Attaching the Tail

Material for the tail

  • Select a saddle hackle feather. Pull out (or cut out) several fibers, separating them from the quill. Be careful to keep the fibers aligned.

Sizing the tail

  • Hold the tail materials in your right hand, aligning it along the shank.
  • The proper length of the tail is roughly equivalent to the length of the shank. (Sometimes a little shorter for wet flies.)
  • Take note of the point on the tail material that lies right above the right-most portion of the shank (right before the eye of the hook). This is the portion that will be tied in just over the bend in the next step.

Positioning the tail

  • Slide your hand toward the bend of the hook until the attachment point of the fibers lies up with the left end of the shank. (This should be directly over the spot you left the thread hanging.)

Attaching the tail – 1

  • The fibers should still be in your right hand. Move the fibers directly down onto the top of the hook.
  • Switch your grip to your left hand. Slide your left thumb and index finger directly over the attachment point (where the thread is hanging). Grasp it firmly and let go with your right hand.

Attaching the tail – 2

  • The technique for attaching the tail is known as the “Soft loop technique”. This technique is useful for attaching material to the top of the hook without pulling it over to the back side of the hook.
  • Grasp the bobbin in your right hand. Pull the thread up through fingers (keeping your fingers firmly pinched together). The thread should go straight up over the attachment point.

Attaching the tail – 3

  • Soft loop technique continued:
  • Drop the bobbin down over the back of the hook, leaving a small loop of thread on top of your fingers. You should gently pull the thread back through your fingers on the way down, being sure to leave the loop.

Attaching the tail – 4

  • Soft loop technique continued:
  • Pull up through your pinched fingers (this time in front of the hook) to close loop.
  • Pull STRAIGHT UP on the thread so the loops are pulled out and the thread is firmly wrapped around the hook and tail fibers.
  • Repeat the soft look so you have a second layer of thread.

Attaching the tail – 5

  • The soft loop technique results in the materials being firmly tied on TOP of the hook shank, and does not let the material roll over to the back side of the hook.

Attaching the tail – 6

  • Wrap the thread towards the eye, about 4 or 5 firm wraps to firmly anchor the tail in place.
  • You can now let go of the tail fibers. Wrap the thread towards the eye of the hook. Keep the wraps close to each other and fairly snug. Stop the wraps anywhere between the mid-point of the shank and about 3-4 eye diameters from the end of the shank.

Attaching the tail – 7

  • Lift up the butts of the tail fibers (toward the eye) and carefully cut them off.
  • Trim butts of tail material.
  • Wrap the thread towards the eye to cover the exposed butts.

Attaching the tail – 8

  • Wrap the thread back over the butts of the tail to the original attachment point near the bend of the hook. The last thread wrap should stop 1 wrap past the left-most thread used to tie in the tail.