Fly-tying For Beginners Part 2: The F-Fly

Classic, traditional dry flies can give even experienced fly-tyers nightmares. However, the good news is that one of the deadliest of all modern floating flies is an absolute cinch to tie, even for beginners. In this new mini series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, fishing author Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the F-Fly.

Tying your own flies

The F-Fly is easy to tie, even for beginners

The F-Fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For anyone who has inspected beautifully tied trout flies, it can be both an inspiring and deflating experience. All those perfect little wings and legs, insanely accurate proportions and elegant touches.

As a lump of a man with hands as delicate as garden shovels, I’m living proof that even the less dextrous among us can create neat, effective flies with the right equipment. When you’re just beginning, things like realistic wings can wait. Lovely though they are, you don’t need such details to catch fish. In fact, you could happily catch more than your fair share with just a small number of very basic flies. The F-Fly is definitely one on my shortlist.

The simplest of dry flies ever!

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So how basic are we talking? Well, clever old stick Marjan Fratnik must have got very few ooohs and ahhhhs when he first hit upon his excellent dry pattern, the F-Fly. In fact, the more likely response was probably “um… is that it?” or “have you been getting your five-year-old nephew to tie your flies again, Marjan?”

The F-Fly is a simple combination of thread or dubbing body, with a really basic wing made of CDC feathers. It’s the latter that are the real secret. Not only do the natural oils and structure of the feathers from a duck’s backside float beautifully, they also look lovely and move well.

Of course, being less complicated than a Eurovision song contest entry also has its advantages. With such a simple blueprint, you can tailor the sizes and colours really easily. And you can tie them so quickly you’ll have loads of spares and can spend even more time fishing. Complete win!

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Dry fly size 12-22
Thread: Black or colour of your choice
Dubbing: Fine dry fly dubbing
Wing: Natural CDC

How to tie the F-Fly: step-by-step

The F-Fly is a very versatile pattern indeed. It works in many sizes and colours. Perhaps the most useful sizes are 14 to 18. Practising your first efforts with a hook no larger than a 14 makes sense though, as you can always get finer as you get the hang of it.

As for the ingredients, you don’t need to stock up on many materials. You can by Cul-de-canard feathers in various colours, but you could do just fine with standard, natural CDC (a greyish beige colour). The only other colour I usually bother with is white. As for body colours, you could use any fine dubbing. Stripped quill also looks lovely – or you could simply use thread for smaller flies. I’ve chosen natural CDC, with a black body, because “smallish and black” is such a universally useful blueprint on both rivers and stillwaters.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight. Trim off the loose end to keep things tidy.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

Further F-Fly tips and variations

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

This fly is so universally useful, it’s hard not to love it. Just keep it simple and tidy, and you can’t go wrong. That said, it can be tied in various sizes and colours for different scenarios. It’s a belter for trout and salmon, but in smaller sizes I also love this fly for dace and other small-mouthed coarse fish. The materials are so soft that even delicate feeders will suck it in with ease!

My favourite twists are:

  • Step up to a size 12 or even a 10 and use rougher dubbing (such as hare’s ear) and you have a lovely, simple but lively caddis fly.
  • Or, for low, clear water or where you find tiny insects, the F-Fly is simple enough to dress a 20-24 hook! Dark colours are great for gnats, while a tiny green-bodied fly is superb as a greenfly.

Happy tying and fishing!

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.