Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

November 2nd, 1998

Whip Finish Without Tools!

Al Campbell, who writes our Beginning Fly Tying series, (among other articles) gave me a really bad time. All in good humor of course, but the subject had to do with the fact I've never learned how to use a Whip Finisher.

Al was working on the photos and instructions for teaching how to use whip finishers, and felt I really should know how to do that. Fair statement on his part, but on the other hand, I've never been in a position where I could not get the proper job done by hand.

So for those of you who never learned to do it the "hard way" - listen up. It isn't the hard way at all. It is the "original way!" And, believe it or not, some folks still think doing things the 'original' or old traditional way is the best. That ought to start an arguement or two.

With a lot of help from my friend Harry Salmgren in Sweden, (he is Editor in Chief of the Wilderness News/Vildmarks Nytt Magazine. and you can also find him in Bignami Fine Fishing Magazine as the Swedish Fly Fishing Editor,) here are his photos and text from the English translation of his website. Our sincere thanks to Harry.

"Some years ago, I had the pleasure of being taught how to make that excellent finishing knot, the Whip Finish, with just my hands."

"For the avid fly fisherman searching for the right knot to match the hatch, this one tied just with the hands, is perfect. No need for any hassle with too many tools while stalking the trout. Even very small flies can be finished with this finger trick. You don't have to worry anymore about forgetting the traditional Whip Finish Tool when you know this finishing technique" says Harry Salmgren, inviting you to try it for yourself."

Please note: After a first read through, scroll down to bring up the next photo in the sequence at the speed of your choice. Viewed in this manner the photos give a simulated movement to the fingers tying the Finger Whip Finish.

The photos from one to nine show positions and finger settings for tying the whip finish accompanied by descriptive text.

The sequence for tying the Whip Finish using only the fingers, is illustrated with photos below. To make the moves easier to see and understand the hook and thread are oversize and should be viewed in a flowing sequence.

Fig 1
Fig 1: After the first half hitches to secure the thread, two fingers(index and ring finger) are placed on the tight thread.

Fig 2
Fig 2: By keeping the fingers spread, the thread is doubled back so the thread forms a large tight loop with the help of the fingers.

Fig 3
Fig 3: By using the ring finger as the leading finger, the loop is threaded over the hook shank. The thread is kept taut with the other hand.

Fig 4
Fig 4: This will result in a half hitch and also will allow the outspread fingers and the hand to turn inside it back to the original position in the first figure (fig 1).

Then again, and again...

Fig 5
Fig 5: For additional turns of thread, just repeat the motions as shown in Figure 3 and 4. See below.

Fig 6: The ring finger and index finger wind the thread keeping the loop open with the fingers spread once again...

Fig 7
Fig 7: Every repetition results in a new turn of the thread.

Fig 8
Fig 8: Finish the rotating motions by sliding one of the fingers out of the loop. Then tighten the loop....

Fig 9
Fig 9: ...until it tightens completely. Trim off and finish with a drop of head cement.

The Finger Whip is fairly easy to learn, perhaps easier than whipping the computer!

If you still can't quite get it, there is an an animated version of the method on Harry's website.

Both JC and I use this method. It has served us well. ~ Deanna Birkholm

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