Beyond the basics: A few more twists for the overhand weave
by Russ Forney

“Mastering the Overhand Weave” appeared in the 2008 issue of Hatches magazine and introduced many new tiers to the overhand weave; a versatile technique for building durable, segmented fly bodies. There are many more variations of the overhand weave beyond those described in Hatches; the technique is remarkably flexibility and adaptive. For example, supplementing a strand of the weaving threads with a strand of colorful flash material produces a novel look in the resulting weave pattern with the added sparkle of the flash. Similarly, alternating knot placement above and below the hook shank breaks the color pattern into long segments along the length of the woven body. The overhand weave is a wonderfully creative platform, bounded only by imagination and practice. 

The accompanying fly weaving steps are illustrated with black and white thread to enhance the visual presentation. Several finished flies are also pictured, examples of how these variations are incorporated into a fly design. The Hatches article covered the fundamentals for constructing woven fly bodies; you might find it useful to review the basic steps for constructing an overhand weave before tackling these alterations. 

Adding a stripe 

Weaving a strand of flash, thread, or floss between the alternating overhand knots yields a stripe down the back, or dorsal surface, of a woven fly body. The technique incorporates extra color into a woven body, emphasizing sparkle or contrast in the finished fly. You can moderate the amount of color introduced into the pattern by varying the width of the third weaving strand or overlapping more than one knotted segment (see the finished woven emerger fly for an example of “over two, under one”). This is also a good way to add more vibrant hues into a subdued color scheme because the tier controls the amount of color that appears in the final weave. Emerger flies suspended from the surface film often benefit from a bit of flash or bold color. You may find the woven stripe along the top of the hook shank enhances a fly's appeal to fish feeding on naturals. 

Bringing the third (and fourth) string off the bench 

You can add an extra strand of flash material or metallic thread together with one of the weaving threads and then constructing the overhand weave on the hook shank. The added color embellishes the segmented appearance of the resulting weave and produces distinct highlights. The accompany photographs show how a strand of red flash added to the black weaving thread produces a shimmer-enhanced body that draws attention to the woven pattern. The technique can be further expanded by using two supplemental strands of flash, red and pearlescent metallic thread as shown in the pictures. The added material produces considerably more flash in the woven body, while retaining the knotted lateral edges and distinct segments characteristic of the overhand weave. 

You might find it helpful to twist the weaving thread slightly with its corresponding strand of flash. The slight twist snugs the flash up against the weaving thread and keeps the thin flash material from being buried beneath the heavier weaving thread. The operative term is “slight”; adding too much twist to the weaving thread can cause kinks to form as you tighten the overhand knots. A contrasting or complementary thread color can be substituted for the flash and the resulting weave will exhibit a mottled appearance - an exciting option for woven nymphs. 

Over, under, and in between 

The basic overhand weave is constructed with each knot split around the hook shank. However, the knots can instead be tightened above and below the hook shank in an alternating fashion. The resulting weave lacks the prominent lateral lines produced by the split knots and the consistent positioning of the top and bottom coloration, but does contribute an attractive color banding to the woven pattern. 

I fish a little spring creek in northeastern Wyoming that has a sandy bottom. Caddis larvae incorporate sand into their cases, making a rough textured, light brown case speckled with shinny bits of rock and silt. Combining the over-and-under knot weave with a couple of strands of flash makes a very effective “peek-a-boo” cased caddis larvae imitation. The cased portion of the fly is underlined with lead-free wire; the weighted body and terminal bead quickly drop the fly to the bottom of the water column. The color and length of the yellow chenille larva are slighted exaggerated, making a better presentation for off-color water or to attract the attention of feeding fish. 

The venerable overhand weave is a time-honored method for building fly bodies and is easily mastered with a little practice at the tying bench. And though it has been in the tier's kit bag for many years, the overhand weave is as fresh and unique as your imagination. A few new twists and some bright materials turn this conventional technique into unconventional patterns. 

Photo Captions (all photographs by Russ Forney): 

Black and white threads are used to make the basic overhand weave while the smaller red thread is alternated between overhand knots. Notice how the red thread forms a broken stripe along the top of the hook shank. 


This woven Adams paraloop emerger has a shiny blue stripe along the top of the fly, the result of weaving two strands of blue flash material between the overhand knots forming the segmented body. 


At larger magnification you can see how the double strands of blue flash overlap two consecutive knotted segments, and are then are pulled under a single knot. The “over two, under one” with a double strand of flash allows more of the material to show in the finished fly. 


A strand of red flash has been added to the black weaving thread and the pair is treated as a single strand for the purpose of the overhand weave. The overhand knot is formed with the white thread on top of the black/red combination. 


The overhand knot is split around the hook shank with the black/red strand going over the shank and the white thread below. 


The knot is then tightened around the hook shank, just like the basic overhand weave. Tighten the black/red pair as a single strand. 


Notice how the red flash highlights the black top portion of the weave; the flash is also visible in the lateral edge of the weave. 


This nymph was woven with a strand of olive tying thread added to the light brown weaving strand forming the top (or back) of the nymph body. Notice how the olive thread appears along with the tan segments, adding a subtle highlight to the finished pattern that enhances the segmented appearance of the abdomen.  


Two supplemental strands of flash, one red and one pearlescent, are added to the black and white threads. An overhand knot is tied with the white/pearlescent pair on top of the black/red pair as the knot is formed. 


Split the overhand knot around the shank, black/red on top and white/pearlescent on the bottom. Slowly tighten the thread pairs to avoid breaking the thin flash strands. 


The finished weave is highlighted with red flash on top, accompanying the black thread, and pearlescent on the bottom of the abdomen. Notice how both flash colors appear along the lateral lines, alternating segments. The resulting pattern has considerably more flash than the single-stranded version. 


An overhand knot is formed as with the basic weaving technique, white over black. 


The knot is not split around the shank; instead it is tightened on top of the hook. 


 

The next knot is tied below the shank and tightened under the hook. 


The finished weave lacks the distinct lateral lines of the split-knot overhand weave. Notice the black and white stripes along the length of the woven body. 


This cased caddis larvae features the over/under overhand knot sequence with a strand of flash added to each of the weaving threads. The cased was woven with two light brown strands of nylon thread, one supplemented with blue flash and the other with orange flash. The final woven body resembles the sandy colored cases made by caddisfly larvae in a local stream. Tumbling along the bottom of that creek, this caddis pattern is a trout magnet.

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