My Books

Some thoughts on fly tying glues and tools by Ed Herbst

Saturday, 23 May 2015 09:54

In one respect UV resins have replaced superglue in my fly tying and that is in locating tungsten bodies on hooks. This was always a precarious business as you wanted the get the tungsten body to stick to the hook but not get stuck to the hook or the tungsten body yourself.

UV resin takes away that danger. You simply coat the hook shank lightly with resin, then fill the slot in the tungsten body with resin and, holding it in place on the hook shank, cure it with the UV torch.

Superglue has been an integral part of my fly tying ever since Loctite introduced its brush-on superglue about a decade ago.

I found that if I used a dental pick I could transfer tiny dabs of superglue from the brush to the fly and place them very precisely. To this end I trim the brush to a point although you are better off not extricating the brush entirely but taking superglue from the brush stem.

Placing a little Vaseline around the rim of the container prevents build-up of glue between the neck of the bottle and the lid and facilitates opening bottle.

Loctite is available through Builders Warehouse.

Click in images to enlarge them

Ed H Glues

Zap-A-Gap produces a brush-on superglue with a smaller brush and I would use it if it was generally available in the country.

There is however, another component which I regard as essential in my use of superglue and the dental pick and that is Bostik’s Prestik which I use to anchor the superglue bottle to the working surface. This means that I don’t have to pick it up and put it down when lifting the brush to transfer the superglue to the dental pick. The wooden base of Jay Smit’s J Vice accommodates the Loctite bottle very well, particularly when customised with glued-in foam or Prestik.

Superglue and the UV-light cured acrylic resins destroy rubber and foam which prevents their use on foam bodied patterns that incorporate rubber legs.

This is where Loon’s water-based glue comes in and it does an outstanding job  in this regard.


Matarelli extended-reach whip finisher.

Matarelli whip finisher

Two Americans profoundly enhanced the ability of fly tyers worldwide to produce better flies, easier and faster.

One was Andy Renzetti whose rotary vise concept has been replicated with less rather than more success by a host of copiers and my article on this website examined his role in this regard.

The second was Frank Matarelli, a master machinist who for decades handmade thousands of bobbins, whip finishers and other tools which, like the Renzetti vise, were often copied but rarely equalled.

Googlebooks provides the definitive article on his life and times. It was authored by Darryl Martin and the key words are: Frank Matarelli Fly Tying: 30 Years of Tips, Tricks, and Patterns.

The extended - reach whip finisher shown here is a Matarelli with a wooden handle made by a British craftsman, now deceased. It was commissioned by Philip White, for many years river keeper on the River Dove. He and his wife ran Lathkill Flyfishing, a mail-order company for a few years and I got this whip finisher from him. He is best known for his One-Up Mayfly Spinner, a pattern which emulates the Ephemera Danica adult with one wing pinioned in the surface film. This is my favourite fly tying tool, the one I would miss most if I lost it. Its design makes it easy to pick up, it is comfortable in the hand and its ease of use means that I rarely use a half hitch tool – I just do a two-turn whip finish and continue with the rest of the pattern.  The end of the wooden handle is rounded but has a flat side which enables it to sit firmly on the tying surface without rolling around.

The idea of a wooden handle on this whip finisher is not new – in the Darryl Martin article you can see that Matarelli made them himself.  The Japanese master fly tyer, Mitsugu Bizen, often features one in photographs on his bsflyworks blog. The American company Wasatch sells them through its website. I also recall advertisements in the local Flyfishing magazine by a furniture manufacturer based in Knysna that had a line of wood handle tools.

Zuddy’s Leg Puller.

Zuddys Leg Puller

This is a new addition to my collection of fly tying tools.

Two outstanding South African fly tyers, Gary Glen Young and Tim Rolston recommend threading legs through the foam of a foam beetle pattern rather than tying them in. Tim illustrates the process in his outstanding book, ‘Guide Flies’.

Matt Zudweg is a professional fly fishing guide on the Muskegon River in Michigan and he developed this tool to facilitate threading rubber legs through foam popper bodies.  Hareline Dubbin agreed to market the tool and you can read the story on his blog.

I would like to see a smaller version developed which could assist on threading finer rubber legs through smaller patterns such as foam bodied beetle imitations.

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