Easy Way to Tie Tapered Wool Yarn Bodies

I lost some Sheeps Creek patterns the other day and had to tie up some replacements, in doing so I discovered a tying technique that eliminates building up a tapered thread under-body to get a tapered over-body with the wool yarn, which is quicker, easier and saves a lot of time and thread.

A Plunger style Hackle Grabber with a Ring you can stick your first finger through to wrap the yarn on the hook in a one step process without having to switch hands to wind the yarn on keeps the yarn from unwinding as you twist it or wrap it on with a rotary vise to get the desired taper effects you want.

The Sheep Creek pattern is unusual in that the hackle is placed at the back of the hook, so the tag of floss, rib, butt-herl and hackle are all tied in at the back of the hook. The ribbing and hackle are lifted up out of the way, while 3-4 wraps of herl are made behind them, and 10 more herl wraps are made in front of the rib and hackle materials to where the butt is tied off. The hackle is palmered through the butt material, tied off and trimmed away. The yarn is tied in about mid-hook and taken back to the butt/hackle end point, and given 6 twists, then two wraps forward are made, and the yarn is un-twisted 1 turn, 2 wraps forward and 1 un-twist, until all the 6 twists are removed. If more wraps are needed to reach the eye, you just wrap the yarn forward in its natural twist rate and tie off the body. Then Rib the fly forward with the ribbing wire, through the hackle, butt material, and over the body in descending wire wraps, tie off and helicopter the wire away behind the eye, leaving enough space to tie in the wing and head.

The above was done on a Firehole Sticks 718 Hook, which is a 3X long, 2X Wide Gape Hook, which has a ring eye and is quite long. On a more normal length hooks, with the hackle to be placed at the front of the fly. You would tie in the thread at the front of the hook and tie the yarn down on top of the shank and wrap it back to the start of the downward curve begins, and return the thread to the tie in/off point. On a normal length shank hook, make the first wrap with the yarn as is, and then add 1 twist with each following wrap up to 6 wraps. Hopefully, by then you will be at the tie off point. If not, do the 2-wraps per twist alternative to get there. If you twist the yarn more than 6 turns, the yarn’s diameter will get smaller, twist it too much and it will break! Then tie in and wrap the hackle in vertical or forward facing ways, as you prefer. The hackle can be tied in on top or in front of the body, as you prefer. The thread tie off point can be your FL-Hot Spot, either behind or in front of the hackle, again as you so choose.

Because you are counting the wraps and the twists, the appearance of the finished flies is nearly identical from fly to fly. Give it a try and see what you think…Karl.


Nice write-up Karl. I also experiment with the amount of twisting in order to get the desired effect of tapering, as well as segmentation. I really enjoy working with the wool yarn. It is my go-to material for tenkara flies. I love the look when wet and the additional mass when casting.