Thread: Gudebrod 6/0, color to match naturals
Tail: Marabou, color to match naturals
Under Body: Poly Yarn, color to compliment body
2nd Under Body: Seal's fur, color to match naturals
Body: Larva Lace or V-Rib, use 2 contrasting
colors, 1 light and 1 dark color
Wingcase: Raffia or Swiss Straw, color to match
Legs: Sili Legs, colors to match naturals
Head: Tan sheet foam, use permanent marker to
create eyes and mottle as necessary to
match natural nymphs
Fly tiers and fly fishers seem drawn to patterns with a “get up and walk” look to them. The kind of look where you know if the fly were to fly away it would be a fantastic pattern on the water. Certain techniques are borrowed from realistic flies that lend themselves to practical application. Woven bodies are one style that benefits working flies. Most prey items, especially aquatic insect nymphs and larvae vary their coloration in order to survive. Dark dorsal and light ventral surfaces are commonplace so flies that use woven bodies duplicate this feature-almost to perfection. Imitative woven body patterns are also a source of angler confidence and most agree that confidence improves presentation and results. Woven body patterns add to the overall durability of the fly.
The L.R Dragon is the brainchild of Les Robinson an innovative Okanagan fly tyer who’s foam bodied LR Boatman pattern was featured previously. Robinson’s L.R. Dragon, which incorporates a woven body with realistic profile, has proven itself on numerous occasions, especially when sight fishing to foraging clear water trout, arguably one of the most exciting and frustrating fly fishing experiences. The L.R. Dragon is tied with a creative combination of mass and buoyancy so it fishes upside down, hook point up, allowing the fly to be presented into inhospitable places with a minimum of fouling. The foam head helps saucer into the marl laying in ambush until a cruising trout can be coaxed into striking by popping the fly into view.
North American woven fly history traces its roots back to the 1920’s when barber and wig maker Franz Pott introduced his Mite series of flies, which used woven animal hairs like Chinese Ox and Badger. Other pioneer tiers, like Dan Bailey and George Grant soon created their own woven wonders. Dan Bailey’s popular Moss Back Stone incorporated horse hair and George Grant went as far as penning two books, The Master Fly Weaver and Montana Trout Flies. Many woven body tiers trace their skills back to the lessons contained within these two books. Fly tiers looking for modern day references should pick up a copy of Darrel Martin’s Fly Tying Methods and Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer comprehensive Fly Tiers Benchside Reference as both of these books do an excellent job of illustrating a variety of weave patterns, tips and techniques.
As modern synthetics entered the market traditional patterns using animal hair were replaced with newer and more versatile materials. Woven body ingredients now include yarn, embroidery floss and chenille, both traditional Rayon and Ultra Chenille or Vernille. Of the two I prefer Ultra Chenille due to its durable construction. Plastic based body materials such as V-Rib and Larva Lace also weave well. Keep in mind when using these translucent materials that the underbody foundation for woven patterns affects the body color.
The Parallel or Shuttle weave is probably the most widely used technique. After binding the upper and lower body materials down the side of the fly they are then shuttled them back and forth over and under each other. Your hands never let go of the materials and at first it takes a bit of coordination to get the movements figured out. Other weave patterns to try include the Pott’s, Mottled Wrap, Spotted Strip and Half Hitch weaves. Once again, each style produces their own unique look depending upon the look and food source the tier is trying to suggest. Combining different techniques or incorporating additional colors into the weave augments the effect. For example, the Spotted Strip technique creates a variegated strip down the top of the fly, a trait common to many caddis pupa including the famed Traveler’s Sedge. The Half Hitch and Crochet weave styles incorporate knots after each weaving step and are commonly used with materials such as V-Rib and Larva Lace. Scandinavian fly tyer Torill Kolbu popularized the Crochet Weave a number of years back using a small crochet hook to simplify the weaving process. With a bit of practice this technique using overhand knots can be mastered without the crochet tool. The choice is up to the tyer. Keep in mind that different references sometimes have alternate names for the same weave pattern.
No matter what weaving technique you use there are a few tips and techniques to help reduce the learning curve. Underbodies are common to many woven patterns such as stonefly and dragon fly nymphs. Woven body patterns need a solid platform and a good foundation is key. There are a variety of popular underbody candidates including yarn, foam and leather. Keep the underbody smooth so the materials are not negatively affected by what lies beneath. Remember to factor in the thickness of the overbody materials as well as it is easy to end up with a pattern that is unnaturally obese. With the underbody complete, bind the overbody materials down each side and leave enough materials to weave with (8 inches is a good measure). Although weaving with the bobbin swinging around can be done more often than not it tends to be a source of frustration. Tie of the thread using either a series of half hitches or whip finish. Once the woven body is complete, attach the tying thread to complete the balance of the fly. Most tiers find it easier to weave by repositioning the vise so the fly is perpendicular to the tyer as opposed to its normal parallel tying position. Some prefer the hook eye to be pointing directly at them while others favor the opposite with the eye pointing away. Individual results and experimentation will determine what works best for each tyer. Vary the tension of the weaves to create different effects but after each weaving step remember to push and snug the wraps against each other to create a solid weave. Loose weaving causes the body to rotate and some instances unravel.