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Dressing Mrs Tiggywinkle

By Stan Headley

Stan Headley explains in detail how to tie Sedgehogs

Step-by-step tying instructions

  • 1


    Leaving about 1.5mm at the eye for the hackle and whip finish, wind the thread in butting turns along the shank until directly above the barb (when you let the bobbin holder hang plumb, the thread will touch the barb - simple).

  • 2


    Take a slim bunch of deer hair (about 30-36 fibres – don’t count them!) and tie them in as a tail. (Remember, only the tips should protrude from the turns of thread.) As a rule of thumb, make your turns of thread over the point where the grey of the fibre shafts turns to the rich brownish/black of the tips.

  • 3


    Sparsely dub a minute amount of seal’s fur onto the thread. (The thread must be off the roots of the wing before you twist on the dubbing.)

  • 4


    Take the dubbed thread back onto the roots and, holding the bunch in your ‘other’ hand, take a couple of turns over the roots. Select another bunch of deer hair, the same size as the last, and put it on top of the hook so that the points don’t quite extend as far as the tail bunch.

  • 5


    Counteract the deer hair’s natural tendency to splay by repeating steps 3 and 4.

  • 6


    Wind the dubbing over the roots, once it has been spun on the thread.

  • 7


    Select another bunch of hair, put it on top of the hook so the points don’t quite extend as far as the last bunch, and repeat steps 3 and 4.

  • 8


    Continue this sequence until you reach the position near the eye where you started. You should still have your 1.5mm gap (as in step 1).

  • 9


    Select a hen hackle with barbs just long enough to reach the hook point. Tie it in and wind it on over the hair roots, stroking it back as you wind.

  • 10


    Whip finish and, if you are tying a ‘pulling fly’, varnish the head and finish.  If you are tying a dry-fly version, trim the hackle fibres under the hook so the fly will sit flat on the water.

A few years ago I had been plagued with requests to supply the world and his brother with Sedgehogs, or at least to tell them how to dress them. So, to intercept more of the same – here is the whole enchilada! Sedgehogs are relatively straightforward to tie as long as you know the pitfalls (and avoid them) and stick to a few simple rules.

The rules
1 Always use the darkest roe deer you can get your hands on. This comes from the spine ridge on the animal. (I buy a whole skin, select the dark stuff and dump the rest.)
2 The most important rule of all - use only the tips of the deer hair. The hollow, grey part of deer hair fibres plays no part in dressing a Sedgehog.
3 Never attempt to tie the deer hair wing tufts on bare steel. There must be thread on the shank.
4 When you tie in the wing tufts they will want to ‘splay’. Don’t worry about it. The roots of the deer hair will be wrapped with dubbed thread, which will pull the tuft back in.
5 Spin or dub seal’s fur onto thread which is around the hook. If the thread is around the roots of a bunch of deer hair, when you apply the dubbing the hair will be pulled off the top of the hook. Take at least one turn of thread around the hook shank. When the thread is dubbed, take it back onto the roots of the deer hair and, holding the tuft in place, take a couple of turns of seal’s fur over the roots to tighten and locate the bunch.
6 Don’t think you can tie a Sedgehog with only three bunches of deer hair. On a #12 you are looking at five bunches, maybe six.
7 Make each bunch of deer hair sparse but not meagre. If you get it right you’ll have a full wing with little ‘splay’. It is important that the wing stays on top of the shank, with only a little drift down the sides.
8 Always be aware that while the fly may look perfect from the tying side, on the blind side you will inevitably get some downwards drift of hair caused by the pull of the thread. Deal with drift as you tie each tuft by deftly massaging the tuft against the pull of the thread (all will become clear when you actually get tying!).

My preferred hook for Sedgehogs is a Fulling Mill 31550 or Kamasan B170. Hooks that are light enough not to compromise the buoyancy of the pattern, but strong enough to get the job done. Generally speaking, I tie a whole lot of #12s, some #14s and a few #10s, but that suits the waters I fish; yours may be different.

Sedgehog fishing
Deer hair is buoyant and CdC floats so it’s obvious that you can use a floating line to fish Sedgehogs on or very near the surface. However, these flies offer a range of great fishing possibilities on intermediate and faster sinking lines too – in the March 2003 issue of FF&FT I gave a fairly full account of how I fish them on the surface, sub-surface and deep.

Sedgehogs are versatile flies on the leader too. In that earlier article I described fishing the ‘washing line’, a modern leader set-up where the buoyant fly is on the tail or point fly - even on a fast sinking line - whereas, on a more traditional cast the bushier or more buoyant fly would be on the top dropper. Both ways work well.

For floating and intermediate lines I fish as long a leader as conditions allow (typically 18-22ft) with a team of three flies, spaced six or seven feet apart.

In a light wind, fishing over rising trout, I like to cast to specific cruising fish and figure-8 the flies away, tempting the take. In a moderate to biggish wave, with the fish still ‘up’ in the water, I pick up the pace of my retrieve to long, steady pulls - an arm length every couple of seconds.

Using the ‘washing line’ with a fast-sinking line creates even more options as to how the flies are presented to the fish. Flies sink more slowly than a dense line, especially a very dense fast sinker such as a Di-8. Hence, in the water, the line and leader sink in a curve, making a belly as the line drags the leader and flies down. Obviously, that means I can present my flies to fish at a variety of depths – by casting a short-ish line and by marking the line so I know where the flies are I have fairly precise control over where and when the flies ‘hang’ before I re-cast.

On a sinking line, takes are generally positive and difficult to miss but a fish coming to the floating tail fly when the line is well sunk really needs to hook itself, and it is amazing how often that does happen.



CdC Sedgehog
Simply substitute one large plume of CdC for the second tuft of deer hair (stage 5) and then tie in alternate wing tufts of deer and CdC. Make sure the tuft before the hackle is deer hair.

The advantages of the CdC Sedgehog
A more buoyant fly that has a stronger ability to ‘pop back up’ than the pure deer hair version. For this reason, it is the better of the two styles when used as a sight indicator or as a tail fly for ‘the washing line (see March 2003 issue – 'Slimline Tonics')

The disadvantages of the CdC Sedgehog
Unlike its pure deer hair cousin, the CdC version has a tendency to get waterlogged. When this happens it’s virtually impossible to dry the fly and get it working effectively without hanging it out to dry overnight.

Sedgehog waterproofing
The process of properly waterproofing the pure deer hair Sedgehog is best done at the tying bench. After you have completed a batch and the varnish has properly dried, dip them in Permafloat or similar. Let them dry overnight. On the water give each fly a lick of Gink before play, rubbing the gel well into the deer hair fibres.

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