Advanced Fly Tying:
Woven Hackle Flies
By Al Campbell
If I had to pick the one person who had the biggest impact on my style of tying,
it would have to be Franz Pott. His woven body flies were and are the basis
of many of my own patterns. The swept and/or hair hackle designs can be
seen in many of my personal creations like the SHWAPF and EZ Nymph
and many others.
In the late 1930's, a wig maker named Franz Pott patented a method
of weaving hair into a string of hair hackle. Knowing that even with a
patent his methods wouldn't be totally safe, he was very secretive about
his work. It didn't take long before others were devising methods to weave
hair hackles, but none could exactly match the weave of the master.
Another person who earned fame as a weaver of hair
hackle was George Grant. George was not a wig maker
by trade, but I'm guessing the techniques and tools
of that trade were part of the techniques he used
weaving hair hackles. In fact, I'll bet both Pott
and Grant adapted some of the techniques used in wig
making into their personal methods of weaving hackles,
but obviously their methods and backgrounds were different.
To add to the confusion in my brain, another gentleman from my home state
of Montana named Pete Sanchez developed a style of knotting hair that
produced a hackle similar to those of Pott and Grant. His flies were sold
all over the state when I was young, and most people just called them Potts
Flies thinking they were the originals that started the whole hair weaving craze.
As a youngster, I was privileged to watch an old man weaving hair hackles
for his business. At the time I was told he was Franz Pott, but after thinking
hard about it I have a doubt or two about the validity of that claim. The old
man lived in Missoula, Montana and tied in an old garage he had converted
into a fly factory. After hearing how secretive Franz was, I'm guessing I was
fooled by someone who thought it would be an easy way to make a young
kid happy. All I can tell you about the man is that he was old, impatient and
crabby; but he took the time to show me the Pott's body-weave and two
methods of weaving hair hackle. One was a simple knotted hackle used
by Sanchez and the other was a woven creation that used a wig maker's
tool (hair hook) to weave hair between three strands of thread.
Although I can't be certain I ever really met Franz Pott or that the weave I
refer to as the Pott's weave is really the original weave, I'll refer to that weave
here as the Pott's weave as I have all my fly-tying life. Even if it isn't the
original method, it is effective and easier to perform than the other two
methods of weaving.
This is an especially long segment that will likely take several reviews of each
part before you feel confident you have it right. If it helps, print the steps out
for review at the tying bench. I'll be showing you all three methods of weaving
hair hackles and two body weaves all in one segment. You choose the styles
of hair weaving you prefer, but it's also a skill builder to learn all of the styles.
One last thing; to my good friend Dan Rupert (Ol' Rupe), this bug's for you.
Call it a reward for all that hard work you have done trying to learn hair
Sandy Mite (easy version to show you how to weave the body) - List of materials:
Hook: Dry fly, Mustad 94840; Tiemco 100; or equivalent.
Thread: 6/0 or 3/0, black.
Body: Woven strands of fox squirrel tail hair and orange embroidery floss.
Hackle: Fox squirrel tail hair; an extension of the body hair.
1.Start the thread on the hook. Select a small bunch of fox squirrel tail hair from the tip of the tail (needs to be long enough to weave).
2. Trim the ends of the hair even.
3. Tie in the hair by the trimmed tips, securing it all the way
to the bend of the hook.
4. Tie in two strands of orange embroidery floss to the far
side of the hook, securing it all the way to the bend.
5. Make a wrap of hair around the hook. As it comes around
the bottom of the hook, loop the floss around the hair as shown.
6. Cinch the floss against the bottom of the hook; then repeat step 5.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have a complete, woven
body with the floss on the bottom.
8. Tie off the floss and hair. Trim the floss and secure the hair to just behind the eye of the hook.
9. Flare the hair back with your thumb and index finger, trying to keep it even on all sides.
10. Hold the hair in place while you build a head. Whip finish
and cement the head when you are finished.
11. Trim the hair a slightly past the bend of the hook.
12. Your finished fly should look like this when you are done.
(This is the way Dan Bailey's tiers tied this fly when I lived in Livingston, MT.)
Woven scud patterns use this same body weave. The fly pictured here uses
strands from a mallard breast feather for a tail, orange Larva Lace for the body
and 3 strands of ostrich herl woven in as legs. The weave is identical to that
of the mite flies; just the materials are changed.
Fizzle - (Just the body for now; the hackle will come later.)
List of materials:
Hook: Dry fly, Mustad 94840; Tiemco 100; or equivalent.
Thread: 6/0 or 3/0, black.
Body: Woven strands of pink fluorescent wool and peacock herl.
Hackle: We'll use a woven hackle later.
1. Tie in a strand of pink fluorescent wool, securing it all the way to the bend.
2. Tie in 2 or 3 strands of peacock herl to the top of the hook;
again, securing them all the way to the bend of the hook.
3. Make one complete wrap around the hook with the wool.
4. Make a wrap around the wool with the herl as shown.
Cinch the herl down toward the hook before you make another wrap of
wool. (This is the same weave as before, but on top of the hook.)
5. Repeat steps 3 & 4.
6. Each time you make a herl wrap, cinch the herl close to
the hook before you make another wrap of wool.
7. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have a complete, woven
body with the herl on the top of the body. Tie off the body far enough
back from the hook eye to leave room for the hackle.
8. Trim the body materials. We'll leave the fly here and
work on hackles. After we have created a few hackles, we'll return to
the fly and finish it with a woven hair hackle.
All weaves use the same materials.
List of materials:
Hair - Original patterns called for ox ear hair, European badger,
exotic monkey and other types of hair that are virtually impossible to obtain
today. Dyed badger hair (American) and hair from the mane of miniature
horses is a good substitute that is readily available. Make sure the hair is
at least 2 inches long so it can be handled easily. Cementing the bottoms
of the hair together will make each bunch of hair easier to handle.
Thread - At least 3/0, black or color similar to the hair color. (I'm
using bright thread so it will be visible in the photographs.)
Looms - You will need two boards (2X4 or 2X6 works well) about
10 inches long. On one pound two 16-penny nails about an inch apart in each
end. The other will require three nails the same size about an inch apart on each
end. If you want to make only one loom, make the six-nail loom and only use
four of the nails for the Grant and Sanchez weaves.
1. Set up a two-thread loom with 4 or 5 half hitches around
both strings to cinch them together on one end of the loom. Take a small
bunch of hairs (5 to 8 works best) and make a simple overhand knot in the
hair around one of the threads on the loom.
2. Cinch the hair knot tight against the half hitches you put
around the loom threads. Don't pull too tight or the hair will break off.
3. Pull the loose tag of thread over the hair knot and make
a half-hitch around both threads of the loom.
4. Cinch the half-hitch tight against the hair knot.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have as much hackle as
you want. Add several extra half-hitches at the end of every hackle bundle
to keep it secure on the loom thread.
1. Set up a two-thread loom like you did last time. Take a small
bunch of hairs (5 to 10 works best) and slip the tips of the hair between the
threads of the loom so that the hair is behind the top (right) thread and in font
of the bottom (left) thread. Adjust the length of the hair extending past the top
thread to the length of the hackle you wish to create, then pinch the hair to the
thread with your finger.
2. Fold the hair over the top thread and down in front of both
threads. Then fold the hair over and behind the bottom thread and bring it up
between the threads.
3. Next, fold the hair over the bottom thread again (so it makes
a loop completely around the bottom thread), then behind both threads, over
the top thread and down in front through the hair as it passed over the bottom
thread (forming a half-hitch). Did I lose you there? Me too. The picture shows
it completely, so study it hard.
4. Pull (gently so the hair doesn't break) on both ends of the hair
to tighten your weave, then cinch it against the knot in the thread loom.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have as much hackle as you
want. Each time you cinch the knot of hair against the previous bunch, tighten the
hair knot by hand so it will be secure.
6. Use your thumbnail to compress the hair knots on the loom
so your hackle will remain tight.
7. The knots will begin to look like the stem of a feather as
you progress along the thread.
8. When you have the amount of hackle you want, repeat the
weave one more time with a strand of thread, then add a couple half-hitches
to make it secure. Your hackle is now ready to trim from the loom and use
on a fly.
Pott's hackle weave:
* (Special note)* Franz Pott used a three thread loom and a hair hook
(wig maker's tool) to weave his hackles. You can find this tool at a beauty supply
house or beauty salon. The tool is commonly used to pull strands of hair through
a plastic cap for highlight dying of human hair. (My wife is a cosmetologist and dyes
a lot of hair this way, so I procured (stole) one of her metal hooks. The plastic
hooks work just as well and cost less.)
1. Set up a three-thread loom with a set of half-hitches near one end.
Leave a long tag of thread attached for use in the weave.
2. Thread a small bunch of hairs in front of the bottom (left) thread,
behind the middle thread and in front of the top (right) thread. Measure the
hair extending past the top thread for the length of hackle you want to create.
3. Next, fold the hair over the top thread and down behind all the threads.
4. Pinch this hair against the thread with your finger.
5. Thread the hook through the loom behind the top thread, in front of
the middle thread, behind the hair tips and behind the bottom thread. Hook the
long ends of the hair as shown.
6. Pull the hair through the loom with the hook. If you lose any of the hairs,
go back and pick them up with the hook and pull them through.
7. Pull the ends of the hair tight (not so tight you break the hairs), then
slide your hackle to the thread knot.
8. Make a half-hitch of thread on the far side of your hackle with the tag of
thread you left at the knot. (I let the hackle relax a little so you can see the
9. Cinch the half-hitch tight against the hair knot. Pull the tips of the
hair tight again so you have a nice, tight weave.
10. You can use this weave (or any of the weaves) to make hackles
from any stiff hair. You can also weave several hackles on the same loom at
Applying the Hackle:
1. Remove a hackle from the loom. (This is a Pott's style woven
2. Tie one end of your hackle string to the hook. Note that I left
plenty of room for the head.
3. Wrap the hackle with the tips of the hair pointing back toward
the bend of the hook. Tie the hackle off when you have it fully wrapped. (It
takes a little practice to know how much hackle you need in a string to go
completely around a hook one time.)
4. Trim the excess hair near the hook eye.
5. Build a smooth head and whip finish.
6. Note the knotted hackle?
7. Your finished fly should look similar to this. Each type
of hackle weave produces slightly different hackles, so they each look
different from the others to a slight extent.
A Sandy Mite with woven hackle would look like this.
Pott's style woven bodies can be used with many types of materials to produce
interesting bodies for hoppers, stoneflies, scuds and even mayflies and caddis
pupae. Experiment a while and see if you can adapt this weave to other flies.
Maybe a stimulator that uses a Pott's style body?
Woven hair hackles aren't common now like they were when I was young. That
doesn't mean they don't work, but with the time it takes to weave them, most people
don't bother to learn them. However, in fast water, these types of flies can be killers.
I've also had great success fishing these flies in lakes with a slow twitch. Folks
who live on the West Coast should try the fizzle on sea-run cutthroats. I tied a
few up for one of my uncles who live in the Portland area (Battle Ground, WA).
He says it's a killer fly they can't resist.
Well, there you go folks; a challenge that will test your skills and patience. Are
your skills up to the task? There's only one way to know for sure.
See ya next month - Remember, I'm always happy to answer
your questions, feel free to
email me. ~ Al Campbell
ADVANCED Fly Tying Archives
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