On My Vise: The Starling and Herl

The Starling and Herl is a very quick and simple fly to tie, consisting of only two materials those being peacock herl and starling for the hackle.

Closeup of the Starling and Herl
  • Hook: Standard wet fly hook 16-18
  • Thread: Black 8/0 or 70 Denier
  • Body: Peacock Herl (usually from the eye)
  • Hackle: Starling

I tie this anywhere from 16 to 18 and sometimes a small as a 20 but if that’s the case, the size 20 I will just tie more as a Stewart’s black spider without any herl.

The Peacock hurl itself (and sometimes I will use one that has been dyed a different color such as green or purple under tone) can represent blue wing olives emerging or even a small darker Caddis.

 You will have to experiment since I have found that using the Herl strung (which means it’s a handful that is all stitched together and comes in the plastic packaging) is sometimes a little bit too large once wrapped around the hook, so for that I have used it from the peacock “eye”which is really the tail.

When working with starling be very careful because the feathers are extremely fragile.

Idle Hands: Scrappy Pencil Case

Well I wouldn’t be the quilted Tyer, if I wasn’t always busy quilting or in this case in a smaller scale. I try to work on small projects in between big ones just to break up the time.

The scraps I had left from a previous project
All stitched together
the lining
Room for plenty of my colored pencils

“Fly Tying 101” Tying off your material 

When you begin tying flies there are plenty of phrases you will hear repeatedly and after a while they will become automatic. Your tools will become an extension of your arm and you won’t have to second guess.

But right now if you are beginning, this may not be automatic yet and some of this may even be overwhelming and confusing.

“Tying off” may be one of those phrases.

You will continue to hear it all the time between videos, books, magazines, our tying sessions and everywhere else so it might help to become acquainted with the meaning.

What “tying off” essentially means (in a matter of fact- run on sentence- kind of way of putting it) is this:

“You’ve reached the point where you are finished using one material that’s on the hook- but you can’t put another one on until you remove the excess material you have left- or it’ll look like crap when it’s done.”

Now what?

 Example: You can’t put any dubbing on to the pattern that you are following, until you have removed the rest of this turkey biot above

Yet how would you do that?

By tying it off.

Now I’m Going to give you a step-by-step that will not apply to every single material (because as we will go over in a later post, it varies, for example: with a soft hackle you may put thread behind the Hackle and run it through to the front) but this will definitely apply to the great majority of them.

So..here we are.

on the edge of danger!

Stalemate: It’s 3am..  You’re Sitting at your bench with a turkey biot tied in and wrapped forward, super excited to whip up something with this new found love of fly tying you’ve acquired..

..and all of a sudden you realize that you’re completely unsure how to get rid of this mess that’s left, without the whole thing coming undone.

..Hackle pliers dangling, dangerously close to slipping and sabotaging all of your hard work.

So where do we go from here?

We go up!


Hold it up!

You’re gonna Take those pliers with the material attached and hold it vertical with your ‘tying hand’

Up and to the left

Then with your “non tying” hand, bring that threaded bobbin UP and over to the left side; by doing so it will begin to compress the material from underneath.

Toss it over

At this point You can either carefully bring the bobbin up and over the hook shank, but if you’ve been to our Fly tying group or saw me at a show you’ll hear me say “just toss it over”. Really, just toss it.

In which case you literally bring the bobbin up and drop it over the other side.

Do that twice in the same spot, while holding those pliers in the same position with your tying hand..

but don’t move the hand that’s holding the hackle pliers! Yet.

Thread up, pliers down

Once you have two wraps over the waste ends of the material pick up the bobbin and hold it up in the air vertical (The exact same way you were just holding the hackle pliers)

you can now go ahead and drop those hackle pliers.

As you can see below you have essentially resumed the same position with the tools, but now the tools are reversed.

Bring the thread up and in front

Next: While leaving the hackle pliers hanging there, you can bring the thread around the hook shank again in FRONT of the hanging pliers and the waste ends of the material.

Now bring it Back down in front
Back up again..

Then… REMOVE the pliers.

Remove pliers. snip excess, one more wrap and that’s it!

At this point depending on what you are tying and what the next material is, you can take one more wrap, and cut off the excess material that you spent all this time trying to rid yourself of.

You tied it off!!

This technique is used constantly, and sooner than you think, it will just come automatically.

Now Continue with your pattern from here. have fun!

On My Vise: The Wiggle Frenchie

I fish frenchies a lot, and have had much success on them throughout the year. Especially in winter. I tie them on jig hooks with slotted tungsten beads, and on regular nymph hooks with brass, but then a skunked afternoon led me to a little change in their appearance and action.

Stonefly sporting his formal wear

While out on the river one afternoon catching nothing, I hooked that “favorite fly” of mine on the hook keeper and took a break. I flipped over a few rocks to find some rather large stoneflies and mayflies, A lot larger than the ones I had found that morning. As usual, they were all sporting the always fashionable; “dyed brown pheasant tail” colors that never seem to go out of style in the underwater world of trout town 😂

“Sorry to disturb you, Carry on”

So After a little more riverside searching, I decided that my favorite “generic fly” probably just needed a little more movement.

Or I just suck today..

Eh, Probably both.

“Operator error” as I like to call it

But what the hell, I had some time.

So Why not just go back and upgrade the frenchie we all love so much?!

frenchie jig

 After sitting behind my vise and trying to cut off the end of a few hooks In a caffeine fueled midnight frenzy, I remembered something..

And thought “What am I doing? Ruining my hooks. I don’t need to because I had a pack of those “things” somewhere!

So I went through one of the boxes on the tying shelf with all the sculpin heads, eyes, Pyrex streamer rattles and dug out a pack of those  “things”

I had found them!

Those “Things” I now remembered were the Flymen Fishing Company Wiggle Shanks that I had picked up at a show!

“How to use wiggle shanks”

And (just like many many fly tying materials that we accumulate due to the lack of self control) had been forgotten about.

Until now.

frenchie wiggle shank

After much aggravation I figured out the best way for me to tie on them, which at first can be a little tricky until you get the hang of it. (A step by step can be found here)

I went back out the next day, and when I  found the same large inhabitants under those stream side rocks , I tied one on and did quite well.

Did extremely well in fact.

But hey maybe it wasn’t the fly.

Maybe it was the weather.. Maybe it was luck..

Then again Maybe it was the 3 cups of coffee I had consumed that let me think that I was fishing like a professional with those ridiculous blind casts 😂 all while daydreaming of making a bacon egg and cheese when I got back since I had skipped breakfast.

Or maybe it really was that wiggle frenchie, fished on a dead drift, being twitched on the line every foot or so?

Who knows.

Whatever it was, it was worth a shot to upgrade one of the staples in our fly boxes.

The Wiggle Frenchie
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