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Stellar Past Piscatorial Musings

The Year: 1999

Cutthroat Dreams and A Mountain Called Steens

Whip Finisher


Whip Finish

The most important factor in building a strong and durable fly is the quality of the knot you use to finish. The Whip Finisher, which nearly all fly shops stock, evenly wraps thread while maintaining tension. This produces a clean strong knot. Recently, with the help of a spring loaded auto tensioning bobbin, a easier method of tying a strong finish knot has become available. Both of these methods are vastly superior to a series of half hitches.


Whip Finish 1

Note: All wrapping is done in the direction away from you, or clockwise around the hook if you are looking at the eye end.

With the bobbin in your left hand, take the spring arm of the finisher and grab thread with it as shown.

Whip Finish 2

Hold the thread from the bobbin with your left thumb and with the hook arm gently push the thread from the fly away from the head of the fly. You will see that this causes the spring to tension.

Whip Finish 3

Slide the hook of the finisher back to the eye of the fly hook. The fly hook shank should be resting in the bend of the finishing hook. The spring arm of the finisher should have very little or no tension, but there should not be any slack in the line.

Whip Finish 4

Now you are ready to apply the whip! Hold the thread tight from the bobbin against the head of the fly as shown. Align the finisher hook shaft with the shank of the fly hook. Rotate the finisher around the hook shank 5 - 10 times depending on the size of the hook.


Whip Finish 5

The spring arm tensions. Notice how close the arm is to the fly when the whip is done.

Whip Finish 6

Use your forefinger to hold the thread on the head of the fly in place while carefully removeing the hook end of the finisher. At this point the spring arm is still holding the thread. Pull the thread going to the bobbin to take out the excess thread in the loop. Remove the spring arm from the loop when it reaches the head of the fly. Trim excess thread. Apply head cement clear around the head of the fly without geting any in the eye of the hook.

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Auto Bobbin Conventional Bobbin

Auto Bobbin Finish

So you're a southpaw and you couldn't find a left-handed whip finisher. The Auto Bobbin might just be what you need. I also find it easier and faster to use than the whip finisher and the knot is just as strong as the whip finish. The core of the bobbin is a spring tensioner. It automatically winds the thread up when lifted to the perfect tying point yet will remain suspended from the hook when released. This tension is what makes tying the knot possible. They are made by Nor-Vise and you can get one on the web for around $50.


Auto Bobbin 1

Hold the Auto Bobbin in your left hand allowing the spring mechanism to work freely. Grab the thread with the forefinger and index finger of your right hand as shown. As with all these instructions, if you are left handed it will work exactly the same. So I'm right handed and my photos are back basswords for you.

Auto Bobbin 2

Twist the thread, away from you, five times by just rolling your fingers. (more than five twists just seems to create problems). I know this is one place a video would be worth a thousand words, but with a little experimentation, I'm sure you will figure it out!

Auto Bobbin 3

When you are done twisting, you should end up with something looking like this.

Auto Bobbin 4

Move your fingers toward the fly and the Auto Bobbin will take up the slack.


Use the thumb of your left hand to hold the thread so the Auto Bobbin can't work for a second. Remove the fingers of you right hand from the loop. Release pressure on the thread with your left thumb and the Auto Bobbin will Take up the slack. Your thumb will guide placement of the thread, again this will be quickly mastered. Before you let the Auto Bobbin take up the slack in the loop, make sure the thread loop is clear of hackles and anything else you don't want to end up in your finish knot. Release the holding pressure of your thumb and you'll be amazed at how fast the thread loop SNAPS into place. Repeat the process once more on a small fly, and twice on the bigger ones. Trim excess thread. Apply head cement clear around the head of the fly without geting any in the eye of the hook.

This whole process takes about a second to accomplish. I hope these instructions don't make such a simple process look comlicated, but I know better!

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