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Tying Tidier, Stronger Steelhead/Salmon Flies

Posted on November 24 2015

2013 fly fishing for king salmon at Alaska West
Big fish need strong flies. Photo: Stuart Foxall.

Last week, Stuart Foxall shared with us a nifty fly tying trick for gauging the proper length of stinger loops when tying trailer-hook style flies for steelhead and salmon. Today he continues the topic with step by step instructions on how he attaches stinger loops to create not only tidy looking flies, but flies worthy of handling the big boys.

Stu’s flies have caught some of the baddest freshwater species around the world, so if tying flies for big anadramous fish is in your future, you’re going to want to keep reading.

Attaching Wire for Tidier/Stronger Flies

I often get asked by folks how to tie tidier flies. When it comes to flies with trailer/stinger hooks, many folks run into trouble from the beginning by tying their wire loop onto the shank incorrectly. If you can get your wire on there neatly, then you have a much better chance of tying the rest of the fly tidy, leaving you with a nice smooth body. Here’s my method of choice:

How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 1: Start your thread at the head of the shank.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 2: Give a couple of wraps of thread to hold the wire on top of the shank. A few loose wraps allows you to pull your wire either way along the shank to position it correctly.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 3: Once the wire is positioned where you want it, wrap your thread all the way down to the tail of the fly where the dubbing ball (or rear-most material) will be.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 4: For added security, you can smear some super glue on the shank at this point. Then, take your thread back up to the head of the shank and “double over” one leg of the wire and wrap it down on the outside of the previous wire.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 5: Do the same with the other strand of wire on the opposite side of the shank.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 6: Cover the wire with thread wraps to the back of the shank and cut the excess wire (with old scissors) at the point where your rear-most materials will cover it at the end of the fly body. Note: The top view of the shank shows how the returns of the wire are on the outside of the shank. This produces a nice smooth body.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
Step 7: Continue wrapping your thread back up the shank to the head of the fly.
How to attach stinger loop wire for trailer hooks
As you can see this produces a very smooth body that you will find super easy to wrap your braid over to make a lovely thin body. The doubled wire tied in this manner is also very strong and will not slip or pull out when you hook that fish of a lifetime!

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