End-of-the-Day Flies by Russ Forney

Step-by-Step Tutorials — By on August 4, 2011 9:13 am

Who knew trash was good for the soul?

I am amazed how quickly bits of fluff, feathers, hair, and thread fill the nylon bag fastened to my tying bench. Odds and ends clipped from flies tied earlier in the day now litter the waste bag – a fuzzy mound of scraps and snippets that marks the end of a tying day. But before you empty your trim bag into the kitchen trash, consider recycling the trimmings in a dubbing loop and make buggy-looking bodies for your favorite patterns.

Recycling materials from the trash bag is not a new idea, but it might be unfamiliar territory for novice tiers. I watched a demonstration tier at a fly fishing show several years ago dub a nymph body from assorted tufts of hair and hackle harvested from the waste bin at his tying station. A tightly wound dubbing loop and judicious scissor work produced an attractive fly, far beyond anything I imaged emerging from the clippings left by previous tiers.

End-of-the-day flies are an attractive blend of textures and hues, a mishmash of trash spun into a surprising palette of colors. Recycling throw-away materials may not be the ideal approach for matching specific insects destined for single-minded fish, but the chance blend of flash, hair, and assorted fly-lint is a ready source of body material for flies you might fish between hatches. I was pleased to discover that high country trout are reliably susceptible to caddis patterns tied with a concoction of discarded elk hair, peacock herl, and poly yarn.

While it is hard to predict exactly what you might find in the trim bag after a few sessions at the vise, you will be pleased with the creative combinations that accumulate in the trash: elk hair with flecks of Antron, snippets of ostrich and peacock, chenille and marabou, and the tag ends of hackle whittled down to unusable lengths. The trash bin is a treasure trove of imagination and surprise.

The recycling process is straight-forward. Make a generous dubbing loop with your tying thread and fill it with small amounts of liter from your waste bag. Spin the loop into a dubbing brush and wrap an abdomen or body segments. Finish the fly to meet your needs – down wing, legs, emerging wing buds, a stiff collar – and enhance the visual signature and silhouette of the pattern. I particularly enjoy making caddis patterns from recycled trash, the coarse dubbing and scraggly finish are a great platform for crafting bead headed emergers and cased larva.

The accompanying tying sequence illustrates the basic steps for twirling a dubbing brush from a trash-filled loop. I use a moderately tacky wax to help hold the makeshift dubbing in the thread loop and use a dubbing whirl to control the dubbing brush. You might find it helpful to cut the waste material into smaller pieces to make it easier to maneuver into the dubbing loop and then stroke each turn of the dubbing brush back toward the tail of the fly to make room for the next wrap.

Once you are satisfied with your dubbing work, tie off the loop and trim away the excess. You can tease out trapped hairs and fibers with a stiff-bristled toothbrush and then sculpt the body with a pair of fine-tipped scissors. If you decide your end-of-the day flies need hackle, wings, or legs, the discarded remnants of these appendages add to the mix in the trim bag, supporting a perpetuating system of renewal.

I have occasionally selected specific portions of trash to add to a fly, just the right bit of fluff to please my eye. But random and well-mixed are the operative terms when scavenging from the waste bag. Besides, diving into fly tying rubbish to fill a dubbing loop is not a sophisticated technique; it is a time to have fun and enjoy the chance encounters you find in your trim bag.

About the only way to go wrong when prospecting in the trash bag is being too picky about the materials you scoop into your loop. I ignore the peanut shells, empty thread spools, chewing gum, and pieces of wire and hard plastic in the mass of trash, but try not to be too fussy when sampling from a pile of discarded trimmings. Elevating trash into a fishy art form takes imagination and a “what the heck” attitude; presorting debris into discrete materials adds an unnecessary step and diminishes the unpredictable surprises found in randomly mixed scraps.

Tying flies with material from your waste bag is a great way to end the day or, quite literally, pick up what you left off the next time you sit down at the vise. It has the economic benefit of getting a few more flies for your tying dollar, but the pleasure of fooling a fish with your cleverly recycled waste is the real payoff. End-of-the-day flies are a celebration of trash, ingenuity, and fun.

And fun is good for the fly tier’s soul.

(Author’s note: Thanks to my wife for sharing her “end-of-the-day” concept; a method she uses when pooling the remnants of her knitting yarn.)

Recipe for the Trash Bag Caddis:
Hook: Curved emerged hook, sizes 10-16
Thread: Black, 6/0 or 3/0 nylon
Head: Brass bead, color of choice
Body: The lower (abdomen) portion is wrapped with a dubbing brush made from recycled material in the trash bag at your tying vise; the upper (thorax) portion is coarse dubbing in the color of your choice
Legs (optional): Dark hackle fibers
Collar (optional): Ostrich herl

Tying instructions:
Step 1. Begin by securing the tying thread to the hook and wrap a smooth underbody. This pattern is a cased caddis and is weighted with a brass bead.

Step 2. Add a thread dubbing loop at the rear of the fly. A 4 inch loop is easy to handle and large enough for dubbing flies in the 6-16 range. After the loop is anchored, advance the tying thread forward and let it hand behind the hook eye.

Step 3. Open the dubbing loop and rub a moderately tacky wax onto the thread with your fingers; the slight adhesion helps hold the scraps and snippets in place while you are filling the loop. Grab a pinch or two from the trim bag and fill the loop. The accompanying photograph shows a dubbing whirl inserted in to the loop and the loop has been spun a couple of times to hold the material in place for the picture.

Step 4. Now you can let the weight of the whirl draw the loop down and then you can then spin the whirl to make a tight dubbing brush. Wrap the dubbing brush in touching turns, making a segmented body. The mishmash of liter looks unruly, stroking each turn of dubbing back toward the tail of the fly makes room for the next wrap.

Step 5. Once you have dubbed the body, tie down the dubbing brush and trim away any excess. A toothbrush can be used to dislodge trapped fibers and align wayward hairs. Now you can trim the dubbed body with a pair of sharp scissors to achieve the desired shape.

Step 6. Finish the pattern as you would like. I used dark hackle legs and tan dubbing to make a caddis larvae emerging from its case.

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  1. Jan Korrubel says:


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  2. Dunamis says:

    Cant get much buggier than that! I need me some wax!

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  3. Lincoln says:

    I remember a time up on the Salmon River NY when after a days fishing we sat around the table and tied flies. I brought no tying material or tools, so using the scraps of materials acccumulated in a pile of the table, I tied flies and a “non tier” claimed they would work great on the Skamania that make a summer run. Just brings back memories.

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  4. Bisson says:

    efficace partout

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  5. Michael says:

    Reminds me of when I was in scouts… I took a bare hook and pieces of grass and dressed it with wings to catch a perch. Use what you have!

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  6. david says:

    And here I thought I was the only one to do this. I guess great minds really DO think alike.

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