Fly tying as a whole is not a difficult process, but rather the development of several skills that require patience and practice. Throughout the early stages of your tying career, you'll discover many different techniques that add particular characteristics to the flies you create. You'll also notice that certain tying techniques get used repeatedly when tying specific types of flies, such as the swept hackle collars found on wet flies, roughly dubbed bodies on nymphs and upright wings on dries. If you become proficient at these techniques early in your tying career, recreating famous patterns or local favorites will be much easier.
Setting upright wings is a technique tiers use to bring dry flies to life. Some of the most famous dry-fly patterns have upright wings as part of their construction, including the Royal Wulff, Humpty and Quill Gordon. Mastering this skill allows you to place V-style wings made of either hair or feather onto the top of the hook shank. Typically found on patterns used to represent mayflies, this wing style (especially when tied in white) helps anglers easily identify their fly as it moves atop flowing waters.
Setting Upright Hair Wings
Secure the hook in the vice.
Attach the thread to the hook shank, just above the half-way point.
Clip a small cluster of white calf tail (1/2 the width of a pencil) and place it into you hair stacker.
Tap the hair stacker on the table a few times to align the tips.
Measure the aligned tips to the hook shank. (The wing should be about the same length as the hook shank.)
Place the calf hair on top the hook shank at the 2/3 mark, and then tie it down to the hook shank with three wraps of thread.
Cut the tag ends of the calf tail diagonally, and then cover the ends with thread.
Bend the wing backward with your free hand, and place a few wraps of thread in front of the wing to hold it upright.
Split the wing into two equal portions, and then run the thread through the middle of the two wings.
Hold the left wing with your free hand, and then wrap the thread around the base of the wing, bundling it together.
Hold the right wing with your free hand, and then wrap the thread around the base of the wing, bundling it together.
Setting Upright Feather Wings
Select a wood duck flank feather (or other soft hackle feather) and strip the fuzz from the bottom of the feather.
Measure the feather tip to the hook shank. (The wing should be about the same length as the hook shank.)
Secure the feather to the top of the hook shank at the 2/3 mark on the shank, and then cut off the tag ends of the feather.
Lift and pull the wing back toward the hook bend, and then place a few wraps of thread in front of the wing to hold it in an upright position.
Split the wing into two equal portions and run the thread through the middle of the two wings. Wrap the thread around the base of each wing a few times to keep the wing bunched together and set in place.