There has been a lot of interest on the basics of tying a jig. So here is my best shot at giving you an online description of tying a jig and a couple of techniques that I hope everyone will find useful.
The beauty of jigs is that they are easily tied effectively by a beginning tyer. You can learn how to tie them in a morning and hit the water with your new jigs later in the afternoon. There is something special about hooking a steelhead with a jig you just tied.
The equipment and materials you will need are rather simple but there are a couple of “must have” items that will make life a little easier.
1. Vise – Used to hold your hook. Any vise will work. If you are looking for a beginner vise the Thompson Model A is a great way to go and can be found rather inexpensively online or at a local shop. For a basic vise the Thompson A will last a long, long time. If you have a little more money to spend look for a rotary vise. I have a Custom Dyna King Barracuda with some special features added on at the factory that I will be handing down to my grandchildren when the time comes. It holds a hook rock solid and is built to last forever. Again it is your choice.
2. Bobbin - Used to hold your thread. I like ceramic bobbins since they won’t fray or cut your thread. Ceramic bobbins are a little more expensive though. For getting started any bobbin will suffice.
3. Scissors – Used to cut your thread and materials. Scissors are something that you don’t want to skimp on. Dr. Slick scissors are a quality product and can be had for under $20.00. The new razor scissors from Dr. Slick are very sharp and have a tension devise on the blades that comes in handy. You just want to make sure you have a good sharp pair of fine tipped scissors.
4. Hackle Pliers – Hackle Pliers to hold your hackle when palmering and winding. They are also helpful with folding hackle. I find that having 2 sets (or more) is very handy.
5. Needle or Bodkin – I use these all the time. Needles or Bodkins are used to help place materials and to aid with finishing off the head. I find this to be one of those tools I use for everything and highly recommend one. You don’t need anything fancy. A pack of 2 long doll-making needles cost around $1.50.
6. A small bowl of water is very useful. I use this to tame marabou and rabbit fur.
There are other tools out there but the above tools are the ones I find myself using all the time and all that a beginner really needs.
So lets start with a simple jig.
The materials we will use are:
Hook: 1/0 Owner (your choice of brand, I like the Owner hooks)
Bead: 11/32” Solid Brass Bead (Nickel plated or Polished Brass)
Thread: Kevlar or GSP (Gel Spun Polyethylene)
Tail: Marabou and Crystal Flash or Flashabou
Body: Chenille, Ice chenille, Crystal Chenille (your choice)
Hackle: Palmered Schlappan
Throat: Wound Schlappan
Head Cement (your choice)
1. Place your hook in the vise and make sure that it is secure and won’t move up or down when pressure is applied to it.
2. Next thread your bobbin. Neatly cut the end of the thread. Take the tip of the thread and insert it into the bottom of your bobbin and then suck the thread out the tip with your mouth. This is way faster and easier then using a bobbin threader and it is free.
3. Wind the thread onto the shank (the long flat part of the hook). Hold the loose end of the thread in your non-tying hand between your thumb and index finger. Wind the thread backward and then forward over itself to lock it into place. You will need to use a little pressure to make sure it doesn’t slide around. Wind the thread back until you have it good and tight (this may take 10 or so turns). Pull the tag with your non-tying hand and cut it tight against the hook. (Kevlar and GSP threads are very, very strong so don’t wind them around a finger and pull too tightly. They will cut your skin. They are also very slick so it may take a little getting used to)
4. Next thread the pin through your 11/32” solid brass bead head. Wrap the thread around the pin and the shank of the hook. You will tie the pin on about mid shank. Wind your thread back to the point of the pin and then forward to the bead. This makes sure your pin and bead are really secure. Then wind (in wide spaced wraps) back to the end of your pin at the end of the hook shank.
5. We will now tie in the tail. Select 3 fine tips of marabou (When selecting marabou look for fine stems and full feathers. The marabou on the left is good with full fine plume and stem while the one on the right is bad because it has a thick stem and short plume, this also applies for marabou feathers you want to wrap). Cut off the very end of the marabou and pull off the short fibers and unusable plume.
a. When selecting materials look for even and bright coloring. Look for a nice shine or sheen to the feather. Look for supple stem and long webby barbs on your marabou and schlappan. This will really make the difference in movement in your jig. Don’t be afraid to pull all of the packets off the wall at the fly shop and pick out the best one for you. The shop-owner will understand. They see it all the time.
6. Take your fingers and dip them in the bowl of water. Slide your fingers over the marabou from the base to the tip. This will create a long slender and easily manageable feather. Do this with all 3 of the marabou feathers. Next align the tips so that they are all even. Hold all 3 feathers with your left hand and secure them to the hook with about 5 wraps of thread (don’t be shy about putting a little pressure on the thread when you secure them) with the feathers extending about ¾” from the rear of the hook bend. Now tie in a couple of pieces of Crystal Flash or Flashabou on each side of your tail. You can trim these even with the tips of the marabou. Wind your thread forward toward the bead (head) over the feather creating a smooth even body. Cut the base of your marabou off about ¼” from your jig head. This will provide room to tie in your hackle collar later.
7. Wind your thread back to the base of your hook. Prepare your schlappan for the palmered body. The same as with marabou you want to select the best feathers for your jig, you are looking for long, even and webby barbs and a nice supple stem.
a. To prepare your schlappan we are going to use a technique called folding. Pull the fluff from the base of the feather (it gets in the way and we don’t use it anyway). Next take a set of hackle pliers and pinch one on the tip of the feather and one at the base. Holding one hackle-plier in each hand take your thumb and index finger from your right hand and fold the hackle over itself from the tip to the base of your hackle. This makes it easier to wrap around your hook later.
8. Tie in your schlappan feather by the tip and wind your thread forward and then back to the base of the tail. This will make sure your schlappan is secured very tightly.
9. Now we will tie in the chenille for the body. Take your chenille and pull on one end of it for about ¼” removing the fibers from the chenille and leaving just the inside string. This will allow you to tie in the chenille without adding a lot of bulk to the body of the jig. Again wind your thread forward and then back (don’t worry about what your jig body looks like under right now it will be covered up with the chenille. Just make sure it is smooth and even). Wind your thread forward to the front of your jig so you can tie off the chenille when you wind it forward. Wind the chenille forward around the hook shank. Wind the chenille over the top of the hook shank away from you and under the hook shank when winding towards you. Basically a clockwise direction when looking at the front of the jig.
10. Wind the chenille forward to where you cut off the marabou ends and your thread is now located. Switch hands and pick up the hanging bobbin. Secure the chenille off with about 5 wraps of thread and then cut the chenille evenly. Now you can add a couple of more thread wraps if you wish to make sure the chenille is tied off securely.
11. Now we will create the palmered (space between wraps) body. Take your hackle pliers and place them on the stem of the schlappan. Carefully wind your schlappan forward with spaced turns towards the front of the hook. The same way that you wrapped the chenille. When you get to the place where you tied off your chenille and your bobbin is hanging you want to create the collar so start wrapping your schlappan in tight wraps one right next to the other. This will create an even and full collar. When wrapping forward continue to keep your hackle folded with your non-tying hand (this will prevent it from wrapping onto itself and trapping barbs).
12. Now tie off the collar and add some more thread wraps to create a nice even head. Use about 5 half-hitches to secure the head and then cut off the tip of the thread. With Kevlar and GSP you want to make sure that you have plenty of tension on the thread before cutting it.
13. For finishing off the head I like to use a half-hitch. I found a good explanation of this technique in the FFF booklet Introduction to Fly Tying (by Al Beatty & Bob Lay)
a. THE HALF-HITCH: The half hitch is one of two methods used to finish the fly. It is really nothing more than an over-hand loop that is placed over the eye of the hook and around the hook shank. When the excess thread is pulled out of the loop, it tightens around the hook shank and keeps the thread from unwrapping. Three or four of these applied to the hook is one way of tying off the fly.
It is applied like this:
· With the thread attached to the hook, hold the bobbin in your left hand with about four inches of thread between the hook and your bobbin.
· Hold the forefinger and the middle finger of your right hand apart about an inch and, with the back of your hand facing you, lay them across the thread.
· Rotate the fingers toward you 180 degrees forming a loop with the thread wrapped around the fingers.
· The thread from the bobbin crosses over the thread from the hook forming an X between your fingers.
· Slip this loop over the eye of the hook and gradually remove the slack from the thread. As the thread is tightened remove your finger and allow the thread to secure around the hook shank. (I like to do this about 5-7 times to really secure the head)
14. Now take your bodkin or needle and add some head cement of your choice and coat the thread.
have a finished a steelhead slaying machine. You can also take these techniques and apply them other jigs. If you are tying a jig with a cast head then you just wind your thread onto the hook shank and start at step 5.
When selecting materials you can visit your local fly shop or visit Mark Anderson’s great site firstcastjigs.com. For color selection you can search through Ifish or talk to locals in your area to find out what works best. The jig possibilities you can create are only limited by your imagination.
I hope this post helps with your learning curve a little. Please send me an email or a PM is you have any questions or need any help. Tying your own jigs is a fantastic way to improve your catch and “match the hatch” of what the steelies in your area are looking for.