Match the Thatch
By David Sylvester
Maybe the most overlooked aspect
of rod building today is trim wraps. Hobbyists seem to avoid them for
lack of skill. Manufacturers eschew the practice as a cost-saving
trade-off. All of which seems a bit disappointing since any rod, no
matter how economically made, can become a work of art with trim. And today, you can trim a rod to
match most floating fly line colors. The dark greens and browns of
yesteryear - that were supposed to emulate nature but mostly reduced
visibility - have been replaced with a compelling array of vivid
Most rodmakers still use nylon
thread for guide wraps and some of those threads can be used for trim.
Gudebrod's NCP peach pairs nicely with Cortland's 444 Classic line and
its light blue NCP is a virtual clone for Rio's Tropical Clouser or Airflo's Coldwater Striper line.
But matching the fluorescents
will most likely lead to polyester neon thread. Fly tyers work with
them all the time and my search for bright threads did, indeed, take me
to fly-tying catalogs. Polyester can be a big change from nylon. They
are ridgey, a bit slippery and the tag ends tend to slip away at
critical moments compared to limp nylon. On the positive side,
polyesters have a marvelous luster and superior color retention.
My first bright floaters were
the Cortland Lazerline and Wulff oranges. The lazer has this radiant
orange, like a live ember, and it took some searching but Gudebrod's
Super G, a waxed polyester for fly tying, was a near-perfect match, even
after applying preserver which usually darkens a thread somewhat.
I had been warned that because
it was waxed, it would be too slippery for rod building. That would
certainly be true if used for the entire wrap but a slender trim wrap,
sealed at the edge with a slight overlap of epoxy locks it in nicely.
Built for the ages.
Matching the lighter Wulff
orange led to further research with online notion shops and thread
sellers. I ended up with Tristar's Orange Ice, a perfect match. Alas, it
darkened with preserver but, recalling the Super G, I waxed it myself
with neutral shoe polish and then used preserver. Perfect again.
Indeed, waxing became routine on
all subsequent trim for maintaining color integrity. Dubbing it on
between thumb and forefinger before wrapping is perhaps the easiest way
to go about it. The wax dries completely in 20 minutes.
By far, the most popular fly
line color today seems to be yellow. There are muted shades of it
although the fluorescents definitely rule. Like the Rio Spey, Orvis
Clearwater or Cortland 333 HT. Gudebrod's lemon yellow NCP comes close
but Uni-Thread's Neon Yellow, another fly-tying polyester, has the most
spark and matchability. Even looks great with some fluorescent
Which brings up a precaution of
sorts: A thread's listed color might not necessarily match a fly line's
listed color. I tried every green shade I could find for Air-Flo's
Tru-Cast bright green yet the true match was Tristar's Neon Yellow.
In some cases, the match might
not be exact and could lead to some experimentation of your own. Such
was the case with Sage's Perfect Taper that has the subtlest opaque
yellow. But with two coats of varnish over white NCP, it came out very
For those wrappers who might
reach beyond the usual rod-building supply shops, be advised that thread
size in notion stores and online e-tails use weight numbers to classify
thread size. Most fly rods use size A which is 40 on the industry scale;
33 is a tad smaller, not quite 00.
Speaking of thread size, try to
consider a wider motif for the trim itself. The accepted measure has
always been to "keep the trim slim," no more than three or four turns,
harking back to the muted cosmetics of bamboo. But modern fly lines,
with their wider diameters than the old silk lines, demand wider trim,
six or seven turns, something that will at least equal the width of the
running line on a weight forward, or the effect is lost.
Matched outfits should really
come of age today. A rod's enhanced cosmetics can only increase its
value and pride of ownership. I can see it now on TV's Antiques
Roadshow, a hundred years from today, a graphite rod, being analyzed by
an expert, "But because he trimmed the wraps, it is worth twice the
Text and photos by David
Sylvester 2007 ©