Favorite Flys “Fly Tying Terms”

Welcome to the Fly Tying Terms section. We hope this section enables and encourages you to become a fly tyer, or to enhance your fly tying skills.

From Perrault's Standard Dictionary of Fishing Flies
by Keith E. Perrault
Terms — S
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Sail Wing:
A fly wing, upright and usually made of a single white hackle tip.

Salmon Blue:
Color - Watered out light blue. May have greenish tinge. Represents the back color of a fresh caught salmon.

Salmon Fly:
Any of the brilliantly dressed flies used in salmon fishing. Also, one of the many names given to large insect hatch species such as the Giant May or the Giant Stone.

Scalet Ibis:
Bright red feathers from wings and body of this South American bird are used for winging materials, tails, shoulders and some soft hackles. Feathers are soft, fine for wet flies. Ibis is nearly impossible to obtain now that the bird is highly protected and is becoming rare. Substitute dyed red hen hackles or dyed red goose wings.

This duck provides excellent body and wing feathers for fly tying. Colors range from grays to dark browns. Slate gray of the primary wing feathers make excellent dry fly wings.

Scotch Brilliant Tinsel:
Finely embossed tinsel.

S.D. Blue:
Silver Doctor Blue. Very light blue.

Seal fur is of translucent consistancy and is usually of a brown color with varying shades. Ideal for dubbing.

Commericial man-made fiber resembling seal fur used in body dubbing. Trade name.

Sealtex Rubber:
Trade name of a rubber like that found in surgical gloves.

Sea Trout:
The Char, Salvelinus fontinalis, or Brook Trout with sea going tendencies.

Plastic leader material, as Nylon. Early trade name. Seclin bodies of flies are made by wrapping closely together, this Seclin or other plastic transparent material over a colored base. The color shows through the clear plastic.

Sedge Green:
Color- This one is in the eyes of the beholder. Usually means an irridescent dark green.

Side feathers, or flank feathers.

Abbreviation for shoulder.

Term given to the back covering over the entire body of some nymphs and larva and reproductions of shrimp, scuds and sowbugs. Formed by tying fibers of feather or hair or flosses at the tail and laying over entire body, tying again at the head. Normally ribbing is applied over the material.

The area just behind the head of a fly. Also, two short matched feathers applied in this area are referred to as shoulders.

See - Spoonbill.

Side Feathers:
Another name for flank feathers. See - Flank Feathers.

Usually found on salmon fly patterns. Found on the mid portion of wings, usually of Jungle Cock, Wood Duck side feathers, or other brightly marked feather, placed to split the side profile of wing materials. May be short or as long as the wing. Sometimes called Splits, Strips or Stripes.

The outline or general appearance of a dry fly perched on the surface film as it appears to the fish. Should present a likeness of the insect being represented.

Silver Fox:
Provides light gray body fur. Tails range from white to gray with white tipped hairs.

Simple Wings:
Formed usually of paired feathers or paired feather sections. May be upright, slanted, down or spent, or a combination of these.

Single Wing:
Term refers to two wings, one per side. See - Double Wing.

Large, heavily hackled fly. An attractor type fly, which may be blown across the water surface by wind as Variants and Spider flies.

Discarded nymphal case left behind by emerging aquatic insects.

Coarse black and white hair similar to black bear in texture. Used for tails, wings, legs or antennnae.

Section of wing feather. A matched pair of slips form the wings for most dry flies or other winged flies.

A section of leader material affixed to a fly hook which provided an early method of attaching the fly to a leader. Early snells were made of silkworm gut, later of Nylon.

Snipe Rump:
A bluish tinged feather with dark blue, ending with a brown-tan tip. Used in hackling some British flies such and Snipe and Purple.

British term. A small portion of hair or fur cut from an animal pelt. A snippet of hair.

Soft Hackle Flies:
Wingless, subaquaeous insect replicas having hackles of very soft, pliant feathers of Partridge, Woodcock, Grouse, Snipe and Starling. Flies are normally two part. Just a simple body of floss or fur and the hackling. Some have three parts - an added thorax of fur.

Abbreviation of specie or species as in Baetis sp.

Silver Pheasant.

Spade Hackle:
The shoulder hackle of game cocks, between neck and saddles, of a rounded shape.

Sparkle Yarn:
A Nylon-acrylic yarn used in pupa wing cases and bodies. Provides the translucency required for a good match to the natural. Also called - Dazzle and Souffle yarn.

Specie Flies:
Imitate individual species of insects.

Abbreviation for speckled.

Spent Wing:
Wings usually make of hackle tips, sometimes of feather sections or hair. Simulate the wide spread wings of dead spinners and drakes. Usually applied with one or two wings out each side of thorax.

Method of tying certain salmon flies, the most distinguishing feature of which is the palmered hackle tied in at the tail by the butt end of the hackle, then spiralled forward ending up at the head with the smaller or tip end of the hackle, making the fibers longer at the rear end and shorter near the fly front.

Spey Hackle:
Another name for saddle hackle of a soft nature. Originally Spey hackles came from the side tail feathers of a rooster. Substitute most any long fibered soft hen hackle. Colors vary with dyes used. Heron hackles often used in "Spey" flies.

Spey Wing:
Type of wing applied to "Spey" salmon flies. Matched short pair of feather sections placed in a near flat, tent type, close over fore-body, extending to hook bend, but not beyond. Usually of Bronze or Brown Mallard with slight graying at the butt ends.

Specific tie of a fly pattern wherein the hackles are over-sized, even two or three times larger than normal. Flies tied in this manner can be skittered across the surface, or the wind will blow them.

A type of throat, beard or chin hackle usually made of hair and tied perpendicular to the hook shank. Clipped off square on the end. Used rarely in some salmon and streamer flies.

To attach hair such as deer body hair to a fly.
See - Spun Hair.

Splayed Hackles:
Hackles tied in with concaves outward.

Small sections of wing or tail feather, usually used to form part of a shoulder or represent a mid-line on a wing.
See - Strips.

Split Feathers:
Process used primarily when tying Matuka style flies. Grouse or Partridge tail feather is split down the rib and the two halves tied in to the fly back to back.

Split Hackle:
Process of cutting a hackle feather into two halves, cutting lengthwise down the center rib. Used when palmering small flies.

Split Wing Dry Flies:
Originated about 1850.

Duck, also called - Shoveller. The reddish brown breast feathers of the drake are used as winging material for some streamer and wet flies.

Made of two matched feathers such as duck breast placed concave to concave. These are whole feathers. Often made from Goose Rounds. Tied abut 45 degrees angle downwing.

British term. A feather or hackle fiber or fibrils.

A Dee type tie with wings slightly divided. Normally refers to salmon flies.

Spring Salmon:
A Dee type of tie, wings are slightly divided.

Spun Fur:
Furs in various shades and colors can be purchased from suppliers. It appears like yarn or wool. Eliminates time consuming blending and dubbing.

Spun Wool:
A commercially made wool yarn especially for fly tyig. A better grade of wool with longer fibers than ordinary yarn.

Red, Fox, Black and Gray squirrels provide tails which are a standard in the fly tier's kit. Comes in grays, browns, and blacks. Some have white tips on the hairs. Used mainly as winging material, especially in streamers.

Stacked Fur Dub:
Formation of a ball or succession of balls of fur and piling them one on top another to form a high or built-up thorax. Balls are formed by alternate horizontal and vertical spinning of fur on dubbing thread.

Super gray feathers with lighter markings come from this bird. Used in wings for small wets and drys.

Steelhead Fly:
Any fly dressed on larger, stronger hooks used in the angling for Steelhead trout. Many specific and unique dressings exist for this type of fly. See - STEELHEAD pattern listing. (publisher note, refers to the book.)

See - Bodkin.

Stillborn Flies:
Insects only partially out of the nymphal case during a hatch. Appear to be stuck at some stage of emergence. Two basic forms are found:
    1. Free wing - both wings are clear of shuck, but abdomen is still encased.
    2. Trapped wing - one or both wings are still encased in the shuck.
Usually these are noticed dead or nearly dead from their struggle to emerge. Trout appear to recognize the plight of these would-be emergers and feed freely on them.

Term given to the summer coat of the Ermine or Weasel, which in summer is creamy to brownish-white. The winter coat is vey white. The tail tip is black all year.

Keeping of fly tying materials, especially furs, hair and feathers safely is a problem of all fly tyers. Recommended use of air tight or plastic bags or tins. Use moth flakes, napthelene, borax or some insect repellent to keep out moths and their destructive larva.

Straddle Bug Style:
A fly tied in reverse. Head and hackle at the bend of the hook and tail fibers at the eye of the hook. British usage.

Grass and grain straw is used sometimes for fly bodies. Not very durable, it should be ribbed with wire or tinsel or thread for strength. Comes in many colors and has a special sheen not found in other materials. Flax straw is one of the strongest and most pliant.

Streamer Fly:
A fly with hackle wings, representing a baitfish.
See also - Bucktail Streamer and Bucktail Fly.

Streamer Jig:
Lightly weighted at the head only, streamers which may be fished in a dip and rise fashion simulating feeding minnows. Developed by Joseph D. Bates Jr. and Loring A. Dodge.

Small section of wing feather inserted in middle of fly wing to simulate the mid-line or median-line of bait fish. A contrasting color dividing a wind.
See - Split. Used mainly in salmon and steelhead flies.

See Strip and Split.

Stripped Herl:
Ostrich or Peacock herl which has had the flue removed. Stripped herl is used to make quill bodies on flies like the Mosquito. Also used to simulate feelers and antennae.

Strip Wings:
Two matched sections of wing or tail feathers mounted as a pair on a fly. Example: Matching sections from a Turkey feather from each wing of the bird, so that lengths and curvatures are as near opposites as possible. These sections may be mounted back to back to form a closed wing, or may be mounted from front to front to form splayed or divided wings.

Strung Hackle:
Commercially prepared hackles selected and bound together with a string binding - strung. Care must be taken by the purchaser to examine the hackles to see that a fairly equal amount of right and left feathers are included, as some strings come with all of either rights or lefts, and do not lend themselves to happy tying.

Style, Fly:
Describes generally the outstanding feature of a fly, as, hairwing, downwing, feather wing, parachute, all hair, silver body, or no hackle, etc.

Sub Imago:
Stage of a Mayfly when just emerged from the nymphal case. A burdensome, dull colored stage. Flight is sluggish and usually toward streamside wooded area. Also call - Dun.

Any like or similar materials may be substituted in fly patterns. Some examples are:
  • Silk floss - Nylon floss.
  • Natural colors - Dyed colors.
  • Barred or speckled feathers - A similarly marked feather.
  • Special pattern feather - Pantone marked plain feather.
  • Natural furs - Synthetic furs.
  • Woodchuck hairs - Chipmunk tail.
  • Jungle Cock eyes - Lacquered and painted hackles.
  • Furs - Man-made fibers such as Sealex.
  • Hackle - Man-made fibers or hair hackles.
  • Hairs - Man-made fibers, Nylons, etc.
  • Wools - Man-made fibers, Mohlon or Orlon.
    There is no limit to imagination or improvisation in the art of fly tying.

    Substitute for Badger, Furnace, Coch-Y-Bondhu or Greenwell Hackle:
    Use a similar color feather and interwind black ostrich herl to obtain the black center list effect when applying hackling. To substitute for wings, use a solid color feather and dye-mark the black center stripe, carefully, with dye marker pen.

    Summer Duck:
    Another name for Wood Duck from which comes the lemon- yellow side speckled feathers.

    Swan plumage is next to impossible to obtain. A suitable substitute can be found in both wild and tame goose feathers. The side and shoulder feathers, with the rib in the center, provide matched sides for winging smaller flies, or for wing materials for salmon patterns. Often found in most any color, they take dyes easily.

    One of the many man-made plastics. Similar to leather craft lacing. Made in round, oval, flattened forms and comes in many shades of brown, olive, yellows, etc. Used mainly as body material for nymphs and gives a good representation of segmentation.

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