Text & photo
by Anders Isberg
properly waxed thread is both rouge and adheres more readily to your
materials. This enables you to tie stronger flies with fewer thread
winds resulting in a neater and more attractive fly.
Different types of
wax which I have used over the years. Notice the pea sized pellets
which warm easily between your fingers and leave just the right
amount of wax on the thread.
We are, of
course, all aware of the fact that the fly heads tend to be much too
big and feel that we have used altogether more winds than are probably
necessary despite knowing full well that modern tying threads are
quite strong. These modern threads are also extremely thin giving us
the feeling that we have to make more and unnecessary winds compared
to the older and much thicker natural silk where we were forced to
skimp on the winds to avoid clumsy looking flies. Surely we have all
experienced the problem of the thread slipping across underlying winds
and the difficulty of positioning the wind exactly as we want it. This
is a constantly recurring and irritating problem.
compensate for this problem by unconsciously adding a few extra winds
"to be on the safe side". We have unconsciously become used
to this since we know - or have a feeling - from experience that the
tied materials will end up in the wrong place, slide down the side, or
loosen. A few extra turns seem not to matter since modern thread is so
thin, but a few extra turns at each tying stage results in altogether
too many winds in the end. So, the more extra winds, the clumsier the
fly, and the more difficult it is to achieve the desired styling. The
number of turns will especially affect ties where many different
materials are tied in at the same place. For example, streamer wings
and salmon and sea trout flies, resulting in unnecessarily large
heads. The problem is not less with extremely small hooks where it is
important with as few winds as possible.
actually two reasons why I have written this article; partly because
we have begun to use extremely thin and strong thread which tempts us
to make more turns than necessary simply because we fell that the
thread builds so little, and partly because we almost never wax our
threads which we had to with the older silk. Today, many wax only for
dubbing where and use a soft and sticky wax but, as we shall see,
there are totally different waxes made for a totally different
purposes. A waxed tying thread "grabs" the hook and holds
the tied material in place with a minimum of winds.
combination of thin modern tying thread and the right wax, we can
nowadays tie nice neat flies which are also very durable.
|A lot of the wax
on a ready waxed thread sticks in the bobbin holder tube.
Therefore you should always wax the thread a bit at a time between
the bobbin holder tube and the hook.
By waxing the
tying thread with a separate piece of wax it becomes rough and
adhesive. This makes it much easier to place your winds exactly where
you want without them sliding over each other or off to the side. The
roughened thread also gets a good hold on your materials making for a
more durable fly. Its all about friction. Often, for example, we have
to tie in material on different places on the hook, above, below, on
the sides, etc.
With a rough
thread, this becomes much easier with less risk of material sliding
out of place while, at the same time, minimizing the risk of the
following turns sliding over or in between each other.
combination of fly tying wax and bobbin holder also affects the
threads elasticity. Just at the moment we tie in the material, the
stretch of the thread is no problem since we can feel how tight to
wind. We get optimal tightening with each step but, when we release
the bobbin holder to prepare the next step, we have a problem since we
release the tension.
The weight of
the holder is not at all enough to maintain the same tension you
applied when you tied in the last step, especially considering how
today´s light weight bobbin holders together with stronger thread
allow for much harder tying tension. If for example, we were to use
kevlar thread which is also much more slippery, we would need a bobbin
holder weighing several hectograms to match the tension we apply at
certain stages. Highly impractical, right?
when we release the bobbin holder is that the last turn loses a little
of its grip and the thread contracts. The friction between the laid
winds is not enough and the tied in material, which was just before
tied in with the perfect tension, can suddenly shift position. Even if
it stays tied, it can definitely affect your styling. This is why we
need a thread which is both strong and rough with, in other words, a
lot of friction. This is where wax comes into the picture.
with the bobbin holder is that the wax on the thread wears off on its
way through the tube, which is why, in order to obtain the correct
the tension on the thread, you often let it run between your thumb and
forefinger above the tube.
|Have you ever
taken a close look at your own thread? Modern synthetic thread is
thin and strong and either twined or untwined. Common to all
synthetic thread is that it is shiny and slippery. The thread in
the illustration is pre-waxed but still "slippery". The
best tying results are obtained with a "dry rough" wax.
For many years
now I have myself used a loose bit of wax to prepare the upper part of
the tying thread, even if it is pre-waxed! In my opinion, this has
definitely improved my fly tying compared to using pre-waxed or no wax
at all. However, I don´t always wax the whole thread, only the places
where it is really needed. For example, tying (or
"catching") in hard and/or slippery material like tinsel,
hackle stems or hair wings which need a tight tie. This lessens the
total number of turns I need in each fly and helps me to achieve a
better looking and more durable fly.
different kinds of wax available. Some are sold through firms that
market fly tying materials and others can be found elsewhere. I have
received tips through the years from articles by other fly tiers. For
example: bees wax and even soft ski-wax. A good tip for a supplier is
tradesmen who work with shoes and other leather products. They can
have waxes which work surprisingly well even for us.
tested numerous kinds of wax over the years, I tend to prefer a wax
which produces a a "dry-rough-stickiness" on the thread. The
bigger the hook, the stronger the thread and the bigger the material,
the more "dry-rough-stickiness" is needed.
When you slide
your finger lightly along the newly waxed thread, it should
"grab" slightly but not to the point where the wax comes off
on your finger. It shouldn´t feel too wet either.
of your wax is more important than its color. One colorless wax and
one black one should suffice. When you buy wax by the block it is
practical to break it into smaller pieces and roll them into pea-sized
flatten them slightly before use. A small "pea ball" warms
readily between your fingers and more easily releases just the right
amount on the thread.
photo by Anders Isberg ©
This article is
translated into English by Robert A. Lucas,