Welcome to ADVANCED Fly Tying

Advanced Fly Tying:
Woven Hackle Flies
By Al Campbell

If I had to pick the one person who had the biggest impact on my style of tying, it would have to be Franz Pott. His woven body flies were and are the basis of many of my own patterns. The swept and/or hair hackle designs can be seen in many of my personal creations like the SHWAPF and EZ Nymph and many others.

Orange Shwapf

In the late 1930's, a wig maker named Franz Pott patented a method of weaving hair into a string of hair hackle. Knowing that even with a patent his methods wouldn't be totally safe, he was very secretive about his work. It didn't take long before others were devising methods to weave hair hackles, but none could exactly match the weave of the master.

Another person who earned fame as a weaver of hair hackle was George Grant. George was not a wig maker by trade, but I'm guessing the techniques and tools of that trade were part of the techniques he used weaving hair hackles. In fact, I'll bet both Pott and Grant adapted some of the techniques used in wig making into their personal methods of weaving hackles, but obviously their methods and backgrounds were different.

To add to the confusion in my brain, another gentleman from my home state of Montana named Pete Sanchez developed a style of knotting hair that produced a hackle similar to those of Pott and Grant. His flies were sold all over the state when I was young, and most people just called them Potts Flies thinking they were the originals that started the whole hair weaving craze.

As a youngster, I was privileged to watch an old man weaving hair hackles for his business. At the time I was told he was Franz Pott, but after thinking hard about it I have a doubt or two about the validity of that claim. The old man lived in Missoula, Montana and tied in an old garage he had converted into a fly factory. After hearing how secretive Franz was, I'm guessing I was fooled by someone who thought it would be an easy way to make a young kid happy. All I can tell you about the man is that he was old, impatient and crabby; but he took the time to show me the Pott's body-weave and two methods of weaving hair hackle. One was a simple knotted hackle used by Sanchez and the other was a woven creation that used a wig maker's tool (hair hook) to weave hair between three strands of thread.

Although I can't be certain I ever really met Franz Pott or that the weave I refer to as the Pott's weave is really the original weave, I'll refer to that weave here as the Pott's weave as I have all my fly-tying life. Even if it isn't the original method, it is effective and easier to perform than the other two methods of weaving.

This is an especially long segment that will likely take several reviews of each part before you feel confident you have it right. If it helps, print the steps out for review at the tying bench. I'll be showing you all three methods of weaving hair hackles and two body weaves all in one segment. You choose the styles of hair weaving you prefer, but it's also a skill builder to learn all of the styles.

One last thing; to my good friend Dan Rupert (Ol' Rupe), this bug's for you. Call it a reward for all that hard work you have done trying to learn hair hackle weaves.

Sandy Mite

Sandy Mite (easy version to show you how to weave the body) - List of materials:

  • Hook: Dry fly, Mustad 94840; Tiemco 100; or equivalent.

  • Thread: 6/0 or 3/0, black.

  • Body: Woven strands of fox squirrel tail hair and orange embroidery floss.

  • Hackle: Fox squirrel tail hair; an extension of the body hair.

    Tying steps:

  • 1.Start the thread on the hook. Select a small bunch of fox squirrel tail hair from the tip of the tail (needs to be long enough to weave).

  • 2. Trim the ends of the hair even.

  • 3. Tie in the hair by the trimmed tips, securing it all the way to the bend of the hook.

  • 4. Tie in two strands of orange embroidery floss to the far side of the hook, securing it all the way to the bend.

  • 5. Make a wrap of hair around the hook. As it comes around the bottom of the hook, loop the floss around the hair as shown.

  • 6. Cinch the floss against the bottom of the hook; then repeat step 5.

  • 7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have a complete, woven body with the floss on the bottom.

  • 8. Tie off the floss and hair. Trim the floss and secure the hair to just behind the eye of the hook.

  • 9. Flare the hair back with your thumb and index finger, trying to keep it even on all sides.

  • 10. Hold the hair in place while you build a head. Whip finish and cement the head when you are finished.

  • 11. Trim the hair a slightly past the bend of the hook.

  • 12. Your finished fly should look like this when you are done. (This is the way Dan Bailey's tiers tied this fly when I lived in Livingston, MT.)

    Woven scud patterns use this same body weave. The fly pictured here uses strands from a mallard breast feather for a tail, orange Larva Lace for the body and 3 strands of ostrich herl woven in as legs. The weave is identical to that of the mite flies; just the materials are changed.


    Fizzle - (Just the body for now; the hackle will come later.)

    List of materials:

  • Hook: Dry fly, Mustad 94840; Tiemco 100; or equivalent.

  • Thread: 6/0 or 3/0, black.

  • Body: Woven strands of pink fluorescent wool and peacock herl.

  • Hackle: We'll use a woven hackle later.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Tie in a strand of pink fluorescent wool, securing it all the way to the bend.

  • 2. Tie in 2 or 3 strands of peacock herl to the top of the hook; again, securing them all the way to the bend of the hook.

  • 3. Make one complete wrap around the hook with the wool.

  • 4. Make a wrap around the wool with the herl as shown. Cinch the herl down toward the hook before you make another wrap of wool. (This is the same weave as before, but on top of the hook.)

  • 5. Repeat steps 3 & 4.

  • 6. Each time you make a herl wrap, cinch the herl close to the hook before you make another wrap of wool.

  • 7. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have a complete, woven body with the herl on the top of the body. Tie off the body far enough back from the hook eye to leave room for the hackle.

  • 8. Trim the body materials. We'll leave the fly here and work on hackles. After we have created a few hackles, we'll return to the fly and finish it with a woven hair hackle.

    Hackle Weaves

    All weaves use the same materials.

    List of materials:

  • Hair - Original patterns called for ox ear hair, European badger, exotic monkey and other types of hair that are virtually impossible to obtain today. Dyed badger hair (American) and hair from the mane of miniature horses is a good substitute that is readily available. Make sure the hair is at least 2 inches long so it can be handled easily. Cementing the bottoms of the hair together will make each bunch of hair easier to handle.

  • Thread - At least 3/0, black or color similar to the hair color. (I'm using bright thread so it will be visible in the photographs.)

    Loom 1

  • Looms - You will need two boards (2X4 or 2X6 works well) about 10 inches long. On one pound two 16-penny nails about an inch apart in each end. The other will require three nails the same size about an inch apart on each end. If you want to make only one loom, make the six-nail loom and only use four of the nails for the Grant and Sanchez weaves.
    Loom 2

  • Sanchez style:

    Weaving steps:

  • 1. Set up a two-thread loom with 4 or 5 half hitches around both strings to cinch them together on one end of the loom. Take a small bunch of hairs (5 to 8 works best) and make a simple overhand knot in the hair around one of the threads on the loom.

  • 2. Cinch the hair knot tight against the half hitches you put around the loom threads. Don't pull too tight or the hair will break off.

  • 3. Pull the loose tag of thread over the hair knot and make a half-hitch around both threads of the loom.

  • 4. Cinch the half-hitch tight against the hair knot.

  • 5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have as much hackle as you want. Add several extra half-hitches at the end of every hackle bundle to keep it secure on the loom thread.

    Grant style:

    Weaving steps:

  • 1. Set up a two-thread loom like you did last time. Take a small bunch of hairs (5 to 10 works best) and slip the tips of the hair between the threads of the loom so that the hair is behind the top (right) thread and in font of the bottom (left) thread. Adjust the length of the hair extending past the top thread to the length of the hackle you wish to create, then pinch the hair to the thread with your finger.

  • 2. Fold the hair over the top thread and down in front of both threads. Then fold the hair over and behind the bottom thread and bring it up between the threads.

  • 3. Next, fold the hair over the bottom thread again (so it makes a loop completely around the bottom thread), then behind both threads, over the top thread and down in front through the hair as it passed over the bottom thread (forming a half-hitch). Did I lose you there? Me too. The picture shows it completely, so study it hard.

  • 4. Pull (gently so the hair doesn't break) on both ends of the hair to tighten your weave, then cinch it against the knot in the thread loom.

  • 5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have as much hackle as you want. Each time you cinch the knot of hair against the previous bunch, tighten the hair knot by hand so it will be secure.

  • 6. Use your thumbnail to compress the hair knots on the loom so your hackle will remain tight.

  • 7. The knots will begin to look like the stem of a feather as you progress along the thread.

  • 8. When you have the amount of hackle you want, repeat the weave one more time with a strand of thread, then add a couple half-hitches to make it secure. Your hackle is now ready to trim from the loom and use on a fly.

  • Pott's hackle weave:

    * (Special note)* Franz Pott used a three thread loom and a hair hook (wig maker's tool) to weave his hackles. You can find this tool at a beauty supply house or beauty salon. The tool is commonly used to pull strands of hair through a plastic cap for highlight dying of human hair. (My wife is a cosmetologist and dyes a lot of hair this way, so I procured (stole) one of her metal hooks. The plastic hooks work just as well and cost less.)

    Weaving steps:

  • 1. Set up a three-thread loom with a set of half-hitches near one end. Leave a long tag of thread attached for use in the weave.

  • 2. Thread a small bunch of hairs in front of the bottom (left) thread, behind the middle thread and in front of the top (right) thread. Measure the hair extending past the top thread for the length of hackle you want to create.

  • 3. Next, fold the hair over the top thread and down behind all the threads.

  • 4. Pinch this hair against the thread with your finger.

  • 5. Thread the hook through the loom behind the top thread, in front of the middle thread, behind the hair tips and behind the bottom thread. Hook the long ends of the hair as shown.

  • 6. Pull the hair through the loom with the hook. If you lose any of the hairs, go back and pick them up with the hook and pull them through.

  • 7. Pull the ends of the hair tight (not so tight you break the hairs), then slide your hackle to the thread knot.

  • 8. Make a half-hitch of thread on the far side of your hackle with the tag of thread you left at the knot. (I let the hackle relax a little so you can see the weave better.)

  • 9. Cinch the half-hitch tight against the hair knot. Pull the tips of the hair tight again so you have a nice, tight weave.

  • 10. You can use this weave (or any of the weaves) to make hackles from any stiff hair. You can also weave several hackles on the same loom at one time.

  • Applying the Hackle:

  • 1. Remove a hackle from the loom. (This is a Pott's style woven hackle.)

  • 2. Tie one end of your hackle string to the hook. Note that I left plenty of room for the head.

  • 3. Wrap the hackle with the tips of the hair pointing back toward the bend of the hook. Tie the hackle off when you have it fully wrapped. (It takes a little practice to know how much hackle you need in a string to go completely around a hook one time.)

  • 4. Trim the excess hair near the hook eye.

  • 5. Build a smooth head and whip finish.

  • 6. Note the knotted hackle?

  • 7. Your finished fly should look similar to this. Each type of hackle weave produces slightly different hackles, so they each look different from the others to a slight extent.

    A Sandy Mite with woven hackle would look like this.

    Pott's style woven bodies can be used with many types of materials to produce interesting bodies for hoppers, stoneflies, scuds and even mayflies and caddis pupae. Experiment a while and see if you can adapt this weave to other flies. Maybe a stimulator that uses a Pott's style body?

    Woven hair hackles aren't common now like they were when I was young. That doesn't mean they don't work, but with the time it takes to weave them, most people don't bother to learn them. However, in fast water, these types of flies can be killers. I've also had great success fishing these flies in lakes with a slow twitch. Folks who live on the West Coast should try the fizzle on sea-run cutthroats. I tied a few up for one of my uncles who live in the Portland area (Battle Ground, WA). He says it's a killer fly they can't resist.

    Well, there you go folks; a challenge that will test your skills and patience. Are your skills up to the task? There's only one way to know for sure.

    See ya next month - Remember, I'm always happy to answer your questions, feel free to email me. ~ Al Campbell

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