About fly tying thread

Posted by Steve Galea at

About fly tying thread

Thread, as every fly tyer knows, is the foundation of the fly. It is what binds material to the hook. It is what positions feather, fur or synthetic material just so. Without thread we could not tie flies as we know them today.

Most seasoned fly tyers have a favourite thread brand. It might be Uni or Danville Flymaster Plus, any one of the Benecchi offerings or perhaps Semperfli's Nano-silk -- whatever. Then, within those brands, you might find that you prefer 8/0 for most of your tying while another person prefers 6/0 or 12/0. All this is to say that thread selection is a very personal thing -- and, it seems to me, that much of our preferences are based on what we were initially introduced to or what is currently available 

The question that many inexperienced tyers ask is what thread to buy? Beyond the black 6/0 that most patterns recommend, I mean.

Here's a bit of background and we'll keep it simple too. For most flies, 6/0 or 8/0  are great choices. These threads are typically fine enough and strong enough.  

For those who are really new, I should say the aught system basically goes like this: the higher the number the finer (and all things being equal) the weaker the thread. An 18/0 Giorgio Benecchi thread is much more apt to break that a 10/0 of the same brand.

Conversely, 1/0 and 3/0 threads are for big flies where strength is truly needed and prominent heads are no big deal. 

Strength is also affected by the material the thread is made of. All things being equal GSP thread is stronger than a nylon thread, for instance. If you doubt that  compare your regular 6/0  nylon tying thread against 18/0 nano-silk one day.

Strength and thread diameter are two things you want in your favour. The former as high as it can get; the latter as thin as possible. Then there is the question of whether you can untwist the thread so it lays flat like a ribbon. That ability can provide a real advantage too, especially if you are trying to keep a smooth body or not cut a fragile material. Also, it's nice to be able to split a thread for dubbing. It's not always required but it's nice when you need it.

Lastly, there is price. You can spend a bit and get a thread that has exceptional qualities. Or you can buy two or three spools that work just fine but are a little less ideal.

The most useful article I have ever read on thread is by Martin Joergenson on Global Fly Fisher. Here's the link to it. It's all you ever wanted to know about thread but were afraid to ask. Enjoy it. Come on back. We stock many of the threads he's listed.

All the best,

Steve Galea


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