Fly Fishers' Republic

Dry Fly Split Tails

June 22, 2006

by Raif Killips

Dry Fly Split Tails

This is one of a number of methods for dressing a dry fly split tail. It is neither the quickest nor easiest, but the results are pretty and realistic! The cock hackle barbs used here can be straight, though it may help separate the tails if the barbs are curved slightly. They should have no webbing, at or beyond the tying in point. Micro fibbets work well for this type of tail and are arguably more durable. When used for a spinner pattern the tail should, in theory, be a bit longer than when used to tie a dun pattern, approximately one and a half times the length of the hook. I think that comes down to taste – whether your’s or the fishes’ is up to you! To avoid creating excessive thickness in the body at the tail use 8/0 thread. Patterns that make use of this style of tail include some versions of the poly-spinner and one or two dun patterns.

Tying instructions:

Toggle sequence Left/Right Handed ↔

Stage 1

1. Start the tying thread toward the front of the hook shank. Exactly where will depend on the pattern. From the starting point, make touching spiral wraps stopping just before the bend. Avoid overlapping thread wraps.

Stage 2

2. Cut your tails from a suitable cock hackle feather. Large spade hackles or coq de Leon are ideal. Take the first barb, the centre tail, and measure for length. In the next stage hold the hackle barb as close to the tying in point as you can without obscuring the tying process.

Stage 3

3. Pinch the hackle barb with your thumb on the concave side of the hackle barb. Hold the barb just to the near side of the top of the hook and with the butt angled very slightly down. Wrap the thread over the tail section making sure the thread sits over the base layer, and then make a second touching turn toward the hook eye.

Stage 4

4. Use firm tension as your make the thread wraps. When you release the hackle barb from the pinch it should have rolled very slightly, to sit at the top of the hook shank. Make adjustments by re-making the wraps if the tail section isn’t sitting right.

Stage 3

5. Now make between two and four overlapping thread wraps to produce a hump of thread before tying in the other two tails.

Stage 5

6. Tie in a second tail following the same proceedure as above only rotate the positioning 90 degrees toward you so the hackle bard sits at the nearest side of the hook shank, and curves out toward you. The tying in point should be directly in front of the hump.

Stage 6

7. A third tail is tied in on the far side of the hook shank. This is most easily done by rotating the vice head, so that the far side of the hook is made accessible from the same tying position. If you are ambidextrous, lucky you, you can just turn the vice round!?

Stage 7

8. Be careful when adding the side tail elements, that you do not allow the new securing thread wraps to fall on or beyond the apex of the thread hump as this will start to lay the tail sections flat. From above the tail should look something like this.

Spent mayfly spinner

9. And from the side the end result should look something like this. I tie tails nearly one and a half times the hook length for a spinner.

Spent mayfly spinner

10. Here the split tail is used in a poly wing spinner.

Whether you tie two, three, or doubled split tails, the basic tying principle is the same as illustrated here. For two tailed and doubled two tailed flies start tying the fly from stage 5 – the thread hump.