Swedish version


Text & photo by Anders Isberg

A 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.

  We often 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.

  There are 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.

  With a 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.

  Wax and bobbin holder

  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.

  The 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?

  What happens 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.

  A disadvantage 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.

  There are 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.

  After having 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.

  The character 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 balls.

  You should 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.

Text & photo by Anders Isberg ©

This article is translated into English by Robert A. Lucas,


To get the best experience of the Magazine it is important that you have the right settings
Here are my recommended settings

Please respect the copyright regulations and do not copy any materials from this or any other of the pages in the Rackelhanen Flyfishing Magazine.

© Mats Sjöstrand 2005

If you have any comments or questions about the Magazine, feel free to contact me.

Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

Please excuse me if you find misspelled words or any other grammatical errors.
I will be grateful if you contact
me about the errors you find.