Q & A Section, Part 2

Q. The information I've read on matching up gut size and the number of strands of gut to use on blind eye hooks often refer to smaller hooks and larger hooks. I'm just beginning and I'm not sure when to use small gut vs large gut. What are the guidelines for hook sizes beginning at 5, going clear up through 8/0, as to how many strands of gut and what size gut to use? Should the gut strands match the hook shank size? Clueless in Medford, Dale.

A. The answer is pretty subjective. I always use three strands of silkworm gut tightly twisted together after soaking over night and knotted at either end. When I use a "size" I will be referring to the sizes that Alec Jackson sells. As with hooks "sizes", silkworm gut size varies by the source.

When I tie for display, I almost always use a Japanese small size, either "medium" or "fine." Medium looks best on 4/0 through 8/0, and fine on everything smaller. I only tie the silkworm about 1/2" back from the eye. This results in a very small head and no lumps in the body. However, it produces a fly that cannot be fished.

If I want a more traditional look that might actually be fished, then I go to Alec's "diamond drawn Spanish silkworm gut." The Spanish is heavier. In order to fish, the gut must underlay the fly about 4/5ths of the body length. It must be flattened and smoothed in order to avoid lumps in the body. There are some good books that show different techniques.

I do not like to fish silkworm gut eyed hooks, because the stuff breaks down too quickly, but that is a matter of preference. If I fish a soft eyed (as opposed to metal) hook, then I use one of those modern synthetic woven lines, like Spiderwire. It lasts longer and it's much tougher per unit diameter than silk. Typically I use a triple overhand braid of about 15# stuff for the eye and double it along ~ 4/5ths of the body leaving enough of a loop in front of the hook for an eye. The hook should be coated with thread before the eye is applied and cement should be applied to the lashed down eye for its length. I treat it with flexible head cement after lashing it to the hook and form an eye with a bodkin as the cement dries. That leaves an eye that a tippet can go through and is somewhat stiff. I hope that this helps! ~ Dave

A. Dale, my answer is much the same as Dave's. I use vintage Japanese "silk gut" most of the time. It is not gut like the Spanish that Dave speaks about above but was sold as such and handles much the same and the finished look is nearly identical. I have this material in many sizes from very fine up to very big. I like to use a gut eye that has the twisted gut about the same diameter as the hook shank or slightly smaller. This balances the look better than if one used a small gut loop on a large wire. I mostly use two strand twisted gut but also have some that I braided and other multi strand as well. Actually, I have also used whale baleen, horse hair, and mono, fly line backing and other materials depending on my mood. All but the backing would be reserved for fishing flies for the reason Dave mentioned. My fully dressed flies are not fished so I can use whatever I want. Most of my flies are in the 7/0 to 9/0 extra length hook sizes with much larger ones not uncommon. On these, I use very large gut compared to what most other tyers use. ~ Ronn

Please send your questions or information to me at rlucas@cybcon.com, by mail to:
Ronn Lucas, Sr.
13535 SE Beech
Milwaukie OR 97267
or, by phone at 503-654-0466.

~ Ronn

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