Tying the Last Chance Cripple

Biots are a seemingly insignificant fly tying material, but they have been a major component of many fishcatching patterns for years. We use biots to create bodies, tails, wings, and antennae on a wide range of trout flies.

There are two common sources of biots: goose and turkey primary wing feathers. A biot is a short, stiff fiber found on the leading edge of the feather. For ease of packaging and use on the tying bench, the wing feather is split down the middle of the stem; the leading edge of the feather will contain dozens of individual biot fibers. Several of these strips are packaged together, so one pack contains ample material to tie perhaps a couple hundred flies; they are one the best bargains in fly tying. Biots come in natural gray and white, as well as a rainbow of dyed colors.

Favorite Biots for Bodies

I prefer using goose biots because they make better segmented bodies. Sometimes, however, a goose biot is not long enough to wrap the entire body. You may substitute a turkey biot or perhaps a dyed biot from the quill of some other large bird.

Turkey biots also work for making bodies on emergers. Wrapping a contrasting color of thread or other material, in addition to the rib, can create the look of segmentation. Veteran Montana tier Gary Jones does this with his highly effective Emergadun pattern; you’ll notice that the turkey biot has a double rib, and you can wrap right in between these with your contrasting thread.

For years I wondered where fly tying innovator René Harrop found biots with such distinct black edges; his spinners almost looked as if he had run a black thread along the edges of the biots. Harrop’s secret is Canada goose biots. These biots have very black markings. A fly tying–materials outfit called Nature’s Spirit (www.naturesspiritflytying.com) offers Canada goose biots in a variety of useful dyed colors, but if you know a hunter, you can dye your own. Remember to factor in the naturally gray color of the biot when dying. To get a PMD color, use Jaquard yellow sun; to get rust, Jaquard burnt orange works well.

Learning to tie flies is a visual experience, and it is easier to tell you how to use biots in pictures rather than in words. Check out the following photographs to learn more about biots and how to use them to tie patterns that will catch trout on your local waters.

Last Chance Cripple

Hook: Regular dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 12.
Thread: Yellow 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Wood duck flank fibers.
Shuck: Rusty brown dubbing.
Abdomen: Rusty brown goose biot.
Thorax: Pale morning dun dry fly dubbing.
Wings: Light-dun cul de canard.
Hackle: Grizzly-dyed pale morning dun, or natural grizzly.

Tying the Last Chance Cripple

Eric Austin is a regular contributor to this magazine. In addition to tying practical flies for real-world fishing, he is a master at dressing complex classic Atlantic salmon patterns. Austin also has one the best fly tying websites, www.traditionalflies.com, which is chock-full of photos of flies, pattern recipes, and tying tutorials. Eric lives in Ohio.