Let us talk about heads some...

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Hans Weilenmann
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Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Hans Weilenmann » Tue Jun 02, 2009 9:34 am

I posted this thread to the UKflydressing board today, but while the two example images feature winged flies, I decided to co-post here also - the subject matter is as relevant to wingless wets, or indeed pretty much any style of fly.

==

I generally like to keep the heads on my flies minimalistic, but I also realize there may be a range of preferences out there. This post aims to start, with your participation, a discussion how you approach the heads on your own flies.

Are they an integral part of your flies, or a necessary evil? Just a way to wrap up the fly with a knot of some kind? Or perhaps a key feature, a functional highlight? Do you even give them a thought?

Do you struggle to find the space to shape a head, on a crowded hook shank? Is the head on the fly the last opportunity to hide mistakes, of bury materials? Talk to me... talk to us...

To kick things off, let me offer two examples of flies I tied yesterday.

The first one I suppose is pretty typical in showing how most of my flies get finished, especially those which have a feather or hair collar. The head is kept small, but (I hope :-[) neat.

Image
Gold Leaf

The second example is of a pattern where I purposefully finished off the fly with a bold and brightly colored head. The head was designed to stand out, not be understated. While on the actual fly (remember, at size 15 this is hardly a huge iron) the head is still pretty modest in size, the blown up image shows a head size which looks positively enormous when compared to the earlier example.

Image
Bloody Coyote

Which approach appeals to you, mirrors your own closest? And why?

Perhaps share not only your thoughts and comments, but also an image or two of flies where you are pleased with the head size and shape, or where it did not work out as you had planned it?

Let's hear from you. The ball is in your court. Your serve...

Cheers,
Hans W
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Roadkill
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Roadkill » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:01 pm

Hans

I am at the opposite end on the spectrum and tie a head that I think is representative of the head of an insect on the fly using a thread color that will match the fly. For example this Starling and Herl.

Image

I think of the head as an integral part of the fly and have for decades started my fishing flies with wraps to close the gap where the eye returns to the hook shank when I lay my thread base. I think this reduces the chance of the steel nicking a tippet and causing a lost fly and fish.

Sometimes I incorporate dubbing or feather fibers into the whip finish over the head as in Baker's Dragonfly nymph.
Image

Another concern that I learned from Dr. David Burns about some Spey flies is that an exaggerated large head may protect fragile feathers like Blue Eared Pheasant from the ravages of river rocks as we tick the bottoms for Steelhead. There may be some merit to the large rounded heads of Traditional Old Salmon Flies.
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Hans Weilenmann
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Hans Weilenmann » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:08 pm

Roadkill,
I am at the opposite end on the spectrum and tie a head that I think is representative of the head of an insect on the fly
I am curious. If the head of the fly functions to imitate the head of the insect, what would you say the eye of the hook imitates?

Thanks,
Hans W
Jim Henry
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Jim Henry » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:01 pm

I have never thought about the eye representing the head of the fly or bug. I have always tried to tie a medimum size head just to balance the look. After giving some thought, I believe i prefer the small wrap in Han's first photo where it complements the eye (as the head)

Jim
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Roadkill
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Roadkill » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:31 pm

Hans

I don't think the fish see the eye as any more a part of the fly triggering a response than all the exposed shank, bend , barb, & point sticking out of the fly. With the possible exception of some midges like my red hook midge where the exposed hook is almost the entire fly.
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skunkaroo
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by skunkaroo » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:39 pm

I think when it comes to all flies in general, and to trout flies in particular, I adhere to the keep it small and unobtrusive school--if in doubt leave it out. However, there are times when the head on any pattern is integral to the fly, whether as an attractor or as an imitation of the natural. Although I have no picture handy I often use a small orange head on a few of my spinner patterns to imitate the naturals I've seen. When I'm going very small a slightly larger coloured head can serve to suggest a darker thorax head combination:

Image

When it comes to larger patterns obviously the head becomes much more prominent, and in some cases important to the overall structure of the fly. An example of the latter situation is the low flat gently sloping head of the spey pattern that helps fix the orientation of the wings:

Image

That said, even here I aspire to the Syd Glasso approach and try to keep my heads as absolutely small as possible (not always feasible with multi-material flies).

It sounds a bit trite to say, but whatever the size or shape, a well finished head (imho) is the mark of a careful tyer... either that or the sign of a personality disorder :D.

Aaron
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Hans Weilenmann
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Hans Weilenmann » Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:15 pm

Roadkill,
I don't think the fish see the eye as any more a part of the fly triggering a response than all the exposed shank, bend , barb, & point sticking out of the fly.
I mostly agree with the sentiment verbalized here, which in turn begs the question why they would see the head on the fly any more significant 8-)

Mind you, until the fish write the definitive book - neither you nor I will know for certain, but that is ok :mrgreen:

Cheers,
Hans W
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Roadkill
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Roadkill » Tue Jun 02, 2009 6:44 pm

Hans

I tend to agree that the head may not even be necessary when other triggers like the soft hackle are prominent but then we do place emphasis on some eyes like on the damsel fly head. For all I know the trigger may be the colored head on my fly seen eating a small bronze doughnut. :mrgreen:

Tight lines!
Johnno
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Johnno » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:34 am

I tend to tie 'em small for no other reason than I do. If it's big(ger) for whatever reason I realy couldn't care less as long as it works. And if it does not, it's likely not the head of the fly at fault, rather the caster of the fly wayyyyyyyy at the other end. :)
Klaas
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Re: Let us talk about heads some...

Post by Klaas » Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:12 am

I think it depends on the water where you fish and the fish itself.
Waters that have high pressure from anglers and are catch and release those fish get picky about size collor and shape.
Waters that have more times a year new fishstocking those new fish take almost everything.
Then the season you go fishing,in spring they take everything later in the season they have enough food and get picky again.
Then in late autumn they take everything again.
Just hard to say if you have to tie a fly with or without a head, by some insects the male and female have different shapes also the heads.
So fish can selective feed on males or females,females that lay eggs on the water stay a bit longer or more often at the watersurface so easyer to catch.
The area where the water is,higher rivers have a shorter season so fish cant be to selective,then is the water flowing fast or slow,seems to me in slower water fish have more time to observe the fly.

For the methode tying a head on a fly,yes it can be easy to hide mistakes or bury materials.
When using 0/16 thread and making a bigger head ? you could end up making a mess of the flys head.
The kind of material you use,thicker hairs create a bigger head then thin featherfibers.
So you need to adjust the tyingthread to the materials you use,featherfibers can be tied in with thicker silk but deerhair tying in with spiderweb could be a problem.

Some insects do have a different collor head,take a caddis and theres always a big black head as a nymph and emerger and addult.
It can look better just for the tyer to create a small or bigger head,if the fish likes it i dont know.

Just try some different patterns with or without a head,just like Hans said"until the fish write the definitive book"we never know.
Would be boring also when you have the ultimate fly that always catches fish.

Klaas
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