Tips for Tying Articulated Streamers
The overall cooler temps and hint of fall in the changing weather patterns mean it’s time to start getting ready and hit the vise. To the true streamer junkie whipping up something big and ugly flies while anticipating a behemoth brown devouring it is half the thrill. With that in mind here are some hints, tips and general musing on tying articulated streamers.
The one thing I see and hear talking to folks in the shop is that people are using too large of thread. Most of the time it’s because they are having problems with breakage. If you are having to reef on the thread so hard that it breaks you’re either trying to wrap to tight, or trying to add too much material at a time. The large threads are designed to be used on large hooks (2/0,3/0,etc). Uni Big Fly and UTC 280 generally don’t have many trout applications; even if you’re using size 2’s or 4’s. I use UTC 140 almost exclusively for all my streamers and never have any breakage or unravelling issues. The UTC treads are nice because they flatten out as you tie and really grab the material and bind it down.
I have personally found that proper weighting and hook orientation helps with inducing strikes and hooking up more. The example above is pretty much my standard streamer framework that everything is based off of. The upturned rear hook seams to really help get more short strikes hooked up. The front hook is always downturned because if the front hook is upturned on an articulated fly it wants to swim sideways. You always want to place the dumbbell eye on the bottom of the shank. If more weight is needed keep it to the front half of the shank and then add the dumbbell on top of the lead wraps. Keeping the weight on the front half of the front hook allows the fly to take the aggressive nose dive between strips that drives trout crazy.
There are several ways to attach hooks together, here are the two methods I use to most. The first I don’t use too often, but if I need the back to to keep it’s orientation and not twist too much (if it has a wing over that back for instance) I use this method. Refer to the above picture, and note that I use straight eye hooks to this method, but didn’t have any to hand for the example. Take some articulation wire (either Intruder Wire or Beadalon 19 strand wire from your local craft store work well) and run it through to eye of the hook and then place both ends through one bead. You can find these oversized glass beads in your local fly shop or craft store. Try to get the ones with metal inserts as they are stronger. The bead helps compress the loop of wire and keep it under control. Then near the back of the front hook place several loose wraps thread over both strands. Pull until the wire loop is small enough and make sure the wire is positioned on top of the shank. Then add several securing wraps of thread. Make sure the wire hasn’t twisted and the rear hook is sitting correctly. Then proceed to secure the wire down the length of the shank and around dumbbell. This next method is what I use probably 95% of the time and allows for a lot of actions and is strong and durable (see below). I used to use backing, but have had much more success with braided fishing line. These braided fishing lines are really though and will ruin your good tying scissors, so I typically have a razor blade close to hand. Try to get some in 40 or 50lb so that it’s a little stiffer. Take a length of you’re articulation material and fold it in half. Thread both ends up through the bottom of the eye and then run the hook through the loop and pull snug (see right). Make sure the material comes through the front of the eye so that it’s in line with that shank. Add however many beads you want by threading both ends though the bead. The beads act as a spacer and a way of making sure the articulation isn’t too loose. Then it’s the same as above as far as tightening and securing the articulation. After both methods I whip finish and coat the front hook shank and around the dumbbell with Zap-O-Gap. Obviously, with either method you need to tie the back half of the fly before you attach the hooks together.
There are many ways to tie streamers and always something new each year. The methods and tricks we’ve talked about here have proven to be the best and most reliable for me. Stop by shop if you have questions about certain patterns and or material selections. Hopefully everyone gets a shot at that monster trout this fall.