This guide will teach you the basics of how to dub a fly. Apart from attaching thread to a hook and building a thread base, the dubbing technique is by far the most used procedure in the tying room.
When I started tying flies, over 20 years ago, I found it quite hard to dub a fly properly. The fibers were too loose and the abdomens of flies were uneven. As the years progressed, I started gaining control of this method with some small basic improvements.
This guide will show you what I have learned so you can fast track to becoming a better tier. By no means am I saying my technique is perfect, but it works for me.
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What is Dubbing?
Dubbing is a fly tying technique whereby loose fibers are twisted and incorporated around the thread. The thread and dubbing material combination can then be wound around the hook shank to form various body parts of the fly. These include:
Types of Dubbing Material
Dubbing can be made from any lose fibers. From natural to synthetic and any combination thereof. Here’s a list of material that can be used as dubbing:
Normal Dubbing Material
I call this “normal” dubbing material because it is sold as dubbing. The range of different dubbing materials out there is staggering. From natural fur, bright and flashy synthetics, to dubbing that makes your fly sink faster.
You often find these dubbings come in handy dispensers as well. The dispensers will contain a range of colors of the same material. This option works really well for beginners who aren’t buying dubbing for a specific purpose.
If you are just taking up fly tying, get yourself a dispenser (with various colors) of fine dry fly dubbing and natural hare dubbing.
The original dubbing material. Any fur, cut from the skin, can be twisted around the thread to form a dubbing noodle. In this case, make use of some dubbing wax as this will prevent too many fibers from going to waste.
When tying Woolly Buggers or Damselfly Nymphs, you’’’ sometimes run into the problem of matching the color of the abdomen to that of the marabou tail. Say for instance you have olive dubbing, but it just doesn’t match the olive tail.
In that case, you can tear some of the excess marabou fibers up and use them as dubbing.
Tools Used For Dubbing
The dubbing technique is a pretty simple one and there aren’t any tools that are absolutely required aside from the basics like a vise, bobbin holder etc. But there are a couple of tools you may want to have on your bench if you’re handling a lot of dubbing.
This is a weighted tool that makes it a lot easier to spin the dubbing. In most cases it’s easy enough to just spin your bobbin, but sometimes it’s best to have a dubbing spinner.
You can use a piece of hard velcro or you can purchase a brush from Amazon or your local fly shop. Basically a brush is used to comb out the fibers of your fly and make it look more ‘buggy’.
As you’ll see in this tutorial, sometimes when adding dubbing to a fly you will need to split the thread. A dubbing needle makes this process a lot easier.
If you are after a very specific look, you can mix dubbing material together. Say, for instance, you want to mix some fibers off a hare’s mask with a little synthetic flashy dubbing.
Place the hare’s mask fibers and dubbing on top of each other. Then pull material and fold it over each other again. Repeat this until the dubbing is mixed. Now you have created your own custom dubbing.
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How To Dub a Fly
Below, we go through the step by step process of preparing the thread and dubbing and creating a dubbed abdomen on the popular Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear. I chose this fly because there are 2 main dubbing techniques used when tying it, so it’s a great fly for this tutorial, but there are many flies that use both of these techniques.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I will not be going through the steps of tying the complete fly. Our guide on How to Tie a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear will take you through all of the steps.
Step 1: Start The Fly Until Dubbing is Required
Here we have the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear completed up until we need to add dubbing to the fly.
We will jump in after the bead has been inserted, the thread foundation laid, and the tail and ribbing tied in. The thread is positioned at the base of the tail, from where we will start the dubbed body.
Step 2: Pull Out The Thread
Pull out approximately 2 to 3-inches of thread, depending on the length of the dubbing noodle you want to create.
It’s much easier to handle a short piece of dubbing and additional material can be added as you go along.
Step 3: Apply Dubbing Wax
Depending on the fly you are tying, you can apply dubbing wax to the thread. This wax will allow you to dub stubborn materials with ease and form a very slender noodle.
Cover the entire stretch of thread you are going to apply dubbing to. Don’t overdo this step, a little goes a long way.
Step 4: Prepare The Dubbing
Pull out a suitable amount of dubbing from the packet/dispenser. The more you dub flies the better you’ll get at judging the amount you need. Rather use too little than too much.
Position the dubbing between your dominant hand’s thumb and forefinger.
Step 5: Place The Dubbing Against The Thread
Pull the bobbin slightly towards you to provide better access to the thread.
Place the dubbing, which is between your thumb and forefinger, against the thread. You’ll notice that the wax makes it stick to it.
Step 6: Spread The Dubbing
Spread the dubbing out evenly over the stretch of prepared thread. The abdomen of a fly usually has a taper to it.
Keep this in mind, the amount of dubbing closest to the hook should be less than further down the thread.
Step 7: Twist The Dubbing
Twist the dubbing between your thumb and forefinger to create a slender dubbing noodle.
Once you have a slender part closest to the hook, pinch it in place with your other hand and while twisting the dubbing further down the thread.
Step 8: Wrap The Dubbing
Wrap the dubbing, with touching turns, forward along the hook shank of the fly, ensuring that there are tight wraps of the material and that the dubbing doesn’t fall off the thread.
Every second turn, or so, twist the dubbing between your thumb and forefinger to ensure a slender noodle is kept throughout the abdomen.
Step 9: Add More Dubbing
If you need more dubbing when creating the abdomen, repeat the steps above.
The abdomen usually takes up two-thirds of the fly, so if you’re wrapping the dubbing forward and you run out of noodle after just half of the fly, then you’ll need to add more to continue wrapping until you’ve covered the full two-thirds.
Now You Know
How To Add Dubbing To A Fly
I hope that you guys found this article helpful. As a beginner fly tier don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Practice this dubbing technique and pretty soon you’ll be a master.
Most of all, go out and fish the flies you’re tying, even if they don’t look like masterpieces. There are not many things more satisfying than catching a fish on a self-tied fly.
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