Fly tying tips and tricks: “How to prep tying material that contains a center cord, to prevent excess bulk.”

Chenille is a commonly used material when it comes to woolly buggers, a fly in which I tie by the dozen since you can fish them all year. But materials like this with an inner thread cord can create a bulking issue when tying in without prep.

An inner cord means its a separate material that is wrapped around a cord or thread which is when wrapped around the hook. Estaz and chenille are common center corded materials. If you are currently having this trouble here’s a quick tip that will eliminate that problem.

First let’s take a look at what happens when you tie it in without any modification.

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How to groom the cord for a clean tie in.

Prepping the material is as simple as stripping the outer fibers from the cord. Lets take a closer look:

Working with corded material

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That’s it! Keep in mind, this technique isn’t limited to only chenille. Over time you will find that many other materials; contain a center cord that you can benefit from by prepping them first, such as cactus chenille and estaz.

Working with chenille.
Working with chenille.

Patterns using Chenille

Low water woolly bugger

Material Talk: Articulated Wiggle Shanks

Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

The first time I thought about tying something with an extended body I tried to cut the ends off of my hooks, and after a few sticks to my fingers, not to mention the waste of money.. I gave up.

So when I came across these small articulated shanks I was thrilled and began using them for flies that I wanted to give a little more movement to.

Close up of a wiggle shank
Close up of the wiggle shank

Articulated Wiggle Shanks to put it simply, are a long shank hook without a point, that can be used to give a lifelike movement to your flies without having to sacrifice a hook. They can be used to tie a variety of patterns, such as the Pompadour Iso Emerger and the Wiggle frenchie. The only limit is your imagination! They can also be used for bigger nymphs such as stone flies and hellgrammites.

Techniques for using wiggle shanks:

How to use and attach wiggle shanks: A step-by-step tutorial

A finished shank ready to be tied in.

Fly Patterns Using Shanks:

Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

Wiggle Frenchie

One way to assemble the shanks to the hook.

These shanks make it a much easier to acheive the elongated body you are looking for, without all the extra work, but if you do have trouble working with them, I have a tutorial here that may help. Happy Tying!

Patterns using Wiggle Shanks

Isonychia Wiggle emerger

Wiggle Frenchie

Book Review: “The Triumph of Seeds”
The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson

I’m just going to start off with this: Wow.. just wow. I had NO idea there could be so much information, speculation and history about something so small, something in which is all around us in many forms, something in which (as i eat my bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, flax and chia seeds in it..) we may unknowingly overlook everyday.


And this book “The Triumph of Seeds” by Thor Hanson will quickly take the ‘overlooking’ out of your day.

You will find that seeds are just as complicated, and fascinating as they may have once seemed simple and boring to you. I have thrown many seeds into dirt, between landscaping and gardening; but only now do I find myself looking a little closer at exactly what is occurring as they sprout. I find myself inspecting them before I plant them, even wondering how long they have sat dormant before I put them into the ground.

Did you know that “Some species persist in the soil for decades, sprouting only when the right combination of light, water and nutrients make conditions right for plant growth.” p.xxiv

Inside flap jacket of the book.
Inside flap jacket of the book.


As we all know, seeds travel. But the ways in which they travel are quite interesting. Take the coconut for example: Sure we know its a pain to open, and contains coconut water and the white flesh in which we consume after using a hammer and chisel to split it.. and as always, in movies, that random coconut can be seen floating by ‘just in time’ to save someone stranded from starving to death.

But did you ever wonder why a coconut is built like that?

“Once afloat, a coconut can remain viable for at least three months, riding winds and currents for journeys of hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles. In that time the endosperm continues to solidify, but enough coconut water remains to help the seed germinate when it finally washes up on some dry sandy backshore. With its liquid endosperm keeping things moist inside, and the rich, oily copra providing energy, a young coconut can grow for weeks on end without any outside inputs” p.43

Radish seeds in my garden
Radish seeds in my garden.

This book is one of my favorite types of literature. Non-fiction, that’s jam packed full of interesting information, but isn’t written like a monotonous textbook. So It keeps your gears turning and the facts flowing.

It discusses the evolution of beaks on birds in which have adapted to be able to open the seeds in which they prefer to eat, and even gets into discussing my favorite ‘seed’.. COFFEE! The book then moves onto inventions that came by way of studying seeds.

Have you ever walked through the woods and pulled a burr or sticker off your pants? Does it remind you of a certain product? Maybe.. velcro?! Seeds played a large part in many past discoveries, that until reading this book, seemed unrelated.

This book will make you cock your head and narrow your eyes in thought, the next time you find a suspicious plant sprouting off to the side of your lawn; where a bird or bear may have deposited it. And once you get into the subject of fruits and vegetables.. you may find yourself studying the hundreds of seeds covering the outside of that single strawberry next time you eat it.

Grow little radishes grow!
Grow little radishes grow!

This book isn’t all about the goodness of seeds, as it covered poisons and toxic edibles that were mistakenly ingested throughout history, so when it comes to seeds you have to take the good with the bad in a sense. But it sure is interesting!

Such as.. The Black Death:

“How did the illness move from China to India and the Middle east and all the way north to Scandinavia in a matter of years? The answer lies not in the rats, but in their diet. While black rats will eat almost anything, they thrive on grains of all types and travel with it wherever it goes. And while most fleas live only a matter of weeks, those found on rat fur can persist for a year or more, and their larvae have learned to eat…”

Yes you guessed it!


“..grain. So even on a long ship voyage, when all the plague-sick rats might die at sea, the fleas survived (with their offspring happily munching away in the hold), ready to infect new rats and people at every port of call.” p.30-31

As you can see this book covers a vast array of subjects all related in one way or another to one thing: seeds. I highly recommend this book to all my fellow non-fiction loving nerds, and if you happen to read it. Let me know what you thought!

On The Vise Q & A: “How do I use the wiggle shanks?”

Close up of the Flymen Articulated Wiggle Shank

I have had quite a few questions in regards to the Isonychia Wiggle Emerger, and the best way to tie with the Flymen Fishing Company-Articulated Wiggle Shanks so I decided to keep this part in a separate post, so that you can refer back to it as needed.

“How do I tie on them? They’re too long. Should I cut them first?”

Affixing a shank in your vise

Trying to tie on a shank when its fully extended in the jaws of your vise, may prove to be somewhat aggravating. Not to mention you can easily lose track of the final length that you are looking to accomplish with the body. Tying with it already cut is harder to do, since you need the extra length to hold into the jaws while you tie. I recommend that once you decide on the length of the PHYSICAL body (not the tails that may be hanging loose on lets say a pheasant tail) that you keep only that amount of shank showing.

For example if you try to forget that its not a hook you are tying on, you’ll see that once affixed in the vise, its characteristically the same; A shank and an eye.

Tying them in this manner will help to create the same atmosphere as tying on a normal hook, instead of focusing on the fact that it’s a shank.

Comparison to the shank
Tying them in this manner will help to create the same atmosphere as tying on a normal hook, instead of focusing on the fact that it’s a shank.
Tying with pheasant tail on the shank.

As you can see from the photo above, by keeping the shank inside the vise, I can carry on with my pattern just as if it were a normal hook. Tying this way works well for me since I dont have to second guess how long I want it. You can see that the tails of the pheasant tail are sitting on the vise itself, that’s OK because they are out of the way of the jaws.

“I tied my fly, but how do I cut the rest of the shank? My scissors didn’t work.”

If you dont already have a pair of wire cutters for when you use wire, you will want to get one. Cutting anything other than thread, feathers and most synthetics will ruin a good pair of scissors quickly. Even material such as chenille can dull the blade, so keep a pair of wire snips handy.

The excess shank that now needs to be removed.

Get as close to the fly itself as you can without hitting any materials and cut it off.

Whip finished and extra shank cut off.

“All this is great but how to I tie it to my hook now?”

If you have ever tied an articulated streamer, you will more than likely be able to tie this in the same way except using thread instead of a wire

If you are new to that technique then we will start from the beginning:

Preparing the hook:

When tying with two hooks for an articulated fly, you want the connecting material to be very strong since the fish can be hooked on either hook. The difference here is that the second “hook” is a shank and is being used for appearance reasons rather than extra hooking. This means that a heavier thread such as a 3/0 should be sufficient enough.  Do not use a fine wire, such as one that you would use for counter wrapping a material; since a few wiggles of that shank… and it will snap off. I know lol I tried it.

Depending on how you want the final body to look on the hook itself, you will either want a matching or contrasting thread.

Cut a length of UTC 140 Denier (or any thread bigger than the one you are using for your pattern) and tie one end down on the shank. Leave enough excess that you can wrap over the material to create a uniform body. You dont want to cut this off right at the base either since it will cause the tail to pull out.

Here I am using a contrasting tread thread that will also double as a stripe on the back.

Attaching the shank:

Grab a hold of your finished shank, and push the end of your thread through the eye of the shank. Make sure that you are using the end of the thread that’s coming out of the back of the hook.

Thread the connecting thread through the eye of the shank.

Once you have the shank threaded, take one wrap to secure it and then you can pull on that thread connection to tighten it to the desired length.

Just dont pull too hard or you will restrict the moment of the shank.

This is too tight. If this happens to youm simply pull on the finished wiggle shank and loosen it up again.
This is too tight. If this happens to you, simply pull on the finished wiggle shank and loosen it up again.

There you have it! A completed and attached wiggle shank. Here you can either wrap over that thread to conceal all of it or you can use it as a contrasting feature on the flies main hooked body, keep it exposed.

Properly spaced shank.

I hope this tutorial has been able to help you use your materials more efficiently, or allowed you to experiment with a new one.

Completed Iso Wiggle Emerger

 Patterns Using Wiggle Shanks:

Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

Wiggle Frenchie

June 7th, 2017: Ridge & Valley TU Presentation

Fly tying at the Ridge & Valley TU meeting
Fly tying at the Ridge & Valley TU meeting

I would like to thank the Ridge & Valley TU Chapter for inviting me to tie a few patterns for some of their members on June 7th, 2017.  I demonstrated the Renegade dry fly and the Isonychia Wiggle Emerger.

Both step-by-step tutorials can be found by clicking the links to the fly names above. It was a great time and I hope that you were able to take something away from the demonstration that you will be able to apply to your own tying.

It’s great when you have an entire room engaged in a discussion on how to tie and fish a specific pattern; as we all can learn different things from each other. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and to be able to share what I know with others, is what always makes this so much more enjoyable.

Isonychia Wiggle Nymph floating in water.
Isonychia Wiggle Nymph floating in water.
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