Under Wraps

Dressing a fly in the right underwear makes all the difference…

by Russ Forney

A see-through body material that does not hide the intricate patterns of color and light of a vivd underbody can enhance the visual complexity of a fly and increase its ability to deceive fish. How can you craft such an irresistible illusion? Enhancing the appeal of a fly requires planning ahead and arranging the materials to produce the desired effect.

Your flies might already have a greater degree of visual depth and complexity than you realize. Coarse dubbing catches micro-sized air bubbles, adding a splotchy sheen to a fly that changes with each new dunking. And saturated flies are often darker than their companions on your drying patch; the underlying thread wraps can darken a light-colored dubbed or floss fly body that has been in the water.

Designing a pattern using the color of the underbody to influence the appearance of the finished fly is not a new concept; we have been using plastic tubing and translucent wraps over colorful underbodies for years. The accompanying patterns and photographs highlight a few of the tying techniques and materials used to make see-through bodies that showcase the characteristics of their underbodies. Spend some time with these patterns at your tying bench and start illuminating your flies with an inner glow.

Alter the appearance of Micro Tubing by threading a strand of flash material or piece of anodized wire into the tubing. Here we see (from left to right) plain tubing with no insert, tubing with orange flash tinsel, and tubing with yellow wire; all are wrapped over a base of white thread. Notice how the inserts enhance segmentation without adding bulk.

The color of the underbody influences the final appearance of a pattern. Here we see (from left to right) olive Micro Tubing wrapped over white, black, and dark olive thread.

Substitute a strip of thin plastic sheeting for Micro Tubing to emphasize underlying body texture and maintain a slender silhouette. Shown here (from left to right) is a plastic strip cut from a sandwich bag and wrapped over coarse dubbing, a wire rib, and a corded blending thread. The plastic wrap produces a uniform surface while preserving the texture of the underlying material.

Fine-Tuning the Effect

A fly’s underbody is usually nothing more than a layer of wrapped thread. We cover this base with other materials that obscure the color of the thread. We can, however, select materials that will allow the thread color—or the color, texture, and reflectivity of any underbody ingredient—to remain an integral part of the finished fly.

Control the amount and character of the visible underbody by varying the materials used in the outer layer. For example, if you complete the body using a thin strip of plastic such as Scud Back, use clear to faithfully present the underlying color or a tinted shade to subdue or alter the color of the underbody. Thin plastic tubing is also available in clear and tinted shades to help control the features of the underlying materials that are visible in a finished fly.

Using opaque materials, such as a thin strip of quill or solid ribbing, gives the underbody more detail. Spiral-wrapping a quill up the hook—leaving slight gaps between the wraps—makes the underbody visible. Select an underbody color that contrasts with the quill to enhance the segmented effect and sharply define each wrap. Alternately, the underbody color can complement the color of the quill to create a more subdued and mottled appearance.

Tying the underbody using a flash or metallic material can create other effects. The fly will appear to glow when light reflects off the bright ingredient. A reflective underbody suggests life. As with color, you can vary the intensity of reflected light using different body materials. Wrapping a tinted plastic strip or Micro Tubing on the hook to form the completed body both reduces the intensity of reflected light and adds color to the fly.

Split-Loop Emerger

HOOK: Curved-shank, fine-wire emerger hook, sizes 18 to 14.
THREAD: Size 6/0 (140 denier), color to match the body.
RIB: Rainbow Blending Thread or a substitute.
ABDOMEN: Clear or tinted Micro Tubing.
WING: Polypropylene yarn.
NOTE: Color schemes in blue, olive, and orange are popular in Western waters.

Tying the Split-Loop Emerger