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Better Bumbles

By Davy MacPhail

Davy McPhail demonstrates a slightly more advanced method for tying Bumbles

  • 1


    Make a conventional start by laying down a smooth layer of thread, starting from the eye, wrapping back to the start of the bend.

  • 2


    Place a small bunch of GP tippets on top of the hook. The tail should be about the same length as the hook shank and ideally a little of the black bar should be visible at the base of the tail. Make two turns of thread. Trim the strands of tippet to length so they will be bound down along the length of the dubbed body. Mine are trimmed to length, leaving space for tying in the head hackle.

  • 3


    Tie in a length of gold oval. Again, trim the tinsel so it will be bound down along the length of the dubbed body.

  • 4


    Wrap in touching turns towards the eye of the hook, binding down the tippets and tinsel. To reduce bulk you can ‘unspin’ your thread.

  • 5


    Line up the tips and pull a bunch of fibres from a blue jay wing feather. Sit them on the hook and hold them gently with the tips forwards. The head hackle should be longer than the body hackles; measure accordingly. As you wrap the thread over the jay relax your finger and thumb so the fibres get pushed around the hook shank by the thread. Take at least one complete wrap, not too tight but enough to hold the fibres in place. Check they are evenly distributed around the hook - carefully coax them to spread evenly around the hook.

  • 6


    Choose one black and one claret hackle. I use genetic saddle hackles, and look for a fibre length about one and a half times the hook gape. Strip off the waste and tie in the hackles facing forwards; trim the stems. I try to place the hackles with the good (shiny) side facing me.

  • 7


    Return the thread to the bend of the hook in touching turns. Prepare a small amount of claret dubbing. Seal was the original, and is still, my favourite for this job; use as little as possible. Dub the thread and slide the twist up to the shank. Wrap a slim cover of dubbing towards the eye. The body should taper naturally as you wrap. Clean the dubbing off the thread when you reach the hackles.

  • 8


    Palmer both hackles together to the tail of the fly, trap them with the oval tinsel and rib forwards in the opposite spiral. As the rib reaches the head push the jay hackle back into position. I use two fingers and a thumb and run them onto the eye of the hook, pushing the fibres back. Tie down the rib at the eye. At the same time the jay hackle will be held in place.

  • 9


    Trim off the hackles and the tinsel; wrap a neat head. Whip finish and varnish.

  • 10


    The jay fibres should be spread around the hook as evenly as possible.

The Claret Bumble
: Kamasan B175, size 8 to 16.
Thread: Black 8/0 Uni-Thread.
Tail: Golden pheasant tippets.
Rib: Oval gold.
Body: Claret seal’s fur.
Body hackle: One claret and one black.
Head hackle: Blue jay or dyed blue guinea.

Palmers and Bumbles are regarded as relatively easy flies – not quite beginners’ flies but not a tough tie. The conventional tying sequence means tying in the body hackles after the hook is dubbed, then palmering the body and taking the rib forwards, and then tying in the head hackle. This works well enough with a conventional hackle at the head, though there tends to be gaps and lumps. Inevitably if you try to wind a jay hackle once the fly is palmered you end up with a very bulky head, and if at that stage you tie in a bunch of jay barbs they will hug the body, and you often get a bulky or untidy head.

I prefer a slightly more advanced method for tying Bumbles because it gives me a far neater finish: the fly has a better shape; all the hackles are better spread; the head hackle does not collapse down along the side of the fly; and I can achieve a much neater head. This is not only a better looking fly but, in my opinion, it fishes better and lasts longer too.

Using Guinea Fowl as a head hackle


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