Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria, Woodbury MN

Every now and then two hands are not enough to hold everything in place and get the thread wrapped around whatever you are tying in place. Just last week I got a bargain on some bunny strip streamers that needed a little reinforcement before being used. All I wanted to do was tie down the bunny strip near the end of the hook shank. If you have ever used rabbit strips, you know how uncooperative bunny fur is. It goes where ever it wants and usually to the worst place that will complicate your life as a fly tyer.

I had two dozen flies to modify and after using the tried and true method of licking my fingers and wetting down the hair I wanted to move out of the way, I decided there had to be a better way. So, I stopped tying and thought (completely out of character for me). It took just a minute or two before I realized that a section of plastic tubing with a slit cut out of the center might work. As luck would have it, I had a section of 3/36” (O.D.) tubing (the I.D. was 3/16”; that’s probably not very important). The desired slot was made easily with an x-acto knife. I accidentally made the slot tapered (See Diagram 1); this proved to make it easier to slide my “third hand” over the fur. Voila, problem solved. All of the fur was held out of the way and I was able to tie down the bunny strip and whip finish with no interference from the bunny fur!

The diagram shows how to cut the tubing. I make the slot 1/8”-3/16 wide at the narrow end and 1/16”-1/8” wider at the other end. You may want to experiment with the opening width depending on what you are tying. It makes it easier to slide this over the tying material if you cut a slight taper on the end with the widest slot. I cut the taper on side where the slot is widest with the taper narrowest on the slot side. Picture 1 shows a third hand on a bare hook.

Diagram. Making your third hand from a piece of plastic tubing

Picture 1. 3rd hand on a bare hook shank

While you can make these any length you want, I find that around one inch is big enough to hold down a substantial amount of material and small enough to fit many of the flies I tie. I find it easier to make two or three of these at a time, keep one on top of my tying table, and store the others. This avoids clutter and misplacing all of them. You can also experiment with the size of the tubing. I just happened to have this tubing in my workshop.

The series of pictures below show how the third hand works when tying.
Diagram 1. Making your third hand from a piece of plastic tubing

Picture 2. Zonker Streamer in the vice, ready for a 3rd hand

Picture 3_Zonker Streamer with 3rd hand in place

Picture 4. Zonker strip tied down and whip finished

When you are done the third hand pulls off with a gentle tug.

Hope this helps. Let me know what you think of this!

2 Comments

  1. Nice idea Joe! …never used a tube like that, but it’s clearly a good little “tool” to have in the kit. (A piece of drinking straw might also work if a smaller diameter is needed.) I’ve used painter’s tape temporarily at times, although it can grab maribou and rabbit fur more than one would like.

    Long ago I made a thin card-stock “thread-wrapping shield” that I regularly slide onto the thread and then up and over the hook eye and back over the base of the hackle barbs, when I want to finish off a thread-head without pinning down hackle that’s crowding me (usually due to poor planning in the earlier part of the tie). But I like your idea of the tube — it should be gentler on the fly.

    – Mike

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks! It has proven to be a handy little tool. I should make a list of the ways I have used it, but keep forgetting to write them down as I do it.
      Joe

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