“I cant thank you enough for offering your fly tying class! I had no idea that I would enjoy learning to tie flies as much as I did, and assuring everyone that you are there to answer any questions made me very comfortable” -Lisa…
Floss is used to create bodies on many different patterns and once you get the hang of it, its actually a lot of fun to use.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to handle at first.
Let’s take a quick look at how to make a body with floss, then we will get into trouble shooting and some of your questions and answers.
Creating a floss body:
Looks good right?
If not, then maybe you were like me when I first started using this material, (and even sometimes now it still happens😂 even in this tutorial, how do you think I had gotten the ‘problem’ photos. those aren’t staged!).. in which case you may be in need of a little help.
Now Before we get back into that, let’s take a quick look at floss and some tips you can use before you even get into that trouble.
Floss varies in material composition and strand count
When working with floss take a look at the materials they are made of to decide whats better suited to your tying needs.
Silk, rayon, acrylic ect.
Both of these types work well but may not be so easy to find, and/or may be expensive.
There is also a very cheap substitute for those of you tying small flies!
DMC embroidery floss. Its not the same as floss floss, but if you have a use for it then this is for you!
These can be picked up in some places for 25 cents! 6 strand embroidery floss. I know walmart has great prices on these as well.
But today for this tutorial we are going to work with Uni-Floss. Uni floss is readily available for tyers and is a great and affordable floss that comes in a wide variety of colors and strand sizes.
“What does strand mean? Do they do different things?”
Strand relates to how many strands of floss are combined. Not necessarily meaning every SINGLE strand, just as in two or 4 all wound together on a spool as opposed to one. Example: If one is always the size of one, then they basically took two, wound them together and called it 2strand.
This list below is the way I like to use floss,and it does vary depending on what you are tying, how you like to tie, ect. So adjust this for yourself and your techniques.
My personal Strand use.
Single strand: One strand of floss used for small flies, and soft hackles. Great if you are tying multiple flies since the spool can be used on a bobbin.
Double/2 strand: used on bigger flies, mid size streamer underbody patterns
There’s also a four ply/four strand which I end up splitting anyway, unless I am tying massive hairwing streamers for lakes.
“But It’s a pain to tie with because every time I try to make a body with it, I drop it as I wrap forward. It’s just too slippery to work with. What can I do? “
Give it one more chance!
Not realizing how much floss you currently have left as you wrap the material around the hook is a common problem, so what I like to do is to keep that from happening.
By tying an overhand not in the end of the floss.
By doing this, every time you wrap around and smooth out the floss like a ribbon you don’t have to worry about it slipping through your fingers at the end because you now have a stopper or a warning system so to speak, to keep your hands from sliding off.
Also whats great about this, is that when you are done with that material; lets say you cut enough for two flies and need to stop before the second, you can leave it on the bench and not have to worry that It is going to split into a few strands or create a knot.
Here we see a mess, The aftermath of cutting off your excess materials after making a Floss body. Normally this would be a pain to deal with.
But! because of the knot in the end..
That is not the case anymore!
All you have to do is grab that knotted end and slide your fingers over the material and smooth it back out and tie another fly. Sometimes I have three or four different colors in a small pile on the side of my bench, all knots in the end, ready to go with no wasted material.
“Yeah that sounds all well and good, but I can’t even GET the material on the hook because as I wrap the thread around it slides”
We are pretty accustomed to putting down a base layer of thread before tying in material, but is not always the case with floss since it will bulk up that body even more. So one way to help avoid the material slippage is using one loose wrap, then tightening it down and gently pulling the material back towards the hook bend. Pull it back to the length that you need in order to cover the waste ends.
Now right here you may think “I’ll just cut that excess off.” But you don’t need to! Start to pull while keeping tension on the thread
There you go!
That technique also works well with different materials, not just floss. So try it as the need arises
Now that we’ve seen how we hope it turns out, and a few tips to get you started, let’s get into what happens when it goes wrong and why.
Here’s a common one.
hahahaha I hate that!
Yeah that is annoying..😑
One reason you may be having this problem is that you may be using too many strands of floss. Where you only need one, you may be using two. In this case its exactly what I did.
“But I don’t have one strand floss, how do I separate them?”
Insert the bodkin near the knot where it “looks like it probably splits” haha trust me it works. Then slide that bodkin twoards the cut end. It’ll split it because its technically split already, its just spooled.
Separating 4 strand? that stuff tends to split itself IMMEDIATELY after unspooling it. which is where the knot in the end comes in veryyyy handy.
Back on track..
Ok so After you have a completely split the floss from the knot to the end, you have two choices here. You can either just tie in one strand while leaving the other one hanging down.
By doing this you can also snip that one off safely and toss it a side to use another day.
Let’s get into what you have all been so patiently waiting for, now that you have finished reading through these caffeine infused ramblings..
How to create a floss body
Once you have created an even underbody you can tie in a length of floss a little ways behind the hook eye. (The underbody is very important because it will reflect your final outcome so take a look at that link if you need a few pointers or to brush up on your technique)
Uh oh.. Is it splaying out? Need to smooth it?
This will flatten it out like a ribbon.
All flattened? Ok.
Now you are going to take the floss wrap it away from you, back down under the hook shank and towards you
But keep an eye out..!
Rememeber, if it is going to slip or separate.. this would be the time that it is going to do so, It will do it as you come back under the hook and toward you.
‘The Twist down and smooth up’ technique
Here’s where you will learn the twist and smooth technique to get you the end result you are looking for.
See whats happening? Its widening, and that will equal slipping.
So to correct this?
Ever so slightly..
Thats it! Thats all there is to “The smooth up and twist down” technique.
Repeat it. Until you get to the eye of the hook, and that whole way is its going to be a repeat battle between” smoothing up and twisting down”.
“All that work?? Really?”
Yes, I know it seems like a lot right now, but once you get the hang of it it is so quick and you’ll love the way your flies look.
And you will continue those two steps..
Until you reach the tie off point.
“Does it really matter if I use one strand or two?”
I don’t know. Does it? You tell me, let’s take a look.
Both of these are the same exact hook. A size 12
Now with that being said let’s see how the body turns out.
As you can see on the 12, the body is only slightly bigger with the two strand green. So in reality it may not matter to anyone but you,
Now if you were going to go any smaller than a 12 I recommend you use one strand. Normally I only use one strand for all of my flies
Unless… you’re going bigger!
“How do I add floss to a small spot? Like on a Royal Wulff Instead of an entire fly? How many strands do I need then”
Even with that I recommend just using one strand although I tend to use two on my larger Wulffs.
With This technique you will be wrapping back and then forward to tie off.
Let’s try it:
Now I’m sure I could use one strand here, even though this is the very largest size I tie it in, (a 10 or an 8 even!)
I prefer to use two of them, but like I said, adjust this to your own preferences.
One fun thing I like to do when I’m tying with 2 strand floss, especially for midges is I tie with two strands; but I use one for a body and one for ribbing.
Now..Heres where the tricky part comes in.
If you are planning to use a different color rib, heres where you would take a permanent marker such as a prisma color and color this twist in black. Then when you wrap it around the body you have an even darker segmentation.
Remember this is not a necessity, this is just something I like to do.
It does take a bit of patience and tension constantly kept on the Floss in order to keep the twist all the way around.
Add a drop of head cement to the body, dubbing and you’re good to go!
Also.. Id like to add a quick tip from my husband here 😂
“Writing about Floss? Yeah? Well Let them know, I said ‘Good luck working with that material if you work with your hands.’ You should add that into your tips and hints. Let them know I said Good luck. Not me, Everytime I touch it, it frays.”
ahhahaha its so true! I have seen it happen. Its the only material that I dont’ have to worry about him swiping off of my side of the bench hhahaha
So If you are like my husband who is a contractor, mixing concrete with his bare hands and ripping siding off houses 😂 or you are in any line of business where your hands are giving you issues with fraying floss you can do a few things.
Try and fix it?
I have heard some guys at shows tell me they have worn gloves, used lotion, a pumice stone ect. if they are in dire need to use floss but cant.
Saying “Lotion? no and no thanks. im not tying with gloves on” haahahah! Skipping it all together and giving all the floss to your wife 😎😎😂😂😂
and In that case you can try to use a more durable substitute!
My husband has tried the Uni stretch floss but it still frays for him so I would recommend you experiment with different materials. Trial and error is what learning is all about.
I hope this tutorial has helped with a material that you may be avoiding once again for one reason or another.
Happy tying and I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!