View Full Version : Silk Thread and Floss

12-19-2007, 11:03 PM
I was wondering if anyone on here has any experience with silk thread and silk floss. I'm a little confused on the properties of this material. I've been reading a bunch of information both online and off line regarding North Country Spiders as well as American Soft Hackles and flymphs. I'm confused if I need to paint the shank of the hook before using the silk thread/floss. I'm also not all that sure if I should build one layer of silk thread and then a layer of floss on top. I've noticed some U.K. tiers using only thread for body.

I'm trying to duplicate as close as possible the patterns from Yorkshire.

Any info and I will be forever grateful

oh, the late L.J. DeCuir says in his book Southeastern flies that one should paint the hook or lay one layer of thread and then floss. What do you experienced tiers do.

Let's hope I'm not the only one going back to the old school.

Gerry Romer
12-20-2007, 12:34 AM
Hey, Hans!

I've got a copy of the instructional DVD "Essential Skills with Oliver Edwards". Part One is titled "Czech Nymphing" and Part Two is titled "Upstream Nymphing and North Country Spiders". Aside from being just a fun video to watch, it's a very educational video for the fly fisherman and the fly tier.

In Part Two, he ties one North Country Spider - specifically the Waterhen Bloa, while he shows the Partridge and Orange and the Snapping Purple. He ties the Waterhen Bloa on a size 14 bare hook using gold thread. He doesn't say what kind but it sure looks like a heavy duty thread. I mean it looks more like a Coats and Clark Dual Duty All Purpose thread than a Danville 6/0. To this he adds just a wisp of mole dubbing and two turns of hackle from a short, spoon-shaped feather from a Waterhen wing (I've used Starling as an almost suitable substitute). The result is a very slim and very slightly fuzzy short yellow-bodied wet fly.

In the next segment of the video he fishes a long leader made up with all three on one leader, casting across and swinging down with the current. He definitely knows what he's doing and he's catching fish!

Regarding the silk vs floss, I may not be much help here... but. One technique I've seen is to wrap the shank with a single turn of a bright red or yellow thread and then overwrap that with a white floss. When dry the shank appears white, but when wet the floss becomes translucent allowing the tone of the underlying thread to come through. I'm thinking of tying up some midges this way, using a light blue thread for the base and overlaying white floss.

Hope this helps! Good Tying!!


12-20-2007, 10:58 AM
I use both silk thread and floss. Mainly for the type of flies you mentioned such as North Country Spiders, classic wingless wets, and flymphs. I use silk thread a lot more than the floss. Most of the spiders I tie I only use 2 layers of thread. I start the thread a couple of eye widths behind the eye, wrap it back, spin the bobbin to tighten the thread ( helps adds segmentation to the body )and wrap forward. When you look at these type flies you will notice quite a few will have slender short bodies. I like Pearsalls silk thread and it does require a special smaller bobbin (some call it a midge bobbin) due to the spool size. Silk floss is a different story, I am not a big fan. It is slippery, and frays way to easy to suit me. I don't use thread underneath it or paint the hook. I just tie it in at the front of the hook, wrap it back to the bend, then wrap it forward towards the eye. Buy one spool to try before you spend money on a selection. You may find ordinary floss to be much more user friendly. I like the UNI floss products much better. Here is an example of a North Country Spider that I tyed with just silk thread for the body.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y166/flyman1/Soft%20Hackles%20and%20flymphs/Dscn0879.jpg?t=1198162446 (http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y166/flyman1/Soft%20Hackles%20and%20flymphs/Dscn0879.jpg?t=1198162446)

12-20-2007, 11:27 AM
Gerry and Flyman!

Thanks very much, It sounds like I should just use two layers of Pearsall's Silk thread and ignore the floss. A very nice and sparse fly there Flyman. I hope I will be able to turn out something decent this winter.

Thanks again.

Gerry Romer
12-20-2007, 09:19 PM
Flyman --

Very nice fly there! Question 1. What was the hackle feather? Question 2. What size hook did you tie that on?


12-21-2007, 02:55 PM
Gerry that is a size 14 TMC 3761 hook and the hackle is Partridge.

12-21-2007, 03:25 PM

Being a beginner I have done some partridge and yellow with just guinea body hen feathers, I know it's not proper but they are turning out decent. My question, will they work for movement while fishing downstream the classic way?

12-21-2007, 05:22 PM
Guinea fowl will work fine. Many other types of feathers will as well. Grouse, starling, quail, and hen just to name a few. On many of these old patterns the materials used were simply materials that would have been available to tiers of the time. Many of which were upland and waterfowl species. Between the dollar exchange rate and the price of some of the skins called for in the original recipes, I don't think twice about substituting.

12-21-2007, 08:04 PM

Thanks, I'm going to move on to Partridge and Green and then Partridge and Orange. After that I'm moving on to Prince Nymph BH and Tellico BH. As you can tell, I'm trying to resupply my fly box with specific patterns.

12-22-2007, 10:20 PM
Tennswede, I have been very interested in soft hackle flys for over a dozen years. I do use Pearsalls silk, but I don't care for silk either. Sylvester Nemes' books are very well written on the whole issue of soft hackles. If you find a good quality partridge skin with small feathers, buy it. It will last you for years unless you are a compulsive tyer. I truly enjoy the wet fly swing and mend. It is such a pleasant way of fishing. I hardly use indicators unless all else fails. Fishing downstream too much may cost you some fish, but there are days when you can clean up. Some of my favorite patterns include: peacock and partridge, brassie and partridge, red butt, BHPT soft hackle, partridge and yellow, grey and dun hen, and iron blue dun. I would like to see how many soft hackle/spider/north country people are out there. If we had enough interest maybe we could put together a link or topic. Soft Hackle fishing has truly added to my enjoyment of fly fishing. I would recommend it to anyone who is starting out in fly fishing

12-23-2007, 01:06 AM

I'm sure you can find quite a few people interested, maybe not for a new board but definitely keep it coming here. I have fished down and across for most of my life in combination of with other techniques. I began fishing this way and it has enabled me to learn how to fish without an indicator. I don't even use one while fishing upstream. I have caught fish on soft hackle upstream as well as downstream.

I'm just now getting back in to fly tying after a hiatus of 26 years. Wish me luck. anyway, I just love reading about North Country Spiders and all the history from Yorkshire in England as well as the Scottish patterns. I'm in no way getting in to the debate dry versus wet, I fish both but I do feel that Soft Hackles are really helping me catch fish. I have had decent success with regular nymphs also fished downstream.

Currently I'm tying partridge and yellow, green and orange. I might go on over in to other patterns such as Iron Blue dun and the bloas'. I just finished reading the 1971 version of Hidy's book Wet Flies which is basically Jim Leisenring's book. A very interesting read.

I'm going to order some pearsall's to try it out.

Which bobbin do I need? I have seen a couple of different manufactured bobbins for silk, matarelli is one I think.

12-23-2007, 10:46 AM
I use the Matarelli bobbin but I am sure there are others. I wish someone would make one with a flared infeed on the bottom of the tube to make threading the material easier. V.S. "Pete" Hidy and "Big" Jim Leisenring probably more than any other American anglers made the soft hackle/wingless wet style of fly popular. Their flies and the techniques they developed to fish these flies place them among some of the greats in American angling history in my opinion. I sure wish I had a copy of Pete's book but it's been out of print for some time and has become very valuable with the resurgence of these types of flies. Here is a site that contains some great photos and information on these types of flies.


12-24-2007, 10:09 AM
Flyman and Tennswede thanks for your thoughts. Take a look at Dave Hughes book "Wet Flies". I like a bent bobbin with a long ceramic tube.