Welcome to Intermediate Fly Tying

Part Thirty-seven

Intermediate Fly Tying:

Stacked Hair Diver

By Al Campbell

I hope you practiced tying this week. I also hope you're not tired of deer hair bugs yet. We have a long way to go before we totally finish deer hair bass bugs. For the record, I'm having fun. I still enjoy watching the deer hair flare and watching as the razor and scissors reveal the product of creative hair work.

If you take a good look at frogs and many of the other critters living in and around bass ponds, you'll notice that they aren't just one color. They have several colors like white and green and yellow with spots and blotches of brown and black and even other shades of green added in for a type of camouflage. Actually, it's a combination of several colors that create what we refer to as a frog.

That's what we're going to do this time. We're going to combine several colors to create a distinctive shape and pattern common to many bass flies. Actually, it's easy to create islands of color in hair heads if you look at the fly from the inside out. Hmmm, maybe I need to explain that one a little.

When you stack and shape deer hair, you need to try to see the finished product as you apply the hair to the head. If islands of color are what you're trying to create, you need to see those islands in your mind's eye before you start adding hair to the hook. If you're trying to create a black bordered island of yellow in a sea of green, you need to see that island in your mind before you add any hair to the hook.

After you've gained the proper vision of the finished fly, all you need to do is add hair in the order required to achieve that vision. If you're trying to create an island of yellow bordered by black in a sea of green, the first thing you add to the hook is the sea of green hair. Next you add the border followed by the island of yellow. In other words, add hair in the desired colors from the outside to the inside of that island.

Remember that black spot of hair we created on the skirt of the first diver we tied? We tied the first color of hair to the hook, then we added another color (black) on top of that first color. That was called stacking hair. Remember? If you add one more color of hair on top of the second color, the second color becomes a border for the last color added.


In this view of the head of a diving bug, you can see islands of chartreuse hair bordered by black hair in a sea of golden olive hair. First a small patch of golden olive hair is stacked on the top of the hook by cinching the hair to the hook and letting it flare but not spin. Next a patch of black hair is stacked on top of the golden olive hair in the same manner. Finally, a patch of chartreuse hair is stacked on top of the black and everything is compressed tightly with a hair packer. When the hair is trimmed, you have an island of color bordered by another color, in a sea of the first color tied to the hook.

Sound complex? Hey, it isn't that hard. You'll be surprised by how easy you can do this. I'm betting that once you've mastered this technique, you'll have the confidence to tackle any tying technique I throw at you.

Remember, we're trying to master techniques, not learn patterns. Once you've mastered the technique, you can pick up any pattern book and use that technique to tie any fly in the book that uses the technique. This technique is used in Whitlock's hare water pup, his matuka sculpin and about a dozen frog patterns.

Let's see how well you do with islands of color. Come on now, you can do it.

List of materials: Stacked Hair Diving Bug

  • Hook: Wide gap bass bug hook. Mustad 37187, Tiemco 8089 or equivalent. Size: 1 to 10.

  • Thread: Red, olive, yellow, brown or black kevlar.

  • Tail: A mix of Widow's Web antron and saddle hackle. I also added a wisp of Gocha, a synthetic material that breathes like marabou, but doesn't retain water like marabou does. Yellow flashabou is also added for flash. Feathers were chosen in pairs. I'm using yellow and green dyed grizzly hackle. These are separated into two identical piles with the butts of the feathers aligned with each other; one bunch tied on each side of the hook.

  • Weed guard: Hard Mason monofilament.

  • Eyes: 4 to 8 mm doll eyes. Prismatic or painted eyes can also be used. The original divers didn't have eyes.

  • Head: Golden olive, black and chartreuse deer hair on top, bright yellow on bottom; trimmed to a diving bug shape. Many other colors work just as well, so experiment a little.

  • Legs: None. Some folks do add rubber hackle legs, but the original doesn't use them.

  • Tying steps:

  • 1. Use a lighter to melt the end of a piece of heavy monofilament creating a bump in the end of the monofilament. Tie the monofilament to the back of the hook. Continue wrapping the monofilament down around the bend of the hook with the thread. Return the thread to the starting point.

  • 2. Tie in the center of the tail using marabou or antron, flashy materials like crystal flash or flashabou and rubber hackle if desired. You can use any color or multiple colors if desired. Try not to make the tail too bulky.

  • 3. Add the tail feathers like you did in the simple diving bass bug; one bunch on each side of the hook, curvature outward.

  • 4. Spin a bunch of bright yellow deer hair in front of the tail. Be sure to get it tight. Then select a bunch of black hair and position it on top of the yellow hair.

  • 5. Stack the black hair like you did last time. Again, there are several ways to do this. To recount the procedure, you can loop the thread around the hair like we did when tying the comparadun wing, then pull the thread down tight. Or, you can hold the hair in place while you make several wraps of thread and pull the thread down tight. The most important thing is that the hair doesn't spin around the hook when you tie it down. Try both ways to see which one works best for you. Be sure to compress the hair with a hair packer when you have the stacking done.

  • 6. Next select another bunch of bright yellow deer hair and prepare to spin it. This time, place your thumb on top of the hook when you cinch the thread so the hair stays on the bottom of the hook. This will create a color on the bottom of the hook that is different than the colors you add to the top.

  • 7. Next stack a bunch of golden olive hair on the top of the hook. The amount of golden olive hair you use will determine how thick that island of color is.

  • 8. Next stack a patch of black hair and, if you wish, one or two extra colors on top of that.

  • 9. Compress the hair after you've added all the colors you want to add.

  • 10. Add another bunch of yellow hair to the bottom of the hook.

  • 11. Add another island of color to the top. Continue adding these bunches of hair in the same sequence until you have filled the hook. Try to keep the islands of color from working their way around the hook. Adjust the location of the hair by hand if needed.

  • 12. When you've finished filling the hook with compressed hair, tie off the thread and whip finish. Trim the thread and trim the hair head flat on the bottom.

  • 13. Next shape the rest of the head with the razor and scissors. When you have the head shaped to the shape you want, add the weed guard to the front of the hook.

  • 14. Glue on a pair of doll eyes with Zap-A-Gap. Apply head cement to the thread behind the hook eye and to the underside of the body and the hood.

  • 15. Your finished fly should look something like this from the front.

  • Were you surprised when the fly head was revealed by the razor and scissors? It wasn't as hard as you thought it would be, was it?

    Practice will make tying this type of fly easier with each fly you tie. Experiment with different colors and tail materials. This is supposed to be fun, so play around and try to enjoy it a little. You know, you just might get hooked on bass flies if you're not careful. The important thing is to practice and have fun.

    Until next week my friends, practice and have fun. See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer your questions, feel free to email me. ~ Al Campbell

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