Composite Dubbing Loops on Steelhead Flies – Part I

Here we go, laying down a composite dubbing loop at the fly bench.

Here we go, laying down a composite dubbing loop at the fly bench.

Salmon season is past me and it’s time to shift gears into winter steelhead fishing. Eeeeeek!

What to do?  Fish last year’s hot steelhead fly?  Why do that when I can dive into something different and challenge myself by developing this year’s hot fly.  Ok, here we go. Deep breath—just start writing about what I’ve been tying and it will be alright. For the heck of it, I tried to figure out when I shot videos featuring composite dubbing loop on Intruder-style flies. I thought I had referred to one of the flies as the Last Shadow, a ripoff from Avatar, and googled it.

Oh my gosh, it was six (count ‘em) SIX YEARS ago! the 2010 winter steelhead season was a time when I tied a lot—one of the  videos at least featured building a composite dubbing loop using a Petitjean Magic Tool Clip set.

Well, this is 2016, and this first post of the year will ramble a little on a complex subject—namely—composite dubbing loops. Back in 2010 I was barely getting started constructing composite loops, and I still consider myself a raw novice compared to the likes of Jerry French. His Youtube videos are excellent and have helped me improve on my technique. Jerry’s loops are so good that I’ve been reluctant to write a post or shoot any video on this topic, but decided that my notes and observations might help add to the thoughts that Jerry shares in his videos.

First, Ill mention some of the basic tools and materials I’ve found useful.

OPST Dubbing Spinner; OPST Dumbell Shanks; OPST Swing Hooks, OPST trailer wire; OPST Barred Ostrich; Senyo’s Predator Wrap; Ice DUB; Danville 210 D thread; Double pupil lead eyes; Steve Farrar SF Blend; EP Craft Fur Brush; EP Game Change Blend.

Thread: I had been using the Danville 210 D thread all season on my Clousers and Jerry seems to like it for his loops also. I’ve not broken this thread, suppose it is possible, and other threads probably work well too, but this one is definitely good.

Cement: I have shifted gears back to Super Glue Brush on in many stages of my Intruders and find that it is great if I am careful with it. My alternative is a standard pentrator head cement.

Dubbing Wax: I use the softest, stickiest wax available, usually The Wapsi  formula or a similar provided by Hareline.

Shanks: I tie with the Senyo’s Shanks and the OPST Dumbell Shanks, depending on whim. Both are great and quite different. I suggest you try both and see what you prefer on individual flies.

Terminology: I apologize but this will not be the definitive source of nomenclature. It would be impossible for me to do more than abscond with the terminology that Jerry French uses with ease as he ties exquisite composite dubbing loops to form bodies, butts, shoulders, hackles and so forth.

In subsequent posts (if any) I’m likely to use terms like substrate, substance, poof,  motion, filler, buggy, less is more, 50/50, 60/40, presence, translucence, and so forth.

Laying down a base for the loop: Jerry recommends Ice Dub and I concur although you may find other materials as well. A ver light base layer about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide will suffice.

Adding buggy materials: I’ve been liking the look of Senyo’s barred predator wrap, and adding Lady Amherst to the mix also. Not too much. Jerry brushes his materials often, and  when I have done so myself I like the effect because it helps separate and tame the materials as I place them on the pile.

Creating loft: I found that adding a light layer of materials like the Steve Farrar Blend or EP Game Changer UV blend significantly enhances the stiffness of the composite loop. These fibers in the right amount act much like polar bear guard hairs and help keep the light materials like ostrich and predator wrap from collapsing around the hook.

Flash in the mix: I like Ice dub like steelie blue and copper ICE DUB here. These are long flashy fibers. You could just add flashabou or krystal flash also, but I like the solid ICE DUB materials better.

Scrim: Jerry uses this term (I think) to denote both the base and finish layer of just a little dubbing that helps bind the longer fibers. Jerry uses Turkey Tail fibers too but to date I’ve only used Lady Amherst.

I’m about to crawl out of my skin sitting here writing, knowing that I want to go fishing today. So—knowing full well that this is not the end of the story, Im going to throw in a series of photos of complex dubbing loops I’ve used recently, with finished flies too.

I hope to follow up with more on this topic, but suffice for now, the flies tied with these materais look and swim very nicely.

Tying on tubes?  Yep. These flies swim very well tied on tubes also.

Six dang years?  Where did the time go?

Three composite loops laid out on desk.

Four composite loops laid out on desk.

Pink color hue composite materials.

Pink color hue composite materials.

Green and black color hues in this composite blend.

Green and black color hues in this composite blend.

Got the spin thing going, the OPST Dubbing tool is really nice.

Got the spin thing going, the OPST Dubbing tool is really nice.

Got a fold going here to manage while winding.

Got a fold going here to manage while winding.

All wound and picked out on OPST Dumbell shank.

All wound and picked out on OPST Dumbell shank.

Never overlook the power of the Bunny Strip.

Never overlook the power of the Bunny Strip.

Tasty.

Tasty.

This fly features Tungsten Predator eyes and black topping.

This fly features Tungsten Predator eyes and black topping.

Pink?

Pink?

Olive is a most under-appreciated winter steelhead fly color.

Olive is a most under-appreciated winter steelhead fly color.

That is about all I can muster folks, got to hit the water. Wish me luck please.

Jay Nicholas, January 2016

PS: many tyers are more experienced than I am at this process. My loops are rough and I am getting better slowly. One of my main themes in creating this post is to encourage beginning tiers to give this process a try. I thank Jerry and Ben and Ed and Trevor for the tips they have provided through OPST in their many videos. Fact is, these guys are really good at wiring with these composite dubbing loops. I on the other hand, am struggling, and I invite everyone who is so inclined to join in the fray because the results are good even when executed in less than expert manner.

Now I gotta go swing some flies!

Final note: swung the pink fly pictured above for two hours on January 6th, and got a grab! Six seconds of exhilaration and then—gone. It’s all good. I’ll be back at it shortly.

 

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8 Responses to Composite Dubbing Loops on Steelhead Flies – Part I

  1. two dogs says:

    Great write, Jay. Thanks again for your sharing.

  2. garthman says:

    please, for those of us who are behind the learning curve on this technique, would you identify the materials (in order of putting them in the pile) for one of your composites? and, do you have any tips on how to trasnfer the pile from the desk top to the dubbing loop? thanks

  3. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Thanks for asking, and yes, I will follow with the information you requested. short story on the order of adding materials is this: 1) lay down base of substrate like ice dub; 2) lay down filler like Senyo’s Barred Predator wrap but make sure it is trimmed and not too long; 3) add material that will create motion like Ostrich or pheasant; 4) add a hint of flash like a solid ice dub in copper or blue; 5) finish with very sparse layer of binder/scrim. As for transferring to the loop, I’ve been able to pick up the entire wad in my left hand and move it to the loop. The loop must be waxed. The wads I’m referring to are about 2.5 inches long. You may want to try using a clamp like the Petitjean or similar to place your material. More will follow on these loops shortly. Thanks again for your question, and be assured I am struggling with the same issues of which you ask. JN

  4. David Swart says:

    Great article Jay as usual,living in the Oregon Outback don’t get to stellie fish as often as I want,but,thinking the olive or a peacock version would be a great addition to my streamer box for the local Redband Rainbows during the spring & high water,tight lines & bent rods friend.

  5. two dogs says:

    I bet that if your fly had been purple it would have hit hard to keep that fish! Good luck!

  6. Doublebluff says:

    I am also amazed you can pick it up! Without it turning random and unparallel…

  7. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Dave, I tie this fly with green and olive hints in the dubbing loop hackle and use black barred olive rabbit for the wing. East or west of the Cascades, olive is a winner summer and winter. Thanks man, looking forward to seeing you. JN

  8. zac says:

    Love your articles, never get board whit them and they keep me coming back. Already looking forward to the next one! Have you tried the Veevus Power Thread for this yet?

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