Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Five

An Introduction to Fly Tying,
Matarelli-style Whip Finishers
By Al Campbell

Whip finishers are probably the least used and least understood, basic tool in the average fly tyer's arsenal. This is the tool that creates the nice knot at the head of the fly that keeps the fly together. If your flies fall apart, it's most likely due to the whip knot you didn't do or didn't do right when you finished the fly.

Some fly tyers use their fingers to do a whip finish knot. Although this often provides an acceptable knot, it sometimes provides an un-acceptable knot. Since learning to use a whip finisher is one of the basic skills of fly tying, I'll show you how to use the tools right. I won't show you how to do a whip knot by hand, at least not until the series is over, and maybe not then. I'm convinced that this is one skill you must learn to do right to be as good a tyer as possible.

There are two main styles of whip finishers. One is the Matarelli and the other is the Thompson. (You might see a simple whip finisher; it functions the same as the Matarelli.) While I'm not certain of the origins of these tools, I think it's reasonable to assume they bear the names of their inventors. Both styles can be used on a variety of flies, but each style has specific benefits when used on certain types of flies.

This week we'll learn how to use the Matarelli whip finisher. This is the easiest of the two whip finishers to use. It can be used on a variety of flies, but it is much easier than the Thompson to use on bullet head, jig head, bead head, cone head and foam head flies. Any time you need to create a whip knot back away from the hook eye, this is the tool for the job.

Starting Thread

First, you need to know how to start the thread on the hook. This is done by holding the end of the thread in one hand and the bobbin in the other. Start winding the thread over itself as you wind it around the hook.

About three or four wraps should be sufficient. Be sure to keep the thread length short as it leaves the bobbin. You must use a bobbin to hold the thread if you want to have any realistic chance at tying quality flies.

Once you have the thread started, grab your Matarelli whip finisher, hold it hook end down and hook the thread with the hook of the whip finisher as shown in the picture.

Wrap the thread around the whip finisher as shown. It should look like an upside-down 4 if you've done it right. Don't apply much pressure to the thread, just enough to keep it slightly tight.

Next start rotating the whip finisher clockwise around the hook. Again, don't apply much pressure to the thread, just enough to remove any slack in the thread. Continue to wrap the thread with the whip finisher, allowing thread to be pulled into the knot as needed. If you have too much pressure on the bobbin, the thread will bind up and won't feed into the knot as needed.

After you've made four to seven wraps, lift the whip finisher as shown in the picture above.

Let the thread slide off the bump in the whip finisher, keeping slight tension on the thread.

Pull the bobbin away from the hook and pull the whip finisher to the hook. Once the whip finisher is pulled to the hook, you can pull it out of the thread.

You'll need to practice this whip finish knot a few dozen times to rivet it to your memory. Start with a bare hook and practice, practice, practice. When you've built up a bump, strip the hook with a razor blade and start over.

By next week you should have this one under your belt. Then we'll learn a completely different type of whip finisher. So, if you don't want to have confusion factor six at work in your mind, practice using this tool until you have it committed and drilled into your memory.

See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

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