most appreciative. I note that Gonzales contibutes to this Forum so maybe he'll post a response from which we all can benefit.
MartinlfJanuary 11th, 2007, 4:25 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3078
Professor,

I'm sure Gonzo will follow up, but when I asked him about threads he told me he uses all kinds of threads, and that they all work for him. I found some Coats and Clark buttonhole and craft thread that is large diameter, but I'm going to check an upholstery shop soon to see what they have. I've tied three thread leg nymphs so far, and like the way they look.

Gonzo, what would you add here?
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOJanuary 11th, 2007, 8:05 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Professor,

As the other professor (Louis) said, I use many types of threads (tying, rod-winding, sewing, and just about anything else I can get my hands on, including experimenting with floss and fly-line backing at times). All of these have worked out pretty well, and mostly I look for something in the diameter (and color, when possible) that I need. All of the things you mentioned should be fine.

A few years back, I started to do most of my tying with Uni Thread, and I like it a lot. For conventional tying purposes, I liked the way it didn't twist and spin. When I talked to the manufacturer's reps at one of the shows, they told me that it is made of continuous filaments that are not twisted, but bonded in some proprietary way. There may actually be some advantages to using this thread for legs, if the diameter suits the task. Some twisted threads can tend to untwist near the body through hard use, causing the bent legs to cock at odd angles. I usually repair skewed "experienced" flies by twisting the legs back into position and re-coating the leg with thinned Flexament. Uni Thread legs may alleviate this, but I haven't done a careful comparison.

Mostly, I think that the coating and bending process is the secret to making thread legs perform well. Don't get carried away with the initial Flexament coating. It adds a little "springiness" to the legs and helps to prevent fraying and unraveling, but too heavy a coating will stiffen them and detract from their movement. The most important job of the coating is to keep the Zap-A-Gap from wicking into the critical "hinge area" (the inner third of the leg next to the body) when the leg is bent and set in position. You can actually coat the heck out of the legs to build up areas for shape or to repair them, as long as the coating in the hinge area remains thin.

When I first started experimenting with heavier thread legs and the doubled knotted thread legs, I worried that they would be too stiff. Indeed, some of them did seem to be at first. To my delight, however, I discovered that when they were fished they became amazingly soft and flexible. Apparently, water wicks into the core of the coated thread to create this effect. The thread I usually use for heavier legs is the C&C Button and Carpet thread. This may be the same thread that Louis refers to, because my spools are quite old. I only tie for my personal use, and the spools (and the flies) seem to last forever.

I have always been pleased with how well the Zap-A-Gap bending process works. A few tiers bend thread legs with a hot needle. I have tried this, and it works well if the needle is the right temperature (I fried a few finished flies before I got the knack). The legs have to be coated afterward and it seems a bit more tedious for me; but I may just be more practiced with my own techniques.

By the way--if you don't mind me asking--is the "Professor" handle a reference to teaching, or to the old classic fly pattern, or is it intentional double entendre?

Best wishes,
Gonzo
ProfessorJanuary 11th, 2007, 9:15 pm
Flemington, New Jersey

Posts: 5
GONZO,

Thanks for your reply. I suspected that bonded tying thread like UNI would be preferred to twisted tying thread like Danville or twisted rod wrapping thread like Gudebrod. I have a good assorment of Uni threads which I'll try for my initial small flies. Your insight that, if coated properly, water soaks into thread legs near the fly body to give the legs good mobility is nice. My local craft store (Michaels) carries the C&C Button and Craft thread which I'll now buy and try for larger flies. There is also a C&C Hand Quilting thread that has a nice hard finish which I'll also try. A few spools should give me a "ten-lifetime" supply.

For the last few years, I've been using a stretchy cord found in the beading section of a craft store for legs on big stonefly nymphs and foam terrestrials. This cord is made by several manufacturers - Stretch Magic, Better Beads, etc. The finest diameter is 0.5mm but
1.0, 1.5, and 1.8mm diameters are also available. The cord is used for stringing various beads. The small size comes in a number of colors. I favor the Better Beads brand in black, white, and clear in both the 0.5mm and 1.0mm diameters. I use the 1.0mm cord for stonefly legs and 0.5mm for terrestrial legs. Haven't yet tried the 0.5mm cord for medium size nymphs but I will be tying some up this Winter to try. White and clear can be marked with Sharpie pens. Nice property of the cord is that it can be bent using heat from a cauterizer. So elaborate leg shaping is quick and easy, once you learn to use only a one battery cauterizer. Legs are rubbery along their total length so there is no nice hinging at the body as you would get from thread legs. Have you ever experimented with this material?

Finally, regarding the name "Professor". I've been teaching fly tying at my local TU chapter for over 25 years. In my classes, I'm fanatic about deep and thorough explanations. As a result, one of my students gave me the nickname "Professor". When registering for this Forum, this seemed like a nice name to use.
GONZOJanuary 11th, 2007, 10:14 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Professor,

I know the stuff of which you speak (Stretch Magic). It's very cool, and I've been experimenting with it as well. It solves many of my problems with rubber legs (strength, rot, etc.). It can also be dyed, and the Zap-A-Gap technique works on it as well.

Thanks for sharing the explanation of your handle. And I like the double entendre, whether it was intended or not!

Best,
Gonzo
MartinlfJanuary 12th, 2007, 4:39 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3078
Professor,

Another thing Gonzo and I discussed was the difficulty in finding the right colors for all applications, especially with larger thread for larger flies. He assured me that using markers to color the thread was fine. You probably would have determined this yourself, but I thought I'd mention it. Thanks for posting your question. Gonzo is a bit of a professor himself, and I knew I'd learn something new when he posted up his thorough response. He did not disappoint me. Tight lines!

Gonzo,

I wonder if you could give us a bit more help by letting us know some of your favorite threads and thread sizes for specific size nymphs. Thanks again,

"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOJanuary 13th, 2007, 10:37 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
It's kind of hard to offer consistent guidelines (due to the various characteristics of various nymphs) except to say that the tails are made of thinner thead than the legs. As a more specific example, if I'm tying imitations of ephemerellids like Hendricksons or sulphurs, I use standard sewing thread for legs of #12-14 nymphs and 6/0 tying thread for tails. For #16-18 nymphs, I use 6/0 tying thread for legs and 8/0 for tails. For #20 nymphs (which are as small as I usually go with the thread-legged nymphs), I use 8/0 for legs and 10/0 for tails.

One reminder on the issue of coloring with markers: If you are using yellow or yellow-based markers for coloring thread, the Flexament coating also serves the important function of preventing the Zap-A-Gap from reacting with the marker color and turning it a bright red. Because of this, I often give the outer part of the (yellow-colored) thread leg a second, more thorough coating to prevent the nearly finished fly from being ruined. By the way, you can use this reaction to your advantage with sulphur dries. By touching some yellow marker to the finish wraps at the head and then using Zap-A-Gap for head cement, you get a brilliant red representation of the bright red eyes of male sulphurs. (This seems much brighter than using red thread or red marker to color the head.)


Professor,

By any chance, did we meet at one of the shows? I remember someone showing me a beautiful golden stone pattern that was tied using "razor" foam and bent Stretch Magic legs. Was that you?
ProfessorJanuary 13th, 2007, 12:00 pm
Flemington, New Jersey

Posts: 5
GONZO,

Thanks for the further information on thread sizes. It's very helpful.

Yes, we met briefly at the Fly Fishing Show last January and I did show you a Golden Stone nymph with Stretch Magic legs. I dyed the leg material with Veniard dye. Marks were made with a Sharpie pen. RIT doesn't work at all with Stretch Magic. The rate of color transfer is very slow so you have to leave the originally clear material in the dye bath for a long time (a day or more). Other materials I've used for large nymphs are Perfect Rubber, Bodeez N Legz, and Spanflex. All these materials are pre-colored and can be shaped using a cauterizer. The first two of are round and can be bent in any direction. Spanflex has a rectangular cross section and only bends easily along the major axis. The idea for bending with a cauterizer came from an article by Oliver Edwards published a few years ago. It only works with certain materials and regular rubber is not one of them. Rubber just burns and doesn't soften with heat to give bending.

As further background on "thread" legs and tails and Tyvec wing cases,
I have two stonefly nymphs tyed by John Betts in 1980 in which he used Micron backing material for the tails, legs, and antennae; a Tyvec strip for the wrapped abdomen; and hand cut Tyvec for wing cases. Dubbing is white rabbit fur. Legs are single strand and knotted. One nymph is colored with marker pens. The other is left white to immitate a nymph that has just shed its previous case. This was in the days before Flexament and Super Glue so his legs had no stiffening. Betts has been a real pioneer in identifying and using many synthetic materials. I revere him much as you revere Lively (whom I also revere).

Micron backing in various pound tests seems still a good material for large legs. It has the added property that it is hollow woven so you can shove other materials inside it. A stonefly leg can be made from one knotted strand with a short piece of Stretch Magic or other round material stuck inside for the femur. Some bait casting lines are also hollow woven so can also be treated similarly. For all those reading this post other than GONZO, your homework assigment is to experiment with this technique and report back results. The "Professor" always gives homework assigments in his classes since I believe homework greatly strengthens learning.

GONZO - will you be demo tying at the Somerset Show later this month? If you will be there, maybe we could meet and trade further ideas.
MartinlfJanuary 13th, 2007, 12:16 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3078
Thanks for the help on this, Gonzo, it provides some starting guidelines that we can continue to refine. One other thing I've learned from your suggestions is that doing a bit of spot seining in streams you fish regularly and measuring and/or looking closely at the bugs you are imitating can lead to much more accurate imitations. Doing this close to emergence will, of course, give the best information about body, leg, and tail sizes. Right now the bugs are smaller and will grow before next spring.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOJanuary 13th, 2007, 10:49 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Professor,

Aha! I thought so! Unfortunately, I won't be at the Somerset show this year. Things are just too uncertain and irregular in my life right now to be sure I could make the commitment. However, I'd be happy to discuss fly-tying with you whenever you want.

By the way, I think John Betts is an terrific tier and a very great innovator. If I'm not mistaken, his experiments with Tyvek and mine were both motivated by the work of another great tier, Paul Schmookler. And I'm very pleased to know that you are also a fan of Chauncy Lively. Those who never had the chance to read his columns in the Pennsylvania Angler missed the work of a great master. He was truly ahead of his time!

Best,
Gonzo
MartinlfJanuary 14th, 2007, 9:24 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3078
Professor,

Thanks for the tips on using inserts in hollow lines. I also may try this for clinger nymphs, which I'm currently thinking a lot about. Gonzo can tell you that I badger him with endless questions, often trying to find a way to put my own stamp on his patterns. He is patient and either says, give it a try, or says that he's been there and done that, and saves me wasted time at the vise and on the water. It's a pleasure to have you stopping by on this forum, which often offers friendly help to expert and neophyte alike.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
ProfessorJanuary 14th, 2007, 10:22 am
Flemington, New Jersey

Posts: 5
Louis,

I'm happy to learn that you will be experimenting with the "stuffed leg" technique for small mayfly nymphs and look forward to your sharing your results. I've only used this technique so far for large legs on crab patterns intended to catch permit. I say intended since I haven't caught a permit yet. But I keep trying and remain ever hopeful. I'm convinced some of the thread legs ideas of GONZO can be combined with inserts of bent elastic cord to make legs that look and move like natural crab legs. Most crab patterns today have simple round rubber or knotted rubber band legs (Merkins and McCrabs). These don't look or act like natural legs. I've tried a single strand of 30# Micron knotted once with two different sizes of cord stuffed on either side of the knot. Also put a narrow whip finish on a single strand and stuffed different diameter cord on each side of whip. These legs aren't bad but I'm not totally happy yet. There are some orientation problems in how they bend. I keep experimenting. Stuffing a doubled cord in the upper part of the leg may give this part the "flat" shape GONZO achieves with his doubled thread and solve the orientation problem. I'm going to try this next.

GONZOJanuary 15th, 2007, 12:40 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Professor,

There's a very old bass-bug technique that involves using a very short piece of wire at a leg joint and whipping over it, then bending. (In this case the wire could be inserted in the backing before whipping.) Might this help with the orientation problem you mention? Also, might whipping over the ends of the inserted material at the joint make orientation easier? Just a thought.
Jlh42581January 17th, 2007, 1:46 pm
Milesburg, Pa

Posts: 24
I tie my realistic legs with hard mono and bend them by heating a bobin.
Jeremy
GaryFritzNovember 12th, 2007, 1:09 pm
Posts: 1Professor:

Holy cow, no wonder you know about mineral oil in Larva Lace. I must say that I have never seen such a long discussion about such a short topic as bug legs. I usually omit the appendages on trout flies and then am paranoid that LOG fish not only notice but are laughing.
Shawnny3November 12th, 2007, 3:06 pm
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Nice thread, guys. (Sorry, couldn't help it.)

I make my own indicators by spinning deer hair on a doubled-over section of rubber band (they sell indicators that look similar, but I like making my own - it makes me feel less guilty about using bobbers), then tie it on by putting a loop of leader through the rubber band and then looping it over the hair clump. I was wondering if the Stretch Magic might be a better material than rubber band because it doesn't deteriorate. I've never seen it, though, so I'm not sure how thick it is and whether it would slide around on the leader or kink it when looped on. Any ideas, gentlemen?

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com

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