Furl and Flash Flies

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

To “Furl” is too roll up, a nautical term that had its origins in the 1500s. Furling sails on booms or yardarms was the method of securing and protecting sails when not in use. When it comes to fly fishing, we are all familiar with “furled leaders”. My introduction to furled flies was when I started tying Walter Wiese’s “Prom Queen” several years ago. Although I’ve never seen it in print, there is a 2008 book by Ken Hanley entitled “Tying Furled Flies” so the technique is not new. In an epiphany moment last fall, I attempted to add some flash to the furled body of a Prom Queen. After a few attempts, I settled on a technique that I’ve expanded to a whole range of patterns.

The act of furling a fly body is relatively easy. Take two strands of equal length yarn (or equivalent material, ultra chenille works well) and twist them tightly until they begin to bind. Then grasp the middle of the twisted strands while holding both ends and allow the strands to twist back on themselves. You now have a furled body that can be attached to the hook shank. My epiphany was adding a third stand of flash material before twisting. After I few experiments, I found Wapsi’s Palmer Chenille to be the ideal flash material to incorporate in the furled body. Once a furled body is created, it is secured to the hook shank at the front third of the hook. After that, other materials can be added to create a wide variation of patterns. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to fish all the different Furl and Flash patterns I’ve created, those I have fished have been productive.

Once you master the basic technique of furling a fly body with flash, you quickly discover that you can create all manner of medium to large sized flies—both topwater and subsurface—with furl and flash bodies. The options are many.

  • Just about any type and color of yarn or typical chenille can be used to create monochrome or bicolored bodies.
  • When palmer chenille is added it can be left unclipped for a heavy flash effect or tightly trimmed for a more subtle flash effect.
  • Multistrand yarns can be untwisted to create smaller diameter material and small diameter bodies.
  • Foam can be added at the front of the fly to create floating patterns (polypropylene floating yarns can be used to furl bodies that enhance buoyancy).
  • Beads or cones can be used to create typical large nymph patterns.

There are several advantages to a furl and flash body fly. The most significant is the ease of tying. Two or three steps. Furl and attach the body. Add necessary material to the front of the fly. Another advantage is that you can downsize your hooks. A two-inch long fly doesn’t need a long hook. Flash, subtle or otherwise is distributed along the entire body of the fly in harmony with whatever color or colors you’ve chosen for the yarn or chenille making for excellent low visibility water conditions.

Here’s a gallery of some of the flies that I’ve put together using the furl and flash technique. The nymphs and San Juan worms have produced exceptionally well this Spring. I have no doubt the topwater patterns will produce this summer.

Years ago, a guide friend of mine described the perfect fly. It must be easy to tie; it must be durable, and it must catch fish. Furl and flash flies fit that bill. Once you master the furling technique, flies tied with furled bodies are quick and easy. They are durable and at least the patterns I’ve put to work have proven to me that they catch fish.

4 thoughts on “Furl and Flash Flies

  1. Jerry Caraviotis

    “Then grasp the middle of the twisted strands while holding both ends and allow the strands to twist back on themselves. You now have a furled body that can be attached to the hook shank.”
    Not sure I totally understand that statement Mike. You grab the middle while still holding both ends, and they then twist into one (doubled) body?

    Reply
    1. Mike Cline

      Exactly right. Try it with two lengths of yarn ~ 8″ long. I use hackle pliers to hold both ends. I grasp one end with my knees and twist the other with both hands. When the twist is very tight, grasp the length of yarn in the middle and release tension on the ends. The yarn will furl (double itself quickly). Then you just need to adjust the twist to smooth out. I know some guys that do all with their hands but I prefer the hackle pliers. Give it a try, it is very easy once you get the concept.

      Reply

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