Dubbing Tips
By Art Scheck

If you're a novice or if you simply have trouble with dubbing, devote a little time and 50 cents' worth of material to practicing the technique. Trying to learn how to dub while also trying to tie an unfamiliar fly makes no sense. Master the basic skill first, and then apply it to a pattern. This approach helps as much with dubbing as it does with deer hair.

Most problems with dubbing stem from using too much material. I believe it was Ed Engle, a fine fly tier and fly-tying author, who quoted a fellow tier as saying that he used just enough dubbing "to dirty the thread." That's a good way to think of it. With a little practice, you will be able to manage a heavier load of dubbing on the thread. At first, though, apply small, tiny, minute, minuscule, itty-bitty amounts of fur to the thread, particularly when tying trout flies. Start with a wisp of material that looks ridiculously sparse, and then use only half of that.

What if you want to build a thick, tapered body? Do it by wrapping multiple layers of dubbed thread. Yes, it takes a little extra time. But dubbing a body in layers gives you perfect control over its thickness and shape, and always produces a better-looking, more durable fly.

You apply dubbing to thread by rolling the material and the thread between the tips of your thumb and index finger. Fly tiers generally use the term "twisting" for this operation. Roll—or twist—in one direction only, not back and forth. For instance, I roll dubbing onto thread by sliding my thumb toward the tip of my index finger. Then I let go, get a fresh grip on the material and thread, and roll again in the same direction.

Some tiers use wax when they dub, some don't. I can't remember the last time I used dubbing wax. Novices, however, often find that a little extra wax on the thread helps the fur to stick. If you use wax (but I recommend that you don't), pass it along the thread once. Do not slather a thick coat of sticky wax on your tying thread; too much wax robs dubbing material of its color, luster, and fuzzy texture. That's why I never use the stuff. ~ AS

Credits: This Tying Tip is an excerpt from Tying Better Flies by Art Scheck, published by Countryman Press. ~ DLB

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